June 19, 2015

If There is Life on Mars, it is Probably Underground (Source: Quartz)
Apart from finding mundane facts about Mars, one of NASA’s Curiosity rover’s tasks is to search for life on the red planet. But new research suggests that, if there is indeed life on Mars, our rovers may not be able to see it. So far, the Curiosity rover has only drilled about 3 inches (7.6 cm) into Mars’ soil, and found nothing.

According to an analysis of Martian meteorites found on Earth, traces of methane suggest signs of life on Mars are more likely to be found deep underground, rather than on or near the surface. Scientists are still divided about what the presence of methane on Mars means. It could support the existence of methane-feeding bacteria, or it could suggest the existence of methane-producing organisms that lived on Mars millions of years ago, when liquid water may have flowed on on its surface. (6/18)

ULA to Stay in Harlingen Texas for Rocket Manufacturing (Source: KRGV)
Today, a rocket-building company announced they will continue to build rockets in Harlingen, and are now hiring new employees. United Launch Alliance made the announcement today. The company, a direct competitor to SpaceX, has been building rocket parts for decades in Harlingen. The company announced their new lease to stay in the Valley International Airport, for the next five years. (6/19)

SpaceX Augments and Upgrades Drone Ship Armada (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
SpaceX’s aspirations towards recovering launched Falcon 9 first stages are continuing to focus on ocean based landings, ahead of realizing the goal of returning the cores back to land. With continual refinements to the approach, SpaceX has welcomed new and improved Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships (ASDS), one of which has been sighted taking a cruise down the Panama Canal. (6/19)

UrtheCast Plans Integrated Optical/Radar Satellite Constellation (Source: UrtheCast)
UrtheCast plans to build, launch and operate the world’s first fully-integrated, multispectral optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) commercial constellation of Earth Observation satellites, to be deployed over multiple launches expected in 2019 and 2020. The Constellation is expected to comprise a minimum of 16 satellites (8 optical and 8 SAR) flying in two orbital planes, with each plane consisting of four satellite pairs, equally-spaced around the orbit plane.

Each pair of satellites will consist of a dual-mode, high-resolution optical satellite (video and pushbroom) and a dual-band high-resolution SAR satellite (X-band and L-band) flying in tandem. The Constellation will provide what the Company anticipates to be unmatched space-imaging capabilities, including high collection capacity, optical and SAR data fusion, weather-independent high-resolution imaging using the SAR, target revisit, and imaging latency. (6/19)

A New Era of Space Collaboration between Australia and U.S. (Source: USGS)
On June 18, 2015 in Canberra, Australia, the U.S. Geological Survey and Geoscience Australia signed a comprehensive new partnership to maximize land remote sensing operations and data that can help to address issues of national and international significance.

A key element of the partnership involves a major upgrade to Geoscience Australia’s Alice Springs satellite antenna which will see the station play a much more significant role in the international Landsat ground-station network. Following this $3 million (AUD) upgrade committed to by the Australian Government, the Alice Springs antenna will transmit command-and-control signals to the Landsat satellites and support downloading of satellite imagery for the broader South East-Asia and Pacific region. (6/18)

Mexico’s 1st Astronaut Mulls Running for President (Source: Latin American Herald Tribune)
The first Mexican to go into space, Rodolfo Neri Vela, said on Thursday that he may run for president in 2018 to break the hold of a political class he likened to “the mafia itself.” The political parties need to understand that Mexicans are very unhappy with the state of their country, Neri Vela said in an interview with Grupo Imagen.

He said the notion of a presidential run began with a flippant response to a question from a reporter following a book presentation last week at Universidad Veracruzana. When asked whether he had thought about going into politics, he replied – “almost as a joke” – that he would seek the presidency as an independent, Neri Vela recounted in the interview.

“I didn’t think the media would take it seriously. In less than a week I have received 100 emails giving me support,” he said, while stressing that he would take his time making a decision about the 2018 contest. Mexico’s biggest challenges are improving education and eliminating corruption, he said. (6/19)

What's Stopping Us from Building Cities in Space? No, It's Not Tech. (Source: Gizmodo)
The US has a plan for Americans to live in space. In 2012, the National Research Council was commissioned by Congress to roadmap the future of human space exploration. Last June, the team published its findings in a massive report, which called for several action steps to be taken immediately. One year later, are we on track? Click here. (6/19)

For Rent: Slightly Used VAB High Bay, Launch Platforms (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and its massive Mobile Launch Platforms (MLP) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida are being offered to commercial users interested in assembling, testing, and launching their rockets at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. It’s all part of a 20-year Master Plan aimed at turning NASA’s portion of the spaceport into a multi-user complex for launches, landings, logistics, and space research and development.

