February 15, 2016

Space Tourism Projects at a Glance (Source: Phys.org)
Virgin Galactic later this month in Mojave, California, is preparing to roll out its new SpaceShipTwo, a vehicle the company hopes will one day take tourists to the edge of space. It comes roughly 15½ months since an earlier incarnation was destroyed in a test flight, killing one of the pilots. Despite the setback, the dream of sending tourists to the edge of space and beyond is still alive. Space tourism companies are employing designs including winged vehicles, vertical rockets with capsules and high-altitude balloons. Click here. (2/15)

Air Force Plans Three New Weather Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has revamped its next-generation weather satellite program to include at least three satellites, the first of which could launch as early as next year, service leaders said. But it is unclear if the new plan will appease lawmakers, who have been critical of the Air Force’s previous direction for weather satellites.

Congress has been unhappy about the service’s handling of the legacy program, known as the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, and the planned next-generation program, known as the Weather Satellite Follow-on. Last year, lawmakers canceled the launch of the last DMSP satellite,  DMSP-20, after the Air Force spent $518 million on the satellite but failed to convince Congress it was needed. (2/15)

Space Wars: The Air Force Awakens (Source: Air Force Times)
When Sputnik reached Earth orbit in 1957, it started a space race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. that would last more than a decade as both nations vied to be the first to reach the moon — and the first to take tactical advantage of the new battlefield.

Now, more than 50 years later, the Defense Department is once again finding itself in a space race, this time focused on military capabilities in orbit as a resurgent Russia and emergent China seek to expand their abilities to defend, attack, and control space. Air Force leaders insist they’ll keep the service at the forefront of anything that happens above Earth’s atmosphere. Click here. (2/15)

NASA Seeks Satellite Maker for Series of CubeSat Technology Missions (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In a unique invitation to develop a new satellite platform, NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP) is requesting proposals from industry to provide small spacecraft for its Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator (PTD) missions that will include government-furnished technology payloads for a series of flight demonstrations.

NASA plans to award a contract for a six-unit (6U) CubeSat, with options for up to four additional CubeSats of the same basic design. The Pathfinder technology demonstration missions, enabled by this procurement, are expected to demonstrate several new propulsion systems, advanced control systems for precision pointing, and communications systems that will greatly increase data transmission for future missions. (2/15)

Proposed NASA Budget: Earth Science Up, Planetary Science Down (Source: EOS.org)
As presented, the agency’s proposed budget for FY 2017 sets aside $2.032 billion for Earth sciences (see Table 1)—a $111 million (5.8%) increase from the FY 2016 enacted budget—out of its total of $5.6 billion for science. The increase in Earth sciences would help to accelerate the joint NASA–U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat 9 satellite mission, which will continue to provide measurements of the Earth’s land cover. The proposed budget could move up Landsat 9’s launch date, which was originally set for 2023, to 2021. (2/15)

In Space No One Can Hear You Dream (Source: Space Review)
Space advocates have long desired a realistic portrayal of space settlement to build support for their cause. Dwayne Day says the TV series The Expanse may be the most realistic such show to date, but one that is hardly going to get viewers to embrace advocates’ space settlement vision. Click here. (2/15)
A Thump in the Night (Source: Space Review)
Last week, physicists announced success in the decades-long search for gravitational waves, another vindication of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Jeff Foust reports on its discovery and its implications for astronomy and future space missions. Click here. (2/15)
Governance Challenges at the Intersection of Space and Cyber Security (Source: Space Review)
Space security is closely tied to cyberspace security, given the reliance space systems have on computer technology. Jana Robinson discusses the links between the two issues and how to address those security concerns at an international level. Click here. (2/15)
Why a Mars Landing Could be Terrific for Science (Source: Space Review)
Some have argued that landing humans on Mars could contaminate the planet, making it potentially impossible to determine if life once existed, or still exists, there. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker argue that sending humans to Mars will actually help the study of the planet and its habitability. Click here. (2/15)

What Astronauts Miss Most In Space Isn't What You'd Expect (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returns to Earth next month after spending a year aboard the International Space Station, marking the longest mission in American history. When he finally comes home, he'll not only appreciate being with his family again but also in the presence of ... weather.

Yes, you read that correctly. Kelly opened up about what he misses the most during space missions in a new PBS video (above), exclusive to The Huffington Post. The clip is from a two-part PBS series titled "A Year In Space" that premieres on March 2 at 8 p.m. EST. Click here. (2/15)

India Moving to Privatize Launch Capability (Source: Times of India)
India plans to turn over operations of its PSLV rocket to the private sector by the end of the decade. Under the plan, to be discussed with Indian industry this week, a consortium of companies led by Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, will handle manufacturing and operations of the PSLV. That plan, ISRO's chairman said, would allow an increase in the PSLV's launch rate. (2/15)

Gravitational Waves Remain Invisible (Source: Harvard-Smithsonian)
An effort to search for a visible signature of the first gravitational wave detection came up empty. Astronomers used a wide-field instrument on a telescope in Chile to search the skies in September, a day after observatories in the U.S. detected gravitational waves created by the collision of two massive black holes.That search, over a wide swath of the sky, turned up no "unusual bursts" of visible light that might be linked to that collision. That effort, though, will serve as the basis for future followups of gravitational wave detections. (2/15)

Race is On for Next Breakthrough as Physicists Target Dark Matter (Source: Guardian)
What could be bigger than gravitational waves? Predicted by Einstein, confirmed to exist this week, they are born of black holes colliding and the sound of space time itself warping through the Earth. What couldn’t be bigger, say scientists still pining for answers to the other mysteries of physics.

