April 25, 2012

Does Asteroid Mining Violate Space Law? (Source: MSNBC)
But to whom will those trillions from asteroid mining belong — the company, or everyone? Does a private company have a right to stake claim to an asteroid, or are celestial bodies such as the moon, planets and asteroids the communal property of all Earthlings? "The law on this is not settled and not clear," said Henry Hertzfeld, professor of space policy and international affairs at George Washington University. "There are lots of opinions on the status here, and nobody is necessarily right because it's complicated.

"The legal ambiguity hasn't needed to be addressed before, Hertzfeld said, because no company has previously come forward with a serious asteroid mining mission plan and the funds to back it. When the debate over space property rights is forced to ensue, old international wounds will likely be reopened. Click here. (4/25)

Back-to-Back Launches Set for Early May (Source: Florida Today)
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is gearing up for a busy week in early May with United Launch Alliance and SpaceX targeting rocket launches from neighboring pads on May 3 and May 7, respectively. ULA’s Atlas V is carrying a military communications satellite, while SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket aims to deliver an unmanned Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.

“Just confirmed with NASA that May 7th is go for launch of Falcon 9 & Dragon to the Space Station,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. That message came a day after SpaceX announced a delay to its launch, which had been planned for Monday. (4/25)

Atlantis and Endeavour Continue T&R Processing After Discovery Departure (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Transition and Retirement (T&R) work continues at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for Atlantis and Endeavour in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF), even as the Shuttle team said their goodbyes to Discovery last week. The NASA and United Space Alliance (USA) team is finishing up end-state safing activities on Atlantis, which is in OPF Bay 1, and Endeavour, which is in OPF Bay 2. (4/25)

Ex-Flight Director Urges NASA to Kill Heavy-Lift Rocket (Source: Disovery)
NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) is a bit of a mixed bag. Promising a return to Saturn V-type strength, the rocket is a congressional camel reflecting the self interested agendas of the congressmen responsible for its funding. Former flight director Chris Kraft is adding his to the growing number of dissenting voices decrying SLS as deeply flawed. It's destroying jobs and killing NASA, he says, and there are cheaper ways to undertake missions to the moon and asteroids.

Kraft points to JSC's most famous role -- mission control -- as the crown jewel under threat. "JSC's world class engineering and development capability created the concepts, designs and development for every American human spacecraft that has flown to space," he says. Its multi-disciplinary systems engineering and technical expertise, which has been built up over five decades "is the envy of the world's space agencies and aerospace industries."

With no funding for deep-space missions, all that's left is support for ongoing missions, support of commercial crew missions, and support to see Orion to completion. These roles demand a staff of hundreds, he says, not the 2,500 that are currently employed. He calls the decrease in personnel need and lack of clear goals a an "going-out-of-business" strategy. From there it's a domino effect. The demise of human space exploration will destroy the job market in Texas, and the strength and stability of NASA won't be far behind. (4/25)

Russian Spacesuit On Loan to US Space Walk of Fame (Source: Florida Today)
A mockup of a Russian spacesuit was delivered and put on display at the US Space Walk of Fame Museum today. The mockup of an Orlan-M is the property of de Leon Technologies LLC and previously on display at the University of North Dakota, which has a spacesuit laboratory as part of the school's space studies department. The Orlan-M design was used by Russian cosmonauts on Mir and International Space Station missions. (4/25)

Asteroid Mining No Crazier Than Deep-Sea Drilling, Advocates Say (Source: Space.com)
A newly unveiled firm's asteroid-mining plans may be ambitious, but they're not any crazier than some extractive operations already under way here on Earth, company officials say. To get an idea of what he's talking about, consider Shell Oil's Perdido platform in the Gulf of Mexico, which began oil production in March 2010. It floats in water 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) deep and taps a field that begins nearly 2 miles beneath the ocean's surface.

