June 3, 2014

BlackBridge Secures $22 Million for New Satellite Constellation (Source: CSB)
It's hard to believe that Lethbridge, Alta, based BlackBridge already controls one of the larger privately owned satellite constellations in the world. But the firm, which currently owns five identical Earth imaging satellites through its Berlin based RapidEye subsidiary, has just secured additional funding to expand its network. (6/3)

Take That Robonaut 2 & Kirobo! DEXTRE Repairs ISS & Itself! (Source: CSB)
The most sophisticated space robot ever built will be performing maintenance on itself and the rest of the International Space Station (ISS). "Canada's Dextre Becomes the First Robot to Repair Itself in Space," said CSA. Dextre, also known as the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (SPDM), will be the first robot to repair itself in space, performing a series of tasks from changing batteries to replacing camera's for Canada's Mobile Servicing System (MSS). (6/3)

SpaceX Engineers Support Georgia STEM Camp Near Proposed Spaceport (Source: Florida Times Union
Camden officials are encouraged that SpaceX still has interest in Harriett's Bluff site for possible spaceport. Two engineers from SpaceX gave presentations and answered questions for students. The engineers, Joe Bussenger and Karen LaFon, traveled to Camden County from the company’s offices in Cape Canaveral to speak at the summer STEM camp.

The campers watched intently as Bussenger showed them videos of rocket launches and astronauts in the company’s newly unveiled Dragon capsule, a reusable vehicle capable of manned space flight. County Commissioner Chuck Clark and County Administrator Steve Howard have been talking to members of the company recently. They hope SpaceX will choose property off Harriett’s Bluff Road that was once home to the Thiokol chemical plant as a site for the company’s planned commercial space launches. (6/3)

Georgia's Aerospace Industry Shooting Upward (Source: WABE)
Georgia's aerospace industry is rocketing forward. In 2012 and 2013, the aerospace industry was the state's top international export. "So we say it's not poultry and peanuts anymore, it's planes and parts," says Steve Justice, the director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace. Justice says the aerospace industry earns the state about $51 billion per year.

"We have major builders of aircraft, Lockheed Martin, Gulf Stream Aerospace.  We have a very strong component-supplier segment.  So we're one of the top states in aerospace," says Justice. Georgia researchers and engineers are currently looking into unmanned aircraft systems as well as space and energy efficient aviation. (6/3)

Saturn's Northern Lights Glow Luminous Blue In Hubble Photos (Source: Space.com)
Saturn's northern lights dance in ethereal blue light in a series of amazing images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Bright flashes of auroras glow against the blue backdrop of Saturn's north pole in the new ultraviolet images released by the European Space Agency on May 19. The newly released images show bits of time when streams of particles shot out by the sun affected Saturn's magnetic field, ESA officials said in a statement. Click here. (6/3)

Stratolaunch on Schedule For 2018 First Launch (Source: Space News)
Stratolaunch Systems’ effort to develop an air-launched medium-class rocket remains on schedule for a first launch in four years, with long-term plans to be able to launch crewed spacecraft as well. “We’re still on track for a first launch in 2018,” Chuck Beames, president of Vulcan Aerospace Corp., said. Vulcan is the holding company owned by Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who is funding development of Stratolaunch.

The Stratolaunch system consists of a custom-built aircraft — the largest in the world by wingspan — and a three-stage launch vehicle. Assembly of the aircraft, at the company’s facilities at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, is about 50 percent complete, Beames said. The launch vehicle, which Beames said is named Thunderbolt after a spaceship toy from Allen’s childhood, is under development by Orbital Sciences Corp. The first two stages use solid-rocket motors from ATK, while the third stage will be powered by two RL10 engines from Aerojet Rocketdyne. (6/3)

Stratolaunch Aims for Human Spaceflight (Source: Space News)
Stratolaunch’s initial plans are for launching satellites “of the Delta 2 class,” Beames said, adding that Thunderbolt will comply with the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Standard Interface Specification for payloads. However, Paul Allen is interested in eventually using the system for human spaceflight. “His aspiration is to make this a man-rated capability,” Beames said. (6/3)

Lockheed Martin Nears End of First Orion Launch Campaign (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Technicians at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport have bolted an ablative heat shield to NASA's first space-rated Orion spacecraft for an unmanned orbital test flight later this year, setting the stage for the attachment of the spaceship's pressurized crew module with a mock service module.

