January 16, 2016

Check Out Virgin Galactic’s New Flight Suits (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Astronauts piloting Virgin Galactic’s commercial space flights will suit-up in these one-piece uniforms by Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas’ brand Y-3. The prototype spacesuits and accompanying boots were revealed at the Foster + Partners-designed Spaceport America in New Mexico today. Click here. And here is a comparison with a suit by Orbital Outfitters, the company developing flight wear for XCOR. (1/15)

Post-Landing Test of Falcon-9 Engines Conducted at Florida Launch Pad (Source: Space Industry News)
SpaceX on Friday conducted a hold-down firing of the Falcon-9 first stage booster that landed at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. According to the company, the data "looked good" but one of the engines (an outer one, not the center one providing the bulk of the landing thrust) showed some "thrust fluctuations" during the test. Elon Musk speculated that it may have ingested some debris and said a borescope would be used to examine the engine more closely. (1/15)

Ex-Im Bank Earned a Profit of $432 Million for Taxpayers Last Year Despite Shutdown (Source: LA Times)
The federal Export-Import Bank, which helps U.S. companies sell their products abroad, said Thursday it earned a profit of $432 million for taxpayers last year despite a lengthy shutdown after congressional critics allowed its authorization to lapse. The bank is funded by interest and fees on the loans it makes to foreign buyers of U.S. goods and other aid it gives to exporters.

Last year, the bank provided $12.4 billion in assistance to finance about $17 billion in exports, it said in its annual report. The assistance was down from $20.5 billion the previous year. And profit was down as well, from $675 million. But a key reason for both declines was that the bank operated only for nine months in the 2015 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. The bank was unable to provide any new assistance after June 30, when its charter expired. (1/14)

China Opens 2016 with Long March 3B Launch (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Chinese have conducted their first orbital launch of 2016 with the lofting of a new communications satellite for Belarus. Belintersat-1 was launched at 16:57 UTC on Friday via a Long March 3B/G2 rocket. The launch was conducted from the Xichang’s Satellite Launch Center’s LC3 pad. (1/15)

Water Leak in Astronaut's Helmet Cuts Short US and British Spacewalk (Source: CollectSpace)
A spacewalk outside of the International Space Station was terminated on Friday (Jan. 15) after an astronaut reported a small water bubble forming inside his spacesuit's helmet.

NASA astronaut Tim Kopra called down to Mission Control in Houston just before 11:00 a.m. CST (1700 GMT) to alert about the leak, noting that the water was about 3 inches (8 cm) above his head. By moving, he was able to come into contact with the water and noted it was cold, a sign that it might be coming from his portable life support backpack. (1/15)

ESA Members Give Space Agency an 18-Percent Budget Boost (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency on Jan. 15 said its 2016 budget of 5.25 billion euros ($5.71 billion) is up 18.4 percent compared to last year on the strength of higher contributions by several member governments, especially Italy, and substantially increased investment by the European Commission. (1/15)

To Boldly Sell (Source: Aeon)
This is is my lunar acre. There are many like it, billions, but this one is mine. At least, it could be for a modest fee: a steal at $19.95 through Cosmic Registry, $19.99 through Lunar Embassy, or ‘prices to fit any budget’ through Lunar Registry, depending on the quality of the neighborhood. Going by the health of the real-estate market, you would hardly guess that the last man on the Moon left in 1972. Click here. (1/15)

NASA Is Studying Peruvian Potatoes for Farming on Mars (Source: PRI)
NASA and the Peruvian International Potato Center (CIP) are carrying out joint experiments to test the possibility of growing the Peruvian tuber in Martian soil. There are more than 4,000 types of potatoes — and most of them are found in South America. More than 300 million metric tons of potatoes are grown each year for 1.4 billion people to eat. In Peru, the CIP is tasked with choosing which kind of potato is best suited to the conditions on Mars. (1/15)