Perdido sits about 200 miles (320 kilometers) off the Texas coast, too far from land to lay new pipeline cost-effectively, according to Shell officials. So the company decided to hitch Perdido into an existing pipeline 80 miles (128 km) away, using robotic submarines to make the intricate connections 4,600 feet (1,400 m) below the Gulf's surface. The design and training stages for this submarine mission took a total of 2 1/2 years, Shell officials have said. (4/25)

Gold Rush Through a Legal Minefield (Source: The Legal Spaceman)
In brief, the Outer Space Treaty states that no government can claim ownership of part of outer space (that is the Moon and other celestial resources). Celestial resources (as we call them now) are considered to be the “common heritage of mankind”. A number of questions arise from this, the most important of which is this: how do these treaties apply to corporations? This could be an important point due to the potentially enormous amount of resources at stake. If asteroid mining realizes anything like its true worth, the wealth involved could be staggering. The legal concept of ownership could then come under intense scrutiny as a result. Click here. (4/25)

Hunt is On for Pieces of Van-Sized California Meteor (Source: New Scientist)
Wanted: fragments of a minivan-sized meteor that exploded over northern California and Nevada on Sunday morning and may well have survived to strike Earth. Meteorites – meteors that make landfall – can provide crucial information about the chemical composition of the early solar system. "It's like getting sample return without having to go there," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

However, meteorites are rare. Though meteors frequently streak across the sky, they tend to burn up before reaching the ground or they land in the sea. There's reason to think the recent meteor is different. Apart from exploding over land, it created a sonic boom, so it must have stayed intact for long enough for it to get down into the denser air low in the atmosphere – just 16 kilometers above the Earth's surface, Cooke reckons – raising the chance that some of it hit the dirt. (4/25)

ISS Crew Chooses New Mascot (Source: RIA Novosti)
NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba who is set to travel to the International Space Station on Wednesday said he has chosen Smokey the Bear as the mascot for the new crew. Acaba said he will hang the toy bear on board the spacecraft and use it as weightlessness indicator, the astronaut said at a press conference in Moscow Region’s Zvezdny Gorodok. (4/25)

Astronaut to Speak at Embry-Riddle Commencement (Source: ERAU)
Retired U.S. Air Force Col. B. Alvin Drew Jr., a NASA astronaut and Embry-Riddle alumnus, will be the guest speaker at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott, Arizona, campus commencement ceremony for 263 students to be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 5. This graduating class, one of the largest on record for the campus, is composed of 236 Prescott campus students and 27 Daytona Beach and Worldwide students. (4/25)

Master Plan: Cecil Spaceport Could Grab Market Share (Source: Jacksonville Daily Record)
Cecil Spaceport stands to garner a significant portion, estimated at up to 10 percent, of the emerging space travel market, according to a Jacksonville Aviation Authority administrator. Todd Lindner, the authority’s administrator of planning and development, presented the figures Monday to the JAA board as part of a Cecil Spaceport master plan presentation. According to a plan update, a market share summary study by Futron Corp. for 2021-25 said that nationwide there could be 13,000-25,000 annual space tourists generating revenue of $676 million-$1.26 billion.

Cecil Spaceport could support a 10 percent market share with about 250 annual launches that draw 1,300-2,500 participants and generate revenue of $67.6 million-$126 million to vendors. Lindner said that Jacksonville and Cecil Spaceport have a projected competitive advantage because of location and proximity to federal spaceports. Other commercial spaceports in California, Virginia and New Mexico are close to federal spaceports and compete among each other for federal funds and launch approvals, Lindner said. Cecil Spaceport is the closest to a city that could provide additional amenities for space tourists, he said. (4/24)

Mutant Space Microbes Attack ISS: 'Munch' Metal, May Crack Glass (Source: Russia Today)
Seventy-six types of unregulated micro-organisms have been detected on the International Space Station (ISS). Though many are harmless, some are already capable of causing severe damage. And no one knows how they will mutate in space. "We had these problems on the old MIR space station, now we have them on the ISS. The microflora is attacking the station. These organisms corrode metals and polymers and can cause equipment to fail,” Anatoly Grigoryev, the vice-president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Interfax news agency.

Despite extensive precautions, most of the microbes are accidentally brought to the space station with various cargoes. One of the early Russian crews also carelessly released a fungus that was later allowed to spread. Of particular concern is the Zarya – the first ISS module launched into space in 1998. But the crew is also in potential peril. Click here. (4/23)

Federation Supports Competition in the Commercial Crew Program (Source: CSF)
“The funding level provided in the draft Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill produced by the House Appropriations Committee represents a commitment to the Commercial Crew Program that is greatly appreciated by the industry,” said Commercial Spaceflight Federation President and former NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria. “As important, however, is preserving competition in the program, as the vehicles are not sufficiently mature to enable NASA to confidently select a single vehicle at this time. The next phase of the program should also maintain the use of Space Act Agreements, which require meaningful investment by the competing companies to augment NASA funding."

