October 7, 2015

Israeli Google Lunar X Prize Team Books Rocket (Source: BBC)
Israeli team SpaceIL has booked a rocket ride to send a probe to the Moon as part of the Google Lunar X Prize. It is the first group in the competition to formally lodge a verified launch contract with the competition's organizers. That is significant because it will trigger an extension in the prize's deadline to the end of 2017.

To win, a team must land on the Moon, roam at least 500m, and return hi-res video and images to Earth.
SpaceIL intends to go to the lunar surface with a hopping probe in the second half of 2017, using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to send it on its way. The Israeli team's spacecraft will be a primary payload on a multi-mission launch. (10/7)

Exploiting the Commercial Value of Space – An Indian Entrepreneur Perspective (Source: NewSpace India)
In India, space activities were initiated in 1962, with the setting up of the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR). Initially, space research was conducted in India mainly with the help of sounding rockets. Space research activities acquired prominence with the establishment of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969 and the formation of Space Commission and Department of Space in 1972. Click here. (10/7)

Crisafulli: Future of Space Bright in Brevard (Source: Florida Today)
For more than 50 years, Brevard County has been known to the world as Florida's Space Coast. When I was 9, I remember standing outside, watching the sky in awe as the space shuttle Columbia launched into space, kicking off a new, exciting era of space development. That all ended when the shuttle program was retired and the Constellation program was canceled, devastating our community. Thousands of jobs were lost. Homes were foreclosed. Loved ones moved away in search of work.

Since being elected to the Florida House, I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues in the Legislature to restore Florida's prominence in space. While we have made significant progress in recent years to strengthen the space industry, Florida must continue to focus on this critical industry to ensure our state remains the launching pad to the stars.

The Legislature is not alone in this endeavor — incredible partners such as Gov. Rick Scott, Space Florida, Enterprise Florida, the Brevard County Commission and the Economic Development Commission of the Space Coast — are committed to maintaining state's leadership in space. The two keys to this effort have been diversifying and expanding the commercial aerospace industry and strengthening Space Florida, our state's space agency. Click here. (10/7)

China Launches First Commercial-Use Earth Imaging Satellite (Source: GB Times)
China has sent its first commercial use remote sensing satellite into orbit after a successful launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Wednesday. A Long March 2C rocket launched the Jilin 1 satellite constellation, which consists of a primary high definition optical satellite, as well as two Lingqiao video satellites and a fourth, LQSat, to test space technology. (10/7)

Space Junk: The French Factor (Source: The Globalist)
France by itself is the fourth-biggest contributor to “space junk” including spent rockets, retired satellites and fragments from old missions – all of which can damage or destroy satellites and the international space station. Just over 500 cataloged objects are attributable to France alone, representing just 3% of the total number in orbit. France distantly trails the top three, the former USSR, the US and China. (10/6)

Space Junk: The Asia Factor (Source: The Globalist)
China is the world’s third-biggest contributor to space debris, behind former Soviet countries and the United States. This debris, including spent rockets, retired satellites and fragments from old missions can damage or destroy satellites and the international space station. A total of 3,706 debris items (or 22% of the global total) attributable to China had been cataloged as of July 1, 2015, according to the United States Space Surveillance Network. (10/7)

Russian Space Enthusiast Raises 1 Million Rubles to Prove U.S. Moon Landing (Source: Moscow Times)
When Vitaly Yegorov watched in awe as NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars three years ago, he never could have imagined his fascination with space would one day lead to the genesis of his own satellite — and a 1 million ruble campaign to dispel a popular Russian conspiracy theory that the U.S. moon landings were faked.

Yegorov, 33, a Moscow-based PR specialist, proposed building a satellite to go into lunar orbit and take high-resolution photographs of the moon’s surface to document evidence of the landing of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, as well as the Luna and Lunokhod Soviet-era space missions. The project made the headlines in Russia this week after the amount of money raised via the Boomstarter.ru crowdfunding platform reached 1 million rubles ($15,400) in only five days.

