January 24, 2015

Editorial: Spaceport America Needs Continued Boost from Lawmakers (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
This legislative session figures to be a critical one for the future of Spaceport America. State lawmakers, many of whom have been skeptical about the spaceport from the start, had expected Virgin Galactic to begin launches in the past year, with all of the revenue those launches are expected to generate. Convincing lawmakers from other areas of the state to continue investing in the spaceport in this environment may be difficult, but those investments are now more vital than ever. (1/24)

Asteroid Found with Rings! First-of-Its-Kind Discovery Stuns Astronomers (Source: Space.com)
Scientists have made a stunning discovery in the outer realm of the solar system — an asteroid with its own set of rings that orbits the sun between Saturn and Uranus. The space rock is the first non-planetary object ever found to have its own ring system, researchers say.

The pair of space rock rings encircle the asteroid Chariklo. They were most likely formed after a collision scattered debris around the asteroid, according to a new study unveiled today (March 27). The asteroid rings also suggests the presence of a still-undiscovered moon around Chariklo that's keeping them stable, researchers said. (1/24)

Russian Bank Chair: 'Entire Economy Will Be Under Control Of The State' (Source: Business Insider)
The chairman of one of Russia's biggest state-owned banks said that if the authorities don't take control of the situation, the economy will continue to nationalize. "We will have one big state; our entire economy will be under the control of the state," Sberbank's chairman and president German Gref said.

He said lenders' property would go to the banks, the state would capitalize the banks, and then the banks would purchase enterprises, turning into "finance industry" groups. Additionally, Gref said it was "obvious that the banking crisis will be enormous," citing the current average oil prices. (1/14)

Virgin Galactic to Test New Rocket Scaled Composites (Source: LA Times)
After last year's fatal crash, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will now test its new SpaceShipTwo rocket without its longtime aerospace partner that designed and built the first plane. Since 2005, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, a firm famous in the industry for designing the aircraft that won the coveted X-Prize, had worked together to build and test SpaceShipTwo. Their goal: blasting wealthy tourists into space.

The tests of the new spaceship, which is under construction in a hangar in Mojave, will be conducted by Virgin's own team of pilots, George Whitesides, the company's chief executive, confirmed Friday. Those tests are expected to begin later this year. Scaled will still be connected to the project in some way, Whitesides said. "My guess is that we stay involved with Scaled for years to come." (1/23)

US Emergency Services to Depend On Russian Satellites? (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's GLONASS precision navigation and timing satellite system may be used in the US to locate people calling 911 from their mobile phones. Trey Forgety, director of government affairs for the National Emergency Number Association, explained that GLONASS would be required because US systems fail to cover enough territory.

"Our view is that we ought to be leveraging anything that is available to find someone in an emergency," he said. GLONASS is thought to be more accurate than its American counterpart GPS, which uses technology on cellphones that reportedly works well outdoors but badly indoors, according to the Washington Times. The GLONASS system, which was launched into orbit in 1982, currently comprises a network of 28 satellites. (1/23)

Scientists Slow Down Light Particles (Source: Space Daily)
The speed of light is a limit, not a constant -- that's what researchers in Glasgow, Scotland, say. A group of them just proved that light can be slowed down, permanently. Scientists already knew light could be slowed temporarily. Photons change speeds as they pass through glass or water, but when they exit the other side and return to a vacuum (like outer space) they speed back up.

In a new experiment at the University of Glasgow, however, scientists were able to permanently manipulate light's speed by passing photons through a device that alters their structure. The device, created in collaboration with researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, is a filter of sorts that the scientists refer to as a mask. (1/23)

Economic Crisis in Russia Lowers Prices for Space Tourism (Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines)
The economic crisis and the falling ruble have forced Russian space startups to reconsider their plans. Pavel Pushkin, who runs private space tourism company KosmoKurs, told RBTH that his company might reduce prices for tickets to outer space, which currently run from $200,000-$250,000.

