January 1, 2014

Israel a Step Closer to the Moon, with Propulsion Deal (Source: Times of Israel)
Israel’s moonshot project is a lot closer to reality after the SpaceIL organization, which is developing the Israeli spacecraft that will journey to the moon in 2015, acquired this month the engine for the rocket that will blast Israel’s lunar lander into space. The Israel-developed propulsion system, produced by Israel Aircraft Industries, cost several million dollars, SpaceIL said, and is “among the most critical components of the project,” the organization added.

SpaceIL is the Israeli organization that is building a “blue and white” spacecraft to compete in Google’s big Lunar X contest, which promises to award $30 million to a team that can land an unmanned, robotic craft on the moon. Once there, the craft will need to carry out several missions, such as taking high-definition video and beaming it back to earth, and exploring the surface of the moon by moving, or sending out a vehicle, that will move 500 meters along the moon’s surface. (12/31)

5 Most Amazing Spaceflight Feats of 2013 (Source: Space.com)
The year 2013 marked an incredible one for spaceflight, with space agencies around the world making giant leaps in their own exploration of the solar system, while NASA welcomed the addition of a new commercial cargo ship to its list of supplies for the International Space Station.

Also this year, Virgin Galactic and other private spaceflight companies made strides in their work to make space tourist flights a reality, while one Canadian astronaut became a social media mega-star by showing what life is truly like in space. Here's a look at five of the most amazing spaceflight feats of 2013. (12/31)

Canadian Military Hungry for More Radarsat-2 Imagery (Source: Space News)
The Canadian Forces is using up its quota of surveillance information from Radarsat-2, prompting the Canadian government to look at purchasing more access to the satellite or turn observing time allocated to other federal departments over to the military. The Canadian government started with an overall $445 million Canadian dollar ($409 million) allocation, the result of its original investment in Radarsat-2. That spacecraft was launched in December 2007 and became operational the next year. (12/31)

We Don't Need to Land to Find Life on Europa (Source: New Scientist)
"All these worlds are yours. Except Europa. Attempt no landing there." So warned the protectors of life on Jupiter's icy moon in 2010: Odyssey Two, by Arthur C. Clarke. The novel's omnipotent aliens are adamant that the life forms inhabiting Europa's oceans should be left to evolve without interference. The prospect of finding extraterrestrial life on Europa has inspired real scientists to plan ambitious – and expensive – missions. But they, too, are cautious about landing.

The risk of contamination is very real: no one wants to introduce earthly bugs to a pristine environment. Now the discovery that Europa is emitting plumes that could be checked for biomarkers offers a tantalising alternative (see "Water plumes spark a race to Jupiter moon Europa"). Perhaps we can detect life without attempting a landing at all. (12/31)

Hubble Spots Hints of Clouds in Exoplanets' Atmospheres (Source: NBC)
Observations from the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that a super-Earth and a warm Neptune-sized planet far beyond our solar system are blanketed by high-altitude clouds. Astronomers lay out their case for cloudiness in this week's issue of the journal Nature. This isn't the first time clouds have been detected around extrasolar planets, but it does extend the spectrum of atmospheric study to new classes of alien worlds. Click here. (12/31) 

U.S. Launch Companies at Crossroads in 2014 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Coming off a stellar year, each of America’s three launch providers — Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) — finds itself in a distinctly different place and facing unique challenges. The coming year could begin to significantly remake the global launch market, with significant consequences for all three players and rival providers overseas. Click here. (12/31)

Sun Has 'Flipped Upside Down' as New Magnetic Cycle Begins (Source: The Independent)
The sun has "flipped upside down", with its north and south poles reversed to reach the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24, Nasa has said. Now, the magnetic fields will once again started moving in opposite directions to begin the completion of the 22 year long process which will culminate in the poles switching once again. (12/31)

The Launch Weeks Ahead (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A trio of orbital launches by SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corporation and ISRO will kick off the new year during the first week of January. Scaled Composites is also likely to conduct a third powered flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo by Jan. 10. Click here. (12/31) 

U.S. Must Build on NASA's Achievements in Space, Not End Them (Source: Press Connects)
Recently, I read a very troubling report published by the Congressional Budget Office. This report, among other things, considers ending NASA's human spaceflight program as a deficit-reduction measure. This news comes exactly 15 years after construction began on the first city in space, the International Space Station (ISS). Now, for or the first time in all of creation, humans beings on the ISS are continuously living and working off planet.

