February 10, 2016

North Korea's Satellite Tumbling Again (Source: CBS)
For a moment there, it seemed like North Korea's boisterous claims about its space prowess were correct. After the controversial rocket launch over the weekend, analysts initially said the satellite on board -- which many dismiss as a ruse for testing missiles capable of reaching the U.S. -- was "tumbling through orbit," defense officials told CBS News.

Then on Tuesday U.S. defense officials said it appeared to have stabilized in its orbit. Now, however, Pentagon officials tell CBS News the latest satellite is once again out of control in its space trajectory and therefore is likely useless. (2/10)

Hera Systems Unveils Groundbreaking $1 Pricing for Satellite Imagery (Source: SpaceRef)
Hera Systems has unveiled the industry’s most aggressive, simplest pricing for high-resolution satellite imagery and video. Enterprise commercial and government customers that sign up now to receive Hera Systems’ products will be the first to benefit from the company’s solutions. The competitive structure includes per-square-kilometer pricing as low as $1 for archived one-meter resolution imagery, $2 for freshly tasked one-meter imagery orders, and $3 for 50-centimeter resolution products. (2/9)

Hawaii Considers Airport Authority to Spur Aerospace Development (Source: Pacific Business News)
State senators are seeking to establish a Hawaii Airport Authority under the state Department of Transportation, which will help “foster” the development of aeronautics in the state. The Legislature pointed out Hawaii’s air transportation planning, management, marketing and development are spread out across four state agencies, which is leading to “inefficiencies and conflicts.”

The bill tasks the new authority with supervising the development of aeronautics, which is the science and study of aircraft and rockets. The bill is sponsored by all 25 members of the Senate, including the late Sen. Gil Kahele, who died on Jan. 26. (2/9)

New Horizons Could Help Us Locate Possible Planets Beyond Neptune (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The recent discovery of evidence of a giant planet lurking in the outskirts of the Solar System made by Caltech astronomers has re-ignited the discussion about the existence of planets beyond Neptune. We could be really on the verge of confirming the presence of a hypothetical ‘Planet Nine’ and NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, our messenger to Pluto and trans-Neptunian objects might have the final word in this debate. (2/9)

Spaceflight Services Lands Major Contract with Federal Government (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Seattle-based Spaceflight has landed a major contract setting it up to be the go-to satellite launch service for the U.S. government. Spaceflight, formerly Andrews Space, inked a contract with the U.S. General Service Administration (GSA) Professional Services Schedule.

The contract means Spaceflight will provide its launch services to federal agencies at a pre-negotiated, fixed rate and that the company becomes the preferred launch service for federal agencies. Spaceflight is the first company to become a preferred launch vendor. (2/10)

A Larger Share of NOAA’s Declining Space Budget Would Go to Polar Satellites (Source: Space News)
NOAA’s campaign to sustain its fleet of polar-orbiting environmental satellites would receive more money next year even as NOAA’s overall space spending would dip slightly under the 2017 budget plan the White House sent Congress Feb. 9.

U.S. President Barack Obama is asking for $393 million in 2017 to fund work on future polar-orbit satellites. Congress appropriated $370 million in 2016 for Polar Follow-on, an initiative to begin building two final spacecraft for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), an environmental monitoring constellation. NOAA plans to launch JPSS-1 in 2017 and JPSS-2 in 2021.

With the additional $23 million proposed in 2017, NOAA would be able to continue work on JPSS-3 and JPSS-4, while taking steps to mitigate the risk that a premature failure of JPSS-2 would cause a gap in critical weather data used in forecasts and warnings. (2/10)

NASA’s 2017 Budget Request: The Good, the Bad, and the Same Old Same Old (Source: Slate)
Space Launch System, or SLS, is the heavy lift launch rocket NASA is developing, and Orion is the capsule being developed with it that will carry humans into space. The requests for the two this year are $1.31 billion and $1.12 billion respectively. This can be compared with what was actually enacted for them last year: $2 billion, and $1.27 billion. That means the request is far less than last year’s funding, down by $690 and $150 million.

Commercial Crew and Cargo (the part that funds companies like SpaceX and Boeing to take supplies and humans into space) gets a total of about $2.76 billion. The crew funding is down a bit from last year, but it looks like overall this will be a robust amount to fund these companies (the Commercial Spaceflight Federation agrees). I’m all for this; we rely on Russians right now to get our astronauts up to the International Space Station, and that is a terrible situation to be in.