"NASA does plan to move to FAR-based contracts at the appropriate time prior to certifying any provider to carry crew. We believe NASA has carefully designed a program that maintains competition, and preserves safety, through the development and certification process, and that uses the appropriate contracting mechanism at each stage. It is best to leave decisions on program management to the NASA human spaceflight professionals who have access to all the information and have worked closely with all the competing companies. If the language in the report were applied to the current round of competition, it would result in a significant delay in restoring U.S. human access to orbit.” (4/25)

United Technologies' Q1 Profit Increases 19% (Source: New York Times)
United Technologies saw its first-quarter income from continuing operations climb 19%, beating Wall Street expectations, though its revenue for the quarter declined. The company reported quarterly net income of $1.2 billion, or $1.31 a share, not including units that the firm has up for sale. Those results compare with $1.05 billion, or $1.06 a share, on operations a year ago. Revenue at the firm was $12.42 billion in the first quarter, down 2% from a year ago, primarily due to the costs of restructuring the firm. (4/25)

Leadership By Default (Source: Harvard Review)
The United States’ leadership in space is a natural result of its high standing among the world’s democracies and its vast wealth, which enables it to spend more than US$35 billion annually on civil and national security space activity, far surpassing all other nations. NASA’s manned space shuttle, representing tens of billions of dollars of investment, embodied US leadership in space. It was the foundation on which the International Space Station, the largest and most complex undertaking in space, was built.

The shuttle’s retirement, while leaving the Space Station partners entirely dependent on Russia for crew access in the short term, has not fundamentally changed the United States’ position in the partnership, nor has it left a leadership void that another nation is eager or in a position to fill. Contrary to what many casual observers seem to believe, the United States is not abandoning human spaceflight. Rather, it is between astronaut-launching systems with NASA continuing to drive this activity.

Currently there is great uncertainty surrounding the US human spaceflight program, the result of a political battle touched off when President Barack Obama proposed handing astronaut transportation to and from low Earth orbit destinations—in other words, the Space Station—to the private sector, and having NASA focus on technologies for deep-space exploration. The dramatic policy shift raised no objections from NASA’s traditional international partners in civil space. The European Space Agency (ESA), for example, which felt shut out of the previous president’s plan to return astronauts to the moon, welcomed the new policy espoused by President Obama. (4/25)

GPS Network is Quick Quake Sensor (Source: BBC)
The US space agency Nasa is set to test a real-time network of GPS sensors that it hopes will lead to faster, more accurate earthquake analysis. Nearly 500 sensors in the Pacific-coast states of California, Oregon and Washington will be put to use. The plan aims to characterize the locations and magnitudes of events in minutes to help with disaster response. It should also lead to better predictions for any tsunami resulting from offshore earthquakes. (4/25)

Can Anyone Really Mine Asteroids? (Source: TIME)
Time was, incredibly rich guys bought sports teams. It was fun, it was affordable (by incredibly rich guy standards, at least) and it kept them off the streets. For today's uber-rich, it's going to space that counts. Space has been the goal of choice for the .001% for a while now. Part of the reason it's so difficult to import raw material from space is that while things weigh little or nothing in a low- or zero-g environments, approaching Earth with a full cargo bay means slamming into the upper atmosphere at a speed of 25,000 mph (40,000 k/h) carrying a load of rocks that all at once have a 1-g weight.