NASA Administrator Communicates Harassment Policies to Grantees (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA does not tolerate sexual harassment, and nor should any organization seriously committed to workplace equality, diversity and inclusion. Science is for everyone and any behavior that demeans or discourages people from fully participating is unacceptable. Click here. (1/15)

Stephen Hawking: Black Holes Have 'Hair' (Source: Space.com)
Black holes may sport a luxurious head of "hair" made up of ghostly, zero-energy particles, says a new hypothesis proposed by Stephen Hawking and other physicists. The new paper proposes that at least some of the information devoured by a black hole is stored in these electric hairs. Still, the new proposal doesn't prove that all the information that enters a black hole is preserved. (1/15)

MDA Suspends Consideration of Maine Site for Missile Interceptors (Source: Sputnik)
The US government has suspended from consideration as a ballistic missile interceptor base a site in Maine by designating it as an "alternative not carried forward," the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said in a statement. The SERE site in Maine presented "irreversible environmental impacts, significant constructability concerns, and extensive costs" associated with developing infrastructure in a remote area, the MDA explained.

Previously announced sites in the US states of New York, Ohio and Michigan will continue to be considered, according to the MDA. The US government currently operates anti-ballistic missile sites in Alaska and California to protect the continental homeland from ballistic missile attack by countries such as North Korea and Iran, the MDA noted. (1/16)

Japan’s Space Budget Moving Human Exploration Beyond LEO (Source: Aviation Week)
Work on a deep-space cargo vehicle and a robotic lunar lander is included in a $1.3 billion budget request from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for fiscal 2016, as Japan continues to keep its civil-space program in line with long-range U.S. plans. (1/16)

Philippines Joins Asian Microsat Consortium (Source: MB.com)
Philippines is joining as a pioneer in an Asian consortium of 50 microsatellites of nine countries. The Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Dr. Amelia Guevara revealed this during the turnover of the country’s first-ever designed and constructed microsatellite named Diwata-1 to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Guevara, DOST undersecretary for DOST Research and Development, said the plan has long been discussed. She said Japan wants the Philippines to be on board and jointly push the consortium for the latter. “Once we have launched our microsatellite, we will be part of that network. This is a network of several microsatellites (of many countries) and we hope we will be part of that network,” said Guevara. (1/15)

Wallops' ISS Resupply Role May Get Smaller (Source: DelMarVa Now)
Aerospace contractor Orbital ATK will continue delivering cargo to the International Space Station through 2024, conducting at least six of the 18 flights scheduled under the $14 billion NASA program. NASA officials at Wallops Flight Facility cheered Thursday's announcement, with Director Bill Wrobel saying the staff was "thrilled" and "ready to support these and all missions taking flight from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport."

But the much-anticipated decision left some uncertainty about the future role of the Virginia facility in the resupply program. Orbital ATK, based in Dulles, Virginia, is giving NASA two options for powering its Cygnus spacecraft into orbit: a modified Antares rocket out of Wallops or an Atlas V out of Cape Canaveral, Florida.

What's more, the contract splits up the 18 unmanned flights equally among three companies, one more than the current contract has. Under a deal signed in 2008, Orbital received $1.9 billion for eight flights, and SpaceX, based in California, received $1.6 billion for 12. (1/14)

A Critical New Mexico Legislative Session for Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Christine Anderson, chief executive officer of Spaceport America, is absolutely correct when she describes the upcoming legislative session as an important one for the spaceport. The spaceport will request $2.8 million this session to be used for daily operations, Anderson says.

While we fully appreciate the need for additional support as the spaceport continues to wait for anchor tenant Virgin Galactic to complete testing and begin commercial launches, we also understand that some lawmakers are beginning to have buyer’s remorse.

