October 19, 2015

Boeing Wants Too Much In $355M Sea Launch Suit, Ukrainian Partners Say (Source: Law360)
Two Ukrainian companies asked a California federal judge Thursday to trim any potential payout they may owe Boeing after a ruling that they and their Russian partner skipped out on $355 million owed to the aerospace giant after a joint satellite-launching company went bankrupt. Ukrainian state-owned KB Yuzhnoye and PO Yuzhnoye Mashinostroitelny Zavod are seeking to trim approximately $14 million from the cumulative $193 million Boeing says they owe. (10/16)

Russian and Chinese Firms Pursue UrbanObserver Satellite Venture (Source: Skolkovo)
Russian satellite manufacturer Dauria Aerospace signed an agreement with Chinese Cybernaut fund to create a joint venture (JV), to be based in Hong Kong, to create a group of 10 UrbanObserver satellites for imaging of 100 biggest cities in the world with an accuracy of 0.7 meters. Cybernaut to invest in the JV near $70 million. (10/19)

DSI Gains Czech Investor (Source: DSI)
Asteroid mining firm Deep Space Industries (DSI) announced that Metatron Global, an investment firm with offices in the Czech Republic, agreed to make an investment in the company. The investment will enable DSI to accelerate its plans to prospect for resources at an asteroid in the near future, hire more top level leadership, and develop high value products based on its groundbreaking technologies. (10/19)

Embry-Riddle, Honeybee Receive $750,000 From NASA for Asteroid Mining Robots (Source: ERAU)
NASA announced continuation of two-phase $750,000 research award to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and project partner Honeybee Robotics to develop a small integrated autonomous robotic spacecraft to support the exploration and mining of asteroids and other planetary bodies and moons.

Dr. Hever Moncayo and Dr. Richard Prazenica, both Assistant Professors of Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering are leading the effort at the Daytona Beach Campus. Also collaborating on this project is Dr. Sergey Drakunov, Professor of Engineering Physics in the Physical Sciences Department and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Kris Zacny is the team lead for Honeybee Robotics. (10/6)

Search For Intelligent Aliens Near Bizarre Dimming Star Has Begun (Source: Space.com)
The search for signs of life in a mysterious star system hypothesized to potentially harbor an "alien megastructure" is now underway. Astronomers have begun using the Allen Telescope Array (ATA), a system of radio dishes about 300 miles (483 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, to hunt for signals coming from the vicinity of KIC 8462852, a star that lies 1,500 light-years from Earth.

"We are looking at it with the Allen Telescope Array," said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California. But, he added, people "should perhaps moderate their enthusiasm with the lessons of history." (10/19)

Blue Suits in Polar Orbits: the MOL Astronauts (Source: Space Review)
This week the National Reconnaissance Office is expected to release more details about the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), a 1960s program that would have sent military astronauts into space to carry out reconnaissance missions. Dwayne Day discusses what we know about MOL from the perspective of the astronauts selected for the program. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2849/1 to view the article. (10/19)

Delayed Gratification: Early Results From the New Horizons Pluto Flyby (Source: Space Review)
Three months after New Horizons flew past Pluto, scientists have published the initial scientific results from the encounter. Jeff Foust reports on what scientists have found and what's to come from the mission. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2848/1 to view the article. (10/19)

Solving the Expendable Lander and MAV Trap (Source: Space Review)
NASA plans for human Mars exploration, while still in its early stages of development, make use of a multi-stage expendable Mars ascent vehicle, or MAV. John Strickland argues that NASA would be much better off investing in technology to make that MAV reusable. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2847/1 to view the article. (10/19)

From Airplanes to Spacecraft (Source: Space Review)
Within a few decades after the first commercial airline flight, commercial passenger aviation was wildly successful. Anthony Young examines what lessons from that era can be applied to the emerging commercial human spaceflight industry. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2846/1 to view the article. (10/19)

How Blowing Massive Polymer Bubbles Could Help Us Build Structures in Space (Source: Motherboard)
One of the most significant impediments to humans becoming a truly spacefaring species is the astronomical cost of going orbital: at the moment, you can expect to pay about $10,000 per pound of junk you launch above the Karman line, which makes building the large scale structures that our space civilizations will need prohibitively expensive.