The heat shield was attached to the Orion spacecraft's olive-green aluminum-lithium metal structure with hundreds of bolts and fasteners in a multi-day procedure inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Technicians working for Lockheed Martin Corp., Orion's prime contractor, will next connect the Orion functional crew module with a dummy service module, a mock structure assembled to replicate the mass and size of Orion's real service module, which is being developed in Europe to fly on a 2017 test mission. (6/3)

ICESat 2 Mission Facing $200 Million Budget Overrun (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA officials estimate the ICESat 2 mission is facing a $200 million budget overrun and a one- or two-year launch delay after difficulties with the satellite's laser altimeter designed to track changes in Earth's polar ice sheets. The space agency will not commit to an exact budget and schedule for the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 mission until top managers approve the plan and submit it to Congress within a month or two. (6/3)

The Diminishing Space Science Workforce (Source: Space News)
In the last two years, decreasing space research budgets have put unprecedented pressure on core parts of the U.S. civil space program. NASA’s continued emphasis on large flight missions has meant that money needed for support of individual space scientists, their students and the university research infrastructure has been cut to the bone.

Thus, a crisis has descended on space and Earth sciences in this nation that is more pervasive and profound in many ways than any faced in past decades. The challenge confronting our nation’s space program most deeply impacts the cadre of our nation’s younger scientific researchers. It is this group who have carried the load for NASA and who daily are pushing back the frontiers of solar science, space physics and planetary exploration. Click here. (6/3)

Competition, Contracts and Commercial Spaceflight (Source: Space News)
NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program is now contracting with two American companies to supply cargo to ISS, and its Commercial Crew Program is progressing rapidly with hardware undergoing tests every month. Over several stages of competition, the commercial companies bidding to develop vehicles and provide services have been winnowed, and just a few competitors remain. Unfortunately, some in Congress have advocated for an immediate reduction to one supplier.

Even before the recent trouble with Russia, events had illustrated why that would be a bad idea. Russian rockets have suffered a series of failures, the most recent May 16. And being dependent on a partner for human access to space, a key NASA and defense capability, even when relations are good, is a bad place to be. If NASA were to award the final phase of Commercial Crew development to only one company, any problems with that vehicle would leave us once again dependent on Russia for access to the space station. (6/3)

Stellar Wind May Deflate Search for Habitable Planets (Source: Nature)
The hunt for habitable planets beyond the Solar System just became more difficult. A new study suggests that the same factors that make planets near M-dwarf stars easy to probe for potential life also diminish the chances that life could actually exist on those planets.

Researchers have often cited the environs of M-dwarfs, a type of red dwarf star, as a relatively easy place to look for planets that might be habitable. But the habitable zones around M-dwarfs may be too close to the stars to sustain life, says astronomer Ofer Cohen. Just as the Sun blows a steady stream of charged particles — the solar wind — M-dwarfs generate their own wind. That wind can strip the protective atmosphere of a planet in the habitable zone. (6/2)

Are We Ready For Contact? (Source: America Space)
Although entirely speculative, the notion of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, has over the years attracted the interest of a growing number of scientists outside of the fields of astronomy and astrobiology, that have traditionally been associated with the search for its discovery. Researchers from a wide range of disciplines like anthropology, psychology and the societal sciences, have studied the possible effects of such a discovery to society and culture.

If such a discovery were to take place, either by the reception or transmission of an interstellar message, how would we react, as individuals and as a society? The last part of this article examines the results of a study, which cautions that contemporary society may not be ready for such a monumental event. Click here. (6/3)

Is Richard Branson the Christopher Columbus of Space? (Source: Daily Ticker)
The final frontier is finally being…frontiered. Last week both Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX made large strides in their quest to privatize space for both civilians and astronauts alike. Virgin Galactic was cleared by the FAA for takeoff last Thursday. Branson’s commercial space airliner expects to launch its first flights out of New Mexico by the end of 2014. Nearly 600 people have paid $250,000 to board the shuttle, which will orbit 60 miles above Earth.