Yegorov initially planned to raise 800,000 rubles ($12,100) when he launched a crowdfunding campaign on Oct. 1, but on Monday he wrote on Facebook that the campaign had “reached a million,” which was 200,000 rubles more than he had asked for. (10/6)

Follow in Astronauts' Footprints with Tour of JSC (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Houston, we have a problem. Most people know the Bayou City is home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, but fewer realize those familiar words, repeated most notably in the movie "Apollo 13," were misquoted. (Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert Jr. actually said, "Houston, we've had a problem here.")

Such tidbits abound in displays that take a fascinating look at the past, present and future of America's exploration of the skies at Space Center Houston, a Smithsonian Affiliate museum that has become one of the city's top attractions. Space Center Houston is the official visitor center of the Johnson center, but it is a nonprofit, owned and operated by the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation and not a part of NASA.

A general admission ticket will allow you to see the world's largest collection of moon rocks and lunar samples, as well as more than 400 space artifacts in the center's permanent and traveling exhibits. If you're a space buff like me, you'll want to take the museum's Level 9 Tour, an in-depth, behind-the-scenes experience that lasts about five hours. It costs $89.95, plus a $1.50 service charge if you buy your ticket online. (10/6)

China Launches Cube Satellites for Civil Aircraft Tracking (Source: Xinhua)
China has successfully launched three cube satellites (CubeSats), which are expected to help track civil aircraft and ships and avoid tragedies like missing flight MH370. The three CubeSats in a mission coded STU-2 were launched on Sept. 25 and have entered their designed orbit, according to the mission's chief designer, Wu Shufan.

The three spacecraft are equipped with polar region observation cameras as well as automatic identification system (AIS) receivers for information from ships and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) receivers for messages sent from civil flights. (10/7)

India Facing Space Workforce Challenge (Source: New Indian Express)
India is facing dearth of new talent in space research, and scientists and scientific institutions should engage with students more often to identify and groom a new crop of scientists, said Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) former chairman Dr G Madhavan Nair. “The nation is facing a big challenge in the form of shortage of new talents in space research. Most of our achievements in the field are the contributions of scientists who entered the field in 1960s and 1970s,” he said. (10/7)

Wallops Island Launch Will Test Rocket-Making Method (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
A launch tonight from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility will test a way to make rockets lighter and space travel less costly. The 40-foot Black Brant IX will take off between 7 and 9 p.m. and fly for nine minutes up to 160 miles above the Atlantic Ocean before splashing down miles offshore. Clouds of red, blue and green from gases released during the test of an ejection system will be visible from the ground in Hampton Roads.

Wallops Flight Facility typically launches 10 suborbital rockets, or sounding rockets, each year to experiment on the latest in space travel, spokesman Keith Koehler said. (10/7)

Space Travel for the 1%: Virgin Galactic's $250,000 Tickets Haunt New Mexico Town (Source: Guardian)
More than 700 people have bought $250,000 tickets for Virgin Galactic, which promises to take them on 2.5-hour journey 68 miles above the earth to experience a few minutes of weightlessness. Virgin Galactic’s proposed launch site, Spaceport America, broke ground in southern New Mexico’s high desert in 2009 with almost a quarter of a billion dollars from taxpayers, $76m of which came from the two local counties that contain its 27 square miles.

The state’s support for Spaceport America is supposed to eventually enable Justin Bieber and his manager, Scooter Braun – who might be the first astronauts with only high school-level educations – to take up the gauntlet of the Neil Armstrongs and Chris Hadfields of the past era.

But since the Virgin Galactic crash last fall, the high-tech facility has sat largely vacant. A $200m boondoggle mouldering in the New Mexican desert, some have called it. Virgin Galactic, which had expected to fly tourists as early as 2009, will no longer speculate when people will be allowed to fly. State senator George Muñoz, who has described the Spaceport Authority as “throwing money every way the wind blows”, says it’s long past time the state cut its losses and got out of the game. (10/4)

Could This Tough Bacteria Survive on Mars? (Source: Discovery)
The last thing scientists searching for life on Mars want to find is a colony of hitchhiking microbes from Earth. To that end, an experiment poised to begin week aims to put some of the planet’s most tenacious bacteria through an ultimate survivors’ challenge.

