September 19, 2015

Expect Martian Colonies to Build Themselves First (Source: Space Daily)
Space explorers will travel to prefabricated colonies on the Moon, Mars and elsewhere, says the Self-deployable Habitat for Extreme Environments project (SHEE). SHEE is developing domiciles to be deployed on alien worlds, the brain-child of architect Ondrej Doule, to be used as the European Space Agency's first autonomously deployed space habitat.

The SHEE habitat is a hybrid structure comprised of rigid, inflatable and robotic components. The prototypes would integrate living and workspace to optimize as much as possible a comfortable alien dwelling. The project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Program for research, Technological Development and Demonstration. Autonomous extraterrestrial construction has been the method of consensus of initial colony formation because human labor in space or on an alien planet's surface would simply be too risky. (9/18)

Opportunity to Use Space Domain to Strengthen US-China Relations (Source: NBR)
The U.S.-China relationship in space has the potential to be a stable foundation for a stronger overall relationship between the two countries. Space was arguably a stabilizing element in the relationship between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War by providing national capabilities to reduce tensions and an outlet for collaboration.

Although the future of the U.S.-China relationship will be characterized by both competition and cooperation, taking concrete steps to stabilize relations in space can be part of the solution to avoiding the “Thucydides trap,” where an established power’s fear of a rising power leads to conflict. Click here. (9/9)

Russia Eyes Deeper Aerospace Cooperation with China (Source: Xinhua)
Russian firms and research institutions at the Aviation Expo in Beijing were keen to work more closely with China on aerospace projects. An agreement will be signed between the two governments by the end of this year on the development of long-range wide-bodied airliners, said Yury Slyusar, president of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), Russia's largest aircraft maker. (9/18)

Space Surveillance Sats Pressed into Early Service (Source: Space News)
At the request of unspecified users, the U.S. Air Force has twice taken a pair of high-orbiting space surveillance satellites out of test mode to make observations of specific objects in geosynchronous orbit, a senior service official said. The missions mark the first assignments for the once-classified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, satellites. (9/18)

U.S. Air Force Secretary Could Take on Expanded Space Duties (Source: Space News)
The secretary of the U.S. Air Force would have a greater level of oversight over all Defense Department space programs, according to a draft memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. The proposed move is intended to “de-emphasize individual programmatic actions in favor of strategic portfolio decisions,” Work’s memo says, and allows the service secretary more leeway to advocate for space programs and budgets. (9/18)

Boeing, Lockheed Gaze Abroad as Ex-Im Closure Costs them Satellite Sales (Source: Space News)
Satellite builders Boeing and Lockheed Martin said they would use their global presences to create at least the semblance of satellite production facilities outside the United States to tap into export-credit agency funding if the U.S. Export-Import Bank did not reopen. (9/18)

Blue Origin Rocket Jobs to Average $89,000 (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The 330 people hired by Blue Origin will make an average of $89,000 a year and help bolster the Space Coast's goal of becoming more than just a rocket launchpad, officials said Friday. Blue Origin's $200 million factory and launch complex gives Brevard County a major boost in space-industry diversification, said Dale Ketcham of Space Florida, who worked with state and local agencies to lure the company.

The Space Coast EDC estimated the project would add $76 million a year to the area's economy, including $44 million in wages. And it projects it will spin off almost 300 more related jobs at lower pay levels. Blue Origin positions are expected to include heavy and advanced manufacturing, and some product design and engineering. The jobs are expected to begin appearing in 2017 and peak around 2019 or 2020.

However, Blue Origin might struggle to find the work force it needs, said Mark Soskin, associate professor of economics at UCF. Rocket manufacturing has never been done in Florida, and the Central Florida area has a relatively low level of college-educated workers compared with other parts of the company where rocket companies typically locate, such as California, Seattle and Huntsville. If Blue Origin struggles, it could be a bad signal to other space-industry manufacturers considering Cape Canaveral. (9/18)

Space, the Final Journalism Frontier (Source: Slate)
The powerful instruments on high-flying drones and satellites are called “remote sensors”: high above, rarely noticed, but immensely powerful, particularly when it comes to documenting change. For ProPublica journalists telling a story about the devastating land loss in Louisiana, remote-sensing data opened up particularly important storytelling capabilities. Click here. (9/18)

Hypobaric Chamber Makes Home in Midland for Orbital Outfitters (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Orbital Outfitters has finally brought in their 8-foot wide, 17-foot long acrylic and steel chamber that will serve as the centerpiece for the company's Midland Altitude Chamber Complex. The chamber, which weighs 25,000 pounds, features acrylic siding along most of its length, which is an unusual design because most hypobaric chambers are metal tubes with a porthole, according to Will McCarren, Orbital Outfitter's head of business development. (9/18)

For Top Science Panel Democrat, a Lesson in Frustration (Source: National Journal)
It  was Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s turn. when it was time for the panel’s top Democrat to make her opening statement, she began with her fear: “I’m afraid that much of this hearing will unfortunately be theater rather than real oversight work, and I regret this.” Johnson has become a critic of the committee she’s served on for 22 years.

“It’s such an important committee for our nation and for the world,” Johnson, a Texas Democrat, said in an interview in her office. The panel, she believes, has become more divided in recent years. “And we waste so much time bashing this administration, and finding, digging, stressing to find something wrong with some Cabinet member.” Click here. (9/18)

OneWeb Fails To Soothe Satellite Interference Fears (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operators fear that start-up OneWeb Ltd.’s 700 low-orbiting satellites will disrupt their established businesses by unintentionally interfering with millions of user antennas installed around the equator.

Some of these companies said they hope their concerns are resolved by OneWeb’s stated commitment to abide by international regulatory guidelines on the operation of low-orbiting satellites using Ku-band radio frequencies also used by almost all of the world’s biggest fleet operators. (9/18)

The Future of Space Exploration, According to Congress (Source: National Journal)
Lammar Smith dreams of one day traveling into outer space. The chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology committee has an intense interest in all things extraterrestrial and loves to talk about the future of space exploration, a topic that has long been near and dear to his heart. Click here. (9/16)

The U.S.-Russian Moon Landing That Never Happened (1963) (Source: Aviation Week)
President John F. Kennedy is well known for the 1961 speech to Congress in which he made the Apollo program a national goal. Less remembered is his controversial offer two years later to cooperate with the Soviet Union on a manned lunar landing.

In September 1963 – less than a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis and two months before he would be assassinated in Dallas – Kennedy extended his proposal to Moscow during a speech at the United Nations.  The offer created a firestorm in the U.S., with critics charging that it could torpedo the pricey Apollo program. Click here. (9/18)

In Simmering War Over Commercial Crew Program, Congress Strikes Back (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The quiet war between NASA and Congress continues over the space agency’s desire to fully fund its commercial crew program, which supports efforts by SpaceX and Boeing to develop crewed spacecraft.

On Wednesday NASA announced that the first human mission of its Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, designed to go into deep space, could slip two years to 2023. Just 15 minutes after this news conference ended Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Science Committee, blasted NASA and the White House for this potential delay.

“Once again, the Obama administration is choosing to delay deep space exploration priorities such as Orion and the Space Launch System that will take U.S. astronauts to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.  While this administration has consistently cut funding for these programs and delayed their development, Congress has consistently restored funding as part of our commitment to maintaining American leadership in space.” (9/17)

NASA Missed Chance to Reduce Cygnus ISS Missions' Costs by $80 Million (Source: Space News)
NASA Inspector General found that the agency missed opportunities to seek savings in its contract with Orbital ATK before and after last year's Antares accident, costing it more than $80 million. NASA did not take advantage of a contract provision that allowed it to renegotiate the price of the first two cargo missions when they were delayed from 2011 and 2012 to 2014. Had NASA done so, it would have saved $21 million.

Instead, Orbital offered “other considerations,” such as analyses and minor spacecraft modifications, which NASA valued at only $2 million. When Orbital developed its return-to-flight plan after the accident, it elected to eliminate one cargo mission, distributing the cargo onto the four other missions remaining on the original contract. NASA accepted an Orbital proposal to take the price of that canceled mission, divided by the mass of the cargo it would have carried, as the way to transfer its value to those other missions.

The OIG report found that NASA could have instead used a lower per-kilogram price specified in the contract to handle that change. “We calculated that doing this could have saved NASA up to $65 million – funds that we believe could have been put to better use.” NASA has paid Orbital ATK $1.6 billion to date.(9/18)

NASA Inspector General Warns of Risks for Cygnus Return to Flight Plan (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK’s plans to resume cargo flights to the International Space Station, using both an existing launch vehicle and an upgraded version of its own Antares rocket, face risks that could delay those missions, according to a new report. Orbital ATK’s current plans call for carrying out four Cygnus flights through the end of 2016. Two, in December and March, will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Atlas 5 rockets. Two others will launch later in 2016 from Virginia on a new version of Orbital’s own Antares.

The report, though, warned that schedule may be too ambitious. “We found that Orbital’s Return to Flight Plan contains technical and operational risks and may be difficult to execute as designed and on the timetable proposed,” the report states. That concern is based on both the use of the Atlas 5 and the upgrades to the Antares.

Integrating the Cygnus with the Atlas 5 is a “credible solution,” the report argued, but doing so relatively quickly runs the risk of problems that could delay the mission. A bigger issue is replacing the Antares’ first stage engine, which requires other changes to the vehicle. “The extent of these modifications, coupled with Orbital’s aggressive launch schedule, will limit the time available to conduct qualification testing of the new engines and other components.” (9/18)

Sister World Makes Us Feel Less Alone (Source: New Scientist)
One of the most important questions student-people ask is whether we are alone in the All-There-Is. To find life somewhere else out there would change the way we think about us. To answer this question, student-people first need to find another world where life could grow. After looking at all the worlds going around our sun, as far as we can tell our home world is the only one that is good enough for life. So we have to look further away.

We have found hundreds and hundreds of worlds going around far-away stars. But most of these far-away worlds are much bigger than our home world, and much closer to their stars – those are the ones that are easier to spot. But now, student-people have found a world that is not too different from our own. This sister world is only about one-and-a-half times as big as our home world, and it goes around its star in about the same time it takes us to go around the sun. (9/18)

Even NASA Loves the Teen Arrested for Bringing a Homemade Clock to School (Source: Mashable)
Astronauts and space scientists are flocking to social media in droves to show their support for Ahmed Mohamed — a 14-year-old Muslim boy arrested for bringing his homemade clock to his Texas school. When he was arrested, Ahmed was wearing a shirt bearing NASA's "meatball" logo. Later, the space agency tweeted a note of support to the teen.

The teen was not charged with any crime for building the clock and bringing it to school, but he was suspended and is planning to transfer to a different school in Texas. "I built a clock to impress my teacher, but when I showed it to her she thought it was a threat to her," Ahmed said during a press conference Wednesday. "So it was really sad that she took a wrong impression of it, and I got arrested for it later that day." (9/18)

What Happens When You Get Your Period In Space? (Source: NPR)
Hundreds of you sent in questions for our conversation with three astronauts and NASA's chief scientist, and the most common question was: "What happens when you get your period in space?" In the early days of space flight, menstruation was part of the argument for why women shouldn't become astronauts.

In 1964, researchers from the Women in Space Program still suggested (without evidence) that putting "a temperamental psychophysiologic human" (i.e., a hormonal woman) together with a "complicated machine" was a bad idea. (Evidently the Soviets struggled with this, too.)

In the past three decades of female space flight, periods in space have been normal — no menstrual problems in microgravity. *Kanas and Fedderson's 1971 report stated: "Information regarding women during periods of stress is scanty. This lack, plus previously mentioned problems, will make it difficult for a woman to be a member of the first long-duration space missions." (9/17)

China Prepares Launch March 6 Rocket to Send 20 Small Satellites to Space (Source: Global Times)
China's Long March 6 (CZ-6) carrier rocket is set to be launched in Taiyuan, in North China's Shanxi Province on Saturday, sending 20 small satellites into space, media reported Thursday. Designed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, developer of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft, the CZ-6 is a non-toxic and pollution-free rocket which features a number of next-generation technologies, including a liquid oxygen kerosene engine.

The rocket was wholly developed in China at low cost, high reliability, strong adaptability and good safety, Chinese media reported. The 20 satellites were developed by prestigious universities in China including Zhejiang University, Tsinghua University and other research institutes. According to previous report, CZ-6 is capable of placing not less than 1 ton of payload into a sun-synchronous orbit at a height of 700 kilometers. (9/18)

Firefly Names Rocket Launch and Test Director (Source: Firefly)
Firefly Space Systems, a New Space developer of dedicated launch vehicles for the small satellite market, announced that aerospace veteran Anne Chinnery has joined its growing team as the company’s first Launch and Test Director. She will report to and work directly with Firefly Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Thomas Markusic.

Ms. Chinnery brings almost three decades of active experience working at leading aerospace industry organizations both in the public and private sectors. She served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where she managed test and launch activities at Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB) and most recently served in similar senior roles at leading New Space companies. (9/17)

Accident Injures Two at SpaceX Texas Test Site (Source: KWTX)
A collision Friday morning at the SpaceX test facility in McGregor sent two people to a local hospital. According to reports from the scene, a vehicle driven by an employee who was arriving at the facility collided with a forklift driven by another employee. Both people suffered what SpaceX said were non-life-threatening injuries. The forklift driver was treated and released and the other victim was admitted and was in stable condition Friday afternoon. (918)

Which Major Religions Would Embrace Extraterrestrials? (Source: Inverse)
Pope Francis said he would be happy to baptize extraterrestrials, should they find their way to the Vatican. As the Independent reported last fall, Francis wanted to make it crystal clear he believes the Son of God’s teaching extend to our treatment of aliens. But what if the blood of Christ wasn’t the little green man’s cup of sanguine tea? Which major world religions would hug a xenomorph back? Click here. (9/18)

Camden County Continues its Journey to Hosting a Spaceport (Source: First Coast News)
A special meeting unanimously approved the formation of a Spaceport Steering Committee, according to a release from the Board of County Commissioners of Camden County. It's the first step of creating the steering committee - now the County Administrator is going to bring the Board a finalized proposal about the committee. (9/18)

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