February 23, 2016

Space Venture Investments Rise Sharply (Source: Fortune)
Venture capital investment in the space industry skyrocketed in 2015. A study released Monday by The Tauri Group found that there was $1.8 billion of venture capital investment in the industry in 2015, nearly double the total of the previous 15 years combined. That surge was largely due to two unusual events: a $1 billion investment in SpaceX by Google and Fidelity, and OneWeb's $500 million Series A funding round. (2/22)

Apollo 10 "Music" Explained in Documentary Show (Source: CBS)
The "outer-spacey music" the Apollo 10 astronauts reportedly heard has a simple explanation. An upcoming episode of the Science Channel show "NASA's Unexplained Files" claims that "recently declassified" audio and transcripts from the mission claim that Apollo 10 astronauts heard "eerie music" while the lunar and command modules were flying separately in lunar orbit. NASA's History Office notes that the transcripts were never classified, and released back in 1973. The music had a simple explanation known back in 1969: interference between the radios in the two spacecraft. (2/22)

Boeing Facing Suit Over Possible SEC Investigation (Source: Law360)
Boeing was slapped with a putative class action suit Monday by an investor buoyed by a media report alleging a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into deceptive accounting practices that the defense contractor says it’s been using legally for decades. (2/22)

NASA Seeks Advice To Enhance Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: Aerospace Daily)
NASA’s evolving, two-phase Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) has an added potential to enhance a range of U.S. human exploration, planetary science and commercial space objectives through the possible addition of investigations, an agency-sponsored assessment says.

Prospective additions encompass asteroid defenses; sustained close-up scrutiny and probing of planetary surfaces and sample return; resource recovery and utilization demos; deep-space communications and guidance; and astronaut safety. The findings are outlined in the 130-page Asteroid Redirect Mission Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST) Final Report, released Feb. 18. (2/19)

Seas Are Now Rising Faster Than They Have in 2,800 Years, Scientists Say (Source: Washington Post)
A group of scientists says it has now reconstructed the history of the planet’s sea levels arcing back over some 3,000 years — leading it to conclude that the rate of increase experienced in the 20th century was “extremely likely” to have been faster than during nearly the entire period.

Seas rose about 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) from 1900 to 2000, the new study suggests, for a rate of 1.4 millimeters per year. The current rate, according to NASA, is 3.4 millimeters per year, suggesting that sea level rise is still accelerating.

The new research also forecasts that no matter how much carbon dioxide we emit, 21st-century sea level rise will still greatly outstrip what was seen in the 1900s. Nonetheless, choices made today could have a big impact. Click here. (2/23)

India Plans to Launch 60 Space Missions in 5 Years (Source: Space Daily)
India is planning to launch at least 12 space missions every year for the next five years, a top official of the state-owned space agency has reportedly said. "We have already launched 55 missions during the past five years and we are looking at 12 launches per annum in the next five years," Y.V.N. Krishna Murthy of Indian Space Research Organization said. (2/23)

Boeing’s CST-100 ‘Starliner’ Does Well in Tests (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA touted the recent successful airbag tests that Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule performed at the space agency's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, on Feb. 9. Through a statement posted by NASA on Feb. 17, the agency highlighted the latest effort to have NASA astronauts fly to low-Earth orbit via commercially-provided spacecraft. (2/23)

Bedrest Studies Inform Astronaut Health Issues (Source: Phys.org)
It might look like fun at first glance but it is not – bedrest participants spend months in bed as doctors take regular blood samples and continuous tests to chart how their body reacts to a sudden sedentary lifestyle. This is not an exercise in laziness, however. Lying in beds tilted at 6° below the horizon, blood descends to the head and muscles and bones waste away from lack of use – researchers learn more about how astronauts' bodies cope with living in space by monitoring these healthy volunteers during their horizontal ordeal. Click here. (2/19)

Ape … in … Space! Watch Scott Kelly’s Prank on International Space Station (Source: Geek Wire)
Leave it to Scott Kelly, NASA’s record-holder for longest continuous time spent in space, to go big and go home: While winding down nearly a year in orbit, he donned an ape suit to terrorize a crewmate on the International Space Station. At least British astronaut Tim Peake looks terrorized: It’s hard to believe he wasn’t in on the joke. Click here. (2/23)

Georgia Legislators Approve Informed Consent for Spaceport Users, Nix Noise Protections (Source: Jacksonville Times-Union)
A House subcommittee split along party lines Thursday in narrowly approving a bill designed to lure companies to a proposed commercial spaceport in Camden County. However, the subcommittee Republicans in the majority approved, by a vote of 4-3, a revised draft of House Bill 734 that no longer limits the right of nearby residents to sue companies for noise nuisances.

