July 26, 2015

China Adds Two More Satellites to its Homegrown GPS Rival (Source: South China Morning Post)
China launched two new satellites into space Saturday, state media reported, as it builds a homegrown satellite navigation system to rival the US’s Global Positioning System. A rocket carrying the satellites was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan province at 8:29 pm (1229 GMT), the official Xinhua news agency said.

The satellites are the 18th and 19th launched by China as it develops its domestic navigation system Beidou, or Compass. They take the total number launched this year to three. Beidou is currently centerd on the Asia Pacific region but is slated to cover the whole world by 2020. (7/26)

If You Think Your Internet Service is Bad, Try it in Space (Source: CNBC)
The International Space Station is a technological marvel that has expanded mankind's understanding of the universe. Despite the space station's cutting edge technology, one famous astronaut says Internet service on board is decidedly low tech.

"It's kind of like a cross between old dial-up and what you might have now with very high speed Internet," astronaut Captain Scott Kelly told CNBC in an interview this week. "It's not ideal, and it varies from time to time in how well it works." (7/26)

Just Who Exactly Blew Up SpaceX's Rocket Ship? (Source: Motley Fool)
When Orbital ATK's Antares rocket exploded over Wallops Island, Va., last year, fingers pointed immediately at the rocket's engine maker, Russia's now-defunct Kuznetsov Design Bureau, as the culprit. Fixing blame for NASA's latest rocket disaster, however, won't be as easy. And that's good news for SpaceX. Everything was going swimmingly for its CRS-7 mission when it first lifted off. For 139 glorious seconds, everything was "nominal."

So far as SpaceX can tell, the problems began when one single part within the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage failed, causing the now-infamous SpaceXplosion. Specifically, it appears that a two-foot-long steel strut -- one of several hundred built into the Falcon 9, responsible for holding the rocket's helium tanks in place -- snapped in half, failing under 2,000 pounds of stress, despite being designed to withstand 10,000 pounds.

What happened next is uncertain. But with two pieces of hardware rattling around within a pressurized metal tube straining under more than three "Gs" of acceleration -- plus a loose helium bottle they were supposed to hold in place possibly tossed into the mix -- it probably wasn't good. Long story short, the rocket blew up -- but it was neither the rocket's fault, nor the fault of the rocket maker, SpaceX. Rather, SpaceX is (tentatively) placing the blame on a supplier of metal struts that it declines to name. (7/26)

Making Contact with Alien Worlds Could Make us Care More About Our Own (Source: Guardian)
Human advanced technology is so recently acquired that any spacefaring civilization would, most likely, be far ahead of us. Hawking has said he doesn’t know anything about the extraterrestrials, but he knows about us. If our own history is any guide, he warns, first contact with a technologically superior civilization would be disastrous.

We respect that view and pledge not to send our message until a global debate has taken place. Still, I cannot help but wonder if we can assume that the extraterrestrials will have made technological leaps but somehow remained as politically and emotionally stunted as we are today. Perhaps they will have succeeded in finding ways to conquer their tendencies toward greed and violence, their shortsightedness – just as so many of us struggle to do here on Earth.

Could a deeper familiarity with the vast emptiness foster a greater respect for the preciousness and ancient continuity of life? Whether we decide to transmit our message or not, the act of conceptualizing it can be transformative. Every gesture of recognition that we share a planetary civilization takes us closer to maturity. We can’t think about how we might present ourselves to the beings of another world without seeing this one anew. (7/26)

The Inexcusable Jingoism of American Spaceflight Rhetoric (Source: Scientific American)
Throughout the history of the U.S. human spaceflight program, a peculiarly American rhetoric of manifest destiny, frontier conquest and exploitation has dominated official and public discourse. Take, for example, the credo of the Space Frontier Foundation, an American nonprofit advocacy group “dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible ... creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space.”

Such rhetoric reveals an ideology of human spaceflight—a set of beliefs about the nation's right to expand its boundaries, colonize other lands and exploit their resources. This ideology rests on a number of assumptions about the role of the U.S. in the global community and American national character. According to this ideology, the U.S. is and must remain “number one” in the world community, playing the role of political, economic, scientific, technological and moral leader, spreading democratic capitalism. (7/14)

Study: NASA Should Return to Moon Before Going to Mars (Source: CFL News 13)
Brevard County could once again become a moon port, a new study suggests. The NexGen Space study, partly funded by NASA, suggests astronauts should return to the Moon before going to Mars. The report found NASA could send astronauts to the lunar surface in five to seven years for $10 billion. Previous estimates were closer to $100 billion.
The study suggests NASA should use commercial rockets from SpaceX and ULA to launch astronauts to the moon at a more affordable cost. Then in the 2030s, a permanent moon base would be established, where commercial ventures would mine for resources that could be used for rocket fuel propellant. Former NASA executives reviewed the study, saying a sort of gas station could be established in lunar orbit, where a NASA rocket could re-fuel on its way to Mars.

