February 9, 2015

Commercial Space Exploration: No Longer an Oxymoron! (Source: Space Review)
Last month, the X PRIZE Foundation awarded more than $5 million to five teams competing in the Google Lunar X PRIZE for milestones they achieved getting their landers ready for flight. Derek Webber, one of the judges of those prizes, argues that these prizes are themselves a milestone for a more commercial approach for space exploration. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2692/1 to view the article. (2/9)

The Gift of a Europa Mission May Have a Cost (Source: Space Review)
NASA's 2016 budget proposal, released last week, included plans to formally start work on a project to send a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. Jeff Foust reports that while this is good news for mission advocates, that decision could have a funding catch. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2691/1 to view the article. (2/9)

A New Way of Financing Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
The last few years has seen a surge of interest in alternative "cryptocurrencies" like bitcoin. Petr Konupek examines whether a similar alterative currency might stimulate spaceflight. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2690/1 to view the article. (2/9)

Quantum Equation Predicts Universe Has No Beginning (Source: Phys.org)
The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein's theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.

The widely accepted age of the universe, as estimated by general relativity, is 13.8 billion years. In the beginning, everything in existence is thought to have occupied a single infinitely dense point, or singularity. Only after this point began to expand in a "Big Bang" did the universe officially begin. Click here. (2/9)

How to Get Into Space for Cheap—Use a Balloon (Source: Medium)
Hurling an object into space is certainly dramatic and risky. During its flight, a giant rocket burns hundreds of tons of fuel in a continuous explosion full of sound and fury, signifying human triumph over gravity. All that power is dangerous. If the controlled explosion gets out of hand, people die and millions of dollars of equipment disintegrates into shrapnel. But no other technology can loft heavy payloads—like warheads and spacecraft—into orbit.

However, if you want to lift lighter loads, or ascend slowly to moderate altitudes, another method holds promise for safer, cheaper trips into space. Improbable as it sounds, a rocket can hitch a ride on a balloon. Balloon-launched rockets, or “rockoons,” sound crazy. Rocket scientist and entrepreneur José Mariano Lopez-Urdiales agrees. “Sometimes crazy is good,” he says. “If it sounds normal, everyone’s doing it.” Click here. (2/9)

What if an Asteroid Was About to Hit Earth? (Source: Space Safety)
Sci-fi movies that depict Earth’s near destruction from incoming asteroids like Armageddon or Deep Impact are seen as “scary entertainment” far from reality. After all, the giant asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was 66 million years ago. Most people think if there is something like this to worry about it is safely millions of years away.

Unfortunately this is faulty logic for several reasons. First we have recently found that asteroid strikes on Earth are 4 to 10 times more likely that we thought just a decade ago. Secondly, we now have many more people that 10 or 20 years ago. These are concentrated in cities and dependent on modern infrastructure, so a single asteroid hit of just modest size could kill millions and make tens of millions suddenly vulnerable.

We will soon have 50 mega-cities of over 10 million people and global population could hit anywhere from 10 to 12 billion by 2100). Thirdly, we have to protect against not only a “ten” on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale — such as the K-T event that wiped out 80% of all species on Earth — but also something like a “6” or above strike that could still wipe out a mega-city and do enormous damage. Click here. (2/9)

The Space Economy (Source: Space Safety)
The OECD Space Forum provides a definition of global space economy that comprises the space industry’s core activities in space manufacturing and in satellite operations and other consumer activities that have been derived over the years from governmental R&D. It includes all public and private factors involved in developing, providing and using space-related outputs, space derived products and services and the scientific knowledge arisen from space research. Click here. (2/9)

Reusable Launch Vehicles: An Indian Perspective (Source: Space Safety)
Launching satellites or humans to space is a costly affair. Since man stepped on moon, it has been the constant dream of engineers, policymakers and others among the space community to develop and design a vehicle that can be used for multiple launch missions, like an aircraft, whether military or transport. The only success achieved so far is the Space Shuttle Program that has been shelved in 2011.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced on January 7th, 2015, that they will perform a RLV technology demonstration in March. If successful, this test will be a big achievement for India and ISRO, and will cement its position as a forerunner in the field of space exploration. Click here. (2/9)

