June 10, 2014

Google To Buy Skybox for $500 Million (Source: Space News)
Technology giant Google and satellite Earth imaging startup Skybox Imaging on June 10 announced that Google is purchasing SkyBox for $500 million in cash, subject to adjustments, and hopes to use Skybox’s imaging technology “over time … to improve internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in.”

The transaction, which had been rumored for weeks but was concluded at a lower price than some had expected, is the latest in a series of announcements and unpublicized activities that all find Google maneuvering to establish a major position in connectivity and the dissemination of imagery through satellites. Google is also behind a company based in Britain’s Channel Islands, called WorldVu and registered as L5, that is proposing to launch several hundred satellites into low Earth orbit to provide global Internet broadband links. (6/10)

New Concepts For Solar Power From Space Collectors (Source: Aviation Week)
In what one believer calls “the church of space solar power” (SSP), the doctrine is utopian. New work underway may make it achievable, too. Advocates contend that if mankind could tap the boundless energy of the Sun flowing through near-Earth space, convert it to microwaves for transmission to the ground and plug it into the electric power grid, many of civilization’s problems could disappear.

The most obvious is pollution from fossil fuel burned for electricity, which probably explains why brown-sky -China is spending more on SSP research than any other nation. Next would be the environmental damage wrought by extracting fossil fuel—oil spills, strip mining and mountain-top removal and fracking. The impact of large rectifying antennas (rectennas) sprawled across desert wastelands to receive “manna” microwaved from the heavens would pale by comparison to the mess fossil energy makes today. Click here. (6/9)

NASA Heliophysics Director Fired (Source: Space News)
The director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division has been fired after just nine months on the job for what his supervisor characterized as leadership and management failures, according to internal agency memos . David Chenette, a veteran solar scientist who came to NASA from industry Sept. 30, will leave his position June 20, according to an official termination notice dated June 6 and signed by NASA Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld, Chenette’s supervisor.

“You have demonstrated little effort to engage your personnel and provide an inclusive workplace that fosters development to their full potential, despite being instructed that this was your primary objective when you were selected for this position,” Grunsfeld, said in the notice, adding that the former Lockheed Martin executive had sown “confusion and apprehension in the scientific community.”

Chenette wants his firing, and the circumstances that led to it, probed by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin. “[I]f my departure triggers a detailed examination of this issue and correction of the problems that triggered it, then perhaps some good will have come out of this appalling situation,” Chenette wrote. Officials in NASA’s public affairs office were not immediately available for comment. (6/10)

NASA's New Heavy-Lift Rocket Drives Ambition, Fuels Doubt (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Marshall Space Flight Center is, without question, feeling the heat of the private sector. SpaceX already delivers cargo to the International Space Station, and the company’s founder, Elon Musk, says his proposed Falcon 9 Heavy rocket should ready by next year. If successful, Musk’s rocket would lift 53 metric tons to orbit, nearly as much as the 70 tons of the SLS’s initial configuration.

Musk’s rocket will fly for a small fraction of the cost of the SLS, and has cost American taxpayers nothing to develop. Yet the Falcon 9 Heavy is no sure bet, and though he’s diplomatic, NASA's Todd May can’t resist taking a shot at it. The SpaceX rocket’s development has been shrouded in secrecy, and arguably it’s more complex than the SLS. The NASA rocket has just four main engines, but Musk’s heavy-lift rocket straps together three of his Falcon 9 rockets, and each of those rockets is powered by nine smaller engines.

Complexity is the enemy of rocketry, because the more complex a system is, the more ways in which it can fail. NASA’s Charles Bolden, an ardent proponent of the SLS, is also not above sniping at SpaceX either. “Let’s be very honest,” Bolden said. “We don’t have a commercially available heavy-lift vehicle. The Falcon 9 Heavy may some day come about.... SLS is real.” The comment was telling of Bolden’s bias, considering the Falcon 9 Heavy could in fact make its first flight in less than a year, but SLS won’t be ready to fly until the end of 2017. (6/7)

'Modern Day Wernher von Braun Building a Rocket in Alabama (Source: Huntsville Times)
Todd May is the "modern day von Braun," a Houston newspaper says in a new story about Huntsville's role in America's space program, because he's the man in charge of developing NASA's new Space Launch System at the Marshall Space Flight Center. But the real question is whether Washington will give May enough money to finish the job. Click here. (6/9)

Russia Plans Biggest Rocket Since the 1960s for Lunar Mission (Source: Moscow Times)
Russia needs to build a super-heavy rocket booster capable of lifting 80 to 85 tons into earth orbit in order to realize its lunar ambitions, Federal Space Agency chief Oleg Ostapenko said. Speaking to students about opportunities for Crimea to contribute to the national space agenda, Ostapenko fleshed out Russia's plans to develop a new rocket for landing a cosmonaut on the moon sometime in the late 2020s, for which it will have to build the biggest rocket since the 1960s.

