February 4, 2016

Millionaires Want Sex in Space, Space Adventures is OK With the Idea (Source: Tech Insider)
The only private company that's launching people into space is often asked by its customers whether they can facilitate some zero-gravity hanky panky. That's according to Tom Shelley, the president of Virginia-based Space Adventures, which has arranged eight successful launches of private citizens into orbit since 2001.

No one has yet been able to pull that one off, at least not on a Space Adventures flight. And both NASA and the Russian space agency vehemently deny any of their crew members have either. But that didn't stop internet pornography company PornHub from launching a crowdfunding campaign last year to capture the deed on tape (the campaign was unsuccessful).

"If we were able to arrange it, we wouldn't have a problem with it," Shelley says, laughing. "Some of the crew might." Even if sex did happen in space, Shelley thinks his clients probably wouldn't disclose that to the public. And besides concerns of privacy, a couple in space may have bigger issues when it comes to sex in that environment. Click here. (2/3)

Fly Direct to Australia From an Airport Near You – Via Space (Source: The Herald)
There may be an ongoing battle to save the airport in Plymouth, but travellers could be one day be taking direct flights to Australia via space – from a short hop away in Newquay. Newquay could become part of a global network of intercontinental airports for space planes if it wins the bid to become the UK Spaceport.

Contenders in Britain's own space race took part in a "speed dating" session at the Mayfair headquarters of the Royal Aeronautical Society yesterday. Newquay Aerohub and five other candidate sites are vying to be the first home of British space flight. If Newquay gets the green light, thousands of visitors could flock to Cornwall as early as 2018 to witness Britain's first home-grown spaceplane launch. (2/3)

Corporate Welfare — Pima County Style (Source: Tuscon Local Media)
What part of “no” did supervisor Bronson, Elias, Valadez and Carroll not understand when over 190,000 Pima County voters overwhelmingly rejected $815 million in county bond proposals? Didn’t you, the voters,  say, “no borrowing money to fund business start-ups and tourism related investments?” I know I heard you, and that’s why I voted “no” at Tuesday’s board meeting to not borrow $16 million to fund World View’s balloon tourism spaceport. Click here. (2/3)

World View a Win-Win for County (Source: Tuscon Local Media)
The Board of Supervisors on Jan. 19 approved an economic incentive package for an innovative commercial spaceflight company that is a win-win for the company and for our county. Pima County will build World View a headquarters and manufacturing facility and it will lease it from us for 20 years. The company has the option to buy it after 10 years, or lease if for the full 20. After 20 years, they can buy it for a nominal fee because they will have paid $23 million in lease payments, which is $3 million more than it will cost us to build it, once interest is factored in. (2/3)

Can the Commercial Space Industry and National Parks Get Along? (Source: Outside)
Spaceports and wildlife refuges have traditionally gone hand in hand. But with so many new commercial launch sites in the works, it's time to ask whether nature can handle the 21st century space race. Click here. (2/3)

Rocket Fired From the Outer Hebrides to Outer Space (Source: Press and Journal)
Scotland has boldly gone into space with the first rocket to leave the Earth’s atmosphere from UK soil fired from a missile range in Outer Hebrides. It happened in October during an international military exercise in the Atlantic. The aim of At Sea Demonstration 15 was to test the ability of warships to defend themselves. (2/4)

Buzz Aldrin: The Next Giant Leap for Space Exploration (Source: Washington Post)
When I peer into the future, I see Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars — a comprehensive and immediate plan for human spaceflight. The overall objectives of this plan are to sequentially evolve international contributions of shared exploration beyond low Earth orbit and toward international crew landings on Mars by 2040. This plan can grow to enable a permanent settlement on the Red Planet to be up and operating in the following years and decades. Click here. (2/3)

SpaceX Will Modify its Falcon 9 Rocket Based on Tests of its Landed Vehicle (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX will be making modifications to its Falcon 9 rocket based on what the company learned from re-igniting the engines on the vehicle it landed. That's according to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell, who spoke about the state of the company today at the Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, DC. Shotwell didn't specify what those modifications will be, but said the changes will make the vehicle "even more robust" for its ascent into space. (2/4)

Congressional Republicans Pan NASA Asteroid Mission (Source: USA Today)
Congressional Republicans continued to express bewilderment and displeasure on Wednesday with an administration plan to send astronauts to an asteroid as part of a stepping-stone approach to a Mars mission. NASA’s Asteroid Retrieval Mission is “uninspiring… unjustified and… just a time-wasting distraction,” Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said at a hearing.

