June 27, 2015

The Fuzzball Fix for a Black Hole Paradox (Source: WIRED)
In the late 18th century, the scientist John Michell pondered what would happen if a star were so massive, and its gravity so strong, that its escape velocity would be equivalent to the speed of light. He concluded that any emitted light would be redirected inward, rendering the star invisible. He called these hypothetical objects dark stars.

Michell’s 1784 treatise languished in quiet obscurity until it resurfaced in the 1970s. By then, theoretical physicists were well acquainted with black holes—the dark star idea translated into Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity. Black holes have a boundary called an event horizon that represents the point of no return, as well as a singularity, a point of infinite density within. Click here. (6/27)

What if Property Disputes Extend to Space? (Source: Madison Journal)
Of course, there’s not a lot of talk about NASA now, because our financial woes have stifled our space ambitions for the time being. But the space age is far from dead. In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite. But it’s entering a different, more fragmented age, in which NASA might not be the dominant player. Our technology is getting better and better. And this allows many individuals and groups of people to join the game.
And there’s a lot of money above.

For instance, think about how much money is tied up in satellites right now. If you have a dish, then you’re reliant on those signals from satellites. You’re paying good money every month to someone who maintains those satellites. Think about all the GPS systems.

Think about how satellite imagery is getting better and better. With high-definition cameras from satellites aimed on the world, think of all the money that can be made, all the information available to individuals, businesses or governments. We have predator drones now. But we’re working hard on laser technology, too. What if those drones were eventually topped by a greater technology, lasers from satellites? Click here. (6/27)

Japan to Launch New Group to Study Extraterrestrial Materials (Source: Japan Times)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to launch a new organization Wednesday specializing in the study of extraterrestrial materials to further investigate how the solar system developed, agency officials said Saturday. JAXA, as the agency is known, will establish the new organization within its Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The group is expected to analyze mineral grains brought back to Earth from the asteroid Itokawa by the Hayabusa probe, as well as rocks taken from asteroid 1999 JU3 by the Hayabusa2, which is expected to arrive in three years and return with the samples by the end of 2020. (6/27)

What Is the Space Program Good For? (Source: Air & Space)
We look back on the Apollo era today and think that all Americans were united in the quest to reach the moon. But it wasn’t necessarily so. On October 10, 1968, the eve of the first crewed Apollo launch, rocket pioneer and NASA executive Wernher von Braun addressed a group of honorees and their families at a Manned Flight Awareness program dinner at the Kennedy Space Center. 

The MFA program, launched two years earlier as a recognition and quality assurance program, had assumed even greater importance in the wake of the Apollo 1 fire that took the lives of three astronauts in January 1967. Following that tragedy, critics in Washington and in the media had sharpened their attacks over the mounting cost and risks associated with spaceflight, even as NASA regrouped and prepared to return to flight. Click here. (6/26)

U.S. Air Force Mulls Plans to Replace Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Reuters)
A U.S. Air Force competition to develop a rocket propulsion system to end dependence on Russian rocket engines drew broad response from companies, the Air Force said on Friday. “There is interest,” Lt. General Samuel Greaves, who heads the Air Force’s Space and Missiles Systems Center, said during a webcast hearing of the House Strategic Forces Subcommittee.

Congress has banned imports of the RD-180 as part of trade sanctions against Russia for its involvement in Ukraine. “We do not have the capability within the United States today to replace (the RD-180) engine, so whatever we come up with will be a new engine,” Greaves said. Click here. (6/26)

How to Become an Astronaut (Source: Aol)
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? When the BBC asked 14,000 children about their ambitions back in 1969, many mentioned becoming an astronaut - and many more reckoned they'd at least be able to holiday on the moon. However a recent survey showed that only 1% of today's children harbor the same career ambition, the same number as want to be politicians or work in retail. Click here. (6/27)
Rosetta Detects Exposed Water Ice on Comet’s Surface (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Scientists using the high-resolution science camera on board the European Space Agency's (ESA ) Rosetta spacecraft have identified over a hundred patches of water ice a few meters in size on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerssimenko. (6/27)