Bizarrely, planetary science got slashed again by the White House. It drops from $1.63 billion to $1.52 billion, a cut of over $110 million. Mind you, this is the division that produced the successful flyby of Pluto last year. You may remember that. It’s a bona fide mystery why, year after year, the president’s request continues to try to cut what’s arguably the most successful part of NASA, both scientifically and in the public eye. Click here. (2/10)

NASA Boosts Aeronautics Budget To Fund X-Planes (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is seeking a significant increase in money for aeronautics research to fund a series of large-scale subsonic and supersonic civil-aircraft X-plane demonstrators to prove the benefits of technologies developed with industry.

Beginning with a request for $790 million in fiscal 2017, up from $640 million in 2016, NASA has laid out a 10-year budget plan totaling $10.6 billion. Under the plan, aeronautics funding would break the $1 billion barrier for the first time in more than two decades, peaking at more than $1.3 billion in 2023. (2/8)

What an $18 Billion Budget Will Buy NASA (Source: Popular Mechanics)
President Obama's 2017 budget request for NASA is out. While nothing is final (this is, after all, a presidential budget going up against a Congress that has not supported Obama's policies), NASA tends to have bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., so the $18 billion ask may not be far off the mark in the end.

There are few major surprises in the budget. It continues a planetary science emphasis on Mars and the upcoming mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, while laying the groundwork for whatever becomes the next flagship mission. The James Webb Space Telescope gets $569 million, enough to keep it on track through its 2018 launch. And funding continues to look toward the agency's future, funding research into new exploration targets and propulsion. Click here. (2/9)

Last Obama Budget Said 'Strangling' NASA's Space Launch System (Source: Huntsville Times)
President Obama's 2017 NASA budget proposal - the last he will offer as president - would cut $800 million from this year's spending on the new deep space rocket being developed in Alabama. It's an "eyebrow-raising decrease," one national space blogger said Tuesday.

It's also a decrease likely to be dead on arrival in the Republican Congress, where support for the new rocket is strong. The Republican chairman of the House NASA budget authorization committee was blunt in his first reaction Tuesday afternoon. "This administration cannot continue to tout plans to send astronauts to Mars while strangling the programs that will take us there," Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) said in a press release. (2/9)

NASA Budget Proposal Widens Divide Between White House and Congress (Source: Ars Technica)
Each year President Obama submits a budget for NASA to Congress, and each year the House of Representatives and Senate essentially toss out those numbers and come up with their own figures. Now that the President has submitted a $19 billion NASA budget for fiscal year 2017, we can expect the same scenario to play out again this year. Click here. (2/9)

Proposed Budget Cuts SLS Funding But Increases Science and KSC Development (Source: Florida Politics)
Development of NASA’s next big rocket, the Space Launch System, would be delayed under the budget proposed Tuesday by President Obama, bringing space exploration advocates are saying. The SLS would be launched from Kennedy Space Center. It would eventually become the most powerful rocket ever, once it is fully developed.

But the budget provides little funding for development of the SLS’s exploration upper stage. In budget briefings, administration officials said the cut reflects NASA’s intention to push back, by three years, the agency’s plan to send astronauts up to grab an asteroid and bring it back to lunar orbit for research. That’s now planned for 2023.

But the budget provides some direct assurance of funding for Kennedy Space Center to accommodate the SLS. It provides $429 million for ground systems support. That’s a 5 percent increase, and much of that money would go to KSC. (2/9)

Delta 4 Lifts Off at California Spaceport with Spy Satellite (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Delta 4 rocket lifted off this morning carrying a classified satellite. The Delta 4 Medium-Plus (5,2) rocket launched at 6:40 a.m. Eastern from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office known as NROL-45. The NRO has released no details about the payload, but outside observers believe it is a radar imaging intelligence satellite. The launch went into a news blackout common for NRO missions several minutes after liftoff. (2/10)

ViaSat Satellites to Launch on Ariane-5 an Falcon-9 Rockets (Source: Space News)
ViaSat offered new details about a $1.4 billion global broadband satellite system it plans to develop. The five-year effort calls for the construction of three ViaSat-3 Ka-band satellites that will provide inexpensive broadband services around the world, ViaSat CEO Mark Dankberg said in a conference call with investors Tuesday. Boeing will build the satellites, which will be launched on Ariane 5 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

