December 6, 2015

Liftoff: 1st US Shipment in Months Flying to Space Station (Source: AP)
A U.S. shipment of much-needed groceries and other astronaut supplies rocketed toward the International Space Station for the first time in months Sunday, reigniting NASA's commercial delivery service. To NASA's relief, the weather cooperated after three days of high wind and cloudy skies that kept the Atlas V rocket firmly on the ground.

Everything came together on the fourth launch attempt, allowing the unmanned Atlas to blast off in late afternoon with 7,400 pounds of space station cargo, not to mention some Christmas presents for the awaiting crew. If the Orbital ATK capsule arrives at the space station Wednesday as planned, it will represent the first U.S. delivery since spring. (12/6)

New Horizons Images, Animation Show Pluto’s Surface in Stunning Detail (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
More than four months after its July 14 encounter with Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the highest resolution images of the small world’s surface featuring layered craters, icy plains, rugged badlands, cliffs, canyons, water ice crust, and icy mountains.

Taken very near the spacecraft’s closest approach, the images have a resolution of 250–280 feet (77–85 meters) per pixel, close enough to reveal features less than half the size of a city block. The best pictures were put together to create an animation simulating a close up fly around the encounter side of the planet. Click here. (12/5)

Did Dark Matter Help Wipe Out the Dinosaurs (Source: Salon)
For years now, we’ve assumed that sixty-some million years ago, a comet or asteroid crashed to earth, landing near what is now the Yucatan, creating a huge earthquake kicking up enough an enormous amount of debris, and wiping out the dinosaurs and other large creatures.

Lisa Randall, a Harvard cosmologist, speculates that the comet did not act alone: That a disc of dark matter at the heart of the galaxy knocked the comet out of orbit and sent it on its path toward the earth. The solar system’s orbit through the Milky Way allowed this disc to trigger comet strikes every 30-35 million years — which coincides with periodic waves of extinctions on earth. (12/5)

XCOR Founders to Stay in Midland with Latest Project (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Former XCOR Aerospace founder Jeff Greason already has his next challenge in the space industry. He and two other founders of XCOR have formed Agile Aero. He told the Reporter-Telegram last week that he, Aleta Jackson and Dan DeLong will attempt to speed up the process it takes to develop vehicles. And they will do so here in Midland.

“We are here and we like it here,” Greason said. “We have the spaceport here, we have the facilities here, we know suppliers we want to work with here, and Midland is a great place to do this type of work.” Robert Rendall, a member of the MDC board, expects there will be others besides Agile. The city and MDC are using state and economic development funds to create the Spaceport Business Park at Midland International Air & Space Port. (12/5)

Astronauts Call For Climate Change Action (Source: ASE)
The Association of Space Explorers reached out to their fellow astronauts to pass on a simple message of solidarity, hope and collaboration to combat climate change and reach our political leaders during such a crucial time. Click here. (12/5)

Russian Defense Satellites Put Into Designated Orbit (Source: Tass)
Russia’s upper state booster Volga has put into designated orbit two spacecraft of the Defence Ministry launched atop an advanced Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Plesetsk spaceport located in the Russian north-western Arkhangelsk region on Saturday. ‘The Souyz-2.1b rocket launched from the Plesetsk spaceport to successfully put into targeted orbit two spacecraft in the interests of the Russian Defense Ministry." (12/5)

What Does Scott Kelly Miss Most? (Source: CSM)
Living on a spacecraft may sound glamorous to the rest of the Earth-bound human race, but the astronauts live on what is essentially a orbiting prison – with no outdoor privileges – for months at a time. "Something people don't recognize is that being on the space station is probably a lot like being in some kind of confinement — like isolation," he told the AP by video. "Not having the ability to leave is ... an all-present feeling." Click here. (12/5)

Space Center Houston Opens International Landmark to the World (Source: Here Houston)
Something big will open at the nonprofit Space Center Houston in January. The newest international landmark, Independence Plaza, will open its doors to a one-of-a-kind, interactive experience featuring the first shuttle carrier aircraft, NASA 905, and the high-fidelity shuttle replica Independence.