Road to Hawaii Telescope to be Cleared, Governor Says (Source: Pacific Business News)
The Mauna Kea access road to the Thirty Meter Telescope project will be cleared for public access, according to a statement released by Hawaii Gov. David Ige Friday afternoon. After 12 protesters were arrested on Wednesday, others were persuaded to remove the rock structures they themselves created, according Ige. (6/26)

BRAC, Budget Dominate Summit Discussion (Source: Military Times)
Another round of base realignments and closures looks to be out of the question for now, but BRAC — and its potential costs — dominated some discussions at a summit on the future of military communities. The Association of Defense Communities summit was the backdrop for exchanging ideas on how the private sector could get more involved in the installations of the future, to the point of perhaps even managing military bases.

Ongoing talk of budget constraints in the near future has led the Defense Department and the services to seek another BRAC round, to reduce unneeded infrastructure that costs precious dollars to maintain. But Congress is standing firm against that idea, even as budget constraints complicate efforts to operate and maintain bases, summit participants said.

If the current budget climate rolls on over the next few years, base facilities will be increasingly at risk, said Robert Hale, former DoD comptroller. Some facilities already are failing, said John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment. Hale said he thinks another BRAC round will happen eventually, focusing on depots, as well as "significant underutilization" of some military hospitals. (6/26)

Here’s Why Coca-Cola is Investing in OneWeb (Source: Space News)
Whether Internet goes better with Coke is anyone’s guess, but Coke is going with OneWeb. The giant soft drink maker is an equity investor in OneWeb LLC and one of the surprises of the June 25 OneWeb briefing on London. Coca-Cola was not there to explain its decision, but OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said the company has a program called Five by 20 that seeks to promote women’s employment in areas of the world where OneWeb will have connectivity.

Wyler said Coca-Cola has 25 million sales and distribution points around the world, including remote rural areas where OneWeb’s core market resides. The OneWeb-Coke Ekocenters will put OneWeb terminals atop a snack bar, serving both companies’ interests. (6/26)

Student Experiments Fly on Suborbital Rocket at Virginia Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Several student experiments were successfully launched by NASA Thursday, June 25 using the agency’s Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket. The lift off took place at 6 a.m. from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket took the students’ payload to an altitude of 71.4 miles (115 kilometers) and then the payload descended by parachute into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia, where it was recovered by NASA. (6/26)

Sierra Nevada Matures Dream Chaser Thermal Protection System (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. has successfully completed several significant Thermal Protection System (TPS) material development tests for its Dream Chaser spacecraft. The TPS is responsible for protecting crew members and cargo from the high temperatures the spacecraft will experience during re-entry.

The TPS tests were completed at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Johnson Space Center under reimbursable Space Act Agreements (SAA). The tests provided critical data needed to support the upcoming TPS subsystem Critical Design Review (CDR) and to validate Dream Chaser TPS manufacturing readiness. Additional TPS certification testing is also planned at the centers beginning in the fall of 2015. The Dream Chaser tiles are being manufactured on Florida's Space Coast. (6/26)

Lawmaker Wants U.S. Air Force to Focus on New Engine, Period (Source: Space News)
The chairman the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee wants the U.S. Air Force and launch industry to focus narrowly on replacing the Russian-made main engine on United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas 5 rocket, as opposed to investing in various launch vehicle technologies.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) pointed out that Congress authorized $220 million in 2015 specifically for a new engine. But the Air Force, wary of investing in an engine that none of its certified launch service providers — currently ULA and newcomer SpaceX — wants, has proposed spending that money more broadly on launch vehicle technology.

