September 1, 2015

Aldrin & Pickens Leave Moon Express (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Two high profile executives — President Andrew Aldrin and Propulsion Vice Pesident Tim Pickens — have left Bob Richard’s Moon Express, the commercial exploration company that has been one of the favorites to win the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize for landing and operating a rover on the surface.

Moon Express announced Aldrin’s appointment as president in March 2014. Aldrin had previously served as Director of business development and advanced programs at United Launch Alliance (ULA). Before ULA, Dr. Aldrin headed business development and advanced programs for Boeing’s NASA Systems, and Launch Services business units.

As previously reported, Pickens has left his position as vice president of propulsion at Moon Express to become propulsion department manager at Bigelow Aerospace. He is leading the development of Bigelow’s propulsion systems in Huntsville. Pickens joined Moon Express in February 2013 from Dynetics. He had founded Orion Propulsion in 2004, selling it to Dynetics five years later. (9/1)

How 'Starshades' Could Aid Search for Alien Life (Source:
The next step in the exoplanet revolution may be an in-space "starshade" that lets alien worlds step out of a blinding glare. Researchers are testing designs for a starshade, which would fly in formation with a future space-based telescope. The starshade, also known as an "external occulter," would block the light from a star while allowing the scope to spot emissions from much dimmer orbiting planets.

Scientists are conducting desert tests of the technology on Earth. They're using the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona to model a starshade's ability to help future instruments find and characterize rocky, Earth-like alien worlds. (9/1)

Unearthing NASA's 'Worm' - Reissue of Old Manual Celebrates Retired NASA Logo (Source: CollectSpace)
A 40-year-old book that gave rise to one of NASA's most iconic logos is being relaunched as a limited edition reprint on Kickstarter. The NASA Graphics Standards Manual, first published in January 1976, defined a new graphic identity for the U.S. space agency.

As designed by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn, the guide introduced a stark logotype, on which the letters "N-A-S-A" were "reduced to their simplest form, replacing the red, white and blue circular emblem with the white block letters," as Danne's original introduction to the book described. Now, two designers who grew up knowing the worm as the only symbol that represented NASA are seeking to reprint the Graphics Standards Manual, to ensure that the legacy of the worm is preserved.
The pair's 34-day Kickstarter campaign is offering a hard-bound copy of the original manual, supplemented with files from Danne's own archives, for $79. For the project to go into print, Reed and Smyth need pledges for 2,000 copies of the book, raising at least $158,000. Click here. (9/1)

SpaceX Return-to-Flight Will Feature Upgraded Rocket (Source: Space News)
The return to flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, still a “couple of months” away, will also be the first launch of an upgraded version of the vehicle with increased performance, the company’s president said. Gwynne Shotwell said the company was working through a series of intensive reviews of the Falcon 9 after its June failure while preparing the latest upgrade to the vehicle to increase its performance.  “So whenever people ask me what keeps me up at night, it’s getting ready for that flight.” (9/1)

OneWeb Raising Additional Billions for Satellite Network (Source: Sky News)
OneWeb is in early discussions to raise an additional $2.5 billion next year. According to a report, the company will hold "a beauty parade of investment banks" ahead of a fundraising round the company plans to close by late 2016. OneWeb raised $500 million earlier this year to start work on its constellation of nearly 650 satellites that will provide broadband communications services globally. (9/1)

NASA Planning Tech Demo Projects for Planetary Missions (Source: Space News)
NASA is planning to make a series of technology demonstration awards to start the competition for its next medium-sized planetary mission. NASA plans to make about eight "New Frontiers Homesteader" awards, valued at $1 million over two years, by the end of September, agency officials said recently. The awards are designed to develop technologies needed for missions to solar system destinations in the running for the next New Frontiers medium-class planetary mission. The request for proposals for that next New Frontier mission will be released in the next fiscal year. (9/1)