Space Society International Student Art Contest Entries Due by March 16 (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society is sponsoring a ]2015 Roadmap to Space Settlement International Student Art Contest for students aged 13-25. We're looking for original, realistic illustrations of some aspect of daily life in a space settlement anywhere in the solar system. Submissions are due by March 16th. Cick here. (2/9)

DSCOVR Launch Date Now Set for Feb. 10 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The next launch attempt for the DSCOVR mission will now be Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 6:05 p.m. EST with a backup launch opportunity on Wednesday, Feb. 11 at 6:03 p.m. EST. Weather for an attempt on Monday, Feb. 9 is unfavorable. If an attempt was made and ultimately scrubbed for weather, the team would lose either the Tuesday or Wednesday launch opportunity due to crew rest requirements for the Air Force. (2/9)

Can Jet Planes Launch Small Satellites on the Cheap? (Source: Space Daily)
Launching a satellite is an expensive endeavor. Rockets must be built -- often only to be obliterated upon re-entry or wrecked as they splash back into the ocean. And massive amounts of fuel must be expended to propel the heavy metal objects through Earth's atmosphere. It's a problem for both private communication companies and the federal government.

But problem solvers at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are working on a solution -- the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program. Military engineers working on the program want to use a small and efficient propellant system launched from a jet plane (not a large rocket blasted from a launch pad), to spring satellites weighing up to 100 pounds into low Earth orbit. Click here. (2/6)

Congress Sends No Clear Signal Regarding DOD Budget (Source: Defense News)
So far Congress has yet to send a clear message regarding the Obama administration's $534 billion defense budget and whether lawmakers will broker a deal to avoid sequestration. "I hope that we will do the right thing," said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-MS, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. (2/8)

ULA’s CEO Talks Challenges, Engine Plant Pplans for Decatur (Source: Decatur Daily)
Tory Bruno, who became chief executive officer of Colorado-based United Launch Alliance in August, spoke with The Decatur Daily last week about the successes and challenges faced by ULA's 1,000-employee Decatur rocket plant. Bruno said the Decatur area is being considered as a possible site for a factory to produce engines for ULA's Next Generation Launch System, a site he expects to select this year. Click here. (2/7)

ULA Has Backup Engine Plan for NextGen Atlas (Source: Decatur Daily)
"Engines are tough," says ULA's Tory Bruno. "Rockets are hard in general, and the engine is probably the most complex thing on a launch vehicle of the nature we build. [Although we've selected Blue Origin's engine as our first choice,] we have a backup plan," he says.

"Aerojet Rocketdyne (which has a Huntsville facility) also has come forward with a rocket engine that is very attractive in its technology and its performance. They're a couple of years behind Blue. We're going to bring them both along parallel for at least a couple more years until it's clear. Now I fully expect Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin to succeed, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't manage that risk by having this backup plan." (2/7)

Australia Sending Satellites to Space to Get Internet to the Outback (Source: Mashable)
The Australian government is taking connectivity to new heights, with the launch of two satellites into space to provide Internet access to regional Australia. The company behind the government's National Broadband Network (NBN) announced work on its 10 satellite ground stations is complete. Each station will comprise of two 13.5-meter satellite dishes and are situated in New South Wales, Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia.

Following a recent report putting Internet speeds in Australia at 44th in the world, it is hoped the next-generation Ka-band satellite technology will bring 400,000 households in the bush up to speed with their city counterparts. The first satellite is planned for an October or November 2015 launch, with the second following a few months later. (2/9)

Short Film Tells the Stories of Three People Who Want to Die on Mars (Source: Mashable)
It takes a certain type of person to willfully leave behind life on Earth forever in hopes of colonizing a new planet. Filmmaker Peter Savodnik and his short-form documentary company Stateless Media set out to explore such a mindset by telling the stories of three of the 660 people vying for a one-way trip to the Red Planet as part of a worldwide competition called Mars One. Click here. (2/9)

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