June 26, 2015

SpyMeSat App Offers Fresh, On-Call Satellite Imagery (Source: Space News)
A company that offers a smartphone app for ordering satellite imagery plans to incorporate more satellites into its product. The SpyMeSat app by Orbit Logic currently uses images from Israel's EROS-B satellite, but the company's president said she is considering adding imagery from other satellites, also from non-U.S. companies. The app itself costs $1.99, but a "freshly tasked" image starts at $500. (6/25)

Longest Test Yet for SLS Engine (Source: NASA)
NASA performed the longest test yet Thursday of the engine that will power the Space Launch System. The RS-25 engine, a modified version of the engine used on the space shuttle, fired for 10 minutes and 50 seconds during a test at NASA's Stennis Space Center. Three more tests are planned for July and August, including one on Aug. 8 that NASA will open to both traditional and social media. (6/25)

NOAA Cubesat Caught in Crossfire Between Congress, White House (Source: Space News)
NOAA’s plan to launch an experimental weather cubesat in 2016 is in doubt because the agency staked funding for the effort to a program that fared poorly in recent budget bills. In 2016, NOAA wanted to “actually spend some money and do a demonstration on a microwave sounder cubesat,” said NOAA's Tom Burns.

As part of a $380 million Polar Follow-on program the White House proposed in its annual budget request in February, NOAA sought $10 million for the 2016 cubesat demo. The Polar Follow-on program would allow NOAA to start work next year on the final three Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) spacecraft, which will provide global weather coverage.

But on June 3, the House passed a NOAA budget that included no Polar Follow-on money at all. In the Senate, a NOAA budget awaiting a floor vote provided only $135 million for Polar Follow-on. If the funding doesn’t materialize, it will put a cramp in NOAA’s plans to press a 12U microwave-sounding cubesat designed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory of Lexington, Massachusetts, into operational weather service in 2019 as part of the JPSS program. (6/25)

NASA, Microsoft Collaborate to Bring Science Fiction to Science Fact (Source: NASA)
NASA and Microsoft are teaming up to develop Sidekick, a new project using commercial technology to empower astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Sidekick uses Microsoft HoloLens to provide virtual aid to astronauts working off the Earth, for the Earth. A pair of the devices is scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the station on June 28.

The goal of Sidekick is to enable station crews with assistance when and where they need it. This new capability could reduce crew training requirements and increase the efficiency at which astronauts can work in space. (6/25)

China Launches Earth Observation Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
China launched an Earth imaging satellite early Friday. The Long March 4B rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 2:22 a.m. EDT Friday and placed the Gaofen-8 satellite into orbit. The satellite, according to state media, is part of a civil system to provide high-resolution images of the Earth, although previous information about that system made reference to only seven such satellites. The launch was not announced by the Chinese government in advance. (6/26)

Humanoid Robots on Mars (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
The first being to walk on Mars might not be a human. NASA is working with universities to advance the technology in the agency's Valkyrie humanoid robot, with plans to hold a Space Robotics Challenge to see how to develop such robotic for space exploration applications. That could include, NASA believes, sending a cargo of Valkyrie robots to Mars to prepare a base in advance of a human mission there and handle maintenance of it after humans arrive. (6/26)

New Era of Space Collaboration Between Australia and US (Source: Space Daily)
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. (6/25)

NASA: Electric-Propulsion X-Plane Is Just First Step (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has made some expansive claims about the high efficiency, low noise and emissions and overall transformative potential of electric aircraft propulsion. Now its engineers are being given the chance to show whether those claims are supportable.

The research agency has approved a three-year, $15 million project to fly a distributed electric propulsion (DEP) X-plane. The demonstrator will be based on a light general-aviation aircraft but, if the technology proves out, NASA has aggressive plans to follow up with a nine-seat commuter demonstrator that could pave the way for a 60-90-seat hybrid-electric regional airliner. (6/26)

U.S. Readies War Operations Center for Space (Source: UPI)
The Pentagon will soon complete a new operations center for potential warfare in space, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work announced. Work explained the center, to be open within six months, will reinforce space defense activities at the military's Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB. Geospatial intelligence, he added, is necessary to strengthen the U.S. technological advantage over Russia and China, two countries practicing intelligence and anti-satellite activities in space. (6/25)

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