August 30, 2015

British Woman Winning the Race to Send Tourists to Space (Source: Sunday Express)
Science pioneer Jane Poynter made history in September 1993 when she and seven others emerged from Biosphere 2, an artificial eco-system in the Arizona desert designed to test whether humans can be self-sufficient on Mars.

Now she aims to send passengers soaring to the stratosphere in a capsule pulled by an enormous helium balloon. Instead of wearing space suits and floating in zero gravity, up to six paying customers will be able to sip cocktails as they view Earth from 100,000 feet (about 19 miles). The capsule will be pressurised like an aircraft cabin.

Jane’s company World View Experiences, which she co-founded with her husband and fellow former Biosphere researcher Taber MacCallum, has announced it will be ready for commercial lift-off in 18 months or less. That would be much earlier than Branson’s Virgin Galactic. (8/30)

NASA Mission to Rejuvenate Classic Tea (Source: NDTV)
The internationally known Assam tea has got a saviour from space - NASA's soil mission that will rejuvenate the tea industry that is currently facing many hurdles including climate change. NASA launched in January this year the "Soil Moisture Active Passive" (SMAP) mission that has already started beaming key science to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed.

NASA's soil moisture data will be of much help in planning field operations including irrigation, said R.M. Bhagat, chief scientist who is leading the climate research at the 104-year-old Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TRI) in Assam's Jorhat district, nearly 300 km from Guwahati. "Tea gardens suffer intermittent drought-like situations. The scope of this data will expand eventually and will be of much help to farmers and planters in crop planning," Bhagat told IANS. (8/10)

Europe Eyes Future of Manned Space Exploration after ISS (Source: New Indian Express)
The 32 students at Stuttgart University’s Space Station Design Workshop, all budding experts in space engineering, had been working for a week on these two possible concepts for a future space station. Interestingly, both groups labelled some of their modules Russian. They envisage European Union space researchers teaming up with other nations. “In the future, these type of projects will only be feasible if they are funded in international cooperation,” says Stefanos Fasoulas. Click here. (8/30)

Foreign Partners May Be Involved in Sea Launch Project (Source: Sputnik)
It is currently not economically feasible to bring the Sea Launch maritime launch platform to Russian ports, it is possible that foreign partners could take part in the project, head of RSC Energia Vladimir Solntsev said Saturday. The Sea Launch consortium uses Russian-Ukrainian Zenit-SL carrier rockets to put commercial payloads into orbit.

Sea Launch was formed in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, and was managed by US aerospace giant Boeing. Sea Launch resumed operations in 2011 after a 30-month hiatus that saw passage through US Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a change in ownership from Boeing to Russia’s Energia, and a move of the company headquarters from California to Switzerland.

Last year, a source told RIA Novosti that the project could be mothballed until 2016 due to the crisis in Ukraine. Editor's Note: Vietnam is one country recently floated as a partner and host of the Sea Launch system. Whoever these new partners might be, it seems likely that Sea Launch won't remain in Long Beach, California. (8/30)

SpaceX Launch Site Grows in Texas (Source: Valley Morning Star)
Land purchases and preparations continue for SpaceX's new launch site in Texas. Cameron County earlier this year transferred ownership of 25 lots to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. Those lots now have been conveyed to SpaceX for “$10 and other good and valuable consideration.” It is understood that the properties would be used to develop parking.

SpaceX recently purchased another lot in the development area on the front steps of the Cameron County Judicial Building at a property tax-delinquency public auction, records show. SpaceX now owns about 140 acres of land in the area. The purchases mostly have been made through SpaceX’s Dogleg Park LLC. The Brownsville Navigation District, a nearby neighbor, pitched in by dedicating an additional 50 acres for SpaceX’s wetland mitigation plan.

SpaceX, in turn, transferred, or will transfer, the land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to mitigate impacts to wetlands. SpaceX’s 2013 mitigation plan has gone through 10 revisions through April of this year, public records show. SpaceX plans to launch the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy orbital vertical rockets, which also could carry the Dragon capsule, and a variety of smaller, reusable suborbital launch vehicles from Boca Chica. (8/30)

New Russian Spaceship to Be Ready Ahead of Schedule (Source: Sputnik)
The first prototype of a new Russian manned spacecraft for launch to the International Space Station (ISS) and the Moon may be created ahead of schedule, president of Russian space manufacturer RSC Energia Vladimir Solntsev told RIA Novosti on Saturday. The International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS 2015 is currently underway in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow, and is due to finish on Sunday.

"We have agreed with the engineers…. to reduce the time for construction and production of the first copy of this spaceship. Despite the fact that we have voiced and agreed on the first launch in 2021, we have set the task to build the prototype by 2019, and I think that we will succeed, " Solntsev said. (8/30)

Testing Panspermia: Searching for 'Bubbles of Life' in the Galaxy (Source: America Space)
We still don’t know if there is life elsewhere in the universe, but scientists are working on techniques to better understand how it may have originated anyway, in the event that such alien biology is indeed discovered, even if just simple microbes.

Focusing on exoplanets, the research suggests that if multiple inhabited worlds were found, then researchers could look for patterns similar to those found in epidemics on Earth, which might provide evidence for panspermia, the theory that life could spread through our galaxy from one habitable planet to another.