"The first stage [of the plan] is not to create a rocket with a lifting capacity of 120 tons, as it is not yet necessary. We are now placing the emphasis on a 80 to 85 ton rocket — this is enough for for the development of the Lunar program," said Ostapenko. A spacecraft capable of flying men to the moon and landing on it when they get there has to be heavy, as it must carry all the food, supplies and equipment needed for the voyage, and a second vehicle capable of landing on the Moon.

The last rocket to accomplish this was the Saturn V rocket built by NASA in the 1960s to land astronauts on the Moon as part of the Apollo program. Still the most powerful rocket ever built, the Saturn V could lift 130 tons to orbit. Russia's existing rockets fall far short of the self-imposed 80-ton benchmark needed for a lunar mission. For example, the Soyuz launch vehicle that currently ferries astronauts and cosmonauts to and from the International Space Station can launch seven tons to low earth orbit. (6/10)

Chinese Military Tied to Prolific Hacking Group Targeting US Aerospace (Source: Ars Technica)
Investigators said they have identified a secretive hacking group that has spent years systematically targeting US partners in the space and satellite industry, most likely on behalf of the Chinese military. The group typically gains a foothold in sensitive networks by attaching booby-trapped documents to e-mails. (6/10)

A New Look at Cooperation on the Chinese Space Station (Source: Space News)
Within the past decade, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has experienced a steady progression of technology resulting in prestigious accomplishments for its manned space program. To reassure the world of its benign rise, China is seeking collaboration in the exploration and utilization of outer space. Its future space station, for example, is being advertised as an international collaborative project on an unprecedented scale for China.

If the Chinese Space Station (CSS) endeavor can be effectively managed by China’s leadership as a platform for international cooperation and global leadership, then CSS can achieve subsidiary benefits for the PRC in domestic and foreign policy. However, inviting international partners in the process of constructing and operating a space station presents an expansively demanding policy problem. China must determine if there are tangible benefits associated with different scales and scopes of space station cooperation. (6/10)

Boeing Unveils New Capsule Destined for Space by 2017 (Source: MyNews 13)
A new Boeing spacecraft will send astronauts to the International Space Station -- and beyond. The future of U.S. spaceflight and the Commercial Crew Program was unveiled Monday at the Kennedy Space Center. It's the CST-100 -- a reusable capsule made up of a crew module and service module -- inside the former shuttle-processing facility known as OPF-3, where construction and testing are taking place. (6/9)

Consequences of EU Sanctions Against Russia for Space Exploration (Source: RIA Novosti)
EU sanctions are a two-edged knife, aimed at the Russian Federation but hurting Europe as well. Due to western sanctions the Russian leadership has decided to give up the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020. Instead, the money and intellectual resources will be spent on cooperation with China in space research. How will Europe cope without Russia? Click here. (5/21)

House Appropriators Recommend $220 Million for Rocket Engine (Source: Space News)
The House Appropriations defense subcommittee, following the lead of authorization legislation already approved on the House floor, is recommending that the U.S. Defense Department spend $220 million next year to develop an American alternative to the Russian-made RD-180 engine that powers the first stage of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket.

In marking up its version of the defense spending bill during a closed session May 30, the subcommittee also provides the funding necessary to continue buying GPS 3 navigation satellites at a rate of two per year, whereas the U.S. Air Force was hoping to bring that rate down to one per year for 2015. (6/10)

House Passes NASA Reauthorization (Source: The Hill)
The House on Monday passed a reauthorization of NASA programs for fiscal 2014. Passed 401-2, the measure would authorize $17.6 billion for space exploration, space operations, education and technology efforts. The authorization would include $3 billion for the International Space Station and $658 million for the James Webb Space Telescope. Two weeks ago, the House passed a 2015 appropriations bill that would provide $17.9 billion in funding for NASA through the upcoming fiscal year. (6/9)

Virginia's Eastern Shore Sees New Roles in Aviation, Aerospace, Climate Change (Source: Daily Press)
Wallops Island and Accomack County had a big day Monday with the launch of two initiatives intended to carve out new operational and research roles in aviation, aerospace and climate change. In the morning, Gov. Terry McAuliffe helped break ground on Wallops Research Park, proposed as a base of operations for private enterprises involved in drone research and medium-lift rocket launches.