Last year, legislation was introduced by Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, to sell the spaceport; and by Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, to prohibit further borrowing and restrict use of excess bond revenue for operations. Both bills were bottled up in the Senate Finance Committee, but they indicate growing frustration in Santa Fe. Click here. (1/14)

Sir Rees: Human Spaceflight - Is it Worth the Money and Risk? (Source: The Telegraph)
Manned space exploits have lost some of their luster. However today we in the UK can celebrate, as Tim Peake is set to become the first ever Briton to make a space walk outside the ISS. But I’m far more excited by several recent ‘deep space’ triumphs. Some spacecraft carried telescopes that revealed clues to how our entire universe began, clarified the nature of black holes, and discovered that our galaxy contains millions of Earth-like planets.

But what is the role for humans? As Tim Peake walks in space I’m meeting experts at a Royal Society and Science Museum event to discuss if human space flight is worth the risk- or the expense. The future of human spaceflight lies with privately-funded adventurers, prepared to participate in a cut-price program far riskier than NASA or ESA would countenance. (1/15)

Cocoa Shop Sells Jewelry From Outer Space (Source: Florida Today)
One of the rocks at the Treasure Hunters Mall has supernatural powers. At least, that's what Kim Welch of Cocoa said about the strange space artifact that's no bigger than a prune. When she held the Moldavite in the light, it was black, then kryptonite green. Then black again. "For some people, it gets warm," she said.

Before moving to Brevard, she used to manufacture items for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The space enthusiast started collecting meteorites and quirky nerd items. She estimated she has about 1,000 pieces from all over the world  — and now she's "cleaning out her closet."

"Because the space artifacts vary so much, they can look like anything, like an emerald or like dull steel," she said. Since they're all from outer space, no two are exactly alike. (1/15)

Hiring Likely Soon at Sierra Nevada Space Systems Thanks to NASA Contract (Source: BizWest)
More jobs are likely to be added soon at Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems division in Louisville, officials said Friday, now that the company won a NASA contract this week to provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services for the International Space Station with an unmanned version of its Dream Chaser spacecraft.

“We do expect to expand the workforce gradually as we determine what NASA’s schedule is,” said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president for space systems, in a conference call on Friday morning. “Some of those people will begin to come on shortly.” He added that the contract also is likely to mean more hiring at Sierra Nevada’s partners on the Dream Chaser spacecraft project, including Colorado facilities of Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance. (1/15)

Europe Excited by Dream Chaser Mini-Shuttle (Source: BBC)
The selection of SNC by NASA to run at least six cargo sorties to the ISS should trigger a multi-million-euro contract between ESA and QinetiQ of Belgium. The firm will lead a consortium in the production of the first International Berthing and Docking Mechanism (IBDM) - a prototype model that will flight-qualify the design. This would be given to the American spacecraft operator, but all future units would have to be purchased on a commercial basis.

Also, ESA and the German space agency (DLR) signed an agreement with SNC back in 2014, when Dream Chaser was being touted as a possible astronaut carrier. At the time, the then head of DLR spoke of his interest in seeing the vehicle launch on Europe's Ariane rocket. However, he qualified his comments by stating that for this to happen, Dream Chaser would need to be modified to have folding wings. This would enable it to fit under the protective fairing on the top of Ariane. (1/16)

NASA Says First Commercial Human Launch Could be Delayed (Source: WIRED)
NASA has warned the first commercial test flights for humans could be delayed due to safety concerns. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said there was a "high likelihood" that the first test flights, from either SpaceX or Boeing, would be delayed beyond 2017. The group, which makes safety recommendations to NASA, said the agency should be concerned about its timescales

As the commercial space race begins to hot-up NASA's safety panel has also raised concerns about how many astronauts could die on journeys with commercial companies. The group's report said the "maximum acceptable loss of crew probability" had increased and it foresees that there shouldn't be more than one death for every 270 space flights. (1/15)

Space Station Camera Zooms In on Waterskier on Earth (Source: CBS)
Think of it as an "E.T.'s"-eye view. A powerful camera pointed at Earth from the International Space Station captured a remarkable detail from 250 miles away: an amazingly clear image of a waterskier speeding through the waves.