Four million spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032, a highly resilient strain of bacteria, will ride a helium balloon to the edge of space so they can bask in the frigid cold, extreme low pressure and intense solar ultraviolet radiation at the edge of space. Click here. (10/9)

Congress Bullied NASA Into Diverting Funds to Fix Virginia Spaceport (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Yesterday, the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority reported that major repairs to Wallops are complete. It seemed to be happy news, as work crews fixed the site on time and within budget. Yet not all is well. Some, including the NASA inspector general, are scratching their heads about how it came to pass that NASA paid so much money to fix the facility.

Read the IG's report and it seems that Virginia Congressmen backed NASA into a corner, pushing the space agency to pay millions of dollars in repairs that the agency was not liable for. NASA routed millions in extra funds to its commercial space partners in Virginia—money that came from other space operations programs.

In December, Congress passed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act. In it there is one line item, written by four Virginia congressmen and submitted through an appropriations committee, in which Congress directed NASA to reallocate $20 million from the agency's budget to fund repairs at Wallops. Not too shabby on Virginia's part—your tenant breaks a launch pad, you get the feds to buy you a new one. (10/6)

Dream Chaser Still Fighting for Her Place in Space (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spaceplane is still holding on to the hope of flying missions for NASA despite losing out on the role of a Commercial Crew carrier for the agency. Although little information has been heard about the future of the spacecraft of late, SNC is hoping to win favor from NASA in the upcoming award of the Cargo Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract.

When SNC lost out in NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract – with the Agency choosing SpaceX’s Dragon 2 and Boeing’s Starliner – observers feared for the fate of the little spaceplane. SNC’s immediate reaction was to release part of its Dream Chaser workforce, raising fears Dream Chaser would soon have her wings clipped. However, SNC claimed it would press forward with their plans for the spacecraft that was never exclusively designed for transporting NASA astronauts to and from the ISS.

The forward plan involved finishing work under NASA’s CCDev-2 contract obligations while attempting to attract commercial customers and other space agencies into the fold. (10/6)

American Leadership in Space 2.0 (Source: Space News)
A lot of rhetoric has been thrown around over the last several years about how the United States is “falling behind” in space and ceding its leadership role. This rather pessimistic assessment is largely based on the status of U.S. government space programs. NASA’s current human space exploration program is perceived as a shadow of its glory days of the 1960s, and U.S. national security space capabilities no longer have the same relative advantage over near-peers as in the late 1990s and early 2000s after the fall of the Soviet Union.

However, taking a broader perspective of space activities leads to a much different conclusion: The United States is doing more in space than ever before, and in ways that no other country can match.

The main driver for this new leadership is the commercial space sector, not the U.S. government. Instead of attempting to recapture “Space 1.0” leadership by focusing purely on stronger U.S. government space programs, another possible strategy is to develop a “Space 2.0” approach and focus on encouraging, shaping and leveraging the commercial space sector to help propel it into the future. Click here. (10/6)

World View's Balloon-Based Space Tourism to Lift Off in 2017 (Source: Space.com)
A new type of space tourism is set to lift off two years from now, without the aid of a rocket. Arizona-based World View Enterprises aims to start launching paying customers to the stratosphere in 2017 beneath a giant balloon, for $75,000 per seat. Passengers will spend two hours at an altitude of 100,000 feet (30,500 meters), where they'll be able to see the blackness of space and the curvature of Earth, company representatives say. (10/6)

Would You Rather Be Stranded on Mars or the Moon? (Source: Space.com)
A successful Google Lunar XPrize would result in cost-effective and reliable access to the moon, allowing for the development of new methods of discovering and using space resources and, in the long term, helping to expand human civilization into space. 

But if you were to be stranded on one or the other, which would you pick? Just for fun, we asked our CEO, Peter Diamandis, whether he would rather be stranded on the moon or on Mars. In this video, hear what he had to say. (10/6)

How NASA Helped Make The Martian's User Interfaces Realer Than Real (Source: Gizmodo)
Filmmakers have invented fanciful spaceship technology for more than a hundred years. But for The Martian, director Ridley Scott went the opposite direction: He asked actual space explorers to help them imagine the technology of the near future.

