December 5, 2015

A Trash-Munching Robot Could Turn Space Junk Into Propulsion (Source: Gizmodo)
Humans clearly have a trash problem on Earth, but our track record isn’t that much better in outer space, where tens of thousands of stray debris fragments whip around the planet at rip-roaring speeds, posing a very serious danger to astronauts and satellites.

Many ideas have been tossed out to deal with our orbital trash, including space-grade fishing nets and laser-telescopes. The latest so-crazy-it-might-just-work scheme? An autonomous space trash bot that sucks up junk and vaporizes it for propulsion.

It’s still very theoretical, but the concept, which appeared in a recent paper on arXiv, is pretty intriguing in that the trash bot would require no external source of propulsion. In its current design, the engine would catch small pieces of debris (<4 inches) that aren’t easy to get a fix on with a laser but still pose a big danger to orbital infrastructure. (12/4)

New Law Unlikely To Settle Debate on Space Resource Rights (Source: Space News)
Language in a new commercial space law that grants companies rights to resources they extract from asteroids and other solar system bodies provides them with some certainty, but they acknowledge that the law is likely not the last word on the issue.

President Obama signed into law Nov. 25 the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, the final version of a commercial space bill approved by the House and Senate earlier in the month. Most of the bill is devoted to issues regarding commercial space transportation, including extensions of third-party launch indemnification and restrictions on regulations regarding safety of commercial spaceflight participants.

One section of the new law, though, that has received a large amount of attention is the part about space resources. That section states that U.S. citizens shall have rights to any resources they extract from asteroids, moons or other bodies, “including to possess, own, transport, use, and sell” those resources. (12/4)

San Antonio Firm to Prepare Virgin's 747 (Source: Channel News Asia)
VT San Antonio Aerospace will be providing maintenance support for Virgin Galactic's Space Access Vehicle. The company will be providing a series of D-level heavy maintenance checks on the Boeing 747-400, the carrier aircraft for Virgin Galactic's small satellite launch vehicle. During the heavy maintenance visit, the 747-400 will undergo a thorough inspection of all of its airframe structure, with many of its systems to be removed and overhauled in the process.

Upon completion of the maintenance visit, the aircraft will undergo various modifications, before entering service with Virgin Galactic, serving as the first stage in the spaceline’s LauncherOne orbital launch system. (12/4)

Ten Names on Shortlist for New Russian Piloted Spaceship (Source: Tass)
 Ten suggestions from around 6,000 have been shortlisted to name a new manned Russian spaceship to be launched in 2016, the Energia rocket and space corporation said. From 5,817 names, the organizing committee has selected the following: Federation, Gagarin (the first man in space), Rodina (Motherland), Zvezda (Star), Leader, Galaxy, Mir (Peace), Zodiac, Astra and Vector, said the corporation, the vehicle's designer.

Voters can select their choice online at the corporation’s website and the Russian Space Agency’s page on the Vkontakte social network. The person who entered the name most popular with voters will be identified this month and will be taken to Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan to watch the spring launch. The spaceship may be used later for flights to the Moon. (12/4)

Wind Blows Atlas/Cygnus Launch to Saturday (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
inds gusting beyond the 26 knot maximum allowed have forced United Launch Alliance to scrub launch of the Cygnus spacecraft atop an Atlas V rocket for the second time in two days. They will try again Saturday at 5:10 p.m.

Friday's launch was scrubbed because of high winds at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where the rocket waits to launch. When the first launch opportunity came, it was put on hold because the wind was gusting beyond the 26 knot maximum allowed. It happened two more times, eliminating Friday's opportunity. (12/4)

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