“It is a mission without the support necessary to make it a reality in the nine months remaining in the Obama administration,” he said. "Virtually every witness we've ever had come before this committee has said we need to have a lunar base as part of the stepping stone," said Rep. Bill Posey, whose central Florida district includes Kennedy Space Center. "The only ones we haven't yet got that through (to) is NASA." (2/3)

Congressional Committee Says NASA’s Mars Mission is in Critical Need of a Plan (Source: The Verge)
At a special hearing today, members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tore apart NASA's Journey to Mars initiative, claiming the program needs a much more defined plan and clear, achievable milestones to work. Those in attendance also doubted the feasibility of a long-term Mars mission; they cited the massive amount of money needed for the trip — much more than NASA currently receives year to year — as well as a significant leap in technological development.

Because of these enormous challenges, a few witnesses at the hearing suggested that NASA either rethink its approach or divert its attention to a Moon mission instead. Above all, Congress members and the three expert witnesses who testified argued that NASA lacks a clear road map for Mars. Editor's Note: I've come to think that a Moon base is the right next step (maybe after an asteroid mission). Budget pressures would make any Mars mission a one-time flag-planting deal. (2/3)

Virginians Push for Small Satellite Initiative During Aerospace Day (Source: VSGC)
The Small Sat Virginia Initiative proposed and led by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) would create a Small Satellite Economic Cluster in the Commonwealth that can take advantage of the new business, jobs creation and research opportunities that the emerging and rapidly growing small satellite sector offers. It pulls together the Commonwealth’s strong NASA, Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, DOD, industry and university assets to ensure that Virginia is well poised to embrace this explosively growing, technology disrupting sector. Click here. (2/3)

Harris Cuts CapRock Staff, Takes Impairment Charge as Satcom Energy Market Falls (Source: Space News)
Harris Corp. plans further workforce reductions at its CapRock Communications satellite services division in the face of the decline in satellite-bandwidth demand from energy exploration companies as crude-oil prices test multi-year lows, Harris officials said Feb. 2 and Feb. 3.

Melbourne, Florida-based Harris said it is booking a $367 million non-cash impairment charge to reflect CapRock’s reduced business prospects. CapRock’s staff will be cut by 20 percent. Combined with a previous round of layoffs, CapRock ultimately will count 35 percent fewer employees as Harris re-sizes it for long-term profitability. (2/4)

SpaceX Seeks to Accelerate Falcon 9 Production and Launch Rates This Year (Source: Space News)
SpaceX plans to ramp up the production and launch of its Falcon 9 rocket this year while introducing its Falcon Heavy rocket and completing a key test of its commercial crew vehicle, the company’s president said Feb. 3.

“It’s a really interesting year for us,” Gwynne Shotwell said in a speech at the Federal Aviation Administration’s annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference, citing work on the company’s launch vehicles, Dragon spacecraft and launch facilities.