The space agency is soliciting proposals from the private sector, which are due by July 31, 2015. An “industry day” is planned on June 30 to allow an on site evaluation of the infrastructure by interested parties. (6/19)

Reaction Engines Begins New Round of Rocket Tests (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Reaction Engines Ltd. have begun their latest round of rocket engine testing in Westcott, UK. The SABRE engine requires a novel design of the rocket engine’s thrust chamber and nozzle to allow operation in both air-breathing and rocket modes, as well as a smooth transition between the two. The Advanced Nozzle project is demonstrating the feasibility of this concept and represents a significant technology development effort towards the SABRE demonstrator engine. (6/19)

Next Space Station Cargo Mission Slips to NET June 28 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and its payload of a Dragon automated cargo vessel on the seventh operational flight under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract - will have to wait a couple more days before launch. This slip was apparently caused in order to accomplish the work required to get the booster and spacecraft ready for flight. (6/19)

Erosion Threatens Iconic NASA Launch Pads (Source: Florida Today)
The ocean ticks a countdown of its own, along this thin strip of beach where rockets blasted to space from NASA's two iconic launch pads. Waves lap ever closer to the concrete pads at Kennedy Space Center, as the moon that man reached from these sands drives tides that threaten the pads' foundations.

To keep exploring space from here, KSC needs a bit more room for comfort along this edge of the Atlantic. The public has until July 20 to comment on the space center's recently released environmental assessment of four beach-building options under consideration. If nothing's done, erosion along 4.6 miles of the KSC shoreline, coupled with sea-level rise, "would result in large-scale inundation, habitat alteration, and land loss along the coastal strand," the environmental assessment says.

That could result in damage to launch infrastructure and seawater flooding into nearby marshes. Sea level at KSC could rise from 6 to 25 inches (2 feet) by the 2050s and 10 to 49 inches (4 feet) by the 2080s, according to the environmental assessment. Meanwhile, planning is under way for several potential new launch pads in the same area. (6/19)

Loral Wins Japanese Satellite Contract (Source: SSL)
Space Systems/Loral said Thursday it won a contract for a Japanese communications satellite. SSL will build the BSAT-4a satellite for Broadcasting Satellite System Corp., or B-SAT; terms of the contract, including the expected launch date, were not disclosed. SSL is believed to have beaten out Orbital ATK for the contract. (6/19)

Antitrust Concerns for Airbus Safran's Ownership of Arianespace (Source: Wal Street Journal)
Airbus Safran's plans to own a majority of Arianespace may face antitrust reviews in the U.S. and Europe. Airbus Safran Launchers formally agreed this week to buy the portion of Arianespace currently owned by the French space agency CNES, giving it a 74% stake in the launch services company. Satellite makers are expected to ask antitrust regulators to put conditions on the deal to prevent Arianespace from giving preferential treatment to satellites built by Airbus. Arianespace officials said they would not oppose such conditions. (6/19)

Los Angeles Port Group Partners to Host SpaceX Ocean Recovery Vessels (Source: Daily Breeze)
SpaceX will base several recovery ships, including a Falcon 9 landing platform, at the Port of Los Angeles under an agreement announced Thursday. The company is partnering with AltaSea, a marine research center located at the port that is still in in its early phases of development, to host recovery vessels there. The ships based at the port include those used for recovery of Dragon capsules as well as Marmac 303, an "autonomous spaceport drone ship" for landing Falcon 9 first stages launched from Vandenberg. (6/19)

NASA Considers Nukes to Divert Killer Asteroids (Source: New York Times)
NASA and the agency that manages the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile have signed an agreement to cooperate on planetary defense. NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will cooperate on studies on how nuclear weapons could be used to divert a threatening asteroid to "deepen the levels of expert cooperation and governmental planning," according to a report. The agreement, signed Wednesday, has not been publicly announced by either NASA or the NNSA. (6/19)

Israel Seeks Astronaut Opportunity (Source: JNS)
Israel's science minister wants to send a Israeli woman to space. Danny Danon said this week he has asked the Israel Space Agency to start the search for a female astronaut, and discussed with NASA the possibility of flying her on a future, unspecified mission. Israel's only astronaut, Ilan Ramon, died on the shuttle Columbia in 2003. (6/19)

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