June 5, 2015

Robotics Teams Prepare to Compete for $1.5 Million in NASA Challenge (Source: NASA)
Twenty robotics teams, ranging from university students to small businesses, are preparing to compete June 8-13 in the fourth running of the NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge for a prize purse of $1.5 million.

At the autonomous robot competition held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, teams must demonstrate their robot can locate and collect geologic samples from a large and varied landscape, without human control, through two levels of competition that grow in complexity. The objective is to encourage innovations in autonomous navigation and robotic manipulation technologies. These innovations may enhance NASA's space exploration capabilities and could have applications on Earth, continuing the nation's leadership in robotic technology. (6/3)

Russia Determines Cause of Progress Cargo Craft Failure (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Roscosmos revealed on Monday, June 1, the results of the state commission’s investigation into the April 28, 2015, accident involving a Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket and its payload of the Progress M-27M spacecraft. The Russian Federal Space Agency stated that the failure lies in a unique issue stemming from the joint use of the cargo craft and the carrier rocket.

“A design peculiarity in the joint use of the spaceship and the rocket related to the frequency-dynamic characteristics of the linkage between the spaceship and the rocket’s third stage is the cause for the damage done to the spaceship as a result of the emergency separation of the carrier rocket’s third stage and the transport spacecraft,” Roscosmos said. (6/4)

NASA Flying Saucer Flight Scrubbed in Hawaii (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Today's planned launch of the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD ) test craft has been scrubbed due to inclement weather. Given that the first phase of the mission involves the lofting of a helium-filled balloon and the recover of the craft will be in the Pacific Ocean, the rain showers that moved into the region off Kauai, Hawaii last evening will prevent the U.S. Space Agency from deploying and recovering the saucer-shaped vehicle under optimal conditions. (6/4)

NASA Plans to Test Space Habitation Close to Home (Source: Space.com)
NASA and partners from industry and the international community could use cislunar missions to test habitation technology in preparation for human missions into space. "The concepts that we're working on today call for us to begin in the early '20s with a set of missions involving Orion to get some early experience in cislunar space, leading to a series of longer missions," said NASA's Skip Hatfield. (6/4)

NASA Invests in Future of Aviation with Supersonic Research Projects (Source: NASA)
Quieter, greener supersonic travel is the focus of eight studies selected by NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project to receive more than $2.3 million in funding for research that may help overcome the remaining barriers to commercial supersonic flight. The research, which will be conducted by universities and industry, will address sonic booms and high-altitude emissions from supersonic jets. Click here. (6/3)

Newquay Still in UK Spaceport Running (Source: Newquay Voice)
Newquay is now among three possible locations in Britain to host Europe's first spaceport. Newquay Cornwall Airport, Glasgow Prestwick in Scotland and Llanbedr in Wales are remaining on the Government's short-list to site the facility, which is set to be established by 2018.

Newquay was previously among six possible venues after the Government ruled out  RAF Lossiemouth and Kinloss Barracks for operational reasons due to their "vital role in defense." Highland and Islands Airport Ltd, RAF Leuchars, Campbeltown and Stornoway, which are all in Scotland, have also now dropped out of the running. (6/3)

House Offers Partial Budget Increase To FAA Commercial Space Office (Source: Space News)
The House of Representatives approved an amendment to an appropriations bill June 3 that gives the Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial space office part of a budget increase it requested to keep up with its growing workload.

The House approved by voice vote an amendment to appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development that transfers $250,000 from an FAA account for financial and management activities to its Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) introduced the amendment with Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Bill Posey (R-FL). (6/4)

Virgin Galactic Pilot Recalls Colleague's Crash (Source: BBC)
For the first time, one of the pilots involved in Virgin Galactic's spaceship crash has spoken to the media. Dave Mackay, the company's chief pilot, spoke to the BBC about last October, when the company's new spaceship broke apart in mid-air over California. "We were listening out on the radio and it became apparent fairly early that something had gone seriously wrong," he said.

The final report into the accident is due within the next few months. Mr Mackay, from Helmsdale in the Scottish Highlands, was flying the mother ship, called White Knight Two, that had ferried the rocket plane to around 50,000ft before releasing it to the sky. Click here. (6/4)

Weird Wobbling Moons Observed in the Pluto System (Source: LA Times)
Atronomers say the Pluto system is more bizarre and complicated than anyone expected. Observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope suggest the dwarf planet's four smallest moons -- Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx -- wobble in their orbits and tumble unpredictably as they make their way around Pluto and its largest moon, Charon. (6/4)

Pentagon Seeks Easing of Ban on Russian Rocket Engines (Source: New York Times)
The Pentagon says that additional Russian engines will be needed for at least a few more years to ensure access to space for the country's most delicate defense and intelligence technology. The retreat has angered Russia's fiercest critics in Congress, including John McCain. Click here. (6/5)

Copenhagen Suborbitals, SpaceChain Give Amateur Spaceflight a Shot (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On May 31, Copenhagen Suborbitals performed the second test fire of their BPM-5 rocket engine. Earlier in May, CryptoCoinsNews posted a report about SpaceChain Space Program, the space agency of Bitnation. Both of these groups are essentially collections of enthusiastic amateurs, volunteering their time, talent, and money to achieve spaceflight on their own terms.