The number of inhabited (or “infected”) planets in the galaxy, and their distribution, could provide clues as to whether life tends to arise independently on suitable worlds, or whether it gets scattered among the stars by meteorites or comets. According to Henry Lin and Abraham Loeb, if there are clumpy patterns (or “bubbles”) of inhabited planets in the galaxy, with voids in between, that would be evidence for panspermia. (8/30)

ULA Plans Wednesday Liftoff for Storm-Delayed Atlas (Source: Florida Today)
United Launch Alliance plans to roll an Atlas V rocket to its Cape Canaveral Spaceport launch pad Monday morning in preparation for an early Wednesday liftoff. Concern about Tropical Storm Erika delayed the mission's first launch attempt two days, from Monday to Wednesday, and the weather outlook has improved.

There's a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions during the 44-minute launch window that opens at 5:59 a.m. Wednesday, with clouds a potential concern. The odds are the same on Thursday, should the launch slip another day. On top of the 206-foot rocket is the U.S. Navy's fourth Mobile User Objective System satellite. (8/30)

Do Commercial Spaceports Have a Future? (Source: CNN)
Houston, already home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, is slated to add another notch to its aeronautic belt. The FAA has given the Texas city the go-ahead to build the United State's tenth commercial spaceport. It's a move that begs the question: the United States already has nine spaceports? It seems like an awful lot of infrastructure dedicated to an industry still in its infancy. Space tourism was meant to have taken off years ago. Click here. (8/17)

New US Law a Boost for Space Exploration Aspirations (Source: Mining Weekly)
The US House of Representatives took a firm stance on commercial space exploration when it passed the Space Resources Exploration and Utilization Act of 2015 (SPACE Act) in May, providing an opportunity for companies to get off the ground and embrace a new era of space pioneering. “I think that the SPACE Act is a watershed event in the nascent industrial resource space mining industry.

This Act encourages an essential commercial industry to begin,” space law pioneer Gregory Nemitz tells Mining Weekly. His company, Orbital Development, is at the forefront of the critical issue of property rights in space. Since March 2000, the firm has managed the Eros project, designed to bring the issue of space property law into a US Federal Court for a definitive decision on the new legal subject. Click here. (8/28)

60 Days and 60 Nights...In Bed (Source: ESA)
On 9 September, the first of 12 men will go to bed for 60 days as part of important research into stopping the wasting effects that spaceflight has on the human body. Although they may be putting their feet up, it is set to be a far from relaxing experience.

Bedrest studies involve lying in bed at an inclination of 6° so that your head is lower than your body – at least one shoulder must touch the bed at all times. Similar to bedridden people on Earth, astronauts in space suffer as their bones and muscles lose strength from underuse. (8/28)

$255 Billion for Manufacture & Launch of 1,400 Satellites over Next Decade (Source: EuroConsult)
According to Euroconsult's newly released report, Satellites to be Built & Launched by 2024, 140 satellites with launch mass over 50 kg will be launched on average each year over the next decade for governments and commercial companies. In comparison with last year’s forecast, the number of satellites is due to grow more than the market value over the decade. (8/25)

$1.9 Billion Invested in Space Travel Startups Since 2014 (Source: Fast Company)
A new report says space travel startups have raised a staggering $1.9 billion since 2014. Venture capital database CB Insights released the report, titled "Future of Frontier Tech," which also says that drone startups have raised $285 million since 2014 and virtual/augmented reality companies $1 billion.

While the report says SpaceX has dominated space startup funding, other players such as Google (through its purchase of satellite firm Skybox) and Planet Labs (through its acquisition of geospatial product RapidEye), as well as the $63.5 million IPO of Urthecast (which places publicly accessible cameras on the International Space Station), are responsible for much of the $1.9 billion figure. (8/28)

Georgia Spaceport May Impact Environment, Require Evacuations (Source: Florida Times-Union)
Camden County is on the verge of a big conversation. The county will partner with the FAA to evaluate the potential costs and benefits of subsidizing the development of a multi-million dollar spaceport. As officials contemplate spending millions of tax dollars on this new facility, we must take our head out of the clouds and impartially evaluate the project’s true costs and benefits.

There is a big black hole where specific details should be about the Camden County Spaceport. We can look to other facilities to understand the potential impact on coastal Georgia. The FAA requires air, land and maritime exclusion zones to ensure public safety. At the Shiloh Launch Complex, a new spaceport proposed for the north end of KSC, operators will be required to institute a 2.5 mile overflight exclusion zone. These 2.5 miles will extend in all directions on either side of the vehicle flight direction until the spacecraft is cleared.

In Camden County, space crafts would not be launched directly over the Atlantic Ocean. Instead, they would take off on an unknown trajectory over the Intracoastal Waterway. Launches could lead to the evacuation of Little Cumberland and parts of Jekyll and Cumberland islands. One thing is clear: For better or worse, this project has the potential to significantly and permanently change Georgia’s coast as we know it. (8/28)

NASA and the Politics of Going Back to the Moon (Source: Forbes)
A year ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it’s amazing at how small a role the American space program has played during this tempestuous summer of early primary campaigning. It’s certain that NASA will live long and prosper no matter who’s ultimately elected as our 45th president; the American space agency has done so for 50-plus years.

But even in this burgeoning age of commercial space development, political catchphrases such as “Back to the Moon and on to Mars ;” “Capture an asteroid and on to Mars;” or even bypass the Moon and “Go directly to Mars” somehow still ring hollow. Click here. (8/28)

Timeline Leading Up to the Hawaii Supreme Court Case (Source: Pacific Business News)
Hawaii’s highest court on Thursday heard a case challenging the approval of a $1.4 billion observatory on Mauna Kea. The Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision could mark the culmination of a seven-year process that led to a state-awarded conservation district use permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope project. Click here. (8/28)

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