"If you're involved in an operation of that sort you're going to have to figure out a new and reliable way of maneuvering and manipulating large objects," says Henry Hertzfeld, professor of space policy at George Washington University. Then, of course, there are the legal issues. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 has a thing or two to say about claiming ownership of space assets and using them to your tactical or economic advantage — none of it very good. Click here. (4/25)

'Boat' Could Explore the Oceans of Saturn's Moon Titan (Source: Guardian)
It is arguably the most audacious maritime adventure ever undertaken – a mission worthy of James Cook or Christopher Columbus to unlock the secrets of unknown seas and faraway lands. But what sets this mission apart from the great age of maritime exploration is that the hi-tech vessel must first travel 1.5 billion kilometers before even embarking on her maritime voyage, and the waves that will be pounding her will be on the vast methane oceans of Saturn's moon Titan. Click here. (4/25)

Boeing Earnings, Revenue Top Expectations (Source: CNBC)
Boeing posted a higher quarterly net profit on Wednesday, helped by an increase in commercial airplane deliveries. The company said its first-quarter net profit was $923 million, compared with $586 million a year earlier. Order backlogs at the end of the quarter amounted to $380 billion, up from $356 billion at the beginning of the year, the company said. (4/25)

Space Station Rendezvous, CASIS Set to Spur Research Push (Source: Nature)
When it comes to doing science on the International Space Station (ISS), the laws of gravity have been flipped: what goes up mostly stays up. A case in point are two freezers packed with more than 2,000 Arabidopsis seedlings awaiting return to Earth, where they can be analyzed for changes in gene expression. The samples cannot fly home aboard the unmanned European, Japanese and Russian cargo capsules that regularly deliver equipment and experiments to the station, because these capsules burn up on re-entry. Even the Russian Soyuz capsules are not ideal, because they lack freezers to store the seedlings during the plunge home.

Now science is about to get a new way home from the ISS. It marks a first step in what NASA hopes will be the space station’s transformation from an orbiting construction site into a thriving research laboratory. NASA is betting that scientific interest will match the increased tempo of the upcoming launches. Last year, NASA picked the non-profit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), based at Cape Canaveral in Florida, to manage half of the US research area on the station, which the US Congress deemed a national laboratory in 2005. CASIS will get US$15 million in annual funding from NASA, and 50% of the cargo space on rides to and from the station, including Dragon. (4/25)

NASA Dawn Spacecraft Reveals Secrets of Giant Asteroid Vesta (Source: NASA)\
Findings from NASA's Dawn spacecraft reveal new details about the giant asteroid Vesta, including its varied surface composition, sharp temperature changes and clues to its internal structure. The findings were presented today at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria and will help scientists better understand the early solar system and processes that dominated its formation.

Spacecraft images, taken 420 miles (680 kilometers) and 130 miles (210 kilometers) above the surface of the asteroid, show a variety of surface mineral and rock patterns. Coded false-color images help scientists better understand Vesta's composition and enable them to identify material that was once molten below the asteroid's surface. (4/25)

Another Space Mining Company Still Struggling to Get Off Ground (Source: TPM)
Planetary Resources is not the only company that has its eyes on wringing space rocks for resources and riches. Another company, Shackleton Energy Communications, was launched in 2007 specifically to pursue commercial mining operations on the moon, with the goal of eventually establishing a manned lunar mining colony at a cost of about $87 billion.

Shackleton’s proposed mining operations would specifically go after water ice trapped in the Moon’s polar craters (including the Shackleton crater near the moon’s south pole) which would then be split into constituent hydrogen and oxygen and used to synthesize rocket fuel. The fuel would then be transported to depots in orbit around the Earth, allowing craft to be launched from the ground with less fuel aboard at a cheaper cost. Click here. (4/25)

Florida Team Win NASA Student Launch Awards (Source: NASA)
Specially crafted rockets soared high into the skies April 22 at the 2011-12 NASA Student Launch Projects challenge. More than 500 students, representing 53 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities in 28 states, lau
Linknched rockets of their own design -- complete with working science payloads or engineering payloads. A variety of awards were announced, including the following for Florida-based teams: UF won the Project Review Award; Florida A&M won the Closest to Altitude Award; and a team from Plantation High School won a peer-selected Best Looking Rocket Award. (4/25)

Astrobotic Awarded NASA Contract for Lunar Polar Prospecting (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Astrobotic Technology Inc. announces a NASA contract to determine whether its polar rover can deploy an ice-prospecting payload to the Moon. The ice could yield water, oxygen, methane and rocket propellant to dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration. “Astrobotic seeks the immense resources available on the Moon to both accelerate space exploration and improve life on Earth,” said David Gump, president. “The lunar path is near term. We intend a prospecting mission in 2015.”

