October 26, 2015

RocketStar Plans Test Launch From KSC's LC-39C (Source: SPACErePORT)
RocketStar, a New York-based launcher startup, plans to develop a small single-stage satellite launch vehicle using an aerospike engine design that will be produced using additive manufacturing (3-D printing). The company plans to launch from Launch Complex 39C, the small-vehicle pad that NASA has situated on the perimeter of LC-39B at Kennedy Space Center.

RocketStar is now working with the Air Force and NASA to gain approval for a series of subscale-vehicle suborbital test launches from LC-39C (or another location, if necessary). The first would occur in mid-November using a five-foot long solid-fuel vehicle to demonstrate the aerospike design with a flight intended to break the sound barrier and reach 10,000 feet altitude.

A second test in 2016 would feature a liquid-fueled version that they hope will reach 100 km altitude. The company is awaiting safety approvals now for their first test launch. Given the size of the vehicle, their backup plan is to launch from a Central Florida ranch under FAA "amateur class" launch rules. (10/26)

FAA's Nield Endorses ESA's Moon Village, But with Commercial Partners (Source: Space Policy Online)
The head of the FAA commercial space office, George Nield, endorsed the Moon village concept espoused by European Space Agency (ESA) Director General Johann-Dietrich Woerner, but called for inclusion of the commercial sector, not only governments, in building and operating it.

Woerner has been advocating for construction of a village -- Lunarville -- on the far side of the Moon where telescopes emplaced there would be protected from the light and noise of Earth.  The concept envisions use of inflatable modules and 3D printing to build additional infrastructure using lunar resources -- called In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). Crops would be grown in greenhouses to support researchers rotating on regular schedules. (10/24)

ViaSat Expanding in San Diego (Source: San Diego Union-Tribune)
ViaSat is planning to expand its San Diego headquarters. The company has purchased 23 acres of land across the street from its current campus of buildings, and plans to build additional buildings there as needed. ViaSat, which provides satellite communications services, currently employs nearly 2,000 people at its headquarters, and the additional buildings planned would allow its workforce to double. (10/24)

With Extended Deadline, Russia Still Hopes to Accelerate Spaceport (Source: Tass)
Russia's deputy prime minister wants work on the country's new launch site to accelerate despite winning a schedule reprieve. Dmitry Rogozin told officials in charge of the Vostochny Cosmodrome that he believes they have "relaxed" after President Vladimir Putin recently shifted the spaceport's construction deadline from the end of this year to April 2016. Of particular concern to Rogozin was the slow pace of efforts to hook up utilities to spaceport facilities. (10/25)

CIS Countries Plan Joint Institute for Space Research (Source: Space Daily)
The representatives of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Azerbaijan agreed on multilateral cooperation, an interstate system for space monitoring of emergency situations, as well as an interregional satellite communication system. A protocol on CIS countries cooperation that includes an agreement to establish a Joint Institute for Space Research, was signed on Friday, Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said. (10/26)

How Synthetic Lifeforms Will Help Us Survive On and Off Earth (Source: Motherboard)
According to NASA astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild, a specialist in synthetic biology, we shouldn’t pin all of our Martian dreams on terraforming alone. A more precise word, Rothschild said, would be “ecopoiesis,” which refers to the process of seeding a new ecosystem into a sterile environment. It’s like a scaled down version of terraforming that can be localized to certain regions.

For instance, the Palikir crater, where the latest evidence of flowing water was found, would be a candidate site for a new enclosed ecosystem. Successful ecopoiesis on Mars, even if restricted to a local scale, would be a major step in the road to human colonization, and Rothschild is optimistic that it will one day be achieved with the help of synthetic lifeforms.

“Going forth from planet Earth, synthetic biology will be even more important, because now you’re dealing with environments in which nothing has evolved,” she told me. “If you’re on Mars, it’s a lot colder and there’s more radiation. Synthetic biology has the potential to make organisms that are more resistant to radiation or temperature extremes or whatever.” (10/25)

New Worlds to be Named by Popular Vote (and Their Stars Too!) (Source: The Conversation)
Twenty years ago this month, astronomers announced the discovery of the first planet found orbiting an ordinary star, one quite similar to our sun but a few billion years older. The star was 51 Pegasi and its planet was designated 51 Pegasi b. Now it’s up to you to give them both new names.

The public vote has been organised by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) via its NameExoWorlds program. The IAU governs the names given to astronomical objects, a role it began in 1922 when it standardized and formally recognized the 88 constellations that map the entire sky. (10/26)

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