March 2, 2016

NASA's New X-Planes Will Be Seriously Cool (Source: Fast Company)
NASA will reportedly soon request money to build a new line of efficient and environmentally friendly X-planes. NASA will ask for a $3.7 billion budget increase over the next decade. The planes are part of a 10-year plan called the New Aviation Horizons Initiative. One of the most interesting-looking planes is a hybrid-wing body aircraft with turbofan engines on top of its back end. The new design reduces drag and will let engines become larger and more efficient, all while lowering the noise produced by such a large aircraft. (3/2)

Elon Musk Denies SpaceX's Donald Trump Campaign Donation (Source: Inverse)
A Twitter user announced today to Elon Musk that he was “surprised/disappointed” to discover that SpaceX had donated $10,000 to Donald Trump’s campaign. Musk responded within 15 minutes, saying: “SpaceX has not donated to any presidential campaign.”

The original image shared in the confrontational tweet lists the Center for Responsive Politics as its source. A glance at the CRP’s current list for top Trump donors does not list SpaceX. However, a cached version of the page from February 29 does.

Musk’s carefully worded statement — “SpaceX has not donated to any presidential campaign” (emphasis added) — is intriguing. As it turns out, Musk, SpaceX, and Tesla have donated lots of money to lots of people. Click here. (3/2)

Nelson, Castor Join Call to keep NOAA Weather Center in Tampa Area (Source: Tampa Tribune)
A major weather research program facing eviction from MacDill Air Force Base next year just got some additional backing from local Congress members. Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Kathy Castor, both Democrats, sent a joint letter today to Kathryn D. Sullivan, administrator of NOAA, saying they expect NOAA’s MacDill-based Aircraft Operations Center to remain in Florida and that they want employees there to have a role in figuring out where the operation should relocate. (3/1)

Could Laser Weapon Save Earth from Killer Asteroids? (Source: Space Daily)
Potentially hazardous asteroid are still looming large in the minds of scientists engaged in planetary defense issues. Numerous strategies describing deflection of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) have been proposed, including methods employing kinetic impactors, robotic mining or gravity tractors. However, one of the proposed concepts has been lately reconsidered by a team of researchers, becoming one of the most serious proposals.

The project, named DE-STAR (Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation), envisions a large phased-array laser in Earth orbit to deflect asteroids, comets, and other NEOs endangering our planet. There is also a much smaller, similar system being considered, called DE-STARLITE, that could travel alongside the target, slowly deflecting it from nearby over a long period. (2/2)

Former Florida Senate President Considers Campaign to Replace Altman (Source: TCPalm)
The race to replace state Sen. Thad Altman on Florida's Space Coast could become more competitive as former Senate President Mike Haridopolos considers entering the race. Haridopolos, now a lobbyist, said he hasn't made up his mind and many people have asked him to run since he left office in 2012.

If he enters the race, he will face state Reps. Debbie Mayfield and Ritch Workman, as well as Michael Thomas of Melbourne in the Republican primary. Altman currently chairs a committee focused on defense and space, and his day job is as preseident of the Astronaut Memorial Foundation. This senate seat has traditionally been a focal point for space industry issues. (3/2)

Spaceport America to Hold Open House (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Spaceport America, will be hosting an open house event free to the public on Saturday, April 2, 2016. Spaceport America and Virgin Galactic crewmembers are looking forward to sharing an inside view into the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport with friends, neighbors and space enthusiasts from New Mexico and afar.

The program includes hands-on fun and educational activities and demonstrations at the horizontal launch area. There will also be a raffle for some guests to tour the Spaceport America Experience and ride the G-shock simulator. (3/1)

Speedier Arctic Data as Warm Winter Shrinks Sea Ice (Source: Nature)
Following a record winter in many ways, Arctic sea-ice cover seems poised to reach one of its smallest winter maxima ever. As of 28 February, ice covered 14.525 million square kilometres, or  938,000 square kilometres less than the 1981–2010 average. And researchers are using a new technique to capture crucial information about the thinning ice pack in near real time, to better forecast future changes.

Short-term weather patterns and long-term climate trends have conspired to create an extraordinary couple of months, even by Arctic standards. “This winter will be the topic of research for many years to come,” says Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “There’s such an unusual cast of characters on the stage that have never played together before.”

The characters include the El Niño weather pattern that is pumping heat and moisture across the globe, and the Arctic Oscillation, a large-scale climate pattern whose shifts in recent months have pushed warm air northward. Together, they are exacerbating the long-term decline of Arctic sea ice, which has shrunk by an average of 3% each February since satellite records began in 1979. (3/1)

The Space Renaissance: the Government as Early Adopter (Source: Space News)
There is a renaissance occurring in the aerospace community, and the way governments respond in the next couple of years may set the stage for what could be the next new industry. The aerospace industry is a strategic industry, with national security, scientific and commercial opportunities all intertwined. Driven by governments, the aerospace sector has served “the customer” to meet its needs, in its image, at its cost.