ViaSat also announced that it was moving its ViaSat-2 satellite from a Falcon Heavy to an Ariane 5 launch in early 2017 due to uncertainties in the Falcon Heavy's launch date. Meanwhile, ViaSat and Eutelsat will form a joint venture, with ViaSat paying nearly $150 million for a 49-percent stake in Eutelsat's Ka-Sat business. (2/10)

SpaceX Will Not Attempt Spaceport Landing with Next Mission, But May Try Barge (Source: Space News)
SES says it's pleased SpaceX sacrificed a landing attempt back at Cape Canaveral on its next Falcon 9 launch to get its satellite into its final orbit faster. SES CEO Karim Michel Sabbagh said SpaceX's willingness to abandon a landing attempt of the rocket's first stage should result in accelerating the time it takes the all-electric SES-9 satellite to reach its final orbit. The exact time savings, he said, won't be known until after the launch. SpaceX may still attempt a landing on a ship at sea, although with a lower probability of success. (2/10)

North Korean Satellite Stops Tumble, But Remains Quiet (Source: Reuters)
The North Korean satellite launched Saturday is no longer tumbling, but is still not transmitting. Initial reports from U.S. military sources said the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite was tumbling, but unnamed sources now say the satellite's orientation has stabilized. There's no confirmation, however, that the satellite is transmitting, which could suggest other problems with what North Korea claims is an Earth observation satellite. (2/10)

Scientists Study India's Deadly 'Meteorite' (Source: Space Daily)
Indian scientists were Tuesday analysing a small blue object, described by local authorities as a meteorite, which fell from the sky and killed a bus driver. The team from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics was also examining the crater left in the ground by the plummeting object in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

"As of now we cannot confirm if it is a meteor or not," he said. The mysterious object struck inside a college campus in Vellore district, shattering window panes of a nearby building and killing the driver who was walking past. (2/9)

Skepticism For Indian Meteorite Report (Source: New York Times)
There's growing skepticism that a man in India was killed by a meteor impact. Lindley Johnson, NASA's planetary defense officer, said such an impact would be exceedingly rare, and suggested photos of the aftermath, which showed a very small crater, were more consistent with a "land based explosion." Rock fragments local officials claimed were meteorites from the impact have been handed over to Indian scientists for analysis. (2/10)

Site of Martian Lakes Linked to Ancient Habitable Environment (Source: Space Daily)
Groundwater circulation beneath a massive tectonic rift zone located along the flanks of some the solar system's largest volcanic plateaus resulted in the formation more than 3 billion years ago of some the deepest basins on Mars, according to a new paper.

These basins could have been episodically covered, perhaps during hundreds of millions of years, by lava and water lakes that were discharged from subsurface pressurized sources. This shows an area on Mars that could possibly have harbored life.

"The temperature ranges, presence of liquid water, and nutrient availability, which characterize known habitable environments on Earth, have higher chances of forming on Mars in areas of long-lived water and volcanic processes," Alexis Rodriguez said. (2/10)

Ukraine's Space Sector Lost 80% of Revenue (Source: Space Daily)
The Ukrainian Space Agency potentially lost about 80 percent of its revenue in 2014 after contracts cancellation by Russia, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report on Monday. (2/10)

UK Satellite Applications Competition Winners Announced (Source: UKSA)
The UK Space Agency’s Space for Smarter Government Program is pleased to announce that 12 companies have been selected to undertake 13 satellite application development projects, worth over £1m. During the summer of 2015, SSGP embarked on two competitions, seeking innovative solutions and end-user applications which help the public sector deliver their policy requirements. Click here. (1/13)

We're Entering a Golden Age of Space Tourism Propaganda (Source Gizmodo)
Whether they’re selling tickets to orbit or making sure the science funding keeps flowing, rocket companies and space agencies alike have a vested interest in getting the public jazzed about the cosmic beyond. So it’s no surprise that we’re now entering a golden age of space tourism propaganda—one that’s bringing back the beloved, classic design elements of long-past atomic age propaganda. Click here. (2/9)

White House Requests $1.2 Billion for New Rocket in Air Force Budget (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force plans to invest more than $1.2 billion over the next five years to develop a new launch system that would aim to end the Defense Department’s reliance on a Russian rocket engine, according to budget documents set to be released Feb. 9.

