January 30, 2015

SpaceX's Texas Spaceport Will Bring Change (Source: KRGV)
The new SpaceX launch site is expected to bring jobs and an economic boost not only to Cameron County, but to other cities in the Rio Grande Valley. "This kind of opened up a whole different opportunity," former Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos said. The land near Boca Chica beach will be transformed over the next two years. Modern-day engineering will restructure the area.

Some say the launch site is a sign of progress. Others think it's a step in the wrong direction. "It's going to be sad," said Bonnie Heaton, one of the few residents at Boca Chica Village. The small community is within a stone's throw of the future rocket launch site. Bonnie and Terry Heaton said the seclusion of the area was what convinced them to buy a home in the small community.

"There was nobody here. It was like a ghost town. To me, that was so exciting because there was nobody," Bonnie Heaton said. Boca Chica Village struggles to exist. Few are willing to purchase homes in the area. Some businesses tried to open in the area, but failed. The walls of an old motel still stand as a reminded or those failed ventures. (1/29)

Adidas Ties New Sneakers to Historic NASA Astronaut Spacesuits (Source: CollectSpace)
Aspiring astronauts take note: if you have ever desired to take a "space walk," Adidas will soon have the sneakers for you. The German sports outfitter is set to launch two new pairs of trainers that feature the look and feel of NASA's historic spacesuits this summer. (1/29)

Nano/Microsatellite Market Assessment Released (Source: SpaceWorks)
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) released the annual update to its nanosatellite and microsatellite market assessment. The assessment presents the latest observations and trends for the nano/microsatellite market. The study summary is available in presentation form as a free download on the website. Click here. (1/29) 

Next-Generation Long March Rocket Assembled at Chinese Spaceport (Source: Popular Science)
On the tropical island Hainan, Wenchang Satellite Launch Center got its very first heavy rocket. The Long March 7 (LM-7), built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC), will likely not launch until 2016, but Chinese engineers have assembled it on the launch pad's mobile service structure in order to test its systems for preflight and integration quality assurance. (1/29)

Is The Moon A Planet? (Source: Universe Today)
What makes a planet a planet? The Moon is so big compared to the Earth — roughly one-quarter our planet’s size — that occasionally you will hear our system being referred to as a “double planet”. Is this correct? And we all remember how quickly the definition of a planet changed in 2006 when more worlds similar to Pluto were discovered. So can the Moon stay the Moon, or is the definition subject to change? Click here. (1/27)

Austin to Encourage Space Entrepreneurship (Source: Silicon Hills)
One of Austin’s tactics for keeping the city’s economy growing is to build on space technology, said Gene Austin, President and CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce. He said that Opportunity Austin, the chamber’s five-county economic development initiative would focus on Space Technology and Exploration as an area for growth.

“There are about 30 space startups every year and Austin is already home to seven,” Austin said. Opportunity Austin will encourage midsized companies in the fast-growing space technology and exploration category to make Austin their central Texas home. This includes companies involved with satellites, launch software and robotics. To facilitate talent in the area, UT will offer a master’s in Space Entrepreneurship starting in 2015. (1/28)

Space Economy Taking Off in Austin (Source: KEYE)
It's not a 9-to-5 job at Firefly Space Systems in Cedar Park. "People come in when they feel like it, leave when they feel like it as long as they get the job done," said founder Tom Markusic. Markusic started Firefly about a year ago, after earning a tech pedigree that includes working for Space X, Jeff Bezos and Virgin Galactic. Now, he and his staff are building the rockets to blast small satellites into space.

"This week Google putting a billion dollars into developing these small satellites, yet the means to get them to space is still underserved," he said. Small satellites are one of the top priorities in the Opportunity Austin initiative to bring some of the space economy here. "Austin has always been a big innovator, especially in technology, so commercial space is a massively growing industry now," said Jill Cassidy of business growth and strategic communications firm Phillips and Company. (1/29)

What if We Put Servers in Space? (Source: Fortune)
ConnectX is a startup company based in Los Angeles that’s working on a way to take corporations’ data out of the cloud and into the final frontier, revolutionizing the way we store, transmit, and analyze information. The problem with cloud computing is that, according to Lance Parker, it’s simply unsustainable. He may have a point. From the beginning of time until 2002, the world created five exabytes (five billion gigabytes) of information; today, we create that much data in about 10 minutes.