In other words, the government has had market power, setting the quantity, quality and cost of aerospace products, is the delineator of requirements and acts as the program manager. There will always be bespoke aerospace contracting services to meet unique government needs, but we argue that the emergence of aerospace entrepreneurs can bring two new opportunities to bookend the existing aerospace sector: rapid demonstrations and commercial products. (3/1)

New Space Bill Draft Being Reviewed (Source: Space News)
A draft of a comprehensive space policy bill is now circulating in industry. The office of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) is seeking comments on the draft of the American Space Renaissance Act, which includes a variety of military, civil and commercial provisions that Bridenstine believes could be implemented in other legislation.

The bill would restructure NASA management similar to the Space Leadership Preservation Act and direct NASA to make landing humans on Mars its main priority. The bill authorizes significant spending increases for the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. It also requires the Pentagon to make greater use of hosted payloads and other commercial approaches. (3/1)

Singapore Company Gets $30M for Space Debris Solution (Source: Japan Times)
A Singapore company with ambitions to clean up orbital debris has won $30 million in investment from Japanese organizations. Astroscale announced Tuesday it secured funding from the Innovation Network Corp. of Japan and venture capital fund Jafco. The company will use the funding to continue development of an orbital debris mapping satellite, IDEA OSG 1, that is scheduled to launch at the end of this year. Astroscale later plans to demonstrate technology that can be used to remove debris from orbit. (3/1)

Canada Charges Four with Chinese Space Tech Transfer (Source: National Post)
Four people are facing charges in Canada of exporting sensitive space-related technologies to China. Two of the four people allegedly stole technical data from the company they worked for, Teledyne DALSA, and sold it to Chinese companies that will use it to enhance cameras on Chinese satellites, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Officials did not release additional details on the technology and its applications. (3/1)

Kelly Returns to His Home Planet (Source: CBS)
Astronaut Scott Kelly is back on Earth after nearly a year in space. The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft carrying Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov landed in Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. Eastern Tuesday night, more than three hours after undocking from the International Space Station. Kelly and Kornienko spent 340 days in space, a U.S. record for Kelly, while Volkov spent a more typical six months on the station. All three appeared to be in good condition after landing. Kelly is scheduled to return to Houston late tonight. (3/2)

Space Appropriators Survive Primary Challenges (Sources:, Houston Chronicle)
Two key members of congressional appropriations committees survived primary challenges Tuesday. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) got 65 percent of the vote in the Republican primary in Alabama, winning the nomination for a sixth term. Shelby chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, and has been a key player in the debate about the future of the RD-180 engine. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) also won his primary. Culberson chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. (3/2)

Sierra Nevada to Support Orbital ATK’s Cygnus (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. was recently awarded a contract to provide multiple Passive Common Berthing Mechanisms (PCBM) by Special Aerospace Services (SAS) of Boulder, Colorado for Orbital ATK’s Cygnus advanced maneuvering spacecraft in support of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 1 and 2 (CRS1, CRS2) programs.

This contract follows a previous order with SNC resulting in the complete delivery of eight PCBM units in support of Orbital ATK’s CRS1 missions. With the berthing of the OA-4 Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS on December 9, 2015, three SNC PCBM units have now flown and successfully berthed with the ISS. The PCBMs provide a sealed connection between Cygnus and the International Space Station (ISS), enabling delivery and removal of critical supplies. (3/1)

ET Search: Look For the Aliens Looking for Earth (Source: Nature)
By watching how the light dims as a planet orbits in front of its parent star, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered more than 1,000 worlds since its launch in 2009. Now, astronomers are flipping that idea on its head in the hope of finding and talking to alien civilizations.

Scientists searching for ET should target exoplanets from which Earth can be seen passing in front of the Sun, says René Heller, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute. By studying these eclipses, known as transits, civilizations on those planets could see that Earth has an atmosphere that has been chemically altered by life. “They have a higher motivation to contact us, because they have a better means to identify us as an inhabited planet,” Heller says. Click here. (3/1)

NASA Studies Middle East Drought (Source: Science World)
A NASA study has found that the Middle East is currently 18 years into the worst drought in the past 900 years. The current drought began in 1998 in the Eastern Mediterranean region and is directly affecting countries such as Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Cyprus and Turkey, according to Click here. (3/1)

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