September 4, 2014

SpaceX Continues to Purchase Land (Source: Valley Morning Star)
An Elon Musk company continues to purchase property at SpaceX’s planned site of the world’s first private and commercial vertical launch complex at Boca Chica Beach in Cameron County. Dogleg Park LLC picked up an additional five lots, adding to the 75 tracts of land that it now owns at and around the proposed launch site and control center. The added acreage hikes its ownership to more than 100 acres of land. (9/3)

Virgin Galactic call Moray Spaceport Plans Comprehensive (Source: Press & Journal)
A Moray councillor believes the region should boldly grab the chance to become the base for the UK’s first spaceport with both hands. Graham Leadbitter said there was a “serious possibility” the region could land the facility – and a huge boost to the local economy.

RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks were both named recently on a UK Government shortlist of possible sites where rockets, satellites and even tourists could be launched into orbit. Experts have long described Moray as the “obvious” location for the port because of the runways at the two sites – RAF Kinloss used to be the main base for the air force’s fleet of Nimrod maritime patrol planes – as well as their proximity to the coast and the relatively clear path north over the sea they offer.

According to Virgin Galactic: “As it has long stated, the company remains interested in operating outside of the US at some point in the future. The current UK Government space initiatives are noteworthy and comprehensive in their thoughtful approach to space industry expansion.” (9/3)

Brightman to Start Training for Space Station Journey in January (Source: Itar-Tass)
British famed soprano singer Sarah Brightman would begin pre-flight trainings for her journey to the International Space Station (ISS) as a space tourist early next year, instead of this autumn, Yuri Lonchakov, the head of the Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, said on Wednesday. “She will begin trainings in the Star City in January of 2015 and therefore we are all waiting for her,” Lonchakov said adding that he believed “her training will be a success.” (9/3)

China Launches Two satellites Via One Rocket (Source: Xinhua)
China successfully launched two satellites via one rocket at 8:15 a.m. Thursday Beijing Time (0015 GMT) at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern Gobi desert. One of the satellites is the Chuangxin-1-04, which is designed to collect and transmit data on hydrology, weather, electric power, and disaster relief. The other is a "smart satellite" to conduct multimedia telecommunications experiments.

The two satellites have reached their preset orbits via the Long March-2D vehicle, the launch center said. The launch marked the 192nd mission for the Long March rocket family. (9/4)

U.S. Aims to Fund Alternative to Russian Rocket Engine in 2016 (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. government hopes to add funding to its 2016 budget for alternatives to Russian-made rocket engines to launch sensitive satellites, a key Pentagon official said Wednesday. Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, said Russia's aggression in Ukraine had clearly increased concerns about America's dependence on Russia-built RD-180 rocket engines that power the heavy-lift Atlas 5 rockets used to carry U.S. military and spy satellites into space. (9/3)

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos Racing to Patent Reusable Rockets (Source: Quartz)
Whoever is the first to develop reusable rockets will have a huge advantage in the business of putting things into space: It could chop tens of millions of dollars off the cost of a launch, instantly putting the company with the technology miles ahead of its competitors.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the leader when it comes to actually building these devices: It’s tested a vertical take-off and landing of a small-scale rocket numerous times, and has begun including a vertical landing gear on its satellite launches. While the company hasn’t landed a full-size rocket yet, each experimental attempt teaches the company more about the challenges of landing a rocket.

Musk and Bezos, just two of the gentleman billionaires pursuing space travel like sixteenth century European noblemen commissioned expeditions to the new world, don’t get on particularly well. SpaceX beat out Blue Origin to lease a NASA launch pad late last year, with Musk dismissing Blue Origin’s progress: “I think it’s a bit silly because Blue Origin hasn’t even done a suborbital flight to space, let alone an orbital one. If one were to extrapolate their progress, they might reach orbit in five years, but that seems unlikely.” Click here. (9/3)

Embry-Riddle Teams with NASA for Underwater Mission (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Nicole Stott spent 18 days underwater as part of a research project with NASA. About eight years after she came to the surface and took off her gear, the astronaut dove into another quest: get Embry-Riddle, her alma mater, involved in the plunge as well.