The discovery of dark matter, argued cosmologist Carlos Frenk at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, would be more important than the detection of gravitational waves. Click here. (2/14)

ExactEarth and Skywave Seek Canadian Maritime Monitoring Contract (Source: Space News)
Two companies are competing for a contract from the Canadian government for space-based maritime monitoring. One company, exactEarth, was recently spun out of ComDev after Honeywell acquired ComDev. The other, Skywave Mobile Communications, is owned by Orbcomm. The companies are pursuing a contract to provide data from Automatic Identification System using sensors on spacecraft they operate. A contract award is expected in the coming weeks. (2/15)

Why Did Google Invest $1 Billion in SpaceX? (Source: Motley Fool)
Did you notice this big investment Google made last year? You may have missed it. After all, the U.S. space company hadn't yet earned itself a name for successfully landing a rocket on the ground just after the rocket delivered a payload in space. But the investment shouldn't be overlooked. Indeed, it may be one of Alphabet's (formerly Google) boldest moonshots yet: the tech giant made a big investment into SpaceX.

It's no surprise that Alphabet is interested in space. After all, Amazon.com, Virgin Group, Facebook, and Qualcomm, are among tech companies that have invested in the development of either rockets or satellites. Space offers another frontier for the information and communication that technology companies hold so dear -- particularly Google. Click here. (2/14)

The Female Pioneers of Science (Source: BBC)
As the bombs fell on London during the Great War, two women kept a vigil of the night sky. Fiammetta Wilson and Grace Cook observed shooting stars - the chunks of space rock that light up the sky as they plummet to Earth. They kept up records of meteors in what was then very much a man's world. Click here. (2/15)

Astronomy Night at NASA Wallops Island (Source: WMDT)
The NASA Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center will be having it’s second “Astronomy and Night Sky Winter Series” this week. The event will take place on Friday, February 19 from 7 to 10 PM where participants will be able to sit through an Astronomy 101 presentation, watch astronomy-themed movies, and do hands-on activities and crafts. There will also be experts from the Delmarva Space Sciences Foundation to provide their expertise and high-powered telescope views of the winter night sky. (2/15)

Should There be a Space Race to Mine Asteroids? (Source: Guardian)
A new US law allows commercial space ventures – but is it responsible and safe? Four experts discuss the issue. Click here. (2/15)

Kim Jong-Un  Wants More Satellites (Source: Newsweek)
In the wake of global condemnation of his country’s launch of a satellite earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has now vowed to put additional satellites into space. Speaking at a banquet on Saturday to celebrate the launch of the Kwangmyungsong-4 satellite, Kim said in his speech that the country should focus even more on self-reliance and sustainability, reported NK News. Scientists, engineers and workers who helped construct the rocket were in attendance at the banquet. (2/15)

Four People to Live in HERA Habitat for 30 Days at JSC (Source: Space Daily)
This 30 day mission will help our researchers learn how isolation and close quarters affect individual and group behavior. This study at our Johnson Space Center prepares us for long duration space missions, like a trip to an asteroid or even to Mars.

The Human Research Exploration Analog (HERA) that the crew members will be living in is one compact, science-making house. But unlike in a normal house, these inhabitants won't go outside for 30 days. Their communication with the rest of planet Earth will also be very limited, and they won't have any access to internet. So no checking social media kids! The only people they will talk with regularly are mission control and each other. (1/31)

Support Grows for a Return to Ice Giants Uranus and Neptune (Source: Science News)
In the cold periphery of the solar system, two enigmatic sentinels saunter around the sun. One circuit along their vast orbits takes on the order of a century. Seasons are measured in decades. At such great distances from Earth, these worlds give up their secrets slowly. While every other planet in our solar system has been repeatedly poked and prodded by orbiters and landers, Neptune and Uranus, save a brief tour in the 1980s, remain largely unexplored.

In August, NASA’s Jim Green gave engineers at JPL one year to figure out what it would take to put a spacecraft in orbit around Uranus or Neptune. These worlds are “an important frontier,” says Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters. “We really don’t know much about them.” New rocket designs and recent exoplanet discoveries have made the ice giants more accessible and more relevant than ever. “This is a really exciting time for us to be able to study them,” he says. (2/15)

Death by Meteorite! (Source: Space Safety)
It is one of the most unlikely ways to die, but the history of alleged cases suggests that it can happen from time to time! Supposedly, tens of thousands of people were killed during the Chíing-yang meteorite shower in the Shansi province of China between April and May of 1490.

Modern researchers are generally skeptical about the number of fatalities, which cannot be corroborated among the multiple records of this event, but the figure is consistent with what we might expect had the well-documented Tunguska event of 1908 occurred over a densely populated urban area. Click here. (2/15)

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