Vancouver-based UrtheCast, which is the first high-definition video streaming platform of Earth to be located on the International Space Station, released a GIF of a waterskier darting around behind a speedboat taken from space. Click here. (1/15)

SpaceX Success Launches Space Startups to New Heights (Source: Reuters)
SpaceX's successful landing of a reusable rocket booster last month opens a new frontier for commercial space startups by offering tremendous cost savings and attracting venture capitalists who once shied away from spatial ventures.

Space startups include nano-satellite makers, earth-imaging and weather-tracking technology developers, and ventures with ambitious plans to mine asteroids. If this fledgling industry can reuse rockets, that will save money and accelerate the pace of launches, enabling startups to more quickly test and update their technology, and replace old satellites more frequently - all critical for growing revenue. Click here. (1/15)

To Cut Costs and Save Time, NASA’s Taking More Risks (Source: WIRED)
Say you're headed on a weekend beach trip and you see one of your tires is worn down. You know you have a spare. No worries. But earlier that day, your wife/husband/partner/buddy finds the spare went flat. Now, he or she believes the tires on the car look just fine. The two of you don’t talk, because, well, you both gotta pack. Will the two of you make it to the beach, or not?

That scenario is called “accretion of risk”—two decisions that seem fine independently, but put together result in a bigger chance of something going wrong in the future. And according to a new report from an independent safety panel, it might be happening right now at NASA as the agency prepares to launch humans beyond Earth and the International Space Station in the early 2020s.

The cause of this rolling increase in risk? Pressure to contain costs and keep to two different launch schedules. “Does one hand know what the other is doing?” asked James Bagian, a former astronaut, professor of engineering and medicine at the University of Michigan, and member of the panel that wrote the report. “If everyone doesn’t understand all the assumptions, and they use that as a foundation to make a decision, that can have a ripple effect.” (1/15)

New Russian Manned Spacecraft to be Called "Federation" (Source: Tass)
A new-generation manned transport spacecraft, designed to replace the Soyuz family, will be named Federation, the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation said on Friday. "The jury chaired by Igor Komarov, director general of the Roscosmos State Corporation, summed up the results of a contest for the best name of Russia’s new manned spacecraft. Anton Smotkin from the city of Kemerovo was the winner. He was first to suggest the name Federation," Energia said. (1/15)

Russian Cosmonaut Conducts Over 50 Experiments at ISS (Source: Tass)
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko has conducted more than 50 experiments at the International Space Station (ISS) under the Russian scientific program. He said he had spent almost 41% of his time on repairing, restoring and fitting up the station’s system; scientific work accounted for about 38% of his time. (1/15)

What SpaceX Fans Think Musk's Secret Giant New Rocket Might Look Like (Source: Tech Insider)
SpaceX made history at the end of 2015 when it launched and landed an orbital rocket, but that feat is just the beginning for the rocket company. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is planning a gigantic rocket and spaceship system called the Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) capable of carrying 100 people all the way to Mars. With that kind of cargo it's going to have to be big and heavy. Click here. (1/14)

Star Trek Stars Endorse Bid to Establish Europe's First Spaceport (Source: The Guardian)
The Star Trek stars William Shatner and George Takei have backed the Scottish National party’s ambition to establish Europe’s first spaceport in the UK. The SNP MP Philippa Whitford led a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday on the future of the UK space industry, which she concluded by giving the Vulcan salute. The MP made the case for a spaceport to be established in her constituency of Central Ayrshire. (1/15)

LightSquared Seeks FCC Approval for GPS ‘Coexistence’ Plan (Source: Inside GPS)
Having settled its lawsuits against a trio of GPS receiver manufacturers, would-be broadband provider New LightSquared is now pointing to those settlements to support its assertion that it is fully addressing GPS interference issues.