Then, in the afternoon, government officials and scientists signed on to a multi-state partnership to form the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Resiliency Institute, or MACRI. Both events took place at NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore. Officials say they intend to make the research park a hub for aerospace and aviation operations, particularly for drones — or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) — as well as larger rocket launches from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), located at the nearby flight facility. (6/10)

UF Experiment Returns From Space (Source: Independent Alligator)
A plant experiment designed by two UF researchers returned from the International Space Station last week. After orbiting the Earth for two weeks on a NASA cargo ship, the plants have touched down safely at Kennedy Space Center, where they were returned to UF researchers. Anna-Lisa Paul and Robert J. Ferl, the two researchers who designed the experiment, are studying the effect light has on root growth in zero gravity.

The seeds, Arabidopsis, were grown in a petri dish, Paul said. Arabidopsis is considered the model seed for plant experiments, said Eric Schultz, a 25-year-old UF graduate student studying plant molecular and cellular biology under Paul and Ferl. There are two factors that cause root growth, light and gravity, but gravity tends to overshadow the role light plays on root growth. “We want to see how much of an influence light has on roots grown without gravity as a factor,” Schultz said. The plants returning from outer space are going to be compared and analyzed to seeds grown on Earth on June 11. (6/10)

Germany Bows Out of Radioastronomy Megaproject (Source: Science)
Shocking its partners, Germany has withdrawn from an international collaboration to build the €2 billion Square Kilometer Array (SKA), the world’s biggest radio telescope. Germany’s federal science ministry has informed the U.K.-based SKA Organisation that it intends to end its participation at the end of June 2015. “It came out of the blue. We were not expecting Germany to be withdrawing,” says SKA Director General Philip Diamond.

SKA will create a single huge telescope from thousands of individual dishes and antennas across southern Africa and Australia with the aim of testing relativity, studying galactic evolution, and peering back to the era of the very first stars and galaxies. Construction could begin as early as 2017. Twenty countries are supporting the design effort with more than €120 million. (6/9)

Editorial: No Honeymoon for New ASI President (Source: Space News)
The new president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), Roberto Battiston, has his work cut out for him with the agency facing tough decisions and negotiations in the coming months that will define Italy’s role in — and thus help shape — crucial European Space Agency programs.

ESA programs at the crossroads include Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 launcher, the two-part ExoMars mission and ESA’s participation in the international space station. A physicist by training, Mr. Battiston took the reins of ASI May 17 in the wake of the February resignation of Enrico Saggese amid a probe of alleged contracting irregularities. During the interim period, ASI was run by Aldo Sandulli, a law professor at Naples University.

The upheaval came at a particularly inopportune time, what with ESA preparing for a December ministerial meeting in Luxembourg that is expected to determine its investment strategy in the years ahead. Italy is among the top four ESA contributors along with Germany, France and Britain, and for that and other reasons has an important, perhaps even pivotal, seat at the negotiating table. (6/9)

Next SpaceX Launch May Slip to NET June 14 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)  
SpaceFlight Insider has received a report that the launch of a Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ), Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket with a primary payload of the Orbcomm OG2 satellite might be delayed by two days to allow technicians to test out elements of the Orbcomm OG2 spacecraft prior to launch. If this is accurate, liftoff would occur no earlier than June 14. Engineers with Orbcomm needed the delay to review systems within the spacecraft. (6/9)

Boeing Shows Off Crew Capsule at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Boeing today showed off a mockup of a spacecraft that could be the first to carry astronauts from the Space Coast into orbit since the shuttle's retirement nearly three years ago. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson climbed into the CST-100 capsule inside the former shuttle engine shop at Kennedy Space Center, where Boeing plans to assemble and test the capsule's service module. "We look forward to manufacturing CST-100 right here in this facility," said John Elbon, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space Exploration. (6/9)

55-Year-Old Far Side of the Moon Mystery Solved (Source: PSU)
The "man in the moon" appeared when meteoroids struck the Earth-facing side of the moon creating large flat seas of basalt that we see as dark areas called maria. But no "face" exists on farside of the moon and now, Penn State astrophysicists think they know why. This mystery is called the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem and dates back to 1959.

When the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 transmitted the first images of the far side of the moon back to Earth, researchers immediately noticed that fewer "seas" or maria existed on this portion of the moon that always faces away from Earth. Researchers now believe that the absence of maria, which is due to a difference in crustal thickness between the side of the moon we see and the hidden side, is a consequence of how the moon originally formed.

The moon, being much smaller than Earth cooled more quickly. Because the Earth and the moon were tidally locked from the beginning, the still hot Earth -- more than 2500 degrees Celsius -- radiated towards the near side of the moon. The far side, away from the boiling Earth, slowly cooled, while the Earth-facing side was kept molten creating a temperature gradient between the two halves. (6/9)

Cavuto: Asteroid Came Pretty Close to Getting 'Beastly' (Source: FOX News)
Now, you probably didn't even know it, but this sort of thing happens a lot. Astronomers say we're pretty lucky. There is a lot of stuff out there, but we're sitting like one big fat round target here. NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, which is essentially a sky-mapping telescope, only detected this asteroid on April 23rd.