NOAA and China Could Share Meteorology Satellite Data (Source: Xinhua)
NOAA officials met with their Chinese counterparts Monday to discuss cooperation in weather satellite data. The meeting, held in Maryland between the head of the China Meteorological Administration and NOAA's assistant administrator for satellite and information services, involved talks on potential cooperation in weather satellite data and applications, among other areas. The meeting was a follow-up to a similar one held in 2011. (9/1)

Space Coast County Government Votes to Approve Blue Origin, Embraer Incentives (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County commissioners cast their final votes on incentive packages totaling $10.5 million for Blue Origin and aviation company Embraer. Both companies will receive grants from the North Brevard Economic Development Zone — $8 million for Blue Origin for a project at Exploration Park just south of Kennedy Space Center, and $2.5 million for Embraer for a project at the Spaceport Commerce Park in south Titusville, near Space Coast Regional Airport.

The money will come from property tax revenue from new commercial and industrial construction in North Brevard, under a process the Brevard County Commission created in 2011 to help spur economic development in North Brevard. (8/31)

Lockheed Martin Plans "Mitigation Bank" Near Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
The maker of the F-22 Raptor and capsules that explore outer space plans to profit from saving living space for some of Florida’s most threatened species. Lockheed Martin has applied for a federal permit to operate a 4,700-acre mitigation bank in eastern Orange County near the City of Cocoa's water wells. Lockheed recently submitted its permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The mitigation bank — Lockheed’s first — would be called Little Creek Florida Mitigation Bank. Mitigation banking is a process by which large areas of existing wetlands and/or other habitats are restored to offset loss of other wetlands or habitats destroyed for new homes, businesses, roads or other development. The mitigation bank sells “credits” to offset those impacts. (8/31)

Restoring the Agena A and Agena B Rockets (Source: Space News)
What does it take to restore two 1960s-era rockets to their pre-launch appearance? For the U.S. Air Force, the effort requires a nearly 150-page request for proposals. Agena A and Agena B, a member of the Atlas family of rockets, launched 33 times from 1960-1966, were used to lift the Ranger lunar spacecraft and the Mariner Venus fly-by spacecraft into orbit. Today, each of the rockets is on display outside the Air Force Space and Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Click here. (9/1)

Penn State Team Drops Lunar X Prize Bid (Source: Penn State)
A university-led team is dropping out of the Google Lunar X Prize but will continue work on their lunar lander. Penn State's Lunar Lion team, which joined the competition in 2011, is exiting after an independent review panel commissioned by the university concluded the team would not be able to meet the competition's deadlines for landing a spacecraft on the moon. The Lunar Lion project will continue to develop the lander outside of the competition, citing the educational benefits the project has already generated. (9/1)

SpaceX Rocket Grounded for 'Couple More Months,' Company Says (Source: Reuters)
SpaceX plans to keep its Falcon 9 rocket grounded longer than planned following a launch accident involving the unmanned booster in June, the company president said on Monday. The privately held company is owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, who earlier this summer was targeting the Falcon 9's next flight for September.

"We’re taking more time than we originally envisioned, but I don’t think any one of our customers wants us to race to the cliff and fail again,” Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, said at a webcast panel discussion at the AIAA Space 2015 conference in Pasadena, California. She said the company was "a couple of months away from the next flight." (8/31)

Norway Plans 2016 Hybrid Rocket Flight Test (Source: Aviation Week)
Norway-based aerospace and defense company Nammo plans to conduct the first suborbital test flight, in 2016, of a hybrid motor aimed initially at powering next-generation sounding rockets and ultimately larger orbital launcher systems. Working with the Norwegian Andoya Space Center, Nammo is developing the Unitary Motor 1 (UM) as the initial building block of a new sounding rocket called the North Star, as well as a follow-on launcher family. (8/31)

NASA Turns To Freelancers To Solve Challenges (Source: Forbes)
In a sign of just how far the freelance economy has come, NASA is turning to members of the talent marketplace Freelancer to create tools and technology involved in space exploration. In a pilot project, it has been posting competitions called challenges on the freelance site, which has a community of more than 16 million registered users.

