June 16, 2015

Exploring Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon Io on Just $615,000 a Day (Source: Space News)
The principal investigator behind a proposal to explore Jupiter’s moon Io is in such a hurry to get there that he is content to develop the robotic mission for about half the money the planetary science community said NASA should spend to explore the volcano-laden Jovian satellite.

“My thinking now is Discovery is the best bet,” Alfred McEwen, professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona and principal investigator for the Io Volcano Observer (IVO), told SpaceNews in a recent interview. Discovery is the smaller of NASA’s two competitively selected planetary mission lines, with costs capped at $450 million not including launch. New Frontier missions, which launch less frequently, are capped at $1 billion. (6/15)

BlackSky Global Says it’s Poised To Cover Globe with 60 Smallsats (Source: Space News)
A start-up company with financial backing from Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital among others will begin launching a constellation of 60 50-kilogram satellites providing one-meter-resolution optical imaging this year. Seattle-based BlackSky Global is using Spaceflight Services to build the satellites and hunt for launch opportunities, with optical imagers provided by Harris Corp.’s newly acquired Exelis divsion. (6/16)

Harris, exactEarth Aim To Ride Iridium Next to Growth in AIS (Source: Space News)
The partnership between exactEarth of Canada and Harris Corp. of the United States to place maritime data-collection payloads on 58 Iridium Next low-orbiting satellites is structured so that each company benefits from the other’s commercial success, according to exactEarth. The companies announced a strategic partnership in which Harris will use exactEarth-patented technology to mount maritime ship-monitoring payloads on 58 next-generation Iridium mobile communications satellites. (6/16)

How to Bolster Space Exploration: Get Religious Groups Onboard (Source: Space.com)
To broaden support for space exploration, advocates should consider approaching religious groups – especially in settings that are familiar to that religion, a new study suggests. "While there is growing interest in the intersection of religion and space, little to no scholarship has examined how religious belonging, behavior, and belief could shape views of humanity's future in space—and by extension, our actual future in space," wrote Joshua Ambrosius, a political science researcher.

Ambrosius, who identifies as an evangelical Protestant, decided to tackle this paper after reading a blog post by creationist Ken Ham that talked in part about the "desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life," in Ham's words. To Ambrosius, Ham's post signaled that religion may be important for how people think about space; specifically, it shows how religious skepticism of science can even extend into the universe.

Among the groups surveyed, it was his own – evangelicals – that Ambrosius found were least knowledgeable about and interested in space exploration. Meanwhile, those of the Jewish faith and Eastern traditions appeared to know the most and express the most interest. (6/15)

NASA Conducts Test of  SLS Main Stage Engine (Source: Space News)
Tests of the main-stage engine for NASA’s planned Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket continued at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi June 11 as the agency fired up an RS-25 engine for the third time this year.

In an online post, NASA said it test-fired an RS-25 for 500 seconds on the A-1 test stand at Stennis. The latest hot-fire follows a 450-second test on May 28 that was the first for the RS-25 since Jan. 9. After the January test, NASA shut down the test stand to fix defects in its fuel lines. (6/15)

SpaceX Is Building Elon Musk's Hyperloop (Source: Motherboard)
SpaceX is building a hyperloop, Elon Musk's fantastical, futuristic transport tube capable of moving people and freight at speeds of 760 miles per hour.

The company is building a one- to three-mile-long hyperloop test track outside its Hawthorne, California headquarters with plans to test the technology within a year, according to documents obtained by Motherboard (embedded below). It's the first time that Musk, who conceived of the hyperloop, has been involved with any concrete plans to actually build it. (6/15)

Huntsville Studies Possibility of Dream Chaser Landings at Airport (Source: Made in Alabama)
Huntsville International Airport could become the first commercial airport to handle landings of the Dream Chaser, the spaceplane being developed by Sierra Nevada Corp. for supply trips to the International Space Station and other missions. At the Paris Air Show, Huntsville leaders announced they have launched preliminary studies to assess the possibility of Dream Chaser landings at the city’s airport.