And this one was pretty big, about the size of a football field traveling at 31,000 miles per hour. Something that size traveling that fast could do a lot of damage if it were to actually hit us. HQ124, as it's formally known, was at least 10 times bigger than the asteroid that shook buildings and injured a thousand people last year in Siberia. We're lucky with this stuff. But I suspect we won't always be lucky with this stuff. (6/9)

Magellan to Build Satellite Integration Facility with University of Manitoba (Source: Ottawa Citizen)
Magellan Aerospace announced recently that, in partnership with the University of Manitoba, an advanced satellite integration facility (ASIF) will be established in Winnipeg, MB. Magellan Aerospace, Winnipeg will be home to the ASIF and will be large enough to accommodate the simultaneous assembly, integration and testing (AIT) of three satellite buses. (6/9)

Canadian Man Designs Wonder Elevator to Make Space Travel Cheaper (Source: CanIndia)
Talks of space elevators may be doing the rounds for some time but a Canadian entrepreneur has now unveiled design of the world's first space elevator that could make space journeys a lot cheaper. "Space elevator would make traveling cost effective by giving its owners 90 per cent cost advantages over conventional rockets," Nofel Izz, the man behind the design, told IANS. (6/9)

Russia May Join Forces with China to Compete with US, European Satnavs (Source: Space Daily)
Russia and China are eyeing a number of joint high-tech projects, ranging from creation of a new long-range passenger plane to joining forces on a satellite navigation system to compete with American GPS and European Galileo. The range of prospects was outlined on Friday by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who met Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang in Siberian Novosibirsk. (6/10)

GLONASS-M Satellite to Launch June 14 (Source: GPS World)
GLONASS-M satellite number 55 is planned for launch on June 14 from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, said the first deputy director Viktor Kosenko. Kosenko said that through 2020, 25 more GLONASS satellites are planned: 11 GLONASS-M, 10 Glonass-K1, and four Glonass-K2. At the same time, he said, one GLONASS-K1 spacecraft is in orbit undergoing flight tests. (6/9)

Warp Drive: “Speeds” Could Take Spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in Two Weeks (Source: Before It's News)
A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating the laws of physics. Click here. (6/8)

Planet Bonanza Hints of Worlds Similar to Our Own (Source: SpaceRef)
For planet hunters, this has been a bountiful year. A team lead of astronomers at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center have used data from NASA's Kepler space telescope to uncover 715 new exoplanets. The newly-verified objects orbit 305 different stars, and therefore include multi-world systems that are reminiscent of the Sun's own planetary family.

The announcement of these discoveries was followed by news that Kepler had also found the first Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of its star, Kepler 186f. This is a significant milestone in the task of determining the prevalence of terrestrial planets in the Milky Way galaxy.

"These results are showing us that not only are Earth-sized planets common, but so are multi-planet systems containing potentially habitable worlds," notes Jason Rowe, a SETI Institute astronomer who co-led the study. "Most of the new planets orbit their host star much closer than Mercury, but a few are beginning to bear a similarity to our own solar system." (6/9)

Sierra Nevada Teams with Craig Technologies on Space Coast (Source: Craig Technologies)
Craig Technologies will support SNC in multiple areas of design and development. SNC’s Dream Chaser spacecraft is a multi-mission space utility vehicle offering safe, reliable and cost-effective crewed and uncrewed transportation services to low-Earth orbit (LEO). Craig Technologies will support the SNC Dream Chaser program with design engineering and manufacturing.
SNC selected Craig Technologies for its business strength and quality processes. The company is AS9100c certified and ITAR registered. The small business has demonstrated success with its newest manufacturing division which is further strengthened under the non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement with KSC to maintain and utilize an inventory of 1,600 pieces of specialty manufacturing and test equipment once used to process 80 percent of shuttle components. (6/10)

Skybox Imaging to be Acquired by Google (Source: Skybox)
Skybox Imaging has entered into an agreement to be acquired by Google! Five years ago, we began the Skybox journey to revolutionize access to information about the changes happening across the surface of the Earth. We’ve made great strides in the pursuit of that vision.

We’ve built and launched the world’s smallest high-resolution imaging satellite, which collects beautiful and useful images and video every day. We have built an incredible team and empowered them to push the state-of­the­art in imaging to new heights. The time is right to join a company who can challenge us to think even bigger and bolder, and who can support us in accelerating our ambitious vision. (6/10)

No comments: