March 23, 2015

For Commercial Cargo, Ideas Old and New (Source: Space Review)
At least five companies have said they have submitted proposals to NASA for commercial cargo contracts. Jeff Foust describes the proposals made by two companies seeking to enter this market, one repurposing a crewed vehicle concept and the other offering a novel approach that could be used beyond Earth orbit as well. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2717/1 to view the article. (3/23)

The Return of the Satellite Constellations (Source: Space Review)
In the 1990s, a number of ventures tried to develop constellations of dozens or hundreds of communications satellites; they either ended up in bankruptcy reorganization or failed outright. Yet, Jeff Foust reports, there are today a number of firms, with significant financial support, trying even more ambitious systems. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2716/1 to view the article. (3/23)

Economic Impact Discussed at California Aerospace Week (Source: Northrop Grumman)
California's largest aerospace company, Northrop Grumman, will highlight its significant economic and educational impact on the state during California Aerospace Week in Sacramento, March 23-24. James Zortman, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems' vice president of global logistics and operational support, will discuss the company's numerous facilities in the state, where some of the world's most advanced manned, unmanned, space and missile systems are built. (3/23)

Ancient Doomsday Asteroid Impact Found in Australia (Source: Discovery)
Two vast underground domes are buried under central Australia that researchers have realized are the scars of the biggest and most powerful asteroid impact yet found on Earth. They appear to have been caused by a massive asteroid that broke in two, serving our planet and all life on it with a devastatingly powerful double-punch.

“The two asteroids must each have been over 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) across — it would have been curtains for many life species on the planet at the time,” said Andrew Glikson from the Australian National University’s School of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Compared with the famous Chicxulub crater under the Yucat√°n Peninsula in Mexico, which is famous for causing the extinction of the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago, this Australian impact zone is a monster. The Chicxulub crater is 180 kilometers (110 miles) in diameter and was caused by a single 10 kilometer-wide asteroid; the Warburton Basin impact zone is over twice that size, caused by two Chicxulub-sized impactors. (3/23)

Eagle, Freedom, or GalaxyOne? (Source: ULA)
America’s #1 space launch provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA), is asking America to help name its next rocket, calling on citizens to play a role in the future of space launch by voting for the name of the new rocket that will be responsible for the majority of the nation’s future space launches.

For the next two weeks, the public can vote for its favorite rocket name – Eagle, Freedom or GalaxyOne – with the results being announced on April 13 along with the design and components of ULA’s innovative, next-generation rocket. The top three names were selected from more than 400 names submitted by ULA’s 3,400 employees and space enthusiasts earlier this year. Click here to vote. (3/23)

Future Space Telescopes Will Be Even Bigger Than The Webb (Source: Aviation Week)
Astronomers hope that some of the techniques in development during the past two decades for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can be reapplied later for even larger observatories that would be able to produce unprecedented resolution of distant phenomena, including star birth and the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars.

While engineers struggle to meet a 2018 launch deadline for the 6.5-meter (21-ft.), $8.8 billion JWST, small groups of scientists are looking for ways to use the sophisticated technology in that infrared instrument to launch an aperture almost twice as large. (3/18)

Local Govt Questions Plan for Vandenberg Space Tourism Attraction (Source: Pacific Coast Business Times)
Elon Musk and Eva Blaisdell. One of those names is associated with a pioneering space program and launching rockets from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The other is not. What’s interesting, however, is the lesser known of the two is the one with an ambitious plan to develop a $300 million space-themed entertainment park in Lompoc.

Not much is known about Blaisdell other than that she is a self-described Polish-American entrepreneur who also claims to be a longtime investor in Silicon Valley startups. Blaisdell says she has over 30 years of experience as a Silicon Valley executive, high-tech entrepreneur and fundraiser for technology and media ventures.

Blaisdell, acting as the founder of the California Space Center Consortium, was recently granted exclusive rights to negotiate a deal that could result in its control of 82-acres of city-owned land near Allan Hancock College’s satellite campus in Lompoc. The agreement gives Blaisdell 12 months to work out deal terms with the city. Click here. (3/20)

NASA Reveals Electric Plane with 18 Motors (Source: UPI)
NASA has revealed an electric-powered plane that has 18 engines that power individual propellers. The plane has a 31-foot wingspan, and the engines are powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries. The plane will be able to travel about 200 mph, and it will be able to go as high as 12,000 feet. It will seat four passengers, and it will be able to fly about 450 miles at a time. Click here. (3/22)

Melbourne Air & Space Show Rocks Space Coast (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The skies above the Melbourne International Airport roared with the sounds of jet and propeller-driven aircraft this weekend. The show was held from March 21-22 and included the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the F-22 Raptor demonstration team, U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team – and an array of other government and civilian organizations.

