November 19, 2015

Space Florida Hoping NASA Becomes Presidential Issue (Source: BayNews9)
There's a new effort to get the presidential candidates to focus on space. Space Florida is working with three other battleground states to make sure America's space program is a part of the campaign for president. Important issues like national security, the economy and immigration have dominated the race for the White House.

So far none of the candidates from either party has said much about what they would change at NASA if they became president. Current Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump was asked back in August about sending humans to Mars. "Honestly, I think it's wonderful,” said Trump, “I want to rebuild our infrastructure first, OK?"

But space experts say cutting funding to NASA, to better aid roads or schools, would impact Florida's space industry and thousands of workers in Brevard County. "That would be a significant challenge for us here," said Space Florida’s Dale Ketcham. The state’s Space Florida organization is now working with Ohio, Colorado and Virginia, hoping to provide a unified message about the importance of funding America’s space program. (11/19)

NASA Wants Space to Get Super Commercial (Source: Houston Press)
The first Space Commerce Conference and Exposition (known as Spacecom for short) kicked off on Tuesday morning with more than 1,500 people. Charles Bolden talked a lot about how NASA has come to rely on commercial space companies without ever acknowledging why or what that reliance has cost them or any of the other problems that the federal space agency has grappled with in recent years.

And he made it clear that this trend will likely continue. NASA is all about Mars these days, and the federal space agency isn't interested in missions that might take it away from it's main goal to land on the red planet by the 2030s. Click here. (11/18)

Bolden: Government Climate Scientists Won’t be Intimidated (Source: Ars Technica)
As NOAA has endured a series of Congressional attacks this fall for its climate change research, the agency’s administrator, Kathryn Sullivan, has largely remained silent. But the former astronaut’s wingmate for two spaceflights, Charles Bolden, has not been so reticent. The NASA administrator this week continued to blister Congress for its tack on climate change science.

After delivering a keynote speech on the commercialization of space at the SpaceCom conference in Houston Tuesday, Bolden talked about his own agency’s Earth science research. He also addressed the efforts by Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, to obtain the e-mails of NOAA climate scientists, in which Smith expects to find political influence and perhaps fraud.

“I don’t think scientists will be intimidated by the subpoenas and everything else,” Bolden said. “That may be its intent, but I don’t think it will work. It's peoples’ life’s work, and they’re not just going to walk away because somebody threatens them with a subpoena to appear before the Congress of the United States. They’ll probably welcome it, to be quite honest.” (11/18)

Glow at Milky Way's Center Could Be Dark Matter or Hidden Pulsars (Source: Scientific American)
The heart of our galaxy is oddly bright. Since 2009 astronomers have suggested that too much gamma-ray light is shining from the Milky Way’s core—more than all the known sources of light can account for. From the beginning scientists have suspected that they were seeing the long-sought signal of dark matter, the invisible form of mass thought to pervade the universe.

But two recent studies offer more support for an alternate explanation: The gamma rays come from a group of spinning stars called pulsars that are just slightly too dim to see with current telescopes. Part of the confusion stems from uncertainties about the gamma-ray signal, which shows up in data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. Many different groups have analyzed Fermi’s publicly available data and claimed to see an unexplained excess of light. (11/18)

Boeing and NASA Progress Through Critical CST-100 Milestones (Source:
Boeing is making impressive strides on a series of tests and technical verifications for their CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. With Boeing and NASA now working through a Test and Verification Control Board meeting this month and Atlas V launch pad infrastructure build progressing on schedule, Boeing remains on track to launch their commercial crew spacecraft on its maiden voyage in spring 2017. (11/18)

Planet Formation Caught in the Act (Source: Science)
Astronomers have captured the best observations yet of planets as they’re forming. Although many potential “protoplanets” have been spotted in young star systems, one of the new orbs—in a system that lies a little more than 450 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Taurus—shines strongly at a particular wavelength that betrays the presence of glowing hydrogen.

At that planet’s distance from its sunlike host star (about 2.2 billion kilometers, or about three times the distance of Jupiter from our sun), hydrogen would likely only be heated that strongly when accreting onto a growing planet, the researchers report online today in Nature. The other purported planet orbits the star at a distance of about 2.8 billion kilometers. (11/18)

Drop the Proteins – Alien Life Might be Radically Different (Source: New Scientist)
We take for granted much of what we see in the world around us. We don’t often think about the fact that we have 10 digits on our hands, for example, unless jolted by observing a different life form – The Simpsons perhaps, with their eight digits.