The settlements, which were described as "Coexistence Agreements" in a letter filed Wednesday (January 13, 2016) with the FCC, set power limits that the company must ask to incorporate into its FCC license. Given that the three GNSS companies — Garmin, Deere and Trimble — operate in nearly every sector of the GPS receiver market, New LightSquared argued in its letter that the agreements can be viewed as setting limits that protect nearly all of the GPS community. (1/15)

Bill Would Create Washington State Space Exploration Center to Boost Industry (Source: GeekWire)
A bill is in play in Washington state Legislature to get the state government deeply involved in nurturing Washington’s fledgling space-exploration industry. The bipartisan House bill would create a space exploration center to boost the industry in Washington. “It’s kind of neat to get a (space-exploration) cluster like this off the ground,” Rep. Jeff Morris said.

The push comes as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin calls for further tax incentives from the Legislature to boost the emerging industry. Companies including Blue Origin, SpaceX, Planetary Resources, Spaceflight Industries and others have established major operations in the state. Last year, Morris tried unsuccessfully to get a tax break for the space industry through the legislature. This year, some space tax breaks will be a component in some aerospace tax-exemption legislation.

Under the latest bill, the Washington Department of Commerce would pick a government, non-government or academic agency to manage the proposed center. The center’s purpose would be to coordinate Washington’s young space industry, to tackle joint university-industry research on space technologies, and bolster space-oriented education in the state’s universities. The center would also work with space companies of all sizes to identify research needs. Click here. (1/14)

Hawaiian Airport Gets One Step Closer to Commercial Space Flights (Source: Pacific Business News)
The Hawaii state Office of Aerospace Development is anticipating that environmental assessment for Kona International Airport will be completed in the coming weeks. If the environmental assessment comes back and the results are FONSI — findings of no significant impact —the next step is 30 days of public meetings in Kailua-Kona.

The state has already received several drafts from the Federal Aviation Administration and are just awaiting the final document. If granted the license Kona airport would be among just 10 other locations that are authorized to launch commercial space crafts. The license means space tourism companies can apply for their own individual licenses to use the airport. (1/15)

Five Things that Happen to Your Body in Space (Source: The Conversation)
Space travel leads to many changes in the human body, many of which have been investigated since Yuri Gargarin made the first manned spaceflight in 1961 – and an extensive team provides guidance and preparation for astronauts before, during and after any spaceflight. But if you’re planning an out-of-this-world trip, here are some of the things to expect. Click here. (1/15)

Army Helps to Mmeet Nutritional Needs of Mars Astronauts (Source: NSRDEC)
Traveling to the second smallest planet in the solar system can give you a big appetite, not to mention special nutritional needs. Researchers in the Combat Feeding Directorate, or CFD, at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, are working on two projects for NASA to help meet the nutritional needs of astronauts at a space station and astronauts traveling to Mars.

NASA contacted CFD researchers for their expertise and provided a grant for a vitamin stabilization project to help ensure the nutritional needs of astronauts are met during potential missions to Mars. In a separate project, CFD is also working to improve and reduce the weight and volume of a breakfast meal replacement bar, originally developed by NASA, which would also be used during Mars missions and at a space station. (1/12)

Virginia's Gov. McAuliffe Announces Multi-Year NASA Contract for Orbital ATK Launches (Source: Virginia.gov)
Governor Terry McAuliffe along with U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced today NASA awarded a new multiyear contract to Orbital ATK, a Virginia based company, to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station from spaceports, including the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) located at Wallops Island. (1/14)

ESA Chief: Moon Village is Best Way to Replace International Space Station (Source: Reuters)
Think a village on the moon sounds like science fiction? - It could be a reality by 2030, if the head of the European Space Agency gets his way. Jan Woerner has outlined a vision for replacing the International Space Station (ISS), when it is eventually taken out of service, with a lunar "village" of structures made by robots and 3D printers that use moon dust as a building material.

"I looked into the requirements I see for a project after ISS. As of today, I see the moon village as the ideal successor of the International Space Station for (space) exploration," Woerner said at a news briefing in Paris on Friday. Woerner made a moon mission a central project when he took the helm of the ESA last July, saying it was a key step on the way to humans eventually flying to Mars. (1/15)

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