April 1, 2015

Travolta Joins Aldrin to Launch ShareSpace Foundation (Source: ShareSpace)
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is launching his new non-profit, ShareSpace Foundation (SSF), which promotes science literacy to children, at a gala with legendary actor and famous aviator John Travolta. The gala, set for July 18, 2015, will be held at the Apollo Saturn V Center, Kennedy Space Center. (4/1)

NASA Tests Mars-Bound Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Vehicle (Source: Space.com)
NASA recently put its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator vehicle on a spin test at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This is like spinning your automobile tire, and putting weights on it to make sure that it spins perfectly," said project chief engineer Rob Manning. The project will help deliver heavy payloads for Mars missions. (4/1)

BepiColombo Launch Moved to 2017 (Source: ESA)
The launch of BepiColombo, an ESA mission to explore the planet Mercury in collaboration with the Japanese space agency, JAXA, is now planned to take place during a one month long window starting on 27 January 2017. BepiColombo is an ambitious mission comprising two separate orbiters, the ESA-led Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and the JAXA-led Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), as well as a carrier spacecraft, known as the Mercury Transfer Module (MTM). (3/30)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Passes Critical Milestone (Source: NASA)
NASA's groundbreaking science mission to retrieve a sample from an ancient space rock has moved closer to fruition. The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has passed a critical milestone in its path towards launch and is officially authorized to transition into its next phase.

Key Decision Point-D (KDP-D) occurs after the project has completed a series of independent reviews that cover the technical health, schedule and cost of the project. The milestone represents the official transition from the mission’s development stage to delivery of systems, testing and integration leading to launch.

During this part of the mission’s life cycle, known as Phase D, the spacecraft bus, or the structure that will carry the science instruments, is completed, the instruments are integrated into the spacecraft and tested, and the spacecraft is shipped to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for integration with the rocket. (3/31)

Space in Vietnam (Source: Space Foundation)
The Space Foundation announces a first for its 31st Space Symposium, the head of the Vietnamese space agency, Dr. Pham Anh Tuan, Director, Vietnam National Satellite Center (VNSC), will head a Country in Focus panel on Thursday, April 16, focusing on "Space in Vietnam." This year marks the twentieth anniversary of normalized relations between the United States and Vietnam. (4/1)

Over 100 Years, NASA's Top 5 Tech Advances (Source: CIO)
One hundred years ago this month, Congress established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), launching the nation into a time of advancing aeronautics and eventually space exploration. A century after the creation of NACA, which later expanded to become NASA, that initial effort has brought advances in not only in space exploration but also in the technologies used in flight, computers and communications.

Over the course of the past century, NACA and NASA have been at the heart of significant innovation. The agency's technologies have changed the way we do business, communicate and compute. NASA's historian explained what can be considered the top five technologies that NASA – and NACA – developed or helped develop, including the integrated circuit, communication satellites, airplane design, airplane deicing, and weather satellites. Click here. (4/1)

SpaceX Cargo Launch Now Set for April 13 (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The launch of SpaceX’s next resupply run to the International Space Station has been rescheduled for April 13, officials said Tuesday. The Falcon 9 rocket’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral was due for no earlier than April 10, but the launch date has been delayed to April 13. Officials did not provide a reason for the delay. Blastoff from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad is set for 4:33 p.m. EDT. (3/31)

Russian Rokot Lofts Another Gonets-M Trio (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
A Russian Rokot launch vehicle with a Briz-KM Upper Stage has launched from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia, carrying the another trio of Gonets-M satellites with a Cosmos 2499 satellite also classed as hitching a ride. The launch took place at 13:48 UTC on Tuesday, following a delay due to issues with its first stage engine during pre-launch processing. (3/31)

NASA Partners with U.S. Industry for Key Deep-Space Capabilities (Source: NASA)
Building on the success of NASA’s partnerships with commercial industry to date, NASA has selected 12 Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) to advance concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of advanced propulsion, habitation and small satellites.

Through these public-private partnerships, selected companies will partner with NASA to develop the exploration capabilities necessary to enable commercial endeavors in space and human exploration to deep-space destinations such as the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cis-lunar space, and Mars. Click here. (3/30)

Google Takes Over Aging Moffett Field and its Airship Hangars (Source: San Jose Mercury-News)
Built for an age when 800-foot-long flying aircraft carriers were the cutting edge of aviation, the colossal hangars of the Moffett Federal Airfield are about to become roosts for Silicon Valley's latest ideas.

Google on Wednesday formally takes over the 1,000-acre site with plans to repurpose its three airship hangars as laboratories for developing robots, rovers, drones, Internet-carrying balloons and other cutting-edge technology. The company will also manage the airfield's two runways and upgrade an old military golf course for public use. (4/1)

Russia to Step Up Control Over New Spaceport Construction (Source: Itar-Tass)
Control over the construction of the Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s Far East will be stepped up to secure the launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket in December 2015, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "The decision has been made to step up control over the construction of all 12 facilities of the so-called launch minimum," he said. "It should be done to ensure the launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket from the cosmodrome in December this year, pursuant to the president’s decree." (4/1)

NASA Agrees To Address Deep Space Network Upgrade, Security Needs (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate has agreed to address a dozen corrective recommendations raised by the agency’s Inspector General with regard to upgrade needs and increased security for the Deep Space Network, a 52-year-old global assembly of transmitters and receivers for communications with and navigation of distant planetary spacecraft. (3/31)

The Problem with the America's Russian Rocket Phase-Out (Source: Fortune)
The U.S. Department of Defense wants to increase competition in the space launch market, but it may end up trading one monopoly for another. With pressure mounting to wean America off the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engines needed to launch sensitive national security assets into orbit, the Department of Defense is turning to U.S. industry for new ideas.