One of the proposed solutions to this dilemma is to just manufacture these structures in space, rather than sending them in pieces over several launches. While this is certainly a good workaround in theory, manufacturing in microgravity presents a host of its own technical challenges, such as extreme temperatures and working in a vacuum. Click here. (10/15)

Vast Cosmic Voids Merge Like Soap Bubbles (Source: Scientific American)
Vast regions of near-empty space in the Universe are growing and shrinking, much as bubbles merge and separate in soapsuds, astronomers have discovered. The cosmic voids, some as large as 50 megaparsecs (163 million light years), are the holes in the spidery network of dark matter and galaxies that forms the backbone of the Universe—the cosmic web.

But most astronomers had thought that the near-empty globules were, on average, static with respect to the Universe as a whole. Because they have little gravity with which to tug on one another, they would simply be dragged along as the cosmos expands.

In fact, the smaller voids are generally getting squeezed together, while the bigger ones are typically receding and getting larger, according to Diego Lambas, an astronomer at the National University of Cordoba in Argentina, and his colleagues. “We were extremely surprised to find such large, coherent motions,” he says. (10/17)

California Floods Keep Virgin Galactic Employees Away (Source: Space News)
More than 20 Virgin Galactic employees were stuck overnight at work or on the road. To make sure they were able to return home to their families, Virgin Galactic’s operations team and pilots spent the next day flying their colleagues back and forth in a rental Beechcraft Baron.

Homes were destroyed, and beloved pets washed away. Two employees struggled to escape out of their car, swam to safety, pulled a bunch of people out of their cars, and then walked three miles in the rain to find a ride home. The California Highway Patrol says it could be days before roads can reopen.

“Operation Mojave Mud Shuttle” started at 8am and despite the weather starting to worsen at Tehachapi airport, our pilots didn’t stop until the last employee was dropped off past 6pm. The pilots also flew employees down to Mojave who would have otherwise been trapped up in Tehachapi. (10/19)

U.S. Plans $6 Billion Investment in Space Situational Awareness (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government, primarily the Department of Defense, plans to spend some $6 billion on efforts to monitor the space environment in real time through 2020, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

That figure, which the GAO acknowledged is not comprehensive, nonetheless represents one of the most detailed accountings of space situational awareness (SSA) programs and funding released to date. The spending is dominated by the Pentagon, with other agencies, primarily NASA, accounting for just 10 percent of the total. (10/19)

The Gravity of Being a Woman in STEM (Source: FIT Current)
Alumna Laura Forczyk started her career in STEM at Florida Tech where she earned her astronomy/astrophysics degree in 2006. Since then, Laura has experienced not one, but two zero G parabolic flights while pursuing her Ph.D. at UCF. She is now the Manager of Florida Operations for Swiss Space Systems (S3 USA) where she is leading the charge on bringing zero G flights right to Florida Tech’s backyard—the Kennedy Space Center. Click here. (10/15)

Entanglement: Gravity's Long-Distance Connection (Source: Science News)
When Albert Einstein scoffed at a “spooky” long-distance connection between particles, he wasn’t thinking about his general theory of relativity. Einstein’s century-old theory describes how gravity emerges when massive objects warp the fabric of space and time. Quantum entanglement, the spooky source of Einstein’s dismay, typically concerns tiny particles that contribute insignificantly to gravity. A speck of dust depresses a mattress more than a subatomic particle distorts space.

Yet theoretical physicist Mark Van Raamsdonk suspects that entanglement and spacetime are actually linked. In 2009, he calculated that space without entanglement couldn’t hold itself together. He wrote a paper asserting that quantum entanglement is the needle that stitches together the cosmic spacetime tapestry.