Now the bill only requires rocket passengers to sign a consent waiver that protects the companies from being sued unless there was negligence. The bill’s author, Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, said after the meeting that he was pleased that the bill is advancing and that he wasn’t disappointed about having to cut the noise provisions to gain passage. “The meat of the bill is actually the consent waiver. That’s the standard of consent in all seven, space-friendly states, and so, that’s what we’re trying to do to keep competitive,” he said. (2/18)

NASA and the Amazing Space Printer (Source: BBC)
On 23 March, a 3D printer will be blasted up to the six-strong crew in the ISS. It will be used to make spare parts, as well as experiments. A prototype printer - the first manufacturing device ever in space - has already been trailed by the ISS crew. This new model, however, will see the project move into being fully operational. "You can bring us a USB stick with your file, and we can digitally send it to space," says Andrew Rush, chief executive of Made In Space. (2/23)

How Gravitational Wave Detectors Survived the Contract With America (Source: Ars Technica)
It seemed an inauspicious time to seek funding for a large physics experiment. During the midterm elections in 1994, with Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America at the vanguard, Republicans stormed to power in Congress after successfully painting President Bill Clinton as a “tax-and-spend” liberal. Gingrich and his new majority promised to balance the country’s budget.

Meanwhile, at the offices of the National Science Foundation, the foundation’s director wanted to press ahead with the construction of gravitational wave detectors that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There was no guarantee that these instruments would find gravitational waves. In fact, many scientists predicted they wouldn't work. And even if they were successful, the discovery of gravitational waves would not advance the interests of the United States in any material way.

The foundation’s director at the time was particle physicist Neal Lane, who would go on to become President Clinton’s science advisor. When I asked him about the Gingrich revolution and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, he chuckled. “When Gingrich came to town with the Republicans, that could have definitely been a major hiccup,” Lane said. Click here. (2/23)

Astronaut Garan Joins World View (Source: Mashable)
Former NASA astronaut Ron Garan is joining the private spaceflight company World View, which promises to bring people on a gentle ride to the edge of space aboard a huge balloon, as its chief pilot. Garan will fly the first World View mission high above the Earth, allowing passengers to see the planet below them and the black sky above. (2/23)

Plans Being Devised for Human Outpost Near the Moon (Source: Space.com)
Researchers are mapping out how to build a human outpost in cislunar space — the region around Earth's moon. The ongoing work is expected to help plot out other deep-space trips, such as the journey to a near-Earth asteroid and the larger leap to distant Mars.

Under NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Projects, scientists and engineers are examining how best to utilize NASA's Orion deep-space crew capsule and future human habitats to set up a cislunar outpost. Click here. (2/23)

What Happens When an Astronaut Returns From a Year in Space? (Source: CSM)
On March 1, American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will return to Earth after spending a year aboard the International Space Station, in orbit 240 miles above Earth. Mr. Kelly is the first American to stay in space for so long. Kelly and Mr. Kornienko are the first humans to do so since 1999, when Russian cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev last spent a year in microgravity aboard the Russian space station Mir, according to NASA. Click here. (2/23)

SES Interested in Used SpaceX Rocket (Source: Reuters)
Satellite operator SES SA is interested in buying a used Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX for a future launch, the chief technology officer for SES said. “SES would have no problem in flying a re-used (rocket’s) first stage. If it’s flight-worthy, we’re happy,” SES’s Martin Halliwell said. SES and SpaceX are still negotiating the launch price of a used Falcon rocket, Halliwell said. SpaceX sells new Falcon 9 rockets for about $61 million, the company's website shows. (2/23)

Large-ish Meteor Hits Earth... But No One Notices (Source: Discovery)
If a space rock hits the atmosphere, and no one is around to hear it, does the tabloid press still report it as an Earth-shattering event? Of course! This pretty much summarizes a large-ish meteor impact over the South Atlantic Ocean, which occurred on Feb. 6, and was recorded by the Fireball and Bolide Reports page of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program.

The event itself is notable because it is the largest atmospheric impact recorded since the famous Chelyabinsk bolide that exploded over Russia in 2013, causing widespread structural damage and injuries to the city with a population of 1 million.

