August 1, 2015

Race to Offer Jetson Style Holidays by 2020 (Source:
Holidaying in space is a rapidly developing reality for earthlings, thanks to fierce competition to offer commercial space travel. At least a dozen companies based in the US are working hard to make space a playground for the rich, rather than just the mega-rich. Virgin Galactic might be the best known contender but others include “travel agency” Space Adventures, which hopes to offer opportunities for space flight and space tourism within the next ten years. Click here. (8/1)

How Asteroids Could Fuel 'Gas Stations' In Outer Space (Source: Forbes)
Preparing a mission for outer space is a little bit like getting ready to go camping. If you don’t pack enough provisions for the whole trip, it’s going to be tough to make it back home. But geologist Leslie Gertsch is hoping to change all that. She’s starting a lab at Missouri University of Science and Technology this summer that will test space rocks for gases—if she finds enough gas, there could be a future for rocket gas stations in space.

“If you can stop at a gas station, a gas asteroid, it would make [space travel] more efficient,” Gertsch says. “You wouldn’t have to carry all your fuel.” What’s the magic gas ingredient inside the space rocks? Gertsch will have to bake the meteorites to find out exactly what kinds of gases they give off, and how much, but research suggests some of the rocks have as much as 22 percent water in them, and gases like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, or carbon monoxide, that could all be processed to fill up the tank in space.

To process the fuel, the rocks would need to be bagged and baked. The hot gases coming off the meteorites, trapped inside the bag, could be sent to space refineries, or siphoned directly into fuel tanks designed to be meteorite-gas-compatible. (8/1)

School of Mines Gets $750,000 Grant from NASA Program (Source: Miami Herald)
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has been awarded a $750,000 grant from NASA to develop materials to be used in future exploration of other planets. The funding comes from the space agency's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ESPCoR).  The school will use the money to development printable spacecraft materials and electronic and electromagnetic devices to use in future exploration. (8/1)

SLS Can Do More Than Human Missions, Could be "Transformative for Science" (Source: Space Alabama)
"My view is that the Space Launch System will be transformative for science," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. NASA has tasked the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to develop the next super-heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System or SLS, to return humans to deep-space exploration.  NASA has been very public about their "Journey to Mars," which seeks to put humans on the Red Planet in the 2030s, and the SLS would be the enabler for those missions.

But the less talked about uses for it involve sending bigger, faster and maybe even more robotic probes into the even more distant reaches of the solar system. At a hearing of the House of Representatives' Science, Space and Technology Committee, Grunsfeld and other scientists testified on the importance of solar system exploration during a presentation titled "Exploration of the Solar System: From Mercury to Pluto and Beyond." (8/1)

Former FAA Consultant Claims Agency Failed to Act on SpaceShip Two Warnings (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Federal Aviation Administration officials repeatedly failed to act on safety warnings about an experimental rocket ship backed by billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson that crashed in 2014, according to a former agency consultant. Terry Hardy, who was assigned to the project as a consultant for more than three years beginning in 2011, said in an interview Friday that he had told FAA managers that certain features of SpaceShip Two—along with risk analyses prepared by its designers—were inadequate. (7/31)

Two Companies End Commercial Partnerships with NASA at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
Two years ago, BRS Aerospace planned to create more than 30 jobs and invest more than $7 million in a former space shuttle facility it leased from NASA at Kennedy Space Center. But less than a year later the Miami-based company was gone, and KSC’s Parachute Refurbishment Facility is now slated for demolition.

Minnesota-based PaR Systems similarly abandoned another former shuttle facility in April, a year after NASA had touted their partnership as a symbol of KSC’s transformation into a multi-user spaceport embracing new ways of doing business. The two companies’ departures are hiccups in that transformation, showing that outside companies won’t necessarily stick around if business and economic conditions don’t meet expectations.

KSC says that’s to be expected and there’s nothing it could have done differently to keep the two companies from leaving. In April of last year, a PaR Systems executive talked about “extremely exciting” opportunities at Hangar N, a more than 50-year-old NASA facility where it inspected materials for flaws using non-destructive technology. By this April, PaR had terminated its lease, two years into it. The company did work for NASA’s Orion exploration capsule program, but there apparently was not enough other business to justify the old hangar’s cost. (8/1)

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