February 29, 2016

EU Regulators Open Probe Into Planned Launch Co. Merger (Source: Law 360)
The European Union’s competition watchdog on Friday said it has concerns about the proposed purchase of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers, saying it will study whether a merger between the two launch services companies would stifle competition in the space commerce industry.

Announcing the start of an investigation into the proposed deal, the European Commission said it planned to scrutinize whether the acquisition by Airbus Safran Launchers, a joint venture between French aerospace giant Airbus Group and rocket maker Safran SA, would limit incentives for price reduction. (2/29)

Seeking Consistency in Inconsistent Times (Source: Space Review)
Space has not been an issue during the presidential campaign to date, creating uncertainty about what the next President will do with NASA after taking office. Jeff Foust reports on one Congressional effort to provide more stability for NASA by, in effect, stripping the White House of some control over the agency. Click here. (2/29)
The Paris Climate Agreement and Space Solar Power (Source: Space Review)
The recent climate agreement signed in Paris seeks to lower greenhouse gas emissions to curtail global temperature increases, but says little about what should replace the energy sources that create such gases. Mike Snead, in the first of a three-part article, sees the agreement as an opportunity for space-based solar power. Click here. (2/29)
Space Launch Lite: the Swala Concept (Source: Space Review)
Is there a better way to get to space using vertically-launched rockets? John Hollaway describes his concept for a reusable vehicle, launched from a moving platform and using scramjets to help get to orbit. Click here. (2/29)
Staying Course on the Journey to Mars (Source: Space Review)
Recent hearings have suggested that some in Congress would like the next administration to choose another direction for the nation’s human spaceflight program. Louis Friedman argues that NASA’s “Journey to Mars” strategy remains the best option given likely budgets. Click here. (2/29)

Editorial: New Virgin Rocket Should Cool Critics’ Jets (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Critics who have a short-term view, both literally and figuratively, when it comes to Spaceport America recently got an up-close and personal look at what commitment to innovation delivers. It was all wrapped in the sleek new version of SpaceShipTwo. New Mexico taxpayers have invested roughly $220 million in Spaceport America, less than half of the more than $500 million Virgin Galactic has spent on its program to take non-astronauts to the edges of space and perhaps create a new means of global travel.

Let’s hope that unveiling got critics to cool their jets, including some legislators who were busy last year telling the state sell the Spaceport. Just days before Virgin Galactic unveiled the craft, The Associated Press put together a rundown of the top four projects in the commercial Race To Space. Virgin, and New Mexico, topped the list. Click here. (2/29)

South Korea, U.S. Agree on Space Cooperation Deal (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea and the United States have agreed on a space cooperation deal to boost civilian exchanges in the space sector, Seoul's Foreign Ministry said Monday. The agreement, reached on Sunday, is aimed at establishing a legal and institutional framework for increased civilian cooperation in space science, earth observation and space exploration.

It is the first time the U.S. has agreed to a government-to-government deal on space cooperation with an Asian nation, the ministry said. The allies "will soon take steps for its signing and coming into effect," a ministry official told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity. Talks on the agreement began in 2010, but only gained momentum after a summit meeting between President Park Geun-hye and her U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, in October. (2/29)

Korea to Inject W200b Into Moon Exploration for 3 Years (Source: Korea Herald)
South Korea will spend a total of 746.4 billion won ($603 million) on its space program this year, as part of efforts to realize its long-cherished goal of reaching the moon. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said Sunday that it has also agreed with relevant ministries to allocate 200 billion won for the next three years to launch its first lunar exploration.

Starting this year, the project will focus on developing a robotic orbiter designed to circle the moon and a ground station to process data to be transmitted from space. The three-year project is the first phase of the nation’s space program aimed at sending a landing vessel to the moon by 2020.

After joining the global space club with a successful launch of a satellite into orbit in 2013, the government has been making efforts to send a lander to the moon with homegrown technology. The unmanned module will carry a lunar-rover to explore rare minerals on the surface of the moon, according to the government’s previous announcement. To carry out full space activities, the Korean government also plans to sign an agreement with U.S.’ NASA for technological cooperation. (2/28)

Boat Encroachment Leads to SpaceX Launch Abort (Source: Business Insider)
The problem began at about 6:45 p.m. ET when a boat strayed too close into the danger zone. The launch was temporarily halted to give the boater time to vacate, and SpaceX was still expecting liftoff, albeit a little later than scheduled. But in the 40-or-so minutes between waiting for the boat to move and restarting the countdown sequence, something had happened to the rocket's fuel, according to Elon Musk.

This fuel has the benefit of being more dense than other rocket propellants, so you can pack more of it into rocket-fuel tanks — which adds to the power — but the trade-off is that you have to chill it at minus 340 degrees Fahrenheit. The launch team didn't know, however, that the fuel had warmed by the time the rocket was go for launch. (2/29)

NASA Is Testing Its Alien-Detecting Tools in Chile’s Atacama Desert (Source: Motherboard)
With its dry climate and high elevation, the Atacama Desert plateau in Chile is one of the best locations on Earth for stargazing. A major hub for astronomical research, the region will soon to be home to the largest ground telescope ever built—a facility so sensitive that it may be able to detect signs of life in the atmospheres of alien worlds.

But it’s not just the skies above the Atacama Desert that stand to revolutionize our search for extraterrestrial life. It’s also the ground below. Often called the driest place in the world and the subject of punishing ultraviolet radiation, the Atacama Desert is about the closest environment to Mars that you can get, short of schlepping over to the Red Planet.

That’s why NASA has been sending expeditions to the desert to field test new life-detecting instruments that will hopefully be bundled into future Martian missions. The latest project— Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies (ARADS)—just wrapped its first deployment to Yungay Station, where conditions are particularly reminiscent of Mars. (2/28)

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