KosmoKurs set that price in fall 2014 after researching the international market and analyzing global market supply. Tickets are already being bought, despite the fact that testing is not even scheduled to start until 2018 and the first tourist will not have liftoff until at least 2020. According to Pushkin, China offers the best market prospects for the space travel industry. (1/24)
Students to Send Life to Mars on Mars One Lander in 2018 (Source: Spaceflight Insider)
The first step to establish a permanent colony on Mars could be taken in 2018 when a group of European students will send its project to the Red Planet. The team composed of students from Portugal, Spain and Netherlands has won the Mars One University Competition which offers a one way ticket to Mars for a scientific payload. The winning project which aims to germinate the first seed on the Red Planet, will fly to the surface of Mars on board the Mars One unmanned lander scheduled to be launched in 2018. (1/24)

Florida Gets New Economic Development Chief (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
Gov. Rick Scott is losing another top adviser — his prized chief jobs recruiter. Surprised business leaders learned Wednesday of the resignation of Enterprise Florida CEO Gray Swoope, who will leave next month for an unannounced job in the private sector. Gov. Scott tapped Miami-Dade's longtime port chief to run Florida's economic-development arm on Thursday. Bill Johnson will be the CEO of Enterprise Florida, a post that also comes with the title of commerce secretary. (1/23)

Texas Officials Tour ULA Manufacturing Site (Source: Brownsville Herald)
State legislators on Thursday stood in awe inside the United Launch Alliance manufacturing facility in Harlingen: before them was a payload fairing that will ultimately launch a communication satellite to space. Minutes later, state Rep. Eddie Lucio III noted, “Exposure and seeing and feeling and smelling an area really gives you the best possible perspective about why it is important for the state of Texas for that area to prosper.”

State Rep. Rene O. Oliveira’s legislative director Tony Gray noted that ULA is a large employer, and that the state is making every effort to try to develop commercial launch activities all across the state. “It is happening all over the state, and it is very prudent to promote it as we move into the 21st century,” Gray said. Approximately 40 legislators were on hand, hosted by the partnership, city, and Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce. (1/22)

ULA To Unveil Revamped Atlas 5 Details at Space Symposium (Source: Space News)
U.S. government launch services provider United Launch Alliance has completed the conceptual trade studies for its revamped Atlas 5 rocket and plans to unveil details in April, Tory Bruno, the company’s president and chief executive said Jan. 22. ULA is working with Blue Origin, the secretive rocket-making venture led by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos,  to develop a new engine, dubbed the BE-4.

That engine would replace the Russian-made RD-180 that powers the first stage of ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket. "We’re going to have to change the booster, the first stage, to accommodate that. Because of the density difference we’re going to need a larger tank," said Bruno. We’re going to have a larger diameter tank that may or may not be longer."

"There will be software modifications to accommodate the different performance and timing because this engine is going to produce a lot more thrust than we currently have with our RD-180. But beyond that it’s all the same. My vision is to update the technology. The trades for what that vehicle family looks like are still underway and they’ll be completed about the end of the year." (1/23)

SpaceX, U.S. Air Force Reach Settlement on Rocket Program (Source: Venture Beat)
SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force have reached a settlement on a dispute involving the military’s expendable rocket program. In a post this afternoon, SpaceX wrote that it had come to an agreement with the Air Force over a lawsuit the private space company filed last year, alleging an unfair bidding system for launch services under EELV program.

The settlement, SpaceX said, “improves the competitive landscape and achieves mission assurance for national security space launches.” Last April, SpaceX protested the ULA contract, alleging it had not been permitted to compete for the government contract, which it said, “was granted to ULA on a sole-source basis without any competition from other launch providers.”

Under the terms of the settlement announced today, “the Air Force will work collaboratively with SpaceX to complete the certification process in an efficient and expedient manner. … The Air Force also has expanded the number of competitive opportunities for launch services under the EELV program while honoring existing contractual obligations.” (1/23)

NASA Not Ready To Update Mars Mission Architecture (Source: Space News)
Despite a desire by industry and policymakers for more details about NASA’s long-term plans to send humans to Mars, agency officials say they have no immediate plans to revise a Mars mission architecture last updated in 2009.