The first of those two groups, Copenhagen Suborbitals, is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, and is the brainchild of Peter Madsen, who has experience building his own submarine. When Kristian von Bengtson, who used to work for NASA, read about Madsen’s desire to build a manned rocket DIY-style, he chose to join him in his endeavor.

The SpaceChain Space Program, which bills itself as the Bitnation Space Agency, though it existed before gaining that title. It’s a newer group, with its first blog post dated March 8 of this year, and its earliest Facebook posts dating only back to mid-2014. Their mission, according to their Facebook page, is this: “SpaceChain is an effort to create the first civilian decentralized space program, where everyone are welcome to join. All our technology and research results will be open source and we aim for the Moon.” (6/4)

NewSpace Business Plan Competition's Most Impactful Event Yet (Source: Space Frontier Foundation)
The industry-renowned NewSpace Business Plan Competition (“BPC”) announced today that it will adopt a 2 year competition cycle, in order to expand  its offerings of industry  resources, support and coaching to the competing and winning teams. With the next competition occurring in 2016, the longer cycle will encourage more in-depth interactions with competition sponsors, allowing competing teams to benefit from deeper industry relationships. Click here. (6/4)

Former Planetary Resources Exec Raises $3.1M for New Venture (Source: GeekWire)
Booster Fuels, a new Seattle-based startup led by a former Planetary Resources executive, has raised a $3.1 million funding round from Madrona Venture Group and other investors. Frank Mycroft, previously the VP of Strategy at asteroid-mining company Planetary Resources, is CEO and co-founder of Booster. Mycroft confirmed the investment round, which also included participation from Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson and other angel investors whom Mycroft described as “world class.”

The CEO wouldn’t divulge many more details about Booster, other than saying that the startup has a “very massive vision that will positively impact the globe” and is in the transportation industry. He said there’s a “handful of employees” working for the company. (5/29)

Keeping Astronauts in Space Longer with Better Air and Water (Source: Space Daily)
As astronauts embark on increasingly ambitious space missions, scientists have to figure out how to keep them healthy for longer periods far from Earth. That entails assuring the air they breathe and the water they drink are safe - not an easy task given their isolated locations.

But scientists are now reporting in the ACS journal Analytical Chemistry a new method to monitor the quality of both in real time with one system. Current options for testing air and water for contaminants, including microbes and radiation, require collecting samples and sending them back to Earth for analysis. But for long missions - aboard the International Space Station (ISS), for example - this approach could take six months before the astronauts have their results.

The researchers outfitted a kind of air quality monitor (AQM) already used aboard space missions with a device that can vaporize water samples, turning its contents and any contaminants, into a gas. The gas can then enter the AQM for analysis. Astronauts could also use the same equipment, with a modification, for testing the air. (6/4)

North Korea Developing New Satellite, Defends Space Program (Source: Seattle Times)
North Korean space agency officials say the country is developing a more advanced Earth observation satellite and are defending their right to conduct rocket launches whenever they see fit, despite protests by the United States and others that the launches are aimed primarily at honing military-use technologies.

The North launched its first and only satellite in 2012. The claim that it is working on another, made in an interview last week with an AP Television crew in Pyongyang, comes amid a flurry of attention to the country’s fledgling space agency, including a visit by leader Kim Jong Un to a new satellite control center that was repeatedly broadcast on North Korean TV early last month.

“We are developing a more advanced Earth observation satellite and when it’s complete, before launching it, we will inform international organizations and other countries,” Paek Chang Ho, vice director of the scientific research and development department of the North’s space agency, said. (6/4)

NASA Testing Supersonic Parachute in Flying Saucer Launch (Source: Space Daily)
NASA plans to try out the largest parachute ever deployed Wednesday during a flying saucer launch that will test new technologies for landing on Mars. The test flight of the flying saucer, known as the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator, will be broadcast live on NASA's website. Since the atmosphere on Mars is so thin, any parachute that helps a heavy, fast-moving spacecraft touch down needs to be extra strong. (6/4)

Russia's New Super-Heavy Rocket to Orbit Satellite for First Time in 2016 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's newest heavy rocket carrier Angara-A5 will orbit a commercial satellite for the first time in 2016, the head of the Khrunichev Center said Wednesday. "[The launch will be in] 2016, everything depends on the space apparatus. I think that this will be a commercial launch, but I don't know if it will be a foreign or Russian apparatus," Andrei Kalinovsky told journalists. (6/4)

Japan Improves Spaceport, Delays Launch of Unmanned Lunar Lander (Source: Japan Times)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to renovate its facilities at the rocket-launch complex in southwestern Japan in time for the launch of its next-generation flagship rocket, and has delayed the launch of an unmanned moon lander until fiscal 2019. The agency will start the work at the Tanegashima spaceport from fiscal 2017, including the addition of an automated inspection system that will shorten the time for maintenance and allow more launches in a year, they said. (6/4)

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