Data storage technology just isn’t keeping pace with the exponential growth of data creation. Data centers are also energy hogs, using up 10% of the world’s electricity. Putting servers in space could potentially remedy the energy problem, since they could be powered by free, plentiful solar radiation. And, Parker adds, the space environment would be advantageous for spinning disk drives. Zero-gravity allows the drives to spin with less resistance. (1/29)

NASA's Investment in Commercial Space Is Vindicated! (Source: Huffington Post)
Google and Fidelity announced they were acquiring about 10 percent of SpaceX. This ten-figure investment (yep, that's a Billion dollars with a capital "B") signals a coming of age for New Space. Although the traditional investment community has long marginalized these firms, NASA backed the development of a competitive space launch market as the lead investor to the dismay of some traditionalists. Click here. (1/29)

Why Russia Is Abandoning The International Space Station (Source: Worldcrunch)
An alarm went off in the American section of the International Space Station on Jan. 14, warning that ammonia, which is used to cool the space station's energy system, had leaked into the atmosphere. Without it, the station would blow up like a can of food placed on an open flame. Following instructions, the three American astronauts fled to the safety of the Russian section, joining three astronauts there.

It turned out that the space station's atmospheric monitoring system was simply malfunctioning. A similar incident had happened before, in May 2013. "At the beginning, the International Space Station was supposed to work through 2015 — that is, until about right now. There was good reason for deciding on that period of time, since the various systems on board have a certain guaranteed length of service," said Andrei Ionin.

The number of malfunctions and errors will only increase from now on, which is among the reasons why Russia's decision to pull out of the ISS in 2020 was a wise one, Ionin says. There have been other problems too. In August, and again in September, the station launched several micro-satellites on its own because of a system malfunction. (1/29)

3D Printing Rocket Engines Could Win Back the Space Race (Source: Popular Science)
The Dynetics/Aerojet Rocketdyne team is reconstructing 20th-century rocket components with 21st-century technologies, like high-powered computer modeling and 3D printing, in some cases shaving more than a year off traditional production timelines. If they can bring the program to completion the way engineers now envision it, NASA and the U.S. Air Force could soon 3-D print the most powerful rockets to ever pierce the sky.

“Using technologies we’ve developed over the past 10-15 years, we can do this cheaper than the Russians do it today,” says Steve Cook, director of corporate development for Dynetics and a former manager of the Ares Projects Office, the last major NASA initiative to develop new rocket engine technology. (1/29)

New UK Exhibition Explores Our Relationship with Outer-Space (Source: Southampton)
A new art exhibition at The Winchester Gallery is set to explore outer-space and the ‘human act of gazing upwards’. Fourteen international artists will display their work in the visual arts venue at the University of Southampton’s, Winchester School of Art (WSA). (1/29)

Meet Two New Science Spending Cardinals in Congress (Source: Science)
The November elections have meant new federal lawmakers will be overseeing spending for important slices of the U.S. research pie. That includes two key changes in the House of Representatives: Representative Tom Cole (R–OK) will lead the subcommittee that oversees the budget of the National Institutes of Health, and Representative John Culberson (R–TX) will head the panel responsible for NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Cole, who holds a Ph.D. in history, has a reputation as a thoughtful legislator who prefers compromise to ideological purity on contentious issues. Culberson, a lawyer, is simultaneously a staunch advocate for a smaller government and a huge fan of space exploration to distant bodies in search of extraterrestrial life. (1/29)

How Would the World Change if We Found Extraterrestrial Life? (Source: Astrobiology)
How extraterrestrial life would change our world view is a research interest of Steven Dick, who just completed a term as the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair of Astrobiology. Dick is a former astronomer and historian at the United States Naval Observatory, a past chief historian for NASA, and has published several books concerning the discovery of life beyond Earth. To Dick, even the discovery of microbes would be a profound shift for science.