Multiple journals rejected his paper. But in the years since that initial skepticism, investigating the idea that entanglement shapes spacetime has become one of the hottest trends in physics. “Everything points in a really compelling way to space being emergent from deep underlying physics that has to do with entanglement,” says John Preskill, a theoretical physicist at Caltech. Click here. (10/7)

Can These Sensors Scientifically Prove UFOs Exist? (Source: Mother Jones)
A group of scientists and academics from around the world has launched a new effort called UFODATA, which stands for UFO Detection and Tracking, to apply some rigorous scientific research to the study of UFOs. This all-volunteer, nonprofit project that includes scientists from the US, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, and Chile intends to use scientific data and research methods.

The group intends to install a series of automated surveillance stations loaded with scientific research tools at various locations in known UFO hotspots such as those in the western US and in Norway. The stations will be used to photograph unidentified objects and analyze the light coming from them in order to learn more about the sources of energy powering them.

The sensors that the group hopes to build will include several high-resolution cameras fitted with spectrographic grating, which is a method for analyzing the type of light the camera is seeing, and the ways that energy might be affecting the atmosphere around the light source. (10/19)

Rocket Launches Expected to Ramp Up as End of Year Approaches (Source: MyNews 13)
Rocket launches are expected to ramp up as we end the year on the Space Coast. SpaceX, Orbital ATK and ULA are all planning missions to end 2015 with a bang. Up next, ULA is preparing its Atlas V rocket for its next launch on October 30 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (10/18)

NASA Should Boldly Go ... to China (Source: Bloomberg)
When Matt Damon is rescued from Mars in this fall’s sci-fi blockbuster, “The Martian,” an assist from the Chinese space program is critical to getting the American home. The plot twist is heart-warming -- not to mention about as far-fetched as a large-scale manned Mars mission. The problem is U.S. law, which since 2011 has prohibited bilateral collaboration with China in space. In other words, a mission to rescue Matt Damon would be illegal.

That shouldn’t -- and doesn’t have to be -- the case. The clause about cooperating with the Chinese is embedded in NASA’s annual appropriation and must be renewed every year. In 2016, Congress should simply let it die. (10/19)

Cosmic Radiation a Key Challenge in Mars Mission (Source: Yonhap)
The chief technologist of NASA said Monday that cosmic radiation, among other things, is a major hurdle to accomplishing the Mars mission. "One of the particular challenges that we are still trying to work out is the effects of radiation on the astronauts," David Miller said during a global meeting of science ministers and experts.

"The particular concern is the collective cosmic radiation, which the astronauts will experience while getting to Mars and back," Miller said. "The radiation in the surface of Mars is not as bad as we thought." (10/19)

Peter King, Jim Lewis Honored for Excellence in Telling the Space Story (Source: NSCFL)
Veteran radio correspondent Peter King and long-time Space Coast television producer Jim Lewis were selected by the National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) for the 2015 Harry Kolcum News & Communications Award. They will be honored Nov. 10 during the NSCFL's monthly luncheon, which begins at 11:30 a.m. EST and is held at the Radisson at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral. (10/19)

NASA Picks Winners for 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Design Contest (Source: Space.com)
NASA has picked the three winners in a design contest for 3D-printed habitats that could help future astronauts live on Mars. The $25,000 first prize in NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition went to Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office for the "Mars Ice House" design, which looks like a translucent, smooth-edged pyramid.

That pyramid would be built of Martian ice and serve as a radiation shield, protecting the lander habitat and gardens inside it, team members said. [3D Printing in Space: A New Dimension in Pictures]

The Mars Ice House's ribbed interiors and exteriors glow with diurnally determined hues at various times of sol (Martian day). In one illustration from the team's proposal, the outer shell is washed in Mars’ inky blue sunset, and in another it looks like it was dipped in the tea-tinged pink of the high noon on Mars. (10/19)

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