One area of emphasis was accelerating the production and launch rate for the Falcon 9. “We’ve had the luxury in years past of having to build only a few rockets a year,” she said, “so we really weren’t in a production mode.” Last year would have been the first to require a high production rate of the rocket, she said, had it not been for the June launch failure that halted flights for nearly six months. (2/4)

Tehran Hosts Ceremony to Celebrate Space Industry Achievements (Source: PressTV)
The Iranian capital Tehran has hosted a ceremony celebrating the domestic achievements made in the space industry. Press TV’s Yusef Jalali has attended the event and filed this report. Editor's Note: Last year brought reports that Iran had canceled its space program. (2/4)

Vandenberg Air Force Base Facing Busy Launch Year In 2016 (Source: NoozHawk)
Vandenberg Air Force Base is gearing up for a busy — and compressed—year of launches, a top officer said Wednesday afternoon, outlining upcoming history-making moments for the installation. Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander, spoke during an annual joint luncheon of the Santa Maria and Lompoc Chambers of Commerce at the Pacific Coast Club on base.

“2016 is really shaping up be another exciting year,” he said. So far, the base has conducted two launches, with a third, a Delta 4 with top-secret payload, just a week away. The base expects to have as many as 11 blastoffs in 2016, compared to seven last year. (2/3)

Camden County: Deep Water, Deep Space (Source: Georgia Trend)
Camden County sits at the extreme southeast end of Georgia where the state ends and the Atlantic Ocean and Florida begin. While it may seem a long drive from anywhere, this coastal county is on the front line of America’s national defense and may soon become a gateway to outer space as well. Click here. (2/3)

Proposal Would Create Hawaiian Science ‘Subzones’ (Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald)
Several Big Island lawmakers are backing legislation that would establish seven “science and technology research subzones,” including one covering Mauna Kea’s astronomy precinct. The 21-page bill would give the state Board of Land and Natural Resources authority over subzone activities in Conservation Districts, such as those covering the mountain, and would appear to simplify rules for building within those areas.

Barry Taniguchi, a Big Island businessman who circulated the bill among lawmakers, said it was drafted by a group of telescope supporters in Hilo concerned about the future of astronomy on the mountain following the loss of the Thirty Meter Telescope’s land use permit. He declined to name the other people involved. Representatives of the University of Hawaii, which holds the master lease for the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, and Mauna Kea observatories said they didn’t draft the bill. (2/3)

Senator Shelby Protects Alabama's Role in Rocket Production (Source: Huntsville Times)
With the growing threat of ISIS and other terrorist groups around the world who want to do us harm, it is important now more than ever that our leaders prioritize keeping us safe. Alabama plays a key role in that goal by being the home to where our nation's most secure, reliable, and advanced rockets are built. In Decatur, ULA builds the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets which launch our nation's military, NASA, and commercial satellites into space. The ULA plant employs or directly contracts with close to 1,000 Alabamians.

Fortunately for Alabama and our national security, Senator Richard Shelby recently put a stop to a provision pushed by a powerful western Senator at the behest of one of President Obama's top donors, Elon Musk, who owns SpaceX, a ULA competitor. The provision prematurely restricted the military use, but not NASA or commercial use, of the foreign made RD-180 engine used on ULA rockets. Click here. (2/3)

OneWeb Satellite Startup to Set up Manufacturing in Florida (Source: Wall Street Journal)
OneWeb Ltd., the ambitious small-satellite startup backed by Airbus Group SE and other prominent companies, has decided to set up assembly and testing facilities in Florida, according to Matthew O’Connell, its recently appointed chief executive. (2/3)

Virgin Galactic Satellite Launch Plans Advance with 747 Modifications (Source: Flight Global)
Speaking today at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, VG’s executive vice president of spaceport and program development, Jonathan Firth, revealed the former-Virgin Atlantic 747, acquired in December by the launch operation, is now in Waco undergoing a D-check and will be transferred to San Antonio for modification as a carrier aircraft. (2/3)

Audi Rockets to Super Boel 50 with Apollo Astronaut-Themed Ad (Source: Collect Space)
A new TV commercial set to air during the Super Bowl blends the imagery of NASA's Apollo program with the score of David Bowie's "Starman" to challenge car buyers to "choose the moon." Audi on Wednesday debuted its astronaut-themed ad, "Commander," which is scheduled to run Sunday during the first quarter of the game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers football teams. Click here. (2/3)