Next month, the Pentagon will seek proposals for—ideally—two competing space launch technologies capable of replacing the RD-180, each of which would be developed under a public-private partnership. With SpaceX the only private spaceflight company currently on the road to earning U.S. Air Force launch certification, the Pentagon—despite its efforts at fostering competition—may soon trade one launch monopoly for another.

The Pentagon’s plan for diversifying its launch options beyond the RD-180 and the Delta IV involves cultivating at least two public-private partnerships into which it would sink $220 million to help develop alternatives to the RD-180. The Pentagon next month will ask companies to submit their proposals for those partnerships, with the aim at producing at least two viable competing launch systems by 2019. (3/31)

US Space Exploration Left in the Cold by Lack of Vision and Money (Source: The Conversation)
Space exploration has taken a small step forward with a new mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Two of the three crew members, astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, will stay on the station for a year.

This is a positive step, given that if plans outlined by George W Bush back in 2004 had gone ahead for the US human space exploration programme, the ISS would soon be closing. Bush had planned to abandon it in 2016, most likely with a view to using the moon as the primary base beyond the Earth instead.

The decision was taken by Bush to decommission the space shuttle at the start of the 2010s and rely on Russian Soyuz flights to carry American astronauts back and forth to the ISS until replacement American rocket Ares I was developed. Click here. (3/31)

Mars as a Hothouse for Offworld Human Culture (Source: Forbes)
In an era when — even in Antarctica — researchers can tap into iTunes, it’s hard not to wonder if such connectivity is causing formerly seemingly remote parts of the world to lose their edgy sense of place. And that’s just here on Earth. What happens when humans move offworld? Will Mars pioneers want the Red Planet to remain as remote and untamed as when they first risked life and limb to get there? Click here. (3/30)

SpaceX Buying $90 Million of Elon Musk’s Solar City Bonds (Source: Venture Beat)
SolarCity, one of the world’s largest installers of solar panels, said today that SpaceX is investing in $90 million worth of its solar bonds. SolarCity said that the bonds are “issued — and backed — by SolarCity and powered by monthly solar payments from thousands of solar customers across the country... SpaceX is effectively getting paid by the sun.”

Elon Musk, of course, is tied to both companies — as well as the electric car maker Tesla. Musk is the CEO of SpaceX (and Tesla) and the chairman of SolarCity’s board. SolarCity also said that SpaceX bought the bonds in exactly the same way that any U.S. investor could — online. (3/31)

Switzerland Backs More Space Start-Ups (Source: SwissInfo)
Seventy Swiss companies are already involved in the space industry and, thanks to a new deal with the European Space Agency (ESA), the branch is expected to grow. Johann Schneider-Ammann, the Swiss economics minister, has signed a letter of intent with the ESA’s director general, committing CHF5 million ($5.19 million)  per year to encouraging space start-ups. Schneider-Ammann is keen to support national pilot projects and activities that encourage the transfer of knowledge from academia to industry. (3/31)

Student Space Initiative Triples in Size, Incorporates New Research Areas (Source: Stanford Daily)
Founded two years ago, the Stanford Student Space Initiative (SSI) has tripled its membership over the past year and is now the largest project-based engineering group on campus, with approximately 100 active members. The group is also widening its focus to incorporate members interested in areas such as space policy and entrepreneurship.

SSI chief marketing officer Kirill Safin ’18 explained that, along with its operations and policy teams, SSI consists of three project groups: rockets, high altitude balloons and satellites – all of which are working on potentially record-breaking projects. (3/30)

Hall Thruster Research: Propelling Deep Space Missions (Source: SpaceRef)
Engineers at NASA's Glenn Research Center are advancing the propulsion system that will propel the first ever mission to redirect an asteroid for astronauts to explore in the 2020s. NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission will test a number of new capabilities, like advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP), needed for future astronaut expeditions into deep space, including to Mars. The Hall thruster is part of an SEP system that uses 10 times less propellant than equivalent chemical rockets. Click here. (3/31)

Prestwick and Campbeltown Keen to Host UK Spaceport (Source: BBC News)
Two Scottish airports are actively bidding to host the UK's first spaceport, according to Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown. He told MSPs that the operators of Prestwick Airport had a bid team in place. The owners of Campbeltown airfield were also interested in attracting the venture.

Stornoway, Newquay and Llanbedr are also on a UK government shortlist of potential sites. RAF Leuchars has been identified as a potential temporary facility. Ministers are keen to see the spaceport established by 2018. It would be used to launch commercial flights and satellites into space. (3/31)

Team Indus Nets Advisor/Investor for Lunar Prize (Source: Economic Times)
Nearly two years after launching an ambitious bid to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, aerospace startup Team Indus has roped in Infosys co-founder and former UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani as an investor and adviser.

Team Indus, India's lone entrant to the prestigious $30-million Google Lunar XPrize, is set to close a pre-series A funding round of nearly $1.5 million (about Rs 9 crore) from investors, including Nilekani. It has received backing also from Sasken Communication founder Rajiv Mody and HCL founder Ajai Chowdhry in this round. (3/30)

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