SpaceX also revealed the second version of its Dragon spaceship on Thursday. The ship can hold up to six astronauts and claims to have the landing accuracy of a helicopter. It will go on its first test flight by 2016. SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for 12 deliveries and the space company plans to use the ships to get to the International Space Station.

Other companies also have space initiatives — Google is financing missions to mine asteroids, and in what seemed like a PR stunt but wasn’t, PayPal announced Thursday that it would launch an intergalactic payment service for buying things in space. Space tourism and the space economy appear to be very real and very imminent. (6/3)

Blastoff! Amateur Astronauts Get a Simulated Taste of Space Travel (Source: NBC)
hat does it feel like to blast off into outer space? It's been compared to a kick in the pants, or an elephant sitting on your chest, or a sudden lurch on the elevator. When you take a simulated ride on the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, you find out it's all of the above.

"Haven't had so much fun with my pants on in years!" said Ian Bailey, a business executive from New Zealand who came to the NASTAR Center here to sample the acceleration of spaceflight at the end of a 25-foot-long centrifuge arm. Bailey is among dozens of would-be spacefliers who made reservations on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane — and have paid a little extra for an early taste of the experience they're looking forward to in the years ahead. Click here. (6/3)

Rocket to the Stars at Kennedy Space Center (Source: USA Today)
One of Florida's most popular attractions, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex draws over 55 million people a year for an experience that's equal parts fascinating outer space education and adrenalin-charged thrills. A 45-minute drive east from downtown Orlando, the complex is dedicated to the epic story of the U.S. space program's evolution.

This is the place to see real rockets and working space flight operations during a two-hour guided bus tour of the complex, learn about the pioneering space explorers who made history through their trials and tribulations at the adjacent U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame (included with your admission), go for thrilling rides on simulators and experience IMAX films that get you as close to being out of this universe as you can get without physically launching into space yourself. (6/2)

Decision Time for Commercial Crew (Source: Space Review)
Last week, SpaceX unveiled the design for its commercial crew vehicle, but it's not the only contender for that NASA program. Jeff Foust reports on the latest progress made by Boeing, Sierra Nevada, and SpaceX, and the hard decisions facing these companies as NASA chooses some, but not all, of them to continue on the program. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2526/1 to view the article. (6/2)

Secret Optics (Source: Space Review)
The roles people play in space programs are often overlooked in comparison to technology, a problem exacerbated in classified programs. Dwayne Day discusses one exception to this rule in the form of a new book by, and interview of, someone who worked on early reconnaissance satellite programs. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2525/1 to view the article. (6/2)

The Prospect of a Grand Africa-Europe Space Partnership (Source: Space Review)
Africa could benefit greatly from enhanced used of space, but lacks the expertise and resources to do so. Vid Beldavs proposes how a partnership between Africa and the European Union could benefit both, and even the world. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2524/1 to view the article. (6/2)

Cislunar Cinema (Source: Space Review)
Ken Murphy completes his two-part review of movies based in cislunar space with those produced since the turn of the century, and what some of overall trends from these movies suggest. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2523/1 to view the article. (6/2)

It's the Godzilla of Earths! (Source: Astronomy Now)
Astronomers announced Monday that they have discovered a new type of planet, a rocky world weighing 17 times as much as Earth. Theorists believed such a world couldn't form because anything so hefty would grab hydrogen gas as it grew and become a Jupiter-like gas giant. This planet, though, is all solids and much bigger than previously discovered "super-Earths," making it a "mega-Earth." (6/2)

Raytheon Tops Boeing for FAB-T Production Contract (Source: Space News)
Raytheon has won a hotly contested strategic military satellite terminal contract after fighting its way into a competition with the original prime contractor, Boeing. The Air Force awarded Raytheon a $298 million contract modification on the Family of Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) program, a deal that includes several additional production options. Raytheon and Boeing had both been working since September on preproduction planning contracts for the program. (6/2)

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