April 2, 2015

China to Launch Three or Four More BeiDou Satellites This Year (Source: Xinhua)
China plans to launch three or four more satellites for its indigenous global navigation and positioning network this year, the network's chief designer said. A complete network will take shape by 2020, Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), was quoted saying by the PLA Daily on Wednesday. (4/1)

After Accident, Virgin Galactic Takes a Cautious Path to Spaceflight (Source: NBC News)
It's been five months since Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane broke up in flight, killing one of its pilots and injuring the other. The results of the investigation have not yet been released, and for that reason the company's executives are reluctant to say much about the lessons learned. But there's one lesson they're willing to share: Don't say too much about what you're planning to do before you do it. Click here. (3/31)

Ad Astra Wins $10 Million NASA Contract for Deep Space Rocket (Source: Tico Times)
Ad Astra, the rocket company founded by Costa Rican astronaut Franklin Chang, announced a $10 million contract with NASA to develop deep-space propulsion technology. Spread out over three years, the public-private partnership will help Ad Astra develop its VASIMR prototype engine for in-space travel around the Earth, to the moon or – one day – on a mission to Mars.

The funding, awarded through NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP), will help the Houston-based company demonstrate the engine’s ability to operate for up to 100 hours continuously. The company says previous tests have proven its success for short durations of less than a minute. Click here. (3/31)

Deep Space Exploration Will Demand Artificial Gravity (Source: Forbes)
Long stays in space have a major hitch. Medical studies on the effects of microgravity on astronauts after many months in low-Earth orbit (LEO) can’t get around one hard truth — humans aren’t cut out for life without gravity. Thus, artificial gravity habitats are now being discussed as a crucial component of long-duration near-Earth asteroid (NEA) mining missions.

Artificial gravity will be particularly important for years-long commercial missions where real-time telerobotics will need to be performed by crews housed in close proximity to the asteroid itself. Such gravity habitats would also be useful for years-long exploration of low-gravity bodies such as the Moon, Mars , or eventually even the moons of the outer planets. Click here. (3/31)

Here’s the App That Can Help You Save the World (Source: Washington Post)
There are a lot of apps out there. But how many of them might help you save the world from total destruction? At this month’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, NASA announced the release of desktop software that lets “citizen scientists” identify asteroids that might be careening (with potentially apocalyptic consequences) toward Earth.

Using the Asteroid Data Hunter app — which is free, and can be used on any desktop or laptop computer — amateur astronomers can analyze images from their backyard telescopes; and if something unexpected shows up, the app offers a way to report it to the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. Click here. (3/31)

ULA's New VP in Washington Specializes In International Business, Aerospace, Defense (Source: SatNews)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced today that Robbie Sabathier was named the company’s vice president of Washington Operations. “Robbie brings with her extensive government relations experience specializing in international business, as well as aerospace and defense,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO.

“Her strong background interacting with key Washington, D.C., customer communities, including Congress and White House staff, will be instrumental in shaping critical policies and decisions related to ULA business. We could not be more pleased to welcome her to our team.” Prior to ULA, Sabathier was president of a law office she founded in Washington, where she represented the European launch company Arianespace. (4/1)

NASA Gets Sucked Into Russian Space Agency's Fight for Funds (Source: Moscow Times)
NASA may have been drawn into a political battle taking place within Roscosmos to protect the Russian space agency's funding streams amid an economic crisis, Russian space experts said. Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov on Saturday suggested that Russia and the United States would join together to build another space station after the current International Space Station (ISS) project ends in 2024.

But the announcement appeared to be wishful thinking — NASA's chief in Russia, Sean Fuller, denied to the Moscow Times on Tuesday that an agreement had been reached, and analysts said the statement was aimed at influencing space funding decisions in Russia's government. (3/31)

Lunar Lava Tubes Might Make Underground Moon Cities Possible (Source: Space.com)
Earth's moon is rife with huge lava tubes – tunnels formed from the lava flow of volcanic eruptions – and new theoretical work suggests that these features could be large enough to house structurally stable lunar cities for future colonists.

Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission suggests that lava tubes on the moon could have diameters in excess of more than half a mile (1 kilometer). These features could support future long-term human exploration on the moon, offering shelter from cosmic radiation, meteorite impacts and the wild temperature swings of lunar day and night, according to scientists with Purdue University who performed the study.

The edges of the lava cool as it flows to form a pipe-like crust around the flowing river of lava. When the eruption ends and the lava flow stops, the pipe drains leave behind a hollow tunnel. "There has been some discussion of whether lava tubes might exist on the moon," Melosh said in a Purdue press statement. "Some evidence, like the sinuous rilles observed on the surface, suggest that if lunar lava tubes exist they might be really big." (4/1)

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