In spite of this truly awesome fact, our government now contends that the challenges associated with human spaceflight are no longer worth the expense. I submit that the human exploration of space is worth the cost, it is worth the risk and it is an initiative worthy of a great nation. At a time in our history, when the prevailing national sentiment is overcome by pessimism, recalcitrance, anxiety and fear, we need a great space program to help stimulate our society. (12/31)

Shiloh Conversation Starts Soon (Source: Florida Today)
Two public meetings in February will give local residents the chance to weigh in on a controversial state proposal to develop launch pads at northern end of Kennedy Space Center in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The meetings on Feb. 11 and 12 mark the start of a FAA-led study of potential environmental impacts from Space Florida’s proposed Shiloh launch complex. The complex is named for the citrus community located near the Brevard-Volusia border before NASA seized the land for the Apollo moon program. Click here. (12/30)

United Launch Alliance Marked Banner Year in 2013 (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Launching a new spacecraft to Mars, one to survey Earth's land resources and a host of national security satellites marked a record-breaking year for United Launch Alliance in 2013. The company, an alliance between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, conducted 11 launches in 2013, including 8 Atlas and three Delta flights. It was the most number of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle flights in a year since the program began in 2002. And 10 of the 11 launches, including every Atlas, flew on the first countdown attempt, a remarkable on-time string. (12/31)

Florida Woman Proved Females Could Hack It in Space (Source: The Ledger)
Mary Manilla survived the jolting rigors of introductory astronaut training in 1959, but was too far ahead of her time to make the leap into space. Even so, in a revelation induced by stifling experimental solitude and ultimately reinforced by photos of Earth from orbit, the history-making Sarasota resident says the experience changed her life forever. Click here. (12/31)

Lockheed Martin Savior Robert J. Stevens Retires (Source: Forbes)
On the final day of 2013, the man who made Lockheed Martin work relinquished his last titles at the world’s biggest military contractor. Robert J. Stevens, the son of a steelworker and a former Marine, is retiring from the company — a company that might not exist at all today had it not been for his tireless efforts to forge a unified culture from a dozen legacy enterprises.  Stevens came to Lockheed Martin in one of the many mergers that transformed the Cold War defense industry after the Soviet Union collapsed, but he rose above all his peers to fashion the most successful innovator and financial performer in the global defense sector. (12/31)

What’s Ahead for Human Rated SpaceX Dragon in 2014 (Source: Universe Today)
A trio of American companies – SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada – are working diligently to restore America’s capability to launch humans into low Earth orbit from US soil, aided by seed money from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in a public-private partnership. Here we’ll focus on two crucial test flights planned by SpaceX in 2014 to human rate and launch the crewed version of their entry into the commercial crew ‘space taxi’ sweepstakes, namely the Dragon spacecraft. Click here. (12/31)

Big Space Missions to Watch in 2014 (Source: Space.com)
From a Chinese rover on the moon and new spacecraft orbiting Mars, to private spaceships and the most powerful digital camera ever built, space will be practically buzzing with human activities in 2014. Here are some of the things to look out for when you're looking up next year. (12/31)

Paul Allen’s Island Sold to Space Entrepreneur (Source: Seattle Times)
Billionaire Paul Allen has sold his private island in the San Juans and the buyer is Eric Anderson, a space-travel entrepreneur. Anderson is co-founder of Planetary Resources of Bellevue, which aims to use commercially built robotic ships to extract precious metals out of asteroids that routinely whiz by Earth. Anderson and co-founder Peter Diamandis also pioneered the idea of selling rides into space for tourists.

Anderson purchased Allen’s 292-acre island on Dec. 20 after it had been on and off the market since 2005. Originally listed at $25 million and cut to $13.5 million in 2009, Allen sold the property for $8 million, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. (12/31)

Bigelow Seeks 'Well Adjusted' Adults for Simulated Spacecraft Stays (Source: Vegas Inc.)
Bigelow Aerospace has a job for you! The North Las Vegas company is seeking "mature, well adjusted" adults with technical backgrounds to work part time in astronaut simulation studies. Those hired will spend eight 16- or 24-hour periods in a "closed volume spacecraft sumulation chamber in North Las Vegas and produce daily reports on their activities, including their interactions with other crew members. Click here. (12/31)

ERA-GLONASS System Can Provide National Roaming Service (Source: Interfax)
MegaFon and the federal network operator of the non-commercial partnership GLONASS have signed an agreement involving national GSM roaming, a statement issued by the partnership says. "The contract envisions the possibility of receiving emergency calls from ERA-GLONASS terminals via the operator MegaFon's cellular network. (12/31)

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