January 23, 2016

Port Canaveral's New Chief Faces Challenge for Cargo Rail Line Through Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Among the challenges for Port Canaveral's new CEO, John Murray, will be pushing forward in getting Air Force support for the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station route for a proposed cargo rail service from the port to the mainland. That route has more support in the community than other options, but there are many logistical issues to overcome in running cargo trains through the Air Force property. (1/22)

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Transformed (Source: Forward Florida)
There are some who assume the U.S. Space Program ended when the last shuttle, STS-135 Atlantis, announced "wheel-stop" at the end of its final mission in 2011. However, the space industry is alive and well, as evidenced by the ongoing construction of facilities by aerospace companies SpaceX and Blue Origin, the recent historic landing of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster and the Kennedy Space Center’s preparations for the Space Launch System (SLS) vehicles that will carry the Orion spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit.

Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Visitor Complex is also undergoing a period of major renovation, reflecting the expansion of the space program and the many participants in the commercial space program. Currently one of the most visionary areas of the park is the "Journey to Mars" exhibit, which showcases the KSC Visitor Complex's focus on interactive activities along with its presentations and displays. (1/17)

Blue Origin Launches and Lands Again at Texas Site (Source: GeekWire)
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture sent up its New Shepard suborbital spaceship on another flight test to outer-space altitudes today, and brought it back to a safe landing. The uncrewed flight at Bezos’ West Texas test facility arguably marks the first time that a reusable rocket designed for a vertical landing proved to be actually reusable for space missions.

There are caveats to that claim, to be sure: The SpaceShipOne rocket plane, the X-15 and NASA’s space shuttles have all demonstrated reusability after going into space. Those craft landed horizontally, like an airplane, rather than vertically. In addition, test rockets flown by the DC-X program as well as Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace and SpaceX have been reused after taking vertical hops. However, those rockets stuck to altltudes below 100 kilometers (62 miles), the internationally accepted boundary of outer space.

Despite all the caveats, Blue Origin’s feat marks a significant step toward flying reusable rocket ships on suborbital space trips on a commercial basis, for tourism as well as for research. Click here to see the video. (1/22)

Blue Origin Official to Discuss Future Launch Landscape at Space Club Meeting (Source: NSCFL)
Scott Henderson, Blue Origin Orbital Launch Site Director, will be the guest speaker for the National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) meeting held on Tuesday, February 9, 2016. His presentation is entitled “Technology, Tourism and Tomorrow’s Launch Landscape.” The luncheon event begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson Resort at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral.

As Orbital Launch Site Director, Henderson is responsible for launch site selection, development and activation, and mission operations for Blue Origin’s orbital human transportation system.  Prior to joining Blue Origin, he was vice president at Raytheon, responsible for driving program execution across the intelligence and information systems portfolio.  Henderson also led the launch safety and mission assurance team at SpaceX where he helped launch the first Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon capsules. (1/21)

Mars Human Landing Site Selection During Next Presidential Administration (Source: Planetary Society)
The place NASA intends to the land the first humans on Mars could be selected during the next presidential administration, according to the agency’s planetary science division director, Jim Green. The comments were made during a conference call held for attendees of last October’s Mars human landing zone workshop in Houston, co-sponsored by NASA’s human spaceflight and planetary science divisions.

At the workshop, scientists presented 47, 200-kilometer-wide Martian "exploration zones" containing resources and regions of scientific interest where multiple crews would visit. NASA intends to further investigate some of those zones using current spacecraft like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and develop requirements for a future Mars orbiter based on additional data needs. (1/22)

First Look at Houston's new 747-Shuttle Exhibit (Source: CollectSpace)
A large sign outside the entrance to Space Center Houston promotes the six-story-tall centerpiece of the new Independence Plaza as "bigger on the inside."

