November 13, 2015

UrtheCast Shifts Focus From ISS to Free-Flying Cameras (Source: Space News)
UrtheCast is shifting its emphasis from cameras on the International Space Station to a new fleet of satellites. The company is shelving plans to develop a second-generation camera system for the ISS so it could focus on developing a constellation of optical and radar imaging satellites. UrtheCast has lined up $370 million for that constellation, with plans to launch in 2019 and 2020. UrtheCast continues to operate two cameras mounted on the station's Russian segment, and two Deimos Imaging satellites also acquired earlier this year. (11/12)

Space Debris Falls in Indian Ocean (Source: GeekWire)
A piece of space debris reentered over the Indian Ocean Friday. The object, designated WT1190F, was discovered last month and initially thought to be a small asteroid, but follow-up observations suggest it was a small rocket stage, perhaps from the Lunar Prospector or Nozomi missions. Editor's Note: Lunar Prospector was launched atop an Athena-2 rocket for the first commercial launch from Space Florida's LC-46. (11/13)

Fidelity Ups Stake in SpaceX (Source: Fortune)
A SpaceX investor has increased the value of its stake in the company. Fidelity has written up its investment in the company by 15 percent in one fund that holds company shares, and by a similar amount in another fund. Fidelity participated in a $1 billion round in the company earlier this year led by Google. Fidelity's decision to write up its value of SpaceX comes as it was writing down its stakes in other technology companies, like Snapchat. (11/13)

Looking for the Next Skybox, Venture Capitalists Find a Lot of Bad Business Plans (Source: Space News)
Venture capitalists interested in investing in space companies have to deal with a lot of bad business plans. Investors at a recent conference said they were "frustrated" by meetings with engineers who are looking for funding for their technology but don't understand what its markets and customers are. More investors, though, are entering the market: In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the U.S. intelligence community, has invested in "seven or eight" space companies in the last two years. (11/12)

Wayward Galileo Satellites Get New Mission (Source: Nature)
Two Galileo navigation satellites launched into the wrong orbits last year will find new life studying general relativity. ESA said this week that researchers will study the variation in timing signals from the satellites as a test of Einstein's theory of general relativity. The spacecraft's atomic clocks should run slightly faster when the spacecraft are closer to Earth in their elliptical orbits than when they are farther away. "This is a classic case of 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,'" said one physicist. (11/12)

Stern Among Winners of Ingenuity Awards (Source: TIME)
Innovators in fields ranging from theater to space travel are among the winners of the 2015 American Ingenuity Awards. The Ingenuity Awards recognize “breakthroughs in the arts and sciences, education and social progress. Among this year's recipients is Alan Stern, the scientist leading the New Horizons Pluto mission. (11/12)

Pete Siebold’s Harrowing Descent (Source: Parabolic Arc)
As far as C.J. Sturckow could tell, everything was going perfectly. Flying an Extra plane at 14,000 feet above Koehn Lake, he and photographer Mark Greenberg watched SpaceShipTwo drop cleanly from WhiteKnightTwo and light its engine. The rocket ignition was “beautiful,” the plume color looked fine, the ship’s trajectory appeared to be right on the mark. And then–

The rocket engine just stopped. Or did it? Sturckow couldn’t tell. The ship was about 30,000 feet over overhead and climbing. Maybe it was an optical illusion, a result of the new engine. But, wait…pieces started falling off the ship. What the–? Sturckow banked the Extra 30 degrees to avoid the falling debris. Click here. (11/12)

Extragalactic Pulsar Discovery Is Gamma-Ray Monster (Source: Discovery)
Like a blinding beacon lighting up the night, a powerful gamma-ray generating stellar husk has been seen pulsating in a neighboring galaxy. The discovery, uncovered by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, is the first ever gamma-ray pulsar detected outside of the Milky Way. And this extragalactic object is a monster.

Pulsars are rapidly-spinning neutron stars and neutron stars are the crazy-dense remains of a once-massive star. After running out of fuel, imploding and then exploding as a supernova, depending on the star’s original mass, a neutron star can remain behind — just a lump of degenerate matter, spinning like a perpetual whirling dervish.

As one might expect, the environment surrounding a pulsar is the very definition of extreme. The magnetic field that its younger self used to possess has now been squeezed into a dense mass a fraction of the original star’s size, only a couple of dozen miles across. This intense magnetism creates some powerful physics, blasting intense radiation from the spinning neutron star’s poles. (11/12)

Medicines Do Not Seem to Degrade Faster in Space (Source: Space Daily)
The results of an opportunistic, pilot-scale study led by Virginia Wotring of the Center for Space Medicine and Department of Pharmacology at Baylor College of Medicine in the U.S. suggest that medication degradation on the International Space Station (ISS) does not differ from what is typically seen on Earth. The study used medicine samples sent back to Earth from the ISS. (11/13)

Space Junk Rains on Spain (Source: Space Daily)
It's raining space junk in Spain. Rocket fuel tanks, chunks of satellites or something else entirely... In just over one week, three mysterious objects have fallen from the sky onto the country's southeast, prompting bomb disposal agents and experts in hazmat suits to rush over as puzzled locals looked on.