Through Stott's efforts, 20 Embry-Riddle students are traveling from the Daytona Beach university to Key Largo this week and next as part of a three-part underwater research project with NASA, and they are taking a local business with them. “This (partnership) is perfect for us,” said Embry-Riddle President John Johnson. “Once we pull the trigger on something, the bullet comes out of the gun fast. And this project is an example of that.”

Stott, who also is an Embry-Riddle board member, was involved in NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) in 2006. NEEMO is a training program in which a group of astronauts, engineers and scientists live in an undersea research station for three weeks at a time. (9/4)

Icy Aquifers on Titan Transform Methane Rainfall (Source: NASA JPL)
The NASA and European Space Agency Cassini mission has revealed hundreds of lakes and seas spread across the north polar region of Saturn's moon Titan. These lakes are filled not with water but with hydrocarbons, a form of organic compound that is also found naturally on Earth and includes methane. The vast majority of liquid in Titan's lakes is thought to be replenished by rainfall from clouds in the moon's atmosphere. But how liquids move and cycle through Titan's crust and atmosphere is still relatively unknown.

A recent study led by Olivier Mousis, a Cassini research associate at the University of Franche-Comté, France, examined how Titan's methane rainfall would interact with icy materials within underground reservoirs. They found that the formation of materials called clathrates changes the chemical composition of the rainfall runoff that charges these hydrocarbon "aquifers." This process leads to the formation of reservoirs of propane and ethane that may feed into some rivers and lakes. (9/3)

SpaceX Targeting Sep. 6 Launch for AsiaSat 6 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The 45th Space Wing has approved a target date of Saturday, Sept. 6 at 12:50 a.m. EDT (0450 GMT) for a Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ) Falcon 9 v1.1 with its cargo of the AsiaSat 6 telecommunications spacecraft. This new launch date comes off of the scrubbed Aug. 27 launch last week. Although some reports have labeled the loss of a Falcon 9 Reusable test article as a determining factor behind the delay – SpaceX has flatly denied this.

The cause of the delay has been suggested as a potential leak with the F9′s upper stage, but engineers within the company have remained mum about the actual cause only stating that they wanted more time to review the situation before moving ahead with a new launch date. (9/3)

How Much Gravity is Enough (Source: York University)
Keeping upright in a low-gravity environment is not easy, and NASA documents abound with examples of astronauts falling on the lunar surface. Now, a new study by an international team of researchers led by York University professors Laurence Harris and Michael Jenkin, published today in PLOS ONE, suggests that the reason for all these moon mishaps might be because its gravity isn’t sufficient to provide astronauts with unambiguous information on which way is “up”.

“The perception of the relative orientation of oneself and the world is important not only to balance, but also for many other aspects of perception including recognizing faces and objects and predicting how objects are going to behave when dropped or thrown,” says Harris. “Misinterpreting which way is up can lead to perceptual errors and threaten balance if a person uses an incorrect reference point to stabilize themselves.” (9/3)

How to Find Your Way Home From Deep Space (Source: Science)
If aliens ever abduct you to a galaxy far, far away, this map might help you find your way back home. Presented online today in Nature, the map spans more than 1.5 billion light-years, coloring the densest concentrations of observed galaxies red and areas with the fewest galaxies blue. Your home galaxy, the Milky Way, is the blue dot at the center. The red region above the Milky Way includes Virgo, the closest galaxy cluster, about 55 million light-years from Earth.