Astrobotic began development of its lunar excavation robot in 2009 under a series of NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts that now total $795,000. The new NASA SBIR Phase 3 follow-on contract is to consider robot refinements for carrying NASA-supplied instruments and a drill. Recent lunar-orbiting satellites from several nations, and a NASA probe that impacted near the Moon’s south pole, have sensed polar ice composed of water, methane, ammonia, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide and other substances. (4/25)

Why Can't We See Evidence of Alien Life? (Source: Guardian)
Given the vast number of planets in the universe, many much older than Earth, why haven't we yet seen obvious signs of alien life? The potential answers to this question are numerous and intriguing, alarming and hopeful. This video presents an animated exploration of the famous and fascinating Fermi Paradox, originally posed in 1950 by physicist Enrico Fermi, which basically states: "The apparent size and age of the universe suggest that many technologically advanced extraterrestrial civilizations ought to exist. However, this hypothesis seems inconsistent with the lack of observational evidence to support it."

Do humans lack the appropriate technology to detect life elsewhere? Is life elsewhere so alien that we are unable to recognise it as such? Are these other civilisations avoiding communicating and contacting us? If so, why? Or is Earth somehow special? Is Earth truly the only planet in our galaxy that has evolved intelligent life? Or maybe life elsewhere no longer exists? Or maybe life elsewhere is in its evolutionary infancy compared to us? Or is Earth the only planet that has ever had any life at all -- is this even possible? Click here. (4/25)

FOX News: Liberals Push Socialism in Outer Space (Source: FOX News)
Several well-known billionaires are forming the new company Planetary Resources with plans to send a robotic spacecraft to mine precious metals from an asteroid and bring them back to Earth. Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt and their business partners say the enterprise will "add trillions to the global GDP." But to whom do those trillions belong — the company, or everyone? Does a private company have a right to stake claim to an asteroid, or are celestial bodies such as the moon, planets and asteroids the communal property of all Earthlings?

Not everyone agrees. Frank Lyall, public law professor at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and director of the International Institute of Space Law, and Paul Larsen, a space law expert and adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School, both interpret the OST as meaning that no one — neither a government, nor a person — can claim title to an asteroid, or the precious metals therein. The legal ambiguity hasn't needed to be addressed before, Hertzfeld said, because no company has previously come forward with a serious asteroid mining mission plan and the funds to back it. When the debate over space property rights is forced to ensue, old international wounds will likely be reopened. (4/25)

Congress Wary of Fully Funding Commercial Crew (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Senate and House budget bills would cut up to 40 percent from NASA's requested budget to pay for new commercial spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and end U.S. reliance on Russia for crew transportation. The Senate's appropriations subcommittee for NASA marked up a spending plan with $525 million allocated for commercial crew. The House's budget calls for the program to receive $500 million in fiscal year 2013, which begins Oct. 1.

The budget proposals were released April 17 and April 19, and the bills still must be passed by each body of Congress, and their differences must be resolved in a joint conference committee. NASA expects any significant reduction from the agency's requested $830 million for commercial crew development to push back the resumption of domestic human space travel into low Earth orbit, a capability lost after the retirement of the space shuttle. (4/25)

ViaSat Lands $70M Saudi Ka-band Contract (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband equipment provider ViaSat Inc. will build the ground infrastructure for Saudi Arabia’s Ka-band satellite broadband network under a contract valued at $70 million, ViaSat announced April 25. The contract, with the King Abdul-aziz City for Science and Technology (KASCT), calls for California-based ViaSat to deliver satellite gateway Earth stations, network operation facilities and an undisclosed number of user terminals for the network. (4/25)

U.K. Official Cites Military Utility of Civilian Earth Observation Data (Source: Space News)
Britain’s minister for space on April 24 said his government is protecting its space budget at a time of extreme austerity and that one way to do that is persuade British defense authorities of the value of homegrown Earth observation satellite data. David Willets, the U.K. minister for universities and science, said he chairs a cabinet-level committee whose job is to bring civil and commercial Earth observation advances to the attention of the British Defense Ministry. Willets’ panel includes Peter Luff, Britain’s minister for defense equipment. (4/25)

