August 10, 2015

Reserve a Launch for Your Satellite Online? Rocket Lab Can Make it So (Source: GeekWire)
The CubeSat revolution has come to this: Now you can make an online reservation for a nanosatellite launch almost as easily as booking a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles. Rocket Lab unveiled its launch booking system today at the annual SmallSat conference in Logan, Utah. “It’s really about trying to break down the barriers and make space more accessible,” Peter Beck, the company’s CEO, explained during a GeekWire interview.

It’s one more small step toward turning the satellite business into a turnkey operation for researchers, entrepreneurs, students and Kickstarter-savvy enthusiasts. Seattle’s Spaceflight Industries already provides a menu of launch services, organized by satellite size and timing. Rocket Lab kicks it up a notch by letting potential customers choose their spot, right down to selecting the “seat” for their satellite.

The prices range from between $50,000 and $90,000 for a 1U CubeSat (measuring 4 by 4 by 4 inches) to between $180,000 and $250,000 for a 3U satellite (4 by 4 by 12 inches). Where the price falls within those ranges will depend on the available space and the demand. “As it comes closer to a flight, if we’re having trouble filling seats, we may discount those flights to make sure they’re full,” Beck said. “It’s very similar to an airline.” (8/10)

Russia to Conduct Simulated Flight Program to Moon, Mars Over 4 Years (Source: Space Daily)
Russia will conduct a series of international experiments with simulated flights to the Moon, Mars and other planets between 2016 and 2020, the first deputy head of the Institute of Biomedical Problems said. Oleg Orlov said that the new experiments would include a mixture of sexes for the crews, as opposed to the previous Mars-500 and Luna-2015 simulations.

According to the institute's plans, two 14-day experiments will be conducted in 2016-2017, as well as a 4-month simulated flight in 2017. An 8-month experiment will be held in 2018, and in 2019-2020, there will be a 12-month experimental simulated flight. (8/10)

Cosmonauts Collect Exterior Residue Samples During ISS Spacewalk (Source: SPACErePORT)
During today's spacewalks outside the International Space Station, Russian cosmonauts collected residue from the exterior surfaces of the orbiting laboratory. Why? Last year Russian sources announced that "traces of terrestrial sea plankton were on the spacecraft’s exterior."

“Results of the experiment are absolutely unique. We have found traces of sea plankton and microscopic particles on the illuminator surface. This should be studied further,” Solovyev told ITAR-TASS. “I’m not sure where all the sea-plankton talk is coming from,” said NASA spokesman Dan Huot at the time. Click here. (8/10)

NASA Just Found Another Super-Earth, But It's Stunning To Hear How Close It Is (Source: Expanse)
There's been a lot of talk about Super-Earths lately, with Kepler recently finding Earth's "older cousin," but this one is notable for an entirely different reason. At just 21 lightyears away, HD 219134b is the nearest known rocky planet beyond our solar system. In a recent press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA called the planet "a potential gold mine of science data."

NASA notes that the planet can't be seen directly, with your eyes or a telescope — but its host star is clearly visible at night. If the clouds are playing nice, you shouldn't have much of a problem finding it tonight. It's located near the North Star, in the Cassiopeia constellation. You're not crazy for wondering how they found it without being able to see it directly. They were able to confirm its existence by making observations through the Spitzer Space Telescope, taking note of how it transits its star. Michael Werner said that "this exoplanet will be one of the most studied for decades to come." (8/6)

Trump Aims to Launch Tourists Into Space (Source: The Times)
Alan Shepard, the Apollo 14 astronaut, hit a golf ball on the Moon, but space tourists of the future could get the chance to practise their swing before lift-off under plans being put forward by Donald Trump. The billionaire tycoon and Republican presidential hopeful wants to link his luxury golf resort at Turnberry to proposals for Prestwick airport to become the UK’s space tourism hub. A consortium has lodged a bid in which Trump Turnberry and its five-star hotel would become the official hospitality partner for space-bound tourists departing from Prestwick. (8/10)

What Space Exploration says About Europe (Source: Guardian)
Look for the moment beyond the sordid argument about Greek debt, the mean-spirited management of the refugee confrontations in Calais, the murderous bitterness in Ukraine. Forget the grotesque posturing of would-be Republican candidates in the US. Far away – more than 102m miles away but moving very fast – the European space probe Rosetta is escorting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on its journey to perihelion, its closest approach to the sun. Meanwhile, even further away, a US space probe called New Horizons, traveling at 34,000 mph, has already sped past what has traditionally been considered the ninth planet, Pluto, and its moon Charon.

Each achievement represents a triumph for far-sighted cooperation and intellectual generosity. To make these missions happen, researchers had to develop and perfect technologies from which medicine and industry will benefit – and in some cases do so already – but nobody at the time thought a lot about of patents, or royalties to come.

Both are exemplars of open and generous partnership, and scientists and politicians and civil servants from Russia and America, Ukraine and Greece, France, Britain and many other nations can decently claim credit. Rosetta is a gleaming instance of what Europe collectively can do so well, while Calais and the Greek debt crisis are sorry examples of what it fails to do well. Each mission will enter the history books as a triumph. All of which is more than can be said for the bickering and frustration in Brussels, Berlin and Athens, at border posts on either side of the Channel, or in the corridors of power in Kiev and Moscow. (8/10)

Moving Exhibit Pays Tribute to Lost Space Shuttles’ Crews (Source: Science News)
With the blessings of all 14 families of lost astronauts, a new memorial to the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters opened in June at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The permanent exhibit includes the first pieces of shuttle wreckage ever on public display, but fittingly focuses more on the lives lost.

“Forever Remembered” is housed inside the space center’s new $100 million exhibit about the space shuttle Atlantis. Below the nose of the intact shuttle, visitors enter a hall lit by tributes to each astronaut from the lost missions, those from Challenger on the left and Columbia on the right. Each display includes glimpses of the astronaut’s life. Items include plans for remodeling the home of Challenger pilot Michael Smith and a recovered page in Hebrew from the Columbia flight journal of Ilan Ramon, a payload specialist and the first Israeli astronaut. (8/10)

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