In presentations to a NASA Advisory Council committee Jan. 13 and the full council Jan. 14, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations William Gerstenmaier said the agency still had more to learn, including studies ongoing with academia, before it would be ready to update those earlier plans. NASA last published a human Mars exploration plan, called a design reference architecture, in July 2009. (1/23)

NASA Advisory Council Remains Skeptical of Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: Space News)
As NASA continues to weigh two options for the robotic portion of its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), the agency’s advisers say they are still unconvinced about the general ARM concept and its relevance to the long-term goal of sending humans to Mars.

At a recent meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, agency officials said they had not yet made a selection between two approaches for moving a small asteroid, or a boulder off a larger asteroid, into lunar orbit. NASA had planned to make a decision in December on the two choices, known simply as Option A and Option B.

In Option A, a spacecraft would shift the orbit of a small asteroid, up to ten meters across, into a distant retrograde orbit around the moon. In Option B, a spacecraft would grab a boulder a few meters across from the surface of a larger asteroid and move that into lunar orbit. In both options, a crewed Orion spacecraft would then visit the asteroid. (1/23)

Did Water Once Flow on Vesta Asteroid? (Source: SEN)
Vesta, one of the largest members of the asteroid belt, has no atmosphere, but probably saw brief spurts of water flow across its surface to produce curved gullies visible in the eyes of NASA's Dawn spacecraft. The conclusion came after researchers examined the mysterious flows in eight craters, some of which also included deposits that appeared similar in shape to those associated with water-borne deposits of silt on Earth.

Rosetta Mission Reveals Secret Life of Ancient Comet (Source: Sputnik)
The early findings of the Rosetta mission, which was sent to observe the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, are showing space scientists that comets are much more than the "dirty snowballs" they have been labelled; they are more diverse than previously thought and home to a variety of features which offer information on the origins of our planetary system.

The findings so far indicate that the comet, which measures four kilometers in length and takes 6.5 years to orbit the sun, has a complexity which "suggests that the comet-forming regions of the early solar system were more turbulent and chemically diverse than theorists have thought," the journal reported on Friday. (1/23)

NASA Testing Helicopter Drone for Mars (Source: The Verge)
Rover teams still have a tough time with the Martian surface even though they're flush with terrestrial data. The alien surface is uneven, and ridges and valleys make navigating the terrain difficult. The newest solution proposed by JPL is the Mars Helicopter, an autonomous drone that could "triple the distances that Mars rovers can drive in a Martian day," according to NASA. The helicopter would fly ahead of a rover when its view is blocked and send Earth-bound engineers the right data to plan the rover's route. (1/23)

NASA Finds Mysterious Bright Spot on Dwarf Planet Ceres: What Is It? (Source: Space.com)
A strange, flickering white blotch found on the dwarf planet Ceres by a NASA spacecraft has scientists scratching their heads. The white spot on Ceres in a series of new photos taken on Jan. 13 by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which is rapidly approaching the round dwarf planet in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

But when the initial photo release on Monday (Jan. 19), the Dawn scientists gave no indication of what the white dot might be. "Yes, we can confirm that it is something on Ceres that reflects more sunlight, but what that is remains a mystery," said Marc Rayman, mission director and chief engineer for the Dawn mission. (1/23)

Apollo 13 Astronaut Visits DeFuniak Springs (Source: My Panhandle)
Because of the Hollywood blockbuster, most Americans -- young and old -- are familiar with the ill-fated Apollo 13 space expedition. Friday morning, one of the astronauts from the mission visited our area to recall his experiences. Humble, smiling, and friendly, former astronaut Fred Haise arrived at Walton High School as the keynote speaker for the Florida Chautauqua Assembly.