Amid Surging Sales, Intersputnik To Order Satellite (Source: Space News)
Satellite bandwidth provider Intersputnik reported a nearly 14 percent increase in revenue in 2011 and said it likely will order its own satellite this year to complement the capacity it leases on 15 other spacecraft. The board of directors of Moscow-based Intersputnik, which recently admitted Somalia as its 26th member, said revenue in 2011 surpassed company goals and reached $81.4 million, up 13.7 percent over 2011, which was a 23 percent increase over 2009. Intersputnik had forecast a 10 percent increase in revenue for 2011. (4/25)

New Private Space Plane Aims to Pick Up Where NASA's Shuttles Left Off (Source: Space.com)
The new spaceship being built by private aerospace firm Sierra Nevada Corp. may look like a miniature space shuttle, but while the design takes cues from the past, company officials are hoping this vehicle shepherds in a new era of commercial human spaceflight. Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser space plane is being developed to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit. The company is aiming to begin full orbital flights in 2016. (4/25)

Northrop Raises 2012 Forecast After Profit Gains 2 Percent (Source: Bloomberg)
Northrop Grumman raised its 2012 profit forecast after first quarter income rose 2 percent aided by higher sales and margins at its electronics unit. In the first quarter, net income from continuing operations was $506 million, compared with $496 million a year earlier. Sales declined 8 percent to $6.2 billion. (4/25)

Budget Cuts to Canadian Space Agency Prompt Concern (Source: 680 News)
Cuts to the federal space budget are coming under scrutiny at an international conference being hosted in Quebec City. The CEO of a top space company says he thinks the 10 percent cut, part of broader decreases in the recent federal budget, may hurt the Canadian Space Agency's ability to compete internationally. Mike Pley, the head of COM DEV International, noted Tuesday that the cuts come after the CSA's annual $300 million budget had already remained steady for years. (4/25)

Let’s Not Be Stupid in Our Search for Intelligent Life (Source: iol)
This SKA (“Square Kilometre Array”), that mass telescope array to probe deep space that is now in the news – coupled with goings on in the mountains northeast of San Francisco – worries me. The Americans have installed an “Alien-hunt Facility” in those mountains comprising 400 signal-detecting dishes to transmit into deep space and, they hope, receive signals from alien sources somewhere out there. It is the heart of NASA’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program.

But what should they do if they receive an intelligent message from an alien planet? There’s been a unanimous decision: “Don’t answer it!” Scientists prescribe that “no response should be sent until appropriate international consultations have taken place”. The last thing we want is for Planet Earth to attract the attention of some giant planet that might send a double-decker space bus filled with lizard-men. (4/25)

LightSquared Buys Time with Inmarsat Frequency Spectrum Payment (Source: Flight Global)
Having previously missed a payment to the mobile satellite firm Inmarsat, troubled mobile satellite company LightSquared has now made a payment of $56.25 million in relation to its use of Inmarsat's frequency spectrum. The two firms have agreed that any payments owed can be delayed until 1 April 2014. The deal allows LightSquared to fight for a reversal of an FCC decision to withdraw permission for it to use ground relays, known as ancilliary terrestrial components (ATCs), which boost mobile satellite communications so they can be received in built-up areas. (4/25)

Commercial Spaceflight is a Game-Changer (Source: Nature)
The first private-sector flight to the International Space Station will open up myriad opportunities for science, says Alan Stern. The flight is a watershed, but it is just the beginning of the potentially game-changing capabilities and economic promise of the emerging commercial space industry for science.

Take the realm of suborbital flight — missions that stay just a short time in space. It has been used effectively by researchers around the world for more than 60 years to test new techniques and technologies, conduct special-purpose observations and train students. But the concept is about to undergo a reboot, thanks to commercial firms such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, along with less well known but equally interesting entrants XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and Armadillo Aerospace.

These companies will revolutionize suborbital access by lowering costs to a tenth of those today by flying reusable rather than throw-away space vehicles. And commercial space companies offer science capabilities and options at more than just the low altitudes at which the station and suborbital vehicles fly. The Google Lunar X Prize is spurring companies such as Moon Express, backed by deep-pocketed Internet moguls, to offer flights to the Moon for cut-rate prices. Click here. (4/25)

No comments: