October 11, 2015

Astrobotic Angling for Launch of its Moon Rover (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Two of the competitors in the global $30 million race to see which private entity will be the first to get an unmanned rover to the moon said in the last two weeks that they’ll launch sometime in late 2017. The fact that neither of those competitors was Pittsburgh’s own entry into the race — the combination of Astrobotic and Carnegie Mellon University — might sound like a blow to the team’s chances.

But Astrobotic president John Thornton said he’s not just trying to put a good face on it when he claims the announcements will actually help his team get its launch date set quicker. “I think there are some things that will come out of [these announcements] that will help us in this,” Mr. Thornton said Thursday, the day after SpaceIL, a team from Israel, announced it had a launch contract in hand. “It could trigger a cascade of things that we’ve been setting up that were on a certain schedule, but now this could move things along.” (10/11)

Space Junk: The Soviet Union and Successors Factor (Source: The Globalist)
The now-defunct Soviet Union and its space-faring successors, Russia and Ukraine, collectively have contributed the most debris to the space around Earth since the start of space exploration. As of July 1, 2015, a total of 6,282 payloads, rocket bodies and general debris fragments attributable to the Soviet, Russian or Ukrainian space programs have been cataloged as currently in orbit around Earth. This represents 37% of all current space debris. (10/10)

South Korean President to Visit NASA (Source: Korea Times)
President Park Geun-hye will visit the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, along with a major space research laboratory of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) later this week, Cheong Wa Dae said, Sunday. Park is scheduled to embark on a four-day trip to Washington, D.C. Tuesday that will also include a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, Friday. (10/11)

Canada's Space Policy Enters Orbit of Election Campaign (Source: CBC News)
Evidence of running water observed on Mars last month was followed by a detailed outline of NASA's plans for human exploration of the Red Planet, spurring excitement about the future of near-space exploration. In recent weeks, talk of Canada's place in that future has made its way into the federal election campaign, with parties promising long-term space industry strategies for the first time in decades. (10/11)

British inventor: Spaceport America Giving Us the Silent Treatment (Source: KRQE)
The inventors of a one-of-a-kind aircraft say Spaceport America and the FAA have ignored their requests to make history. “It’s infuriating. It’s frustrating,” said The Register Special Projects Bureau Manager Lester Haines. For five years, Haines and his British counterparts have worked tirelessly to perfect the first ever rocket-powered 3D-printed-aircraft known as “The Vulture 2.”

“We were in the pub one day and we thought oh let’s 3D-print an aircraft and put a rocket motor in it and that’s where the whole story affair began,” said Haines. The aircraft is attached to a helium-filled balloon. Once the team shoots it into the sky, they fire the rocket motor inside. Then, the balloon bursts. “Then, it flies itself automatically back to the ground. What could possibly go wrong? It’s pretty simple,” said Haines.
The team, from the United Kingdom, was supposed to launch in Spain.

When that didn’t work, they moved their project to Spaceport America in New Mexico. That was in 2014. “They agreed in principle,” Haines said. “We actually went down to meet them and that was the last we ever heard of it.” Haines said the Spaceport told him he had to get approval for the project from the FAA. He said he sent in his paperwork 12 months ago. “Basically what has happened is they have gone completely silent, both Spaceport America and the FAA have gone completely silent,” said Haines. (10/10)

Space Agencies Meet to Discuss Exploration (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Representatives from 14 space agencies met on Wednesday, Oct. 7, to discuss further steps to advance international cooperation on space exploration. The meeting was held at the at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. All the participating agencies form the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG), a voluntary, non-binding coordination forum to discuss global interests in space exploration. (10/11)

Why Does Congress Call Mars Plan a 'Journey to Nowhere'? (Source: CSM)
Congressional Republicans had harsh words for NASA's newly released report, "Journey to Mars," reported The Hill. They wanted more details, particularly about logistics, they said. "It's just some real pretty photographs and some nice words," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas, who chairs the House Science Committee, during the hearing. "This [report] sounds good, but it is actually a journey to nowhere until we have that budget and we have that schedule and we have the deadlines."

Republicans also criticized the Obama administration for cutting space funding. Congress shares the blame, said ranking Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas. "Too many times in recent years, NASA's had no idea when it would actually get an appropriation, when it would actually be reauthorized, whether that appropriation would be for more than a few months or whether they may even have to suspend their work due to government shutdown," she said, according to The Hill. (10/10)

Business Case For Private Company Exploration Of Extraterrestrial Resources (Source: IBT)
Despite recent setbacks in space exploration, Hannah Kerner is still betting on its viability. The 22-year-old executive director of the Space Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose members represent an eclectic group of space-focused companies, notes that in the span of a single generation, space exploration has been transformed from a public endeavor to a largely private pursuit.

Hundreds of companies are raising money from investors, laying the groundwork for daring missions and advertising new services. Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in Kent, Washington, is building a reusable capsule that paying passengers will employ to glimpse the curvature of the Earth, while Astrobotic Technology Inc. in Pittsburgh wants to create a shipping service to deliver technology and other payloads to the moon. Click here. (10/9)

SpaceX, ULA to Bid on GPS Launch Next Month (Source: DOD Buzz)
Rocket-maker Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX and headed by billionaire Elon Musk, is expected to challenge ULA on a competition to launch a GPS satellite. Bids are due Nov. 16 in a contest to launch around May 2018 a GPS III satellite as part of the Air Force’s EELV, program, according to a recently updated notice on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The contract is expected to be announced in March. (10/9)

Pentagon Denies ULA Waiver on Russian Engines (Source: Washington Post)
The Pentagon announced Friday that it would not grant the United Launch Alliance a waiver allowing it to bypass a congressional ban on Russian-made engines that the company has said it desperately needs to compete in the multibillion-dollar national security launch market.

ULA, the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that had a monopoly on national security satellite launches for a decade, had pleaded with the Pentagon for a waiver that would allow it to use more RD-180 engines to power its Atlas V rocket. The company has four of the engines in its inventory that it could use for national security launches, said ULA chief executive Tory Bruno. (10/9)

KSC Helps Launch Small Satellites (Source: Florida Today)
Events this month are spotlighting Kennedy Space Center’s role promoting launches for the fast-growing field of mini-satellites known as CubeSats. Last Thursday in California, KSC managers helped a handful of CubeSats hitch rides on an Atlas V rocket whose main purpose was to loft a secret intelligence mission for the Department of Defense.

On Wednesday, representatives from KSC’s Launch Services Program will discuss roughly $17 million in awards they have made to several companies developing small rockets that could offer CubeSats more frequent, inexpensive and timely launches. Some of those small rockets could launch from KSC, historically home to the world’s largest launch vehicles like the Saturn V and space shuttle, and in the future to NASA’s 322-foot Space Launch System. (10/9)

Reusability, Mass Production Top the List for SmallSat Launch Priorities (Source: Via Satellite)
Emerging small satellite launch providers are eager to speed up the production of rockets and introduce reusability in new launch systems. Speaking at the Hosted Payload and SmallSat Summit on Oct. 8, executives from Virgin Galactic, Firefly Space Systems and DARPA all described rapid production and reusability as a must-haves to lower the cost of launch. (10/9)

China Eyes Next Generation Crew Vehicle for Deep Space Missions (Source: Parabolic Arc)
China is eyeing a next-generation human space transportation system to carry taikonauts to future space stations and to conduct missions to the moon, Mars and asteroids. A feasibility study proposes a conical spacecraft similar to the American Orion and Apollo capsules capable of carrying between two and six crew members. The capsule would be attached to service modules of different sizes similar to the ones used for Apollo missions. (10/9)

How NASA Turned Astronauts into Social Media Superstars (Source: Popular Science)
NASA has only been on Instagram since September 2013, but it has amassed over 4.6 million followers on its flagship account, in a little over two years. “Space is interesting to lots of different people, for lots of different reasons,” says NASA Press Secretary Lauren B. Worley, “Interest in space is something that doesn’t go away.”

Those 4.6 million Instagrammers may certainly be interested in space, but the real connection between them and NASA is the perspective of space in those pictures. They’re first-person, taken by the people who are actually seeing all of the wonders of the universe up close: the astronauts. Astronauts’ social media posts are a big part of why NASA attracts so many followers. They’re the only human beings seeing the wonders of space firsthand. Click here. (10/9)

Lawmakers Slam NASA for Cutting Deep Space Exploration Spending (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Republican leaders of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee blasted National Aeronautics and Space Administration and White House officials Friday for consistently proposing spending reductions to develop rockets and capsules destined for deep-space exploration. (10/9)

Space Hotel: Coming Soon to a Moon Near You (Source: Varsity)
So how do you make a hotel in space? Apparently, by printing one. For the past few years ESA has been exploring the possibilities of 3D printing buildings on the moon. In one of the designs an inflatable dome is covered with printed layers of lunar soil, which form an incredibly strong but also very lightweight shell around the dwelling, protecting inhabitants from radiation and extreme temperatures.

 The end product looks a bit like something out of Minecraft. 3D printers have made the prospect of towns on the moon much more feasible, as these robots are a hell of a lot easier to transport, and could build using the moon’s natural materials. (10/10)

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