The President’s budget request for the next fiscal year also includes about $2.1 billion in 2021 to develop follow-on systems to two of the Air Force’s crown jewels in space: the highly protected communication satellites known as the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites and the missile-warning satellites in the Space Based Infrared System constellation.

But the spending on the new rocket shows how replacing the Russian engine has become a top priority for lawmakers as well as Defense Department and intelligence community leaders. (2/9)

White House Proposes $19 Billion NASA Budget (Source: Space News)
The Obama Administration’s final budget request, released Feb. 9, offers $19 billion for NASA in fiscal year 2017, a decrease of $260 million from the agency’s final 2016 budget, with sharper cuts to the agency’s two major exploration programs. The $19.025 billion budget, as proposed, would shift some funds from NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion programs to aeronautics and space technology, in addition to the overall cuts, while also move funds within the agency’s science account.

The budget request is likely to face strong opposition in Congress, where House and Senate leaders have already said that the administration’s overall budget request will be considered dead on arrival. Elements of the NASA proposal are also likely to face congressional scrutiny. (2/9)

Blue Origin Challenge: Be a Startup in Traditional World (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The man who helped bring Blue Origin’s $200 million factory and launch site to Brevard County says one of the space company’s biggest challenges will be to integrate into a long-standing community. Scott Henderson, Blue Origin’s orbital launch site director, said the firm faces the challenge of working like a startup while trying to integrate smoothly into an industry long in the making.

“We want to be lean and agile, but we also know that the Space Coast brings a lot of expertise in this business,” he said. “The question is how do we bring that together without breaking that paradigm?” Blue Origin will break ground on its facility in the coming months and expects to hire up to 300 people in high-paying jobs on the coast. (2/9)

Is 'Planet 9' Really a Second Massive Kuiper Belt? (Source:
The announcement of a possible large ninth planet in our Solar System way beyond Neptune last month caused a lot of excitement, needless to say. If confirmed, it may be similar to “super-Earth” type exoplanets which have been found to be plentiful around other stars, although none, that we knew of, around ours.

At this point, however, it is still a well-presented theory. Now, there’s another possibility which has been offered to explain the weird orbits of some of the small Kuiper Belt objects – not a large planet, but rather a second Kuiper Belt consisting of many smaller objects instead. (2/9)

North Korea Turns to 'Old Workhorse' Rocket to Repeat Past Success (Source: Reuters)
North Korea's weekend rocket launch repeated earlier success rather than breaking new ground, using a nearly identical design from a 2012 launch, experts said, adding the reclusive country probably remained years from building a long-range nuclear missile.

The rocket was based on engines taken from its massive stockpile of mid-range missiles based on Soviet-era technology and electrical parts too rudimentary to be targeted by a global missile control regime, the experts said. (2/9)

Gravitational Waves vs. Gravity Waves: Know the Difference! (Source: Discovery)
So it looks like we’ll be talking a lot about gravitational waves over the coming days, but why can’t they be called “gravity waves”? In this social media world where brevity is key, it may seem that chopping “gravitational” to “gravity” is no big deal — it saves a whole six characters for an even more concise tweet!

Though you’ll likely see many news headlines heralding the wonders of “gravity wave science”, do not fall into the trap! While both have gravity in common, gravity waves and gravitational waves are two very different beasts. Read on to find out why and then show off your gravitational smarts to your friends the next time you’re down the pub. Click here. (2/9)

The Case for an International Moon Base (Source: Good)
Toward the end of 2015, officials from Russia’s space program announced plans to begin a series of lunar missions that would culminate in the creation of a manned moon base by 2030. To many, this project sounded absurd. To start with, although until recently Soyuz rockets were the only real game in town for moving men and large cargo shipments into space, Russia’s space program hasn’t visited the moon in decades—and it’s an absolute mess of corruption and failure.

But more important, the last time moon bases showed up prominently in the news was when Newt Gingrich teased the idea of building an American lunar colony—and maybe future lunar state—during his 2012 primary campaign in a speech to Florida’s Space Coast (which had just witnessed the last flight of the American space shuttle). This idea was publicly shredded as an impractical, pandering joke.

Many could believe a moon base might exist, say, by the end of the century, but Gingrich and Russia’s ambitions seemed preposterous in the here and now. Yet there’s actually a lot of global scientific support for building a manned lunar base in the near future, as well as a trove of data suggesting that we have the tech and could scramble together the cash for it. Click here. (2/8)

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