The orange curve illustrates the key finding of the new work: It encircles galaxies that would fall toward one another along the curved white lines if space weren't expanding; the astronomers have named this huge assemblage Laniakea, after Hawaiian words for "spacious heaven." It is 100 quadrillion times as massive as the sun—equivalent to 100,000 Milky Ways—and stretches across more than half a billion light-years of space. (9/3)

Air Force Satellite to Continue Tracking of Space Traffic (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
U.S. Air Force officials have approved a stopgap mission for launch in 2017 to monitor satellite traffic in geosynchronous orbit, tasking the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory to design and build a small space surveillance satellite. The mission, known as ORS 5, is managed under the auspices of the U.S. Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space Office based at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

The small spacecraft will fly in a low-inclination orbit several hundred miles above Earth with a sensor to scan geosynchronous orbit, a heavily-trafficked belt of satellites 22,300 miles over the equator. (9/3)

Last-Minute Payment to Inmarsat Buys Bankrupt LightSquared More Time (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat said it had received a scheduled payment from bankrupt satellite-terrestrial network operator LIghtSquared less than 72 hours before a deadline that would have ended the two companies’ cooperation. London-based Inmarsat said LightSquared, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy for more than two years, made two payments totaling $9.1 million on Aug. 29.

The payment — part of a series of cash outlays from LightSquared in return for Inmarsat’s rearranging its use of L-band spectrum in the United States — had been due July 1. Inmarsat issued a notice of default to LightSquared on July 2 and gave the company 60 days’ notice.

Inmarsat officials have said that, insofar as LightSquared remains an acquisition target by one or more companies, LightSquared backers have little choice but to continue to make the Inmarsat payments or accept the loss of their use of the L-band spectrum. (9/3)

Airbus Booking Orders for All-Electric Satellites (Source: Space News)
French and European governments continue to beat the drum about catching up with the Americans in all-electric telecommunications satellites, but it’s Europe’s Airbus Defense and Space that has taken home the all-electric contracts awarded so far this year.

And for Eric Beranger, head of the company’s satellite division, the more important measure is not the number of satellites — Space Systems/Loral has won more orders than Airbus this year — but their total value that counts most. Boeing, which made a splash with a four-satellite commercial order in 2012, has booked no new commercial orders for all-electric satellites since. However, Boeing said earlier this year that it won a three-satellite order in 2013 from an undisclosed U.S. government customer. (9/3)

China to Launch Recoverable Moon Orbiter Prototype This Year (Source:
China's space program has set its sights on an ambitious feat of lunar exploration: robotically landing a probe on the moon and returning samples of the lunar surface back to Earth. To accomplish that, the country plans to launch a lunar "test orbiter" by year's end with the intention of laying the foundation for China's Chang'e 5 lunar sample-return mission in 2017. (9/3)

DARPA Eyes Satellite Servicing Demo with Industry Partner (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is hoping to build on its body of work on space robotics and on-orbit proximity operations with a new satellite servicing mission in geostationary orbit that could take place as early as 2019, according to a Sep. 3 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

DARPA has been experimenting with robotic satellite servicing technology for more than a decade. Currently the agency is pursuing a program dubbed Phoenix, which is aimed at salvaging and repurposing usable components from dead satellites, a concept some have likened to on-orbit surgery. In a request for information, DARPA said it is eying a new program to advance the agency’s work in the field and, in the most optimistic scenario, serve as a catalyst for a commercial satellite servicing industry. (9/3)

Google Satellite Expert Greg Wyler Leaves Company (Source: Silicon Republic)
Greg Wyler, a key employee in internet search giant Google’s efforts to beam internet access to unwired parts of world via satellite, has left the company only a few months after having been hired. The Information reported why the relationship between the satellite communications expert and Google “deteriorated just a few months after his hiring couldn’t be learned”.