For us, our finger number reflects choices made millions of years ago. This number could have been determined simply by accident. Once determined, it may have been difficult to change, therefore persisting in all primates.

Darwinism allows a second explanation: fitness. Primates with 10 digits may have been more likely to survive and have children than primates with eight. Vestigiality is a third explanation. Here, a physiological feature – the human appendix is one example – may have contributed to fitness in the past, but not any longer. Click here. (11/18)

Russia and Iran to Cooperate in Space Research (Source: Tass)
Iran and Russia have reached agreement on expanding cooperation in space research, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told TASS on Wednesday upon the end of talks with the Iranian Vice President in charge of science and technologies, Sorena Sattari. "Russia and Iran have fair prospects for cooperation in the studies of outer space," he said. "For instance, some of their programs envision cooperation in the field of remote sounding of the Earth's crust," he said. (11/18)

State Supreme Court Suspends Hawaii Telescope Permit (Source: NBC)
The Hawaii Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily suspended a permit that allows a giant telescope to be built on a mountain many Native Hawaiians consider sacred. The court granted telescope opponents' request for an emergency stay of the effectiveness of the permit until Dec. 2, or until another court order. (1/18)

Property Rights May Lead to a Scramble to Exploit the Moon’s Resources (Source: Washinton Post)
The new space bill is a huge win for private space exploration companies, especially for companies with upcoming plans to tap into the economic potential of the moon. That’s because the legislation, in its definition of “space resources,” is sufficiently broad to include resources found on the lunar surface. In short, the moon could now be in play for some of America’s most innovative space exploration companies. Click here. (11/18)

Space Tourism: KSC Visitor Complex to Add Cosmic Quest Game (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A multi-park, interactive game will be added to the lineup of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex next year.  Cosmic Quest, which will reach into existing attractions at the complex, is designed to educate youngsters about NASA explorations using science, technology, engineering and math-inspired space adventures. It is scheduled to open in February. (11/18)

Hera Joins Remote Sensing Constellation Fray (Source: Space News)
Another company is announcing plans to develop a constellation of remote sensing smallsats. Hera Systems says it plans to deploy an initial constellation of nine satellites by late 2016, which could be expanded to as many as 48 depending on market demand. The cubesat-class spacecraft will be able to take images in several spectral bands at up to 1 meter resolution, and also take video.

The company recently raised several million dollars, and is planning to raise $50 million more early next year. Hera Systems joins several other companies with plans to launch Earth imaging smallsat constellations over the next several years. (11/18)

ILS Executive Jouns ULA (Source: ULA)
A fomer International Launch Services executive has taken a similar job at United Launch Alliance. Tom Tshudy has joined ULA as vice president and general counsel, ULA announced Wednesday. Tshudy had been general counsel of ILS since 1998 and a senior vice president since 2012, but ILS announced early this month that he had left the company. Tshudy succeeds Kevin MacCary, who announced his retirement from ULA earlier this year.  (11/18)

JPL Developing "Chemical Laptop" to Aid Search for Life (Source: Mashable)
A "chemical laptop" could help future NASA missions detect evidence of life on another world. The device, being developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, would be able to detect amino acids and fatty acids that are signatures of life, and perform additional analyses to confirm that the chemicals have a biological origin. The device uses liquid samples, which makes it particularly well-suited for use on icy worlds like Jupiter's moon Europa thought to be hospitable to life. (11/18)

Space-Grown Flowers Will be New Year Blooms on International Space Station (Source: Space Daily)
Flowers could be blooming on the International Space Station after the New Year. This morning, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren activated the Veggie plant growth system and its rooting "pillows" containing Zinnia seeds on the space station.

It is the first time that a flowering crop experiment will be grown on the orbiting laboratory. Growing Zinnias in orbit will help provide precursory information about other flowering plants that could be grown in space. Lindgren will turn on the red, blue and green LED lights, activate the water and nutrient system to Veggie, and monitor the plant growth. The Zinnias will grow for 60 days, which is twice as long as the first and second crop of Outredgeous red romaine lettuce that grew on the space station. (11/19)

Spaceport America to Host March Drone Summit (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport, has announced the launch of the first Spaceport America Drone Summit to be held at Spaceport America in Southern New Mexico from March 12-14, 2016. More than 1,000 attendees are expected for the three-day conference and small drone racing event designed to help drone pilots measure their skills in a quantitative way. (11/18)

ALMA Links with Other Observatories to Create Earth-Sized Virtual Telescope (Source: Space Daily)
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) continues to expand its power and capabilities by linking with other millimetre-wavelength telescopes in Europe and North America in a series of very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) observations.