Editor's Note: As with NASA's Space Launch System, this is an example of Congressional Republicans ignoring their usual faith in the wisdom of industry and instead opting for a government-driven, taxpayer funded solution. (6/26)

Japan Hatches Plan to Land Probe on South Pole of Moon (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japan's science ministry plans to land an unmanned probe at the south pole of the moon in the early 2020s in an attempt to enhance the nation’s standing in the space exploration business. Examination of rocks at the pole could provide clues to the origin of the moon, and there is also the chance of water or ice being found that could be used for astronauts in future missions. (6/26)

Russia Aims for Moon Landing, Leaves Mars to NASA (Source: Bloomberg)
Russia’s state space agency chief is shooting for the Moon, three years after a predecessor warned that the country was on the verge of losing its competitiveness in the industry. A manned lunar mission in 2029-2030 is Russia’s priority, while there are no “current stage” plans for a journey to Mars, Igor Komarov, head of the Federal Space Agency or Roscosmos, said in an interview in St. Petersburg last week.

“NASA has Mars as the priority,” Komarov said. “We at this stage are making the Moon our priority. We can be good in rounding each other out and working jointly on this program.” Komarov’s ambition of landing a Russian on the Moon contrasts with former Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin’s warning in 2012 that the country’s space industry risked being uncompetitive within three or four years without “urgent measures.” (6/26)

Alan Stern's Worldly Ventures (Source: Science)
Alan Stern's salesmanship helped get New Horizons to Pluto. He has a few other things for sale as well: a trip to the moon for $1.55 billion, and naming rights to a crater on Mars for $5. Those are the signature products of Golden Spike and Uwingu, two of his companies.

Golden Spike plans to send a two-seat lander to the moon, staging material in Earth orbit using commercial rockets. Governments with space ambitions—the target customers—have not lined up to buy tickets, but Stern insists that the company has made progress. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” he says.

Uwingu has had more immediate impact, albeit on a smaller scale. Uwingu raises money for space research through campaigns, such as selling naming rights to martian craters on an unofficial Uwingu map (the bigger the crater, the more expensive the name). Founded in 2012 with a nearly $80,000 crowdsourcing campaign, Uwingu is a for-profit company. Half of the revenues go into a fund for scientific grants—between $130,000 and $150,000 in 2014, Stern says. (6/26)

SpaceX is on a Roll, But Here’s Why the Pressure is Really On (Source: Washington Post)
It exploded seconds after takeoff, the majesty of a rocket launch erupting suddenly into a shrapnel-spewing fireball. Then, months later, another unmanned launch went catastrophically awry: A Russian rocket spun wildly out of control after it reached orbit, eventually burning up in the atmosphere as it crashed back to Earth.

Two rockets incinerated. Millions of dollars wasted. Several tons of food and cargo destined for the International Space Station gone. Now, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is preparing to resupply the orbiting laboratory on Sunday. And with the failures of the Orbital ATK Antares rocket and Russia’s Progress 59 spacecraft, the pressure is on. Not just for the billionaire’s upstart space company, and its streak of seven straight successful launches to the station, but the future of the private space industry that SpaceX’s improbable success has helped spawn. (6/26)

OneWeb’s Powerful Partners in Their Own Words (Source: Space News)
Start-up satellite Internet provider OneWeb LLC addressed many of the issues that skeptics had used to question its seriousness. The company announced $500 million in equity coming from Indian and Mexican telecommunications providers, ground segment builders, the satellite prime contractor and even from an ostensible competitor in satellite fleet operator Intelsat. Intelsat will now be a OneWeb partner, with the two companies sharing customers and spectrum. Click here. (6/26)

Launch Options were Key to Arianespace’s OneWeb Win (Source: Space News)
Arianespace won the largest commercial launch contract ever signed — a $1-billion-plus deal to launch between 650 and 720 of OneWeb LLC’s low-orbiting satellites aboard Russian Soyuz rockets —  by offering launch bases both at Europe’s spaceport in South America and Russia’s spaceport in Kazakhstan. The Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, which has a Soyuz launch installation, also may be used if needed, Arianespace said. (6/26)

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