In another report, The Verge revealed Wyler reportedly left Google to work with SpaceX, but not as an actual employee. Wyler is the founder of O3b Networks, another company that also works on ways to bring internet access to the developing world. Wyler joined Google earlier this year along with Brian Holz, O3b’s CTO, as Google worked on a US$1bn project to build a network of 180 satellites to provide internet access globally. (9/3)

Space Florida and FSGC Select 15 Research Grant Projects (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida, the state’s spaceport authority and aerospace development organization, and the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium (FSGC) announced this week the 2014-2015 winners of the Florida Space Research Program (FSRP), an initiative developed in 2007 to increase statewide academic involvement in space research, engineering, education and training programs that are consistent with the state’s space industry priorities. Click here. (9/3)

Space Florida Picks Two Projects for Florida/Israel Aerospace Grants (Source: Space Florida)
Under a new grant program established last year by Florida and Israel, companies were asked to present cooperative proposals to compete for $2 million in grant funding, half provided by Israel and half by Florida, through Space Florida. Two projects were selected for award, one led by Swiss Space Systems for $160,000 and another by Micro Aerospace Solutions for $300,000. Click here. (9/3)

What's Next in the Hunt for Alien Planets? The Spotlight Widens (Source: NBC)
Another day, another planet: It used to be that the mere discovery of one world around a distant star was enough to grab the headlines — but now the spotlight is pulling back to shine a light on the bigger questions in exoplanetology: Statistically speaking, how many planets of what sizes could be found around which kinds of stars? How likely is it that life has taken root elsewhere in the universe?

Those are the questions that increasingly engage the attention of Sarah Ballard, a self-described "exoplaneteer" at the University of Washington. Ballard already has been involved in some of the field's most noteworthy discoveries, ranging from the detection of an "invisible" planet known as Kepler-19c to the ultra-precise measurement of a different world called Kepler-93b. Click here. (9/3)

Delta 2 Rocket Erected to Launch SMAP Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
United Launch Alliance ground crews have erected the two-stage Delta 2 launcher that will carry NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive mission into orbit this winter. The rocket is perched at Space Launch Complex 2-West at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., for liftoff as soon as mid-December with the $490 million science mission.

SMAP will measure soil moisture and freeze/thaw states with an L-band radar and radiometer from a 422-mile-high orbit, covering the globe every two or three days. The data will improve weather and climate models, aid in flood prediction and drought monitoring, and help researchers better understand the links between Earth's water, carbon and energy cycles. (9/2)

Putin OKs Plans for Creating Super-Heavy Rockets (Source: Itar-Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved plans for creating super-heavy rockets, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. “Today, Roscosmos plans to begin the work on a super-heavy rocket were voiced at the presidential level for the first time,” Rogozin said, adding that on all previous occasions there were mostly informal conversations and discussions.

“In principle, one can say today that Putin gave a go-ahead to the beginning of this work,” Rogozin said. This means, he explained, that after finalizing the entire family of the Angara rockets of light, medium and heavy class, Russian designers will focus on creating a rocket capable of carrying a fundamentally different payload. “Not seven, fifteen or even twenty five tons, but 120-150 tons,” Rogozin said. (9/2)

Why This Company Wants to Take You on a Balloon Ride to Space (Source: Fast Company)
If Jane Poynter has her way, a regular person will be able to ride up to the edge of space quicker than they could take a commercial flight across the country--without the hassle of a lengthy security line. Her company, World View Enterprises, is pioneering travel to the top of the atmosphere. The entire journey should take about four hours, no anti-gravity training required. Click here. (9/3)

Curiosity Rover Science Plan Slammed by NASA Review Panel (Source: Planetary Society)
he Curiosity rover's continued mission to explore Gale Crater was singled out as "lack[ing] specific scientific questions to be answered, testable hypotheses, and proposed measurements" in a harsh report by a recent NASA review panel . The report also criticized the Curiosity mission's leadership for perceived hubris, calling out Project Scientist John Grotzinger for failing to appear in person to answer the panel's inquiries.

That, combined with a lack of clarity on the science goals of the extended mission, left the panel "with the impression that the team felt they were too big to fail." Despite this assessment, the review panel recommended continued investment in Curiosity and six other planetary exploration missions. (9/3)

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