In VLBI, data from two or more telescopes are combined to form a single, virtual telescope that spans the geographic distance between them. The most recent of these experiments with ALMA and other telescopes formed an Earth-sized telescope with extraordinarily fine resolution. (11/19)

NASA Selects New Technologies for Parabolic Flights and Suborbital Launches (Source: NASA)
NASA's Flight Opportunities Program has selected eight space technology payloads for reduced gravity flights on board specialized aircraft and commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicles (sRLVs). These flights provide a valuable platform to mature cutting-edge technologies, validating feasibility and reducing technical risks and costs before infusion into future space missions.

Five of the newly selected proposals requested parabolic flights, which involve a flight maneuver that uses a dramatic half-minute drop of the aircraft though the sky to simulate weightlessness. Two proposed projects will fly on sRLVs for testing during longer periods of weightlessness. An additional payload will fly on both platforms.

Editor's Note: Two of the research projects are sponsored by the University of Central Florida. One will fly on a parabolic flight and the other will be launched on a suborbital reusable vehicle. Click here. (11/18)

Bezos and Seattle’s Museum of Flight Unveil Apollo Moon Engine Artifacts (Source: Geek Wire)
Rocket engine parts from the Apollo moonshots have arrived at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, and Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos – who funded the effort to recover them from the bottom of the Atlantic – is on the welcoming committee.

Bezos and Doug King, the museum’s president and CEO, were among the luminaries on hand for today’s official delivery of preserved remains from the Saturn V rockets that sent Apollo 12 and Apollo 16 to the moon. Bezos Expeditions raised the mangled 40-year-old parts to the surface in 2013. NASA gave the OK for their display in Bezos’ hometown museum. (11/19)

Commercial Space Sector Needs Flexibility From DOD (Source: Defense News)
Accelerating the Defense Department's acquisition process and cutting red tape are key steps to getting more interest from commercial space companies. "We're a service based company," said Intelsat General's Kay Sears. "We can build great economics into [the Pentagon's] business as well, but you have to be willing to accept our model. Let's get an acquisition approach that allows you to take advantage of all this new technology that commercial is investing in." (11/18)

NASA-Furnished Propulsion Slows Orion ESM Work At Airbus (Source: Aviation Week)
Work on a European service module (ESM) that will fly on NASA’s Orion crew capsule has slowed, due in part to the integration of a NASA-furnished propulsion system that flew on the space shuttle. The ESM development, underway at Airbus Defense and Space in Bremen, Germany, is facing challenges on several fronts, including finding background documentation at NASA necessary to qualify the customer-supplied propulsion systems, which date to the shuttle era. (11/18)

SpaceCom Explores an Industry Role in Outer Space (Source: Houston Chronicle)
A few miles from the Rice University campus where President John F. Kennedy pledged to land a man on the moon a half-century ago, more than 1,500 space enthusiasts from around the world have gathered this week to discuss the commercialization of outer space. (11/18)

Work Continues on Stratolaunch Plane, but Rocket Plans are Still Under Wraps (Source: Geek Wire)
The world’s largest airplane is taking shape for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace venture, but it’s not yet clear what kind of rocket would be launched from the Stratolaunch super-jumbo jet.

The uncertainties reflect transitions taking place at Vulcan Aerospace as well as in the launch industry. Last month, the venture’s president, Chuck Beames, said he was still in the midst of defining where Stratolaunch fit in the context of Vulcan’s wider “NextSpace” vision. Meanwhile, there’s been a switch in the CEO spot for the Stratolaunch Systems subsidiary, from Gary Wentz to Jean Floyd.

The past few months also have been marked by rapid shifts in the satellite launch industry – particularly for small to medium-size satellites, which are supposed to be in the sweet spot for Stratolaunch’s air-launch system. The Wall Street Journal quotes unnamed aerospace industry officials as saying those shifts could threaten the project’s overall viability. (11/18)

NASA Awards Grants to Broaden STEM Education for Underserved Students (Source: NASA)
NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) has selected four minority serving institutions for cooperative agreement awards totaling approximately $2 million to help strengthen science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula at the schools.

Four universities were selected to receive MUREP Other Opportunities grants, which provide up to a total of $500,000 to each school, who have three years to create and implement their program. The solicitation challenged schools to propose innovative ways to create and implement STEM activities, with a goal of increasing the number of historically underserved students studying STEM fields relevant to NASA’s diverse exploration mission. Editor's Note: None are in Florida. (11/18)

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