The nonprofit will debut the mammoth new exhibit on Jan. 23 with a triumphant grand opening at 8:30 a.m. The center doors open at 9 a.m. to celebrate and honor America’s space program with a full day of activities. Visitors will hear from astronauts, pilots and special guests who were critical in the Shuttle Program. (12/4)

Japanese Entrepreneurs See Hope in the Heavens (Source:
The commercial space business is undergoing something of a boom as entrepreneurs of all stripes flock to the fast-growing sector, drawn by the potential for sky-high profits. One person with big dreams for the business of space is Shuji Ogawa of Japan. As a child, Ogawa wanted to become an astronaut. Today, he is trying to channel that desire into a money-making business.

Some Japanese-led space startups are also piquing the interest of investors. This year, Axelspace, a Tokyo-based developer of miniaturized satellites, raised 1.9 billion yen. Astroscale, a Singapore-based business founded by Nobu Okada, who worked for U.S. management consultancy McKinsey and the Japanese Ministry of Finance, received 900 million yen in fresh capital. Click here. (12/5)

How Russia is Aiming to Re-Enter the Space Race (Source: Tech In Asia)
Any visitor to Moscow will notice how much space travel means to the nation. Monuments erected throughout the city celebrate the era of Sputnik and Gagarin. Among them are the majestic “Monument to the Conquerors of Space,” the colossal Hotel Cosmos, or the futuristic statue of Yuri Gagarin, all located in central Moscow.

Even today, Russia is one of the most active space-faring nations. Of the six people in space right now – all of them are aboard the International Space Station – three are Russian. What we’re witnessing at the moment is a space renaissance led by nimble, private companies. Russia wants to take part in it.

Like most startup-related activities, the hub for next-generation space tech startups in Russia is the innovation center Skolkovo. Skolkovo’s space cluster houses 141 early-stage companies. Other clusters are IT, bio technology, nuclear energy, and energy efficiency. Skolkovo sits on the outskirts of Moscow and attracts startups as well as established tech firms with the promise of access to high-end facilities, tax cuts, and funding. Click here. (12/5)

India's 'Replacement GPS' to Have Better Accuracy (Source: NDTV)
India's indigenous position determination system being developed by national space agency Isro will serve as a "replacement GPS" for the public with enhanced access in remote areas, an official said. It will also aid in navigation and monitoring of fleet (trucks and ships) movement, the official added.

"We will have our own position determination system using our own navigation constellation, the IRNSS series which will be operational by middle of next year. It is a kind of replacement GPS," said Deviprasad Karnik. Four of the seven satellites in IRNSS constellation (IRNSS-1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D) are in orbit. Remaining three satellites (IRNSS-1E, 1F and 1G) are targeted for launch during January 2016 to March 2016, he said.

"Once the constellation is completed, we need some time to establish the accuracy part, validation and other things. The advantage is that the navigation range has been designed to span around 1,500 km radius around India," he said. "GPS is not available at all places. Signal is weak in remote areas but our own signal will be available in remote areas with better accuracy." (12/5)

Congress Might Cut Tens of Millions of Dollars from NASA Glenn Budget (Source:
Congress, pushing to end the year by resolving political and policy differences, might cut tens of millions of dollars from the 2016 budget of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Cleveland-area business leaders say the cut would be devastating to the Cleveland center, which designs, develops and tests technology for aeronautics and spaceflight.

The money taken from Glenn would help pay for a different priority of some Senate members: a Maryland-based robotic mission to refuel and service long-orbiting satellites that otherwise might have to be shut off. Hundreds of satellites orbit the earth to provide observation and weather tracking but were not designed for servicing. If they could operate longer, they could save future replacement and launch costs, NASA says. (12/4)

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