Starting on Saturday (Jan. 23), the public will have a chance to see for themselves as general boarding begins of the largest single artifact saved from NASA's space shuttle program: the original Boeing 747 jumbo jet that ferried the shuttle orbiters across the country between missions. Making the 8-story-tall exhibit even bigger is the addition of a full-size space shuttle replica. Click here. (1/22)

People Are Still Trying to Build a Space Elevator (Source: Smithsonian)
The new documentary film Sky Line explores why the notion of a space elevator has continued to persist despite major technological obstacles, and some equally major interpersonal rifts. Having premiered in November 2015 at the DocNYC film festival in New York, the film is now available online and will be screened at the D.C. Environmental Film Festival and other independent festivals throughout 2016. (1/22)

Russia’s New Manned Spacecraft to be 3.5 Times Cheaper than US Dragon (Source: Tass)
Russia’s State Corporation Roscosmos intends to spend over 58 billion rubles ($734 million) on a new manned spacecraft or 3.5 times less than NASA has allocated to SpaceX on the Dragon space vehicle, according to a document published on Friday. The funds for the project to develop the new manned spacecraft called Federation are stipulated in a draft federal space program for 2016-2025 prepared for submission to the Russian government. (1/22)

Former NASA Surgeon Talks Viability of Mars Colonization (Source: Michigan Daily)
James Logan spoke at length about the importance of attention to low-gravity and high-radiation effects on the human body and the need for a life-science perspective in space exploration, which is currently run by engineers. Despite what he characterized as a pessimistic presentation, Logan said he called himself an optimist and a true believer in interplanetary exploration.

“We have to solve these problems; we will solve these problems,” Logan said. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are the generation that can do it.” Logan served as Mission Control surgeon, Deputy Crew surgeon and Crew surgeon for 25 space shuttle missions in his 20-year career at NASA.

Though he dismissed the idea of immediate colonization of Mars and its moons, Logan offered his ideas of a different kind of extraterrestrial settlement. He said one way to combat the problems caused by radiation and zero gravity on Deimos, one of Mars' moons, is to drill into it and build colonies into the core. (1/22)

NASA’s Scott Kelly Celebrates Day 300 (Source: Inverse)
International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly, already the American record-holder for consecutive days living in space, has now stretched his total to 300 in a row. Just as Kelly has followed the world from space, people on Earth have followed his ever-expanding record duration in space, as he has been sure to stay active on Twitter and Instagram throughout his mission. (1/22)

Women in Space Seek More Women in Space (Source: Fast Company)
Natalie Panek has been staring up at the stars with curiosity and wonder ever since she was a child growing up in the Canadian Rockies, when camping and hiking excursions meant plenty of weekends spent in the back country, where she’d gaze at the sky.

Watching TV shows like Star Trek and Stargate SG-1 with her mom made things even clearer for her: Space was calling, and she’d answer by making it her life’s work. Today, Panek is a mission systems engineer in robotics and automation at Canada’s MDA Corp. outside Toronto, where her team is building the chassis and locomotion system for the European Space Agency’s 2018 ExoMars Rover. Click here. (1/22)

Sundance Film Mockumentary on Faked Moon Landing (Source: CBC)
Shot in a variety of formats, Operation Avalanche is presented in 16mm colour film, depicting a grainy, realistic vision of the conspiracy theory set in 1969, when two plucky CIA new-hires (played by director Matt Johnson and Owen Williams) ambitiously decide to fake believable moon footage after Apollo 11 fails.

To create authenticity, the crew lied their way onto NASA property — claiming they were student documentary filmmakers — and recorded conversations with NASA officials. Later, these improvised interactions and footage were edited to fit into the concept of the film. "We went into this environment and tried to shoot whatever we could in a real way, and then used it after the fact, figuring out where the story was," Johnson explains. Click here. (1/21)

Drone Video Reveals New Russian Spaceport Almost Ready for Launch (Source: Inverse)
The new Russian spaceport in the country’s far east, called the Vostochny Cosmodrome, appears almost ready for its first launches. Ahead of the first satellite launches to be conducted at the site in April, Russia Today sent a drone up to get a view of the new spaceport. The video shows a high-tech space city surrounded on all sides by an infinite snowy wilderness. Click here. (1/21)

Elon Musk, President of Mars? (Source: Washington Post)
Reusable rockets could well lead to the colonization of Mars, something SpaceX founder Elon Musk has long been planning. Musk himself hopes to travel there, in the company of thousands of other settlers. The establishment of a Mars colony would take our species to an entirely new level of potential. It would also raise many issues, including about the long-term legal status of the settlement and its inhabitants.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which has been ratified by the US and more than 100 other nations, stipulates that “celestial bodies” are “not subject to national appropriation.” The fact that this prohibition is directed at nations rather than corporations such as SpaceX was not an oversight.