To make The Martian, which arrived in theaters this weekend, Scott asked NASA to advise the people who are normally in charge of only imagining what technology will look like in 200 years–from the film’s set designers to its graphic designers. Click here. (10/6)

NASA Selects Student Teams for 2016 High-Powered Rocket Launch Challenge (Source: NASA)
NASA selected 54 student teams from across the nation to participate in the 2015-2016 NASA Student Launch challenge, to be held April 13-17 near NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. Student Launch is a research-based, experiential exploration activity, requiring an eight-month commitment to design, construct, test, launch and successfully recover a reusable rocket and its scientific or engineering payload.

Teams were chosen based on a comprehensive review of their proposal, which outlines their vehicle, its recovery system, payload, safety and educational engagement plans. A complete list of the 2016 Student Launch teams can be found here. Editor's Note: Seven of the teams are from Florida universities and high schools. (10/6)

Astronaut Smartwatch App in Wins NASA Competition (Source: Wareable)
NASA has selected the winner of its crowdsourced astronaut app competition - B by UX designer Ignacio Calvo and mechanical engineer Jocelyn Richard. NASA's Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation asked for designs for a smartwatch app that astronauts aboard the International Space Station can use with day to day work and the winning pair bagged $1,500.

Since the contest opened in August NASA has received 237 entries via Freelancer.com showing mock-ups of how the app would work and look based on a Samsung Gear 2 as the hardware reference. The single smartwatch app shows a crew timeline as well as cautions and warnings, communication status of vehicles and timers for ISS procedures. Astronauts currently use laptops and iPads to view timelines and warning information. (10/6)

Neutrino Scientists Win Nobel (Source: RSAS)
A nearly massless particle won two physicists a massive prize. Takaaki Kajita of the Univ. of Tokyo and Arthur B. McDonald of Queen's Univ. in Canada shared the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics Tuesday for discovering a phenomenon called neutrino oscillation that demonstrates that neutrinos have a very small mass. The oscillation phenomenon explained why scientists detected only a third of the neutrinos they expected the sun to emit. (10/6)

AIA: US Aerospace Industrial Base is Running Out of Time (Source: AIA)
With the news that a $1.1 billion order for Boeing jetliners by a South African airline is at risk of cancellation, and the announcements of three lost US commercial satellite sales, it is clear that the failure of Congress to reauthorize the US Export-Import Bank is causing the American aerospace industry to lose ground against its foreign competitors, and potentially thousands of workers to lose their jobs. The price for delay of the vote to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank is going up every second, and our nation will ultimately bear the cost. Hold the vote and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank! (10/5)

Submarine Crews Hold Clues to Coping with Extended Space Flight (Source: AP)
NASA is using a Navy submarine laboratory to study effects of long space flights, as the agency eyes a Mars mission in coming decades. "We have a shared interest with the Navy in team resilience," said NASA's Brandon Vessey. "When you stick people together for a long period of time, how are they going to do?" (10/5)

Spaceport America Supports STEM Education (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
One of the foundational objectives of Spaceport America is to encourage and promote education, particularly STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Our interest is both self-serving and altruistic. We rely on the availability of employees with highly developed skills in many of the STEM fields to operate and maintain our high-tech facility, and so we work to “fill the pipeline” with future employees.

At the same time, as individuals who possess STEM skills, spaceport staff members believe it is our responsibility to encourage everyone to achieve a level of STEM proficiency, to assist them in that endeavor, and to encourage students to make one of the STEM fields their life’s work.

There are two major methods by which Spaceport America participates in STEM education. One is our student virtual tour program. Some of us spend part of nearly every Thursday talking with students in Las Cruces Public Schools and taking them on a virtual tour of spaceport facilities. We do this in conjunction with the Challenger Center. Every sixth-grader in the LCPS will participate in a simulated, but in many ways very realistic, space mission at the Challenger Center. (10/5)

NASA Might Pick Two Discovery Missions, But at a Price (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A senior NASA official said the agency could select two new robotic planetary science missions next year for launch in the early 2020s, and the finalists are a Venus orbiter and atmospheric probe, an observatory to search for killer space rocks, and two probes to visit unexplored types of asteroids. NASA managers will judge the proposals on cost, technical readiness and scientific return, then pick one or two for full development as the next robotic probe in the space agency’s Discovery program.

Three of the candidate spacecraft — the two Venus missions and a robot to visit multiple Trojan asteroids — would be manufactured by Lockheed Martin, sources said. The asteroid-hunting telescope would be built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies, while a spacecraft to study the metallic asteroid Psyche is contracted to Space Systems/Loral, according to scientists involved in the missions.