The initial inquiry will focus on environment factors such as the whether the Dream Chaser is compatible with the infrastructure at Huntsville International Airport. Sierra Nevada is advancing the Dream Chaser in the current NASA competition to supply cargo to the International Space Station. Sierra Nevada also plans to operate the vehicle on other missions, tailored to a variety of U.S. and international customers. (6/15)

Sex in Space is Going to be Way Different Than it is on Earth (Source: Business Insider)
It's not something most of us spend any time thinking about, but gravity is pretty critical for sex. Getting it on in a zero g environment might sound kind of hot (PornHub certainly seems to think so), but most experts who have spent time thinking through the logistics have a different opinion.

"One of the things that gravity helps us do is stay together, so sex in microgravity might actually be more difficult because you’re going to have to make sure that you’re always holding each other so you don’t drift apart," Paul Wolpe, a senior bioethicist at NASA, told VICE. (6/16)

Woman Won't Give Birth on Mars (Source: Telegraph)
A woman who wanted to be the first person to give birth on Mars is staying on Earth. Maggie Lieu won a spot as one of the 100 finalists in the Mars One astronaut selection competition, and openly talked about becoming the mother of the first Martian baby. However, she said she's dropping out of the Mars One competition, without providing an explanation. "Still I wish them the best of luck," she wrote. (6/15)

Comet Lander Reaches Out Again (Source: BBC)
The Philae comet lander made a second, brief, contact with controllers late Sunday night. The three short transmissions, each only 10 seconds long, were not as long as mission officials hoped, but demonstrated that the lander was still in good health after an initial transmission late Saturday. ESA may alter the orbit of Rosetta, which serves as a relay, to improve communications with the lander. Scientists hope to resume scientific operations of the lander after a seven-month hiatus. (6/16)

Brazil Says U.S. and Russia are Competing to Support Alcantara Spaceport (Source: Reuters)
Brazilian officials claim that the U.S. and Russia are competing to cooperate with Brazil on satellite launches from that nation. Brazil is seeking a new partner to replace Ukraine for a launch site at Alcantara, near the Equator. A Brazilian source said the country was considering working with either the U.S. or Russia to support launches there, although the report didn't specify what American launch vehicle might use the Brazilian spaceport, or if another form of cooperation was under consideration. Past proposals for similar partnerships between the U.S. and Brazil have foundered on export control concerns. (6/15)

Few Tickets Left to Meet John Travolta at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
If you want to meet John Travolta next month, you'd better hurry. As of Monday, only five tickets are left to attend the star-studded ShareSpace gala July 18 at Kennedy Space Center with the superstar, Linn LeBlanc, executive director of Buzz Aldrin's ShareSpace Foundation. (6/15)

Budgetary ‘Gimmicks’ Prompt Threat to Veto Defense Spending Bill (Source: Space News)
The White House has threatened to veto the defense spending bill for 2016 over provisions in the House version that the administration says are “gimmicks” being used to pay for a several programs, including missile warning satellites, that otherwise would be subject to congressionally imposed federal spending caps. (6/16)

Embraer Adding 150 Jobs on Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Embraer Aero Seating Technologies announced this morning that will invest $3.5 million and create 150 jobs in North Brevard County. Gov. Rick Scott made the announcement at the 51st International Paris Air Show at Enterprise Florida pavilion.

"Embraer's footprint in Florida continues to grow and we are excited to announce this additional investment and creation of new jobs in our state," Scott said in a statement. "By removing the sales tax on manufacturing equipment last year, we are signaling to businesses across the world that Florida has a competitive advantage over other locations, and companies like Embraer know that our state is the best place to grow and create jobs."