He was one of three astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 space expedition in 1970 forced to come home early after an oxygen tank exploded two days into the mission. Despite limited power, heat, and oxygen, the crew safely splashed down on earth with the nation watching. Haise downplays the drama of the event, crediting his crew on board and in Houston for getting him home safely. (1/23)

Satellite Internet Schemes, In Order of Apparent Implausibility (Source: Quartz)
Billionaires are fighting to launch wildly expensive business plans in a sector marked by failure on the frontier of technology. We speak of the satellite internet business, a graveyard for ambitious ventures. Official spokespeople for the new ventures are keeping quite mum on the details. That’s in part because of issues surrounding the radio spectrum companies license to transmit messages to and from orbit.

The last time we checked in, itinerant satellite entrepreneur Greg Wyler had left Google to form a new satellite company. In the last week, news broke that Wyler’s start-up OneWeb has secured an investment from Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Paul Jacobs’ Qualcomm to launch an internet satellite constellation, while SpaceX announced its own satellite internet plan—and a $1 billion investment round led by Google and Fidelity that valued the company $10 billion.

“Greg and I have a fundamental disagreement about the architecture," said Elon Musk. "We want a satellite that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than what Greg wants. I think there should be two competing systems.” We’re talking about competition between a $5 to $10 billion, multi-thousand satellite constellation from SpaceX and a $2 billion, 648 satellite effort from OneWeb. That would more than double the existing number of artificial satellites orbiting earth. Click here. (1/23)

SpaceBillboard, First Billboard in Space Ready for Launch (From Brazil) (Source: SpaceBillboard)
SpaceBillboard, a supporter of innovative space research, is set to launch the world’s first billboard in space in a milestone that marks the increasing importance of CubeSats in Space Exploration. Researchers at KU Leuven University in Belgium came up with the novel idea of launching a real billboard into space to help fund their research on a new line up of NexGen satellites called CubeSats.

Tjorven Delabie, co-founder of SpaceBillboard said: “We are talking about an out-of-this-world project, that allows companies to bring their brand into space.” “The idea is catching on, and SpaceBillboard has already secured a number of contracts for companies to have their message on their own billboard in space.”
The launch of the billboard is scheduled for the beginning of 2016, to be launched from Alcântara in Brazil. (1/23)

Meet the Asteroid Mining Executive of Davos: No Joke (Source: Fortune)
In Davos, you meet a lot of people who do interesting and unusual things. After all, those who are part of the global elite dream big. On a shuttle, I sat across from someone who was fighting corruption in Angola and elsewhere. Next to me was the photographer Platon (he goes by one name), who chased Edward Snowden for a year. But Chris Lewicki has by far the most out there (literally) job of anyone I have ever met at the World Economic Forum. He is an asteroid miner, or at least he wants to be one. Click here. (1/23)

ESA Readies Vega for IXV Spaceplane Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The first launch this year of Europe's Vega rocket is planned for next month, on Feb. 11, when it will loft the European Space Agency's (ESA) unmanned spaceplane on a suborbital flight to test reentry technologies for future space vehicles. The  ESA's Intermediate eXerimental Vehicle (IXV) mission is scheduled to launch from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The mission will gather data that will aid in the development of reentry technologies for future vehicles. (1/23)

Linking NASA and the Private Sector to Further Space Exploration (Source: Washington Post)
Following the termination of the space shuttle program in 2011, NASA needed a new, safe and reliable method of transporting experiments, supplies and crew to and from the International Space Station. To answer that challenge, Alan Lindenmoyer created a new way for NASA to partner with the private sector to build rockets and spacecraft at a dramatically reduced cost to taxpayers.

In the process, he has reenergized the U.S. launch industry and is making it possible for our country to continue to lead the world in space research and exploration. Tapping into his broad NASA experience in both technical engineering and contract management for the International Space Station, Lindenmoyer designed and managed a novel program that allows NASA to contract for orbital transportation services rather than purchase the space vehicles. Click here. (1/22)

Proposal Would Transform Ellington Field Into Futuristic Spaceport (Source: Click2 Houston)
A new page in exploration for the Space City is on the horizon that would see nearly 100 year old Ellington Field transformed into a futuristic spaceport. It's a site that could one day support space tourism and eventually suborbital commercial flights that would cut international travel time by more than half. Click here. (1/22)

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