This recent Feb. 6 event unleashed an energy equivalent of 13,000 tons of TNT exploding instantaneously (a.k.a. a “13 kiloton” explosion); the Chelyabinsk impact ripped through the Ural Mountain skies with a whopping energy of 440 kilotons. The high-altitude impact was likely caused by a chunk of space rock approximately 5-7 meters (16-23 ft) wide. The Chelyabinsk impact was caused by a rock nearly 20 meters (65 ft) wide. (2/23)

Fire Experiment Will Extend Next Cygnus Flight (Source: Aviation Week)
Astronauts had a problem with the Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiment (Saffire) set to ride the next Orbital ATK Cygnus capsule to the International Space Station (ISS): The signage was too small. Intended to alert crewmembers that Saffire must remain strapped to the wall, the discreet signs prompted fears that a tired space-cargo stevedore might overlook them, unload the large foam-padded box by mistake and try to stow it inside the station. (2/24)

EU Backs Reusable Smallsat Launcher Project (Source: Aviation Week)
As Europe invests billions of dollars in a new generation of vehicles for launching medium and large satellites, a more modest effort is underway to develop affordable solutions for orbiting smaller spacecraft. Beginning this year, the European Commission (EC) will finance a French-led project to demonstrate the feasibility of developing a low-cost, reusable smallsat launch system. It is known as Altair (Air Launch space Transportation using an Automated aircraft and an Innovative Rocket). (2/24)

Will Congress Kill SpaceX's Biggest Rival? (Source: DC Inno)
SpaceX rival United Launch Alliance could be completely wiped out if Congress decides that its Russian-built RD-180 rocket engines used with its Atlas V rockets, violate U.S. sanctions against Russia. ULA, a cooperative between Boeing and Lockheed, has been yo-yoing back and forth on this issue in recent months. The controversy first arose when SpaceX chief Elon Musk filed a lawsuit over ULA using the rockets for contracts, contracts that SpaceX has been scooping up during the uncertainty. (2/22)

SpaceX's New Rocket Boosters: Another Sign of Incredible Growth (Source: Inverse)
Over the weekend, SpaceX posted a new photo on Instagram showing off five brand new Falcon 9 rocket boosters. The post comes hot off the heels of the company’s recent announcement that it is officially leaving the testing phase and initiating mass production of its technology.

In other words, the company is making a radical shift from experimenting and hitting proof-of-concept milestones toward operating as a legitimate commercial spaceflight company. And for good reason: SpaceX’s successful vertical landing of the Falcon 9 back in December, and its recent new ISS resupply contract with NASA are encouraging affirmations of the company’s growth and success. (2/22)

Space Startup Investments Skyrocketed Last Year (Source: R&D)
A new report from aerospace and defense consultancy The Tauri Group reveals more than 50 venture capital (VC) firms invested a staggering $1.8 billion in space startups in 2015. Companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are highlighted as the leaders of this field. Musk obtained $500 million from Google last year while Bezos has funneled his own money into refining his reusable rocket company’s technology.

A key takeway from the study, though, is that VC firms no longer consider these fledgling firms a dangerous investment, according to Fortune. SpaceX had to deal with a number of rockets exploding before they were finally able to launch a number of satellites into orbit last December.

Financiers are starting to view these companies more as “traditional tech investments” because their focus shifted to the sheer amount of data they can provide. One example Fortune cites is that several satellites could hover in orbit and collect information after monitoring planetary activity. This could help companies learn something new about economic activity around the globe. (2/22)

US Needs To Prepare for Space War (Source: Defense News)
The U.S. needs to prepare for war in space. For many years, conventional wisdom held that readying to fight in space was unduly provocative and destabilizing. Many hoped that military competition and war could be confined to Earth. This may or may not have been a noble aspiration, but it is no longer in touch with reality. The United States therefore needs to face facts and develop the strategy and capabilities to fight and prevail in a war that reaches into space.

The basic reason why is that potential US adversaries — and particularly formidable nuclear-armed ones like Russia and China — are gearing up to take any war with the United States into space. China has conducted several anti-satellite missile tests in recent years, including one out to geosynchronous orbit, where many crucial US satellites are located.