U.S. Private Space Companies Plan Surge in Launches This Year (Source: Reuters)
U.S. private space companies SpaceX and United Launch Alliance have scheduled more than 30 launches from Florida this year, up from 18 last year, according to company and Air Force officials. The jump in planned launches reflects increasing demand for commercial communications and imaging satellites, as well as business from the U.S. military, ISS cargo ships and a NASA asteroid sample return mission. SpaceX and ULA fly from pads at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

“We want to be able to fly every week, for sure, if not multiple times in a week,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said at a webcast commercial space conference in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. The launch rate is expected to continue to climb as new companies, including Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, enters the market later this decade. Click here.

Editor's Note: One of Florida's new challenges is to work with the Air Force, FAA and NASA to enable the kind of high throughput that these companies will need at the spaceport. This could mean technology and process improvements for the Eastern Range, and/or establishing an FAA alternative to the Eastern Range. Ideally, such improvements would render SpaceX's Texas spaceport obsolete, unneeded because the Cape Canaveral Spaceport can handle all of the company's needs more efficiently. (2/3)

Aerospace Engineers Abound in Northwest Florida and the Space Coast (Source: Studer)
The Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin metro area is ranked 10th in the nation for the concentration of aerospace engineers, according to 2014 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Aerospace business clusters in Northwest Florida serve six military installations and support extensive aerospace-related research and development. In Florida, the region is second only to Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, the state's "Space Coast." Click here. (12/28)

Largest Rocky World Found (Source: Science News)
When it comes to big balls of rock, exoplanet BD+20594b might have all other known worlds beat. At roughly half the diameter of Neptune, BD+20594b is 100 percent rock, researchers suggest online January 28 at arXiv.org. The planet seems to defy recent calculations that indicate a planet this large should be gassy. BD+20594b sits about 500 light-years away in the constellation Aries. The planet is about 16 times as massive as Earth but just a little over twice as wide. (2/3)

China to Launch Nearly 40 Beidou Navigation Satellites in Five Years (Source: Xinhua)
China plans to launch nearly 40 Beidou navigation satellites in the next five years to support its global navigation and positioning network, a spokesperson said. By the end of 2018, another 18 satellites will be put into orbit for Beidou's navigation service, said Ran Chengqi, spokesperson of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System and also director of the China Satellite Navigation Office. (2/3)

Russian Spacewalk Marks End of ESA's Exposed Space Chemistry (Source: ESA)
ESA’s Expose facility was retrieved today from outside the International Space Station by cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Sergei Volkov, who were completing a spacewalk to place new experiments on the outpost’s hull. Expose is a series of chemistry laboratories that place samples in the harsh environment of space unprotected. Subjected to vacuum, radiation, temperature differences and the full blast of our Sun’s energy, 46 species of small organisms and over 150 organic compounds have returned after spending 18 months bolted to the Zvezda module. (2/3)

Russia to Deliver Three Advanced Spacesuits to ISS in 2016 (Source: Sputnik)
Earlier this week, a source in the Russian space industry told RIA Novosti that Russian cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Sergei Volkov, who completed their first spacewalk of 2016 earlier in the day, were supposed to wear the newest Orlan-MKS spacesuits during the event. However, the suits were not delivered in time, and the cosmonauts wore an earlier model of the spacesuits, Orlan-MK. The Orlan-MKS is the fifth generation spacesuit which features automated environmental control systems, as well as as polyurethane seals to increase the lifespan of the suits. (2/3)

Earth May Be Buzzed by an Asteroid in March (Source: C/Net)
Once again, NASA is disappointing doomsday prophets with its data-and-science obsession. The space agency said on Tuesday that an asteroid spotted for the first time just a few years ago could make a very close pass by Earth next month but that it won't smash into us.

Asteroid 2013 TX68 will make its latest close pass by Earth on March 5. The 100-foot (30 meters) long space rock could fly by at the comfortable distance of 9 million miles (14 million kilometers) or a little too close for comfort at just 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). (2/3)

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