“If we found microbes, it would have an effect on science, especially biology, by universalizing biology,” he said. “We only have one case of biology on Earth. It’s all related. It’s all DNA-based. If we found an independent example on Mars or Europa, we have a chance of forming a universal biology.” Click here. (1/29)

The Competition that Wasn’t: NRO Launch Swept into ULA Block Buy (Source: Space News)
A highly anticipated U.S. Air Force launch contract – once thought to be SpaceX’s first chance to break into the national security launch market – has instead been added to the service’s existing $11 billion deal with ULA. The Air Force on Jan. 28 formally canceled a six-month-old competition to launch a payload for the NRO.

Bids for that mission, known as NROL-79, were due in August, and the contest was widely viewed as a two-horse race between longtime incumbent ULA and relative newcomer SpaceX. About an hour after canceling the bid solicitation, the Pentagon announced a $382 million modification to ULA’s block buy contract. The modification covered three national security launches and included an Atlas 5 rocket for the NRO. Click here. (1/29)

Safety Panel Criticizes Lack of Commercial Crew Transparency (Source: Space News)
An independent panel said Jan. 28 it could not evaluate the safety of NASA’s commercial crew program because of the unwillingness of the agency’s leadership to provide information the panel sought about it. In its annual report, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) said efforts to gain insight into the program, including about contracts awarded to Boeing and SpaceX, were met with “a seamless set of constraints” regarding why that information could not be released.

“Regrettably, the Panel is unable to offer any informed opinion regarding the adequacy of the certification process or the sufficiency of safety in the Commercial Crew Program due to constraints on access to needed information,” the panel’s chairman, Joseph Dyer, said. (1/29)

Smallsat Developer Spire To Enter Commercial Weather Market (Source: Space News)
A San Francisco-based developer of nanosatellites announced Jan. 29 that it plans to start deploying a constellation of spacecraft by the end of this year to collect weather data for government and commercial customers. Spire said that it believes its constellation of cubesat-class satellites, which will eventually exceed 100 spacecraft, will provide data that will greatly improve the accuracy of weather forecasts. (1/29)

European Satellites Still Heavily Dependent on U.S. Parts (Source: Space News)
More than one-third of the critical components embedded in European satellites, when measured by cost, are non-European, most of them provided by U.S. companies, according to the French space agency, CNES. The situation has not materially changed in the past decade despite the technology-export red tape European and U.S. companies have faced in sending U.S. satellite parts overseas.

It is one reason why CNES, the European Space Agency and the European Commission all include lines labeled “non-dependence” in their space research budgets. For the European Commission, a program called Compet-T is part of the Horizon 2020 program, which has earmarked 200 million euros ($250 million) per year for space technology over seven years starting in 2014. (1/29)

Asteroid Miners May Get Help from Metal-Munching Microbes (Source: Space.com)
Asteroid mining may become a multispecies affair. The asteroid-mining firm Deep Space Industries (DSI) is investigating the feasibility of injecting bioengineered microbes into space rocks far from Earth, to get a jump on processing their valuable resources.

The scientists working on the concept envision launching a small probe that DSI is developing, called Mothership, out to a promising near-Earth asteroid in deep space. Mothership would be carrying a number of tiny CubeSats, one of which would deploy and spiral down to the asteroid's surface. The CubeSat would then inject into the asteroid a low-temperature fluid laden with bacteria, which would propagate through cracks and fissures generated by the injection process.

Over time, the microbes — genetically engineered to process metals efficiently — would break down harmful compounds within the asteroid and/or transform resources into different chemical states that are more amenable to extraction. (1/29)

Does the Milky Way Hide a Portal to the Distant Universe? (Source: SEN)
Our Milky Way could be harbouring a cosmic "wormhole"—that exotic short cut across the Universe made famous in science fiction shows and films—according to a team of scientists in India, Italy and the USA. Such a wormhole could offer an alternative to Dark Matter as an explanation for the missing mass in our Galaxy, say the scientists in a paper submitted to The Annals of Physics. Click here. (1/29)

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