First up a strange black beehive-like ball was found in Mula, a town in the region of Murcia last week. Then at the weekend, a similar-looking, smaller object was discovered in Calasparra, just 19 miles away in the same region. Witnesses said they saw between six and seven balls of fire falling from the sky. The discoveries sparked a stir, prompting special agents to rush over and inspect the objects.

In both cases, police determined there was no radioactivity and no danger to human health. The mysterious space junk was transported to the city of Cartagena where there is a national vocational training center that specializes in chemistry. "They could be auxiliary fuel tanks belonging to a rocket," said a source at Murcia's Guardia Civil, the police force that was called to the scene. (11/12)

The 116 Photos NASA Picked to Explain Our World to Aliens (Source: Vox)
If any intelligent life in our galaxy intercepts the Voyager spacecraft, if they evolved the sense of vision, and if they can decode the instructions provided, these 116 images are all they will know about our species and our planet, which by then could be long gone. Click here. (11/11)

The Breakup of SpaceShipTwo Frame by Frame From the Tail Boom (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The following sequence is extracted from a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) document about the loss of SpaceShipTwo last October. The images show the breakup of the vehicle from a camera on one of the tail booms. The premature unlocking of the feather mechanism resulted in aerodynamic pressures deploying the movable tail booms during powered ascent. NTSB experts did the annotation on the photos and the narrative that accompanies the images. The sequence spans 3 seconds. Click here. (11/12)

Avanti Releases Quarterly Results (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Avanti Communications of London on Nov. 12 said its fleet-utilization rate is trending upwards — although still low by industry standards — and that average pricing is holding firm in its core European, African and Middle Eastern markets. Avanti reported revenue of $13.7 million for the three months ending Sept. 30, about the same as the same period a year ago, when Avanti reported what it said was an exceptional amount of equipment sales and government bandwidth leases. (11/12)

Blue Origin Plans To Begin Commercial Suborbital Research Flights in 2016 (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin expects to start launching commercial payloads on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle by the middle of next year, hoping to reinvigorate interest in flying experiments on such vehicles. The company plans another test flight of its New Shepard vehicle by the end of this year which, if successful, would keep the company on track for commercial flights of payloads, but not people, in 2016.

That schedule, she said, depends on the progress Blue Origin makes with test flights of the vehicle. The company launched New Shepard on an April 29 flight from its West Texas test site. Although the vehicle’s propulsion module failed to make a powered landing because of a problem with its hydraulics system, the rest of the vehicle performed well. (11/12)

Putin Orders Russia's Positions Strengthened at Market of Rocket Launches (Source: Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered strengthening the country’s positions at the market of rocket launches. "Special attention in the framework of the [new federal space] program should be given to the consolidation of our positions both in the spheres of piloted cosmonautics and in orbiting cargos, first of all, in commercial launches," Putin said. (11/12)

Is it a Rocket? Is it a Plane? (Source: Guardian)
A potentially game-changing rocket engine has attracted significant new investment to allow it to enter development. The Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) combines elements of a jet and rocket engine. It is designed to enable a “spaceplane” to take off from a conventional runway and “fly” into orbit.

Once its mission is over it would return to land like any other aeroplane. Thus it is reusable, and should make launches cheaper than a conventional rocket. The viability of the engine has been validated by the European Space Agency (ESA) during a review undertaken at the request of the UK government. (11/12)

Lockheed Martin Gives GPS Ground System a Security Upgrade (Source: Space News)
The ground system for the U.S. Air Force’s position, navigation and timing satellites recently received a software update and security upgrade under a two-year-old contract with Lockheed Martin. Known as the GPS Intrusion Protection Reinforcement, the updates enable greater data protection within the Air Force’s current Operational Control Segment, which serves as the ground system for the Air Force’s GPS satellites. The updates also resolve equipment obsolescence issues. (11/12)

SpaceX Making Progress on Crewed Dragon and Falcon Heavy (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceX continues to make progress on numerous fronts as they move forward to developing a set of flight capabilities which could enable a return to flight for U.S. astronaut. Pad 39A is one of two launch sites used for the former Space Shuttle Program that sat idle until NASA put the site up for lease. SpaceX and Blue Origin both competed for the rights to use the facility - with SpaceX eventually being approved to utilize the iconic site.

While work at Pad 39 continues, SpaceX has completed, the development testing of the SuperDraco rocket engines. This system is designed to push the Dragon capsule clear of the Falcon 9 should anything go wrong during flight and if an abort is needed. Working with four sets of two engines each, the hypergolic motors provide 120,000 pounds (54,430 kilograms) of force to accelerate the capsule from 0 to 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour in about 1.2 seconds. (11/12)

NewSpace Event Panelists Named (Source: Florida Today)
A November 17 "Founders Forum" event will feature a panel of experts, moderated by Dale Ketcham of Space Florida. The panel will talk discuss emerging opportunities in the commercial space industry following recent announcements by SpaceX to expand operations here and Blue Origin which is making the Space Coast its home port for both the manufacturing and launch of reusable rockets.

Panel members for the event include: Richard M. Rocket, co-founder and chief executive officer of  NewSpace Global; Bob Richards co-founder and chief executive officer of Moon Express; Ron Jones, president and chief technology officer at Rocket Crafters Inc.; and Justin Gilman; Program Manager and NASA client manager for Dynamac Corp. Click here for more information. (11/12)

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