Russia, meanwhile, has openly boasted of its anti-satellite capabilities, and news sources reported that it successfully tested an anti-satellite missile late last year. As a result, a senior US Air Force general reported last year that “we are quickly approaching the point where every satellite in every orbit can be threatened.” (2/23)

Space Exploration Could Herald the Beginning of the Post-Human Era (Source: World Post)
During this century, the whole solar system will be explored by flotillas of miniaturized probes. These will be far more advanced than the European Space Agency's Rosetta or NASA's New Horizons, which transmitted amazing pictures from Pluto more than 10,000 times further away from Earth than the moon. These two instruments were built and launched around 15 years ago.

Think how much better we could do today. And later this century, giant robotic fabricators may build vast lightweight structures floating in space -- gossamer-thin radio reflectors or solar energy collectors, for instance -- using raw materials mined from the moon or asteroids. Robotic advances will erode the practical case for human spaceflight. Nonetheless, I hope people will follow the robots into deep space, though it will be as risk-seeking adventurers rather than for practical goals.

The most promising developments are spearheaded by private companies. SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, who also makes Tesla electric cars, has launched unmanned payloads and docked with the space station -- and, in December, achieved a soft recovery of the rocket's first stage, rendering it reusable. Musk hopes soon to offer orbital flights to paying customers. Click here. (2/22)

Europe’s Next Satellite Launcher Could Emulate Falcon 9 (Source: Aviation Week)
It is no secret that SpaceX and its recoverable Falcon 9 rocket have European rivals scrambling to maintain their lead in the commercial satellite launch market. To that end, European governments are investing more than €3 billion ($3.3 billion) to develop a next-generation satellite launcher, the Ariane 6, and are even eying a new low-cost engine to power a follow-on. (2/24)

Upon Closer Look, NASA’s Exploration Systems are Game-Changers (Source: Space News)
The costs and benefits of NASA’s deep space exploration and science programs are popular topics in policy circles and social media discussions this election year.  As the industry team supporting NASA’s deep space ambitions, we believe that informed dialogue and understanding of the key systems under development to achieve those goals is in the interest of all Americans.

The SLS is tremendously flexible, adaptable, and powerful — a genuine game-changer in the history of space flight. It will carry three times more than the Space Shuttle and, eventually, fly faster than anything human beings have ever hurled toward the heavens. Crews voyaging deep into the solar system will benefit from reduced risk relative to slower journeys, while the speed of the SLS will cut years off of planetary science missions. Click here. (2/23)

Filipino Scientists Build Microsatellite with Help From Japanese Researchers (Source: Tohoku)
Tohoku and Hokkaido universities have successfully guided nine Filipino engineers in building the Philippines' first microsatellite, as part of a collaborative research contract with the Philippines Department of Science and Technology.

The 50kg DIWATA-1 microsatellite, named after the Filipino word for fairy, was handed to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on January 13, and is scheduled to be put into orbit in early 2016. It will be released from the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" - Japan's contribution to the International Space Station. (2/23)

More Sober This Time About Virgin's New Spaceship (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
We’ll admit, the feeling wasn’t quite the same this time when Virgin Galactic unveiled the latest version of the spaceship it hopes to use to blast high-paying visitors into suborbital space from Spaceport America. We’re not quite as giddy as we were the first time. When SpaceShipOne was first unveiled, we were too quick to believe the overly optimistic projections of Virgin Galactic’s charismatic leader Richard Branson.

We made the mistake of getting our hopes up the first few times Branson made predictions as to when launches would begin. And so, as SpaceShipTwo was rolled out last week, we had a much better sense this time around as to what we are facing... But for all of that hard-won knowledge, we remain enthusiastic about the prospects of a commercial space hub in southern New Mexico. And we recognize last week’s unveiling as another important step in the process. (2/23)

We Should Work Together in the Race to Mine the Solar System (Source: The Conversation)
With interest in the prospect of mining the moon and asteroids gaining pace, it’s time to take a hard look at what’s really at stake. Terrestrial mining companies are generally required to comply with domestic legislation that protects heritage, community values and the environment. Apart from some general statements in the treaties, as yet no similar system is in place for space.

Space mining companies have barely considered that they might have to deal with the same kind of community opposition as mines on Earth, only this time at a global scale. Given that the US has enacted a law that purports to establish the right to mine and sell off-world resources, other nations may follow. Indeed, Luxembourg has recently announced it will also establish a legal framework to facilitate space mining.

In moving forward, we need to carefully consider the potential for a “tragedy of the commons” situation in relation to space resources, just as we are with the problem of increasing space debris. What this means is that each entity, acting in its own self-interest, risks destroying a resource for everyone. Click here. (2/23)

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