Members of the site have been entering to vie for cash prizes. One current NASA contest is to design a smartwatch app for astronauts to use in completing daily tasks on the international space station. The prize is $1,500.

NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI), through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), has partnered with The total prize money is less than $10,000, with prizes ranging from $50 to $3,000. When someone wins, NASA pays the prize money, and deducts a percentage of the prize amount as its fee for the job, as it does with other projects on the site. (8/31)

NASA: Online Excitement Over Curiosity’s Mars Images Premature (Source: Globe and Mail)
NASA’s Curiosity robotic rover can be credited for significant scientific discoveries on Mars – like water being able to exist in liquid form on the Red Planet, or the possible existence of microbial life – since it started rolling over the Martian landscape three years ago.

But for Internet sleuths, exploring the raw images captured by Curiosity and beamed back to Earth, there are discoveries of a different kind: a crashed spacecraft off a Martian ridge, the ghostly image of a lady looking at Curiosity, and the fossilized image of a crab-like creature in the crevice of a rocky surface. Click here. (8/31)

Air Force Official Predicts Private Launches for Military Satellites (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Budget pressures increasingly are pushing Pentagon planners to consider outsourcing satellite launches, routine military communication links and even some space-based surveillance operations to industry, a senior Air Force official said Monday.

Projecting reliance on straight commercial-style purchases in coming decades, Maj. Gen. Robert McMurry told a conference here that vendors ultimately would be paid for providing specific space services to the military rather than the military underwriting development, testing and deployment of government-owned systems into orbit as it traditionally has done. (8/31)

Yearlong Mock Mars Mission Will Test Mental Toll of Isolation (Source:
On Friday (Aug. 28), six scientists left the comforts of civilization, set to be gone for an entire year. Their mission will simulate what it might be like for astronauts journeying to Mars. In the confines of a 36-foot-wide (11 meters) and 20-foot-high (6 m) solar-powered dome in a remote location on the island of Hawaii, the six team members will have to live together for 365 days.

They will have no face-to-face contact with humans outside of the dome. This is the fourth and longest such mission carried out by the Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program, and its goal is to find out how people will respond to the isolation that might accompany a mission to Mars.

"We hope that this upcoming mission will build on our current understanding of the social and psychological factors involved in long-duration space exploration," said Kim Binsted, principal investigator for HI-SEAS. The HI-SEAS project, which is based at University of Hawaii at Manoa, has put crews into the isolated mock Mars colony in four previous missions: two 4-month missions in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and an eight-month mission that ended in June 2015. (8/31)

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Invites Guests To ‘Fly With An Astronaut’ (Source: Aero News)
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is offering a special, limited-time, limited-capacity program called “Fly With An Astronaut” in which guests can spend a thrilling half day experiencing the highlights of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, including a ‘flight’ on Shuttle Launch Experience, with a veteran NASA space shuttle astronaut.

Limited to just 43 guests per day Friday, Sept. 4 through Monday, Sept. 7, the program includes admission to the visitor complex as well as a morning of tours and activities guided by an astronaut. The astronaut guide for Fly With An Astronaut Sept. 4-7 will be Jon McBride, who was selected by NASA in the first class of space shuttle astronauts. (8/31)

NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission Will Get Insight from UCF Professors (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Two renowned UCF physics professors are tapped to be experts for a small team advising NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission. "NASA is developing a first-ever robotic mission to visit a large near-Earth asteroid, collect a multi-ton boulder from its surface, and redirect it into a stable orbit around the moon. Once it’s there, astronauts will explore it and return with samples in the 2020s, " according to NASA's website.

Humberto Campins and Daniel Britt will on the 18-person panel that will decide everything from what kind of instruments or scientific experiments should be on board the aircraft to how the boulder should be picked up, according to a news release from the University of Central Florida. (8/31)

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