Former NASA Program Manager Jim Ball, who now runs Spaceport Strategies, was a part of the independent review team. “Lunar resources reduce the risk and cost of going to Mars,” Ball said. “If you can provide propellant for those missions going to Mars by mining that propellant and providing it from the moon, you can save a dramatic amount of money.” (7/25)

Space Coast Revives Parties to Boost Space Tourism (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
As the Delta IV rocket rose in a blast of blinding light, a crowd of locals and tourists from across the U.S., Canada and Europe stood on a beach 15 miles away to witness the liftoff in awe. "We are absolutely excited," said Christian Preinsberger of Graz, Austria, at the launch Thursday evening with his family. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for us."

The Preinsbergers were among about 500 people drawn to a beachfront launch party, the latest effort to spur space tourism in Brevard County in the post-space-shuttle era. Space Florida, the state-chartered industry-development corporation, and Florida's Space Coast Office of Tourism are trying to make space cool again for visitors, even without big NASA rockets or astronauts.

This spring, Space Florida rolled out its $1.5 million "We Are Go" campaign, which includes targeted national and local advertising, and social-media efforts to publicize every rocket launch. They set up launch websites with countdown clocks and links to launch-related activities. "This campaign is aimed at reaching the global citizen to let them know that Florida is the one place in the world where they can come and view a launch today, with predictability, on a regular basis," said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. (7/24)

Pueblo Lands United Launch Alliance Rocket R&D Operation (Source: Denver Post)
Southern Colorado has a stellar new resident. Centennial-based rocket giant United Launch Alliance on Friday announced it will create a new engineering and propulsion testing center in Pueblo for its fleet of rockets. "Pueblo is officially in the rocket-science industry," said Pueblo Economic Development Corp. CEO Jack Rink as he announced the deal at the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum.

"This is going to be a small engineering group that allows (ULA) to be mobile, aggressive and competitive in the rocket-development arena," Pueblo County economic development director Chris Markuson said. ULA inked a lease for 310 Keeler Parkway, a 28,000-square-foot building about a half-mile from Pueblo Airport. The building previously held the now-defunct jetmaker Adam Aircraft, and, most recently, was used for a hemp cloning operation.

ULA, which already has six people working in Pueblo, expects to have another 15 people at the new location by the end of 2015, and has committed to have at least 34 people working there by October 2017. Salaries will average $50,000 to $80,000. (7/25)

Space Tourism Just Got Another Big Boost, and This Time it's in Texas (Source: Business Insider)
Houston, Texas is already home to the Johnson Space Center, responsible for the famous Apollo program and every Space Shuttle mission. Now, Texas’ largest city will also be home to the tenth commercial spaceport in the United States.

Renderings for the project, shown here, are what officials hope the field will look like, once their goal of 80 private partnerships is fulfilled and the facility is constructed. “Houston has been at the forefront of aviation history and innovation for decades,” Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz said in a statement.

“Not only does this opportunity reinforce an already long-established connection with the aerospace industry, it offers Houston an opportunity to strengthen its reputation as a forward-looking city and leader in creating high-tech, next-generation type jobs.” (7/24)

65 Years Ago, Cape Took Flight with Bumper 8 (Source: Florida Today)
Lee Starrick remembers as a boy playing in his Titusville back yard with a neighbor when they noticed something strange and thought, “What the heck is that?” Fixing their gazes toward Cape Canaveral on the morning of July 24, 1950, they saw a light rising in the sky and occasional wisps of a contrail. Eventually they heard a light rumble.

“We had no idea what it was,” said Satrrick, now 73, the administrator of the U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum in Titusville. “Back then everything was secret.” They had witnessed history: The Cape’s first rocket launch, 65 years ago today. The six-story Bumper 8 rocket lifted off from Complex 3 at 9:28 a.m. The two-stage rocket consisted of a captured German V-2 ballistic missile as the first stage, and a WAC Corporal sounding rocket for an upper stage. (7/25)

Space Camp has Hids Reaching for the Stars – and Mars – Despite NASA Struggles (Source: Guardian)
Recent evidence, at least, would seem to suggest that space camp – that all-American rite of passage for generations of young math wizards, science geeks and wannabe astronauts – ought to have disappeared into a black hole by now. NASA doesn’t launch humans into orbit any more, the US government’s investment in its own space agency is as low as it has ever been, and the last rocket sent from Cape Canaveral with supplies for the international space station exploded just seconds after liftoff.

On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much for the next wave of explorers and adventurers to get excited about. Yet for the thousand or so children who will attend the space camp at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida this summer, and the many more who will enjoy a similar experience at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, their dream burns as brightly as a supernova in a nearby galaxy. (7/25)

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