NASA will give the five mission teams $3 million each for year-long studies to lay out detailed mission plans and reduce risks. The space agency said it could pick one or two two of the finalists for full development by September 2016, with launches expected in 2020 or 2021. (10/5)

Cosmic Suds: Huntsville Brewery Creates Space-Themed Beers (Source: Space.com)
In Huntsville, Alabama, home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, space and rockets are a part of the local culture — even, as it turns out, the beer culture. Dan Perry is a co-owner of the Straight to Ale brewery, based in Huntsville, where he has lived for most of his life. When naming his company's line of beverages, Perry said it just made sense to incorporate NASA and spaceflight.

The company's signature brew is named in honor of Miss Baker, the first monkey sent to space by NASA who successfully returned alive. Other space-based brews include Wernher von Brown Ale (after Wernher von Braun, an early rocket developer for NASA and former director of Marshall). There's also the Laika Russian Imperial Stout, after the Soviet dog Laika, who became the first live animal to orbit the Earth. (10/5)

Starchaser Industries Launches Tempest Rocket (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Early on Monday evening, Sept. 21, 2015, was the launch of Tempest-4, one the rockets built by Starchaser Industries, who are based in Hyde, Greater Manchester, UK. The event took place on the estate of Capesthorne Hall in rural Cheshire. Originally, the launch was scheduled for the early morning, but due to adverse weather conditions, it was pushed back to a later time.

Waiting excitedly were 100s of budding engineers and space enthusiast from more than 20 schools from around the region ready to witness the latest experiment. Most of which are active in the Educational Outreach Programme for schools and other similar entities in the UK. The program, using real examples of rockets and scientific principles, aims to excite and inspire pupils to get interested in Science and Engineering.

Starchaser was founded in 1992 by CEO Steve Bennett, who was also the Director Space Technology Laboratory at the University of Salford. Since early childhood, witnessing the Moon landing on TV was one of many influences that had led to the creation of Starchaser and to develop Steve’s life’s goal to send a manned mission into space. (10/6)

Russia Develops Engine for Future Spaceplane (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Military Academy of Strategic Missile Forces accomplished the task of developing a power plant for a plane that allows it to alternate between the airbreathing regime during a flight in the atmosphere and rocket propulsion regime during a flight in space, according to an official. Russia's Military Academy of Strategic Missile Forces said Monday its had developed an engine for a prospective dual-purpose spaceplane.

The official stressed that a combined airbreathing-rocket engine with a pulse detonation combustion chamber has a very high thermodynamic efficiency, which would allow to reduce significantly the cost of orbital cargo delivery. According to the academy's preliminary estimation, the production cost of each engine is estimated to be about 90 million rubles ($1.4 million), while the liquid-propellant engines for one-stage rockets cost about 120-140 million. (10/6)

NASA is Now "Pretty Sure" Those Weird White Patches on Ceres are Salt (Source: Science Alert)
For months, NASA scientists (and the rest of us playing along at home) have been puzzling over a series of mysterious bright patches spotted in the middle of a huge crater on the dwarf planet Ceres.

First seen by the Dawn spacecraft, which is now steadily orbiting closer and closer to Ceres, NASA's original assumption was that the patches were made of ice, but the wavelengths of light being reflected suggested otherwise. And despite coming up with a whole lot of hypotheses since then, they've publicly remained stumped as to what could be causing the patches - until now. (10/6)

Is Space Warfare Inevitable? (Source: Quartz)
Diplomats call for it. Astronomers see it as vital. Even military officials usually separated along old geopolitical fault lines view it as a matter of mutual self-interest. Virtually everyone agrees that outer space should remain free of weapons. But decades of diplomatic efforts to ensure that it does have failed to produce a significant new agreement among nations. And with the United Nations set to discuss space arms once more later this month, experts anticipate little headway.

To blame for this stalemate are clashing visions of what an agreement on space weapons should look like. A majority of countries, led by the Russian Federation and China, support proposals for a legally binding treaty prohibiting the placement of weapons in space. But the United States has consistently opposed such a deal, endorsing voluntary measures instead. (10/5)

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