Corporations exist by virtue of being incorporated under a national legal system. Their vessels — whether ships, airplanes or spacecraft — are registered under those laws and operate as extensions of national territory when they venture abroad. The East India and Hudson’s Bay companies governed vast territories from the 17th to 19th centuries, but they did so under British royal charter and not as independent sovereigns. Click here. (1/22)

This Hawaiian Robot Just Built a Launch Pad (Source: Popular Science)
Humans have never built another structure on another planet. So far, everything hurled beyond our atmosphere and into the great beyond was constructed on Earth, made by human hands or human-built machines using resources from sweet mother Terra herself. If we want to venture forth into the cosmos, and say, launch a return rocket home, it’d be nice to have a launch pad in place on the alien planet.

Instead of hauling a launch pad there, why not make a machine that can use local materials to build one?
Over the course of several months, a remotely-controlled robot from the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration (PISCES) did just that. And now, thanks to Project Manager Rodrigo Romo we can watch that construction in all its impressive, tedious glory. Click here. (1/22)

Hadfield: Moon Colonization is 'Obvious' Next Step (Source: WIRED)
Chris Hadfield spent 166 days in space and spacewalked for almost 15 hours -- but he's eager for humans to venture further. The next "logical" space exploration? Humans is returning to the Moon and building colonies there. "We will be on International Space Station for another ten years or so, and where's the next obvious place we'll go: the Moon. It's only three days away," the 59-year-old Canadian astronaut says. Click here. (1/22)

Rise in Space Junk Could Provoke Armed Conflict Say Scientists (Source: Guardian)
The steady rise in space junk that is floating around the planet could provoke a political row and even armed conflict, according to scientists, who warn that even tiny pieces of debris have enough energy to damage or destroy military satellites.

Researchers said fragments of spent rockets and other hurtling hardware posed a “special political danger” because of the difficulty in confirming that an operational satellite had been struck by flying debris and had not fallen victim to an intentional attack by another nation. (1/22)

U.S. Weighs Making Hawaii Missile Test Site Operational (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. military has stepped up discussions on converting its Aegis missile defense test site in Hawaii into a combat-ready facility that would bolster American defenses against ballistic missile attacks, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The proposal, which has been discussed sporadically for several years, was given fresh impetus by North Korea's fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and by recent strides in China's missile technology capabilities, said current and former U.S. military officials, congressional aides and other sources. A Chinese official in Washington suggested that Beijing would see such a U.S. move as counter-productive to relations. (1/22)

UAE Contests Aim to Engage Students in Space Program (Source: The National)
The United Arab Emirates' National Space Program has designed contests to spark student interest in space at an early age. Contests include Genes in Space and the Satellite Launch project. The winning students' experiments will be included on a rocket to the International Space Station. (1/18)

Lawmaker Wants to Shift Tracking of Space Objects Away From DOD (Source: Defense News)
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., is working on a bill that would take away the Defense Department's mandate to track objects in orbit and move it to civilian agencies. "There are tremendous breakthroughs, and the concern there is, as phenomenal as they are, it will lead to more congestion in space, and that's why we need to have some regulatory environment that is not inside the DOD," Bridenstine said. "These are all things that ultimately are new and emerging capabilities that we have to figure out how to manage because ultimately the taxpayer is on the hook." (1/20)

Report: FAA Has Failed to Modernize Air Traffic Control (Source: ABC)
A new report by the US Transportation Department's inspector general says the Federal Aviation Administration has been ineffective in improving air traffic control operations, despite a doubling in spending over two decades. "This report shows that the FAA simply isn't suited to successfully modernize our nation's antiquated air traffic control system," said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. "The FAA remains a vast government bureaucracy, not a high-tech service provider." (1/20)

Europe to Invest in Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Cargo Vehicle (Source: Space News)
Sierra Nevada Corp.’s win of a NASA contract to ferry cargo to the International Space Station will trigger a $36 million investment by the 22-nation European Space Agency following a cooperation agreement to be signed in the coming weeks, ESA said.

Once the agreement is signed, ESA will begin work building the first flight model of the International Berthing and Docking Mechanism (IBDM), which Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser Cargo System will use to attach itself to the space station. (1/22)

ESA Ousts Airbus as Space Station Prime, Appoints Itself Instead (Source: Space News)
​The European Space Agency has dismissed Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor for operations of Europe’s share of the International Space Station, opting to perform much of the Airbus work itself, European government and industry official said.