From our perspective in the control tower, the show comes across as an an exercise in logistics. In particular, we were able to witness first-hand the interaction between the air-traffic control tower, the “show boss” who controls the airspace during the rehearsals and the show and the Blue Angels administrative officer they send to the tower. The coordination involved – is nothing short of amazing. Click here. (3/23)

SpaceX Aims To Debut New Version of Falcon 9 this Summer (Source: Space News)
SpaceX plans to inaugurate its new, more-powerful Falcon 9 rocket this summer, using the same Merlin 1D engine with a modified fuel mix and other changes to extend the company’s planned reuse of the first stage to cover all SpaceX launches, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said. Shotwell said the new-version Falcon 9, which has yet to be named, will be about 30 percent more powerful than the rocket’s current version. (3/20)

ESA's Rosetta Detects Molecular Nitrogen On Comet 67P (Source: International Business Times)
The Rosetta spacecraft, currently tailing a gradually warming Comet 67P, has detected traces of molecular nitrogen in the comet -- a finding that can offer vital clues to the conditions prevailing during the formation of our solar system. Previously, nitrogen had only been found in comets bound inside compounds like ammonia and hydrogen cyanide.

Molecular nitrogen, N2, is believed to be one of the most abundant elements present during the infancy of our solar system. As a result, it is present in huge quantities in the dense atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan, Neptune’s moon Triton and the dwarf planet Pluto. Earth’s atmosphere, with 78 percent nitrogen, is also rich in the element. However, the latest study indicates that comets like 67P were not the major source of this nitrogen. (3/21)

Robotic Space Explorers Need Smarts to Survive (Source: Space Daily)
If a robot plunges into the ocean of an icy moon, perhaps near Saturn or Jupiter, its main problem will be figuring out what to do next. Even at light speed, it takes hours for communications to pass back and forth to Earth. This means any robotic explorer would need to be smart enough to avoid danger, and sophisticated enough to figure out what information to send back.

These were problems puzzling Yogesh Girdhar who, as a part of his doctorate dissertation at McGill University in Montreal, redid the "brains" of an undersea robot called Aqua. An underwater robot is somewhat analogous to a space-bound robot, as both face the difficulties of communication. "Mars is [situated] at the limit of where humans can directly control a robot to do these kinds of research," said Girdhar.

The key to getting around that problem, Girdhar said, is having the robot train itself to recognize what is typical terrain and what is unusual. If it spots something that is rare, it is possible that whatever it saw was altered by life in some way and would require further analysis by scientists. (3/23)

Researchers Receive Grant to Send Worms into Space (Source: Space Daily)
It is common knowledge that the longer humans spend in space, the longer it takes them to regain muscle strength upon their return to earth. The biggest question is, why. With the help of Caenorhabditis elegans, one Texas Tech researcher hopes to find out. C. elegans has been to space multiple times, and thanks to Siva Vanapalli, they will head to the ISS again soon in hopes of judging their durability in terms of muscular mass and strength. (3/23)

Air Force Might Have To Protect Money Laundering in Space (Source: Defense One)
If you’re looking for the ultimate in physical security for your future assets, look up, way up. Growing fears about cybersecurity and the rapidly decreasing cost to access space has given birth to a new class of startups offering satellite-based data centers impervious to all physical hacking. What sort of information is so valuable that the average person needs to protect them in space? One answer: money. Even space vaults need guards, and in this case the brunt of that job will go to U.S. Air Force.

But putting digital money into space-based data centers not only puts it out of reach from thieves, it’s also out of jurisdiction from law enforcement. In other words, the Air Force could one day soon be on the hook to protect a hive of money laundering in space. Bitcoin data servers in space sounds like a random mashup of tech buzzwords. In fact, it’s a real business model. Click here. (3/22)

U.S., Lockheed Fixing Software Glitch with GPS Satellites (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin Corp said it is working to resolve a technical error disclosed by the U.S. Air Force on Sunday that affected some global positioning system (GPS) satellites but did not degrade the accuracy of GPS signals received by users around the world. Lockheed said the error involved the ground control system for GPS satellites it runs for the Air Force. (3/23)

Lawmakers Appear Divided on Relaxing Terms of RD-180 Ban (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon’s congressional overseers appear divided over the timetable for weaning the U.S. Air Force from a controversial Russian rocket engine, a matter that sources say likely will not be settled until House and Senate lawmakers meet later this year to finalize the 2016 defense authorization bill.

At issue is the RD-180, the main engine on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, which launches the majority of U.S. national security satellites. Denver-based ULA operates two main rockets, the other being the Delta 4, which, though powered by an American-made engine, is 25 percent more expensive and used less frequently than the Atlas 5. Click here. (3/20)

Asking Price Remains Obstacle to Thuraya Sale (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services operator Thuraya is looking to sell itself to rival Inmarsat in a transaction that has long been expected but has been stalled by the two sides’ inability to agree on a price. Whether this time will be any different is unclear. From earlier self-valuations of around $600 million, Thuraya has recently come down in price to about $300 million, which may still be too high in the judgment of London-based Inmarsat. (3/20)

Space Industry At An Inflection Point (Source: Aviation Week)
Aviation Week editors discuss how private sector money and technological advances are revolutionizing space telecom. Click here to hear the podcast. (3/20)

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