The new facility will allow the company to expand its production of seating solutions for various Embraer products. Up to now, Embraer has focused most of its growth at Melbourne International Airport and local officials welcomed the news that North Brevard is getting some attention. (6/15)

Lockheed Martin Adding 100 Missile Jobs at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Lockheed Martin announced it was expanding its Brevard operation at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and adding 130 new jobs. The new jobs will support the U.S. Navy's Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile program. As a strategic missile prime contractor for the Navy, Lockheed Martin now employs more than 500 people at Cape Canaveral to support the nation's submarine-based strategic program. (6/15)

Deep in Space, Corner of No and Where (Source: Space Review)
In a month, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will fly past the dwarf planet Pluto, the first spacecraft to visit this distant world. Dwayne Day ponders the effect the spacecraft flyby will have not just on science, but culture and policy as well. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2772/1 to view the article. (6/15)

The Commercial Crew Crunch (Source: Space Review)
While NASA has argued it needs full funding for its commercial crew program to keep it on schedule for first flights in 2017, House and Senate appropriations bills cut the request by hundreds of millions of dollars. Jeff Foust reports on the disconnect and its implications for the agency and the two companies under contract. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2771/1 to view the article. (6/15)

Legal Implications of an Encounter with Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Source: Space Review)
In the event that humans detect a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence, or the more unlikely event of a physical encounter with them, how would the legal system be prepared to deal with repercussions? Babak Shakouri Hassanabadi discusses how existing treaties and interpretations of international law might apply in such scenarios. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2770/1 to view the article. (6/15)

Study Begins to Land Dream Chaser Spacecraft in Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Chamber)
A coalition of community leadership - including the City of Huntsville, Madison County, City of Madison, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Teledyne-Brown Engineering, the State of Alabama, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority announced plans to initiate a series of preliminary studies to assess the feasibility of landing Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser spacecraft at Huntsville International Airport today at the 2015 Paris Air Show. (6/15)

X-37B Still Largely Unexplained (Source: Space Daily)
The fourth mission of the X-37B robot spaceplane is well underway. We know much of what is happening with the flight. There's a test of a Hall Effect thruster for the US Air Force and a set of materials samples provided by NASA. Beyond this, little else is known.

On previous X-37B missions, there has been plenty of disclosure about the spacecraft itself, but little talk about the payloads concealed under its clamshell doors. This time, it's the reverse. We know a lot about the payloads carried on board, but not much about the X-37B itself! (6/10)

Space Florida Approves Shuttle Landing Facility Deal (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The historic space shuttle landing facility at Kennedy Space Center will be managed by the state of Florida for the next 30 years. The Space Florida board voted Monday to approve a long-term, rent-free deal to lease the 15,000-foot-long landing strip that had been used for 30 years to land space shuttles.

With no space shuttles to land there anymore, NASA has been trying to spin off the facility for several years. Space Florida, the state's space development agency, won the right to negotiate for a lease and has been doing so for more than a year. For several months, NASA and Space Florida officials have said they were close. On Monday the agency's board voted to approve the lease. It would officially be signed on June 22.

Space Florida wants to develop it into a horizontal launching facility for commercial space flights. That business might be several years away, if it develops at all, so in the meantime the state agency expects to make it available for all sorts of uses. (6/15)

Blue Origin's Astronaut Experience (Source: Blue Origin)
Blue Origin’s two veteran astronauts provide a firsthand account of what it feels like to soar to space on Blue Origin’s rocket and return to Earth forever changed. Click here. (6/15)

Retiring Floridian Astronaut 'In Awe' of Future Space Missions (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
day's NASA astronauts may not have many of the adventures that Floridian Nicole Stott encountered when she became an astronaut in 2000. Yet as she retires, Stott envies them and the space explorers to come. Stott, 52, retired June 1 after a 27-year NASA career. That included a time in the late 1980s and '90s as one of the KSC engineers who made sure the space shuttles were ready to fly, followed by 15 years as an astronaut herself, flying on space shuttle Discovery in 2009 and 2011. (6/15)

Congress Poised to End USAF Legacy Weather Satellite Program (Source: Space News)
The Senate Appropriations Committee is calling for an end to next year's funding for the Air Force's legacy weather satellite program, while funding accelerated development of a U.S.-made rocket engine. The panel questioned the use of "1990s technology that the Air Force has previously stated no longer meets its requirements." (6/15)

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