The decision, which reverses more than a decade-long trend of commercializing space station functions, was made following ESA assurances that it could do much of what Airbus has done without adding personnel or incurring other costs, officials said. (1/22)

SpaceX Releases Dragon Capsule Thruster Test Video (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX released video Thursday of a Dragon thruster test. In the test, which the company carried out in November at its Texas test facility, the Dragon's eight SuperDraco thrusters fired for five seconds, allowing the capsule to hover. The test was part of an effort that will eventually allow Dragon spacecraft to perform landings on land, rather than splash down in the ocean as it currently does. Click here. (1/21)

How We're Shrinking the Telescope (Source: Space Daily)
From space, the need for higher-resolution imaging to resolve far away objects requires bigger and bigger telescopes to the point where the size, weight and power of the telescope can completely dominate a system. Plus, it's also really expensive to put big, heavy objects in space.

In order to shed pounds on future telescopes, scientists at Lockheed Martin are taking a new look at how to process imagery by using a technique called interferometry. Interferometry takes in what you're seeing, photons, using a thin array of tiny lenses that replaces the large, bulky mirrors or lenses in traditional telescopes.

SPIDER flips that concept, staring instead from space, and trading person-sized telescopes and complex combining optics for hundreds or thousands of tiny lenses that feed silicon-chip photonic integrated circuits (PICs) to combine the light in pairs to form interference fringes. The amplitude and phase of the fringes are measured and used to construct a digital image. (1/21)

Russia Postpones Manned Lunar Mission to 2035 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia initially planned to launch a manned aircraft to the moon atop an Angara heavy rocket carrier from its Vostochny space port in 2025. The earlier version of the state space program - worth some 2 trillion rubles ($25 billion) - specified that the creation of a heavy carrier rocket would allow for a manned lunar landing by 2030. But the new edition, which had it budget trimmed down to 1.4 trillion rubles, plans to start setting aside funds to put a man on the moon after 2035. (1/21)

Russia May Train Iranian Astronaut (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Roscosmos space agency is currently in talks with Tehran on the possible training of an Iranian astronaut for a space mission, Roscosmos General Director Igor Komarov said Wednesday. Komarov also said negotiations were also underway on launching a satellite for Iran.

"I wouldn't say that there are any contracts signed, but on the other hand, I wouldn't say that interest has faded. We are currently on the stage of working on these issues. We're discussing the possibility of training [an Iranian] astronaut and constructing a satellite," Komarov told journalists at the Vostochny Cosmodrome currently under construction. (1/21)

Georgia Legislature Considers Spaceport Camden Project (Source: Middle Georgia CEO)
Industry experts with the Spaceport Camden Project will present before the House Science and Technology Committee on January 26. These individuals will present information on how the project is progressing and will answer questions from committee members. Representatives from the Spaceport Camden Project will include: Andrew Nelson, former President and Chief Operating Officer of XCOR Aerospace; and James Muncy, Senior Policy Advisor, Commercial Spaceflight Federation. (1/22)

Human-Made Aerosols Exert Strong Influence on the Geography of Precipitation (Source: Phys.org)
While the effects of power plant emissions, vehicle exhaust and other manmade aerosols on air quality and public health are well-known, their impact on the climate is not completely understood. Scientists have shown that aerosols can lower surface temperatures either directly, by reflecting sunlight skyward, or indirectly, by increasing the reflectivity of clouds, but until now have not figured out the role these airborne particles play in shaping the distribution of rain and snowfall around the world. Click here. (1/22)

Branson: Hey Musk, Bezos—My Spaceship is Better (Source: CNBC)
The modern day space race doesn't pit country against country. It's a game of thrones of sorts among three billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson. Under the guise of "we compete in a friendly way," Branson engaged in a little trash-talk at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"Our spaceship comes back and lands on wheels. Theirs don't," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box" in an interview that aired Friday. "Because ours is shaped like an airplane, we hope to do point-to-point air travel one day. Theirs is not." To be fair, he said that Musk, founder of SpaceX,, and Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, would probably give reasons why theirs are better than Branson's Virgin Galactic effort. (1/22)

Russia to Phase Out Importing Ukrainian Rocket Parts (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Roscosmos space agency plans to gradually stop using Ukrainian-made rocket parts after a breakdown in space cooperation, the organization's spokesperson said. Deteriorating relations between Moscow and Kiev over the 2014 conflict in Ukraine's southeast have put a strain on their space cooperation. Russia has to rely on NASA mediation to procure rocket control systems from Ukraine. (1/22)

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