March 20, 2016

One Comet to Swerve Closer to Earth Than Any Other Comet in Centuries (Source: Florida Today)
An emerald-green comet will brush the Earth Monday, followed one day later by a kissing cousin that will swerve closer to the planet than any other comet in nearly 250 years. The first and bigger of the two comets will be visible Monday to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere, as long as city lights are far away.

Stargazers in the United States will probably need only binoculars to see the bigger comet in late March. Scientists, however, are bringing out the big guns. The Hubble Space Telescope, the powerful ground-based Gemini telescopes and others will be trained on the celestial visitors, which will provide an extraordinary close-up of objects usually glimpsed only at a distance. (3/18)

Silicon Valley's Zero-Gravity Space Startup Boom (Source: San Jose Mercury News)
The next big thing in space exploration might not come from a shiny NASA research facility. Instead, it may spring from an abandoned gas station or a converted McDonald's in the heart of Silicon Valley's growing space startup scene.

Bay Area companies are commercializing the space industry, with ambitions as lofty as the cruising altitude of the International Space Station. They range from Deep Space Industries, which plans to mine asteroids, to Made In Space, which is working on in-space manufacturing, to Planet Labs, which aims to take daily photographs of everywhere on Earth. Click here. (3/19)

Time to Find Out What Space Industry Can Do for Midland (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
For years, this community has invested tens of millions of dollars in developing the right atmosphere for business expansion. It is time for this community to ask itself the question about rate of return. However, instead of asking the Midland City Council to allow voters to decide on the fate of the quarter-cent sales tax to fund economic development, our request is different.

We are calling on our city’s leaders to allow the Midland Development Corp. board to put all of the resources at its disposal toward its successes at Midland International Air & Space Port, specifically the development of Spaceport Business Park.

Now is the time to see how far being a player in the space industry will take our community. We cannot do that with the Midland City Council continuing to raid the pool of money in Midland Development Corp. reserves to pay for downtown projects, road development and other projects that take the MDC’s focus off the Spaceport Business Park and airport development in general. (3/19)

CEO: Space Plays Important Role for Italy's Development (Source: Space Daily)
Space is a key sector for the entire economy, CEO and general manager of Italian defense and aerospace giant Finmeccanica Mauro Moretti told Xinhua in an interview as the European-Russian ExoMars mission to find traces of life on Mars kicked off this week with a rocket launch from Kazakhstan.

Finmeccanica, whose main shareholder is the Italian economy ministry, plays a leading role in the ExoMars program. Through its participation in Thales Alenia Space Italy, a joint venture between Finmeccanica and French group Thales, the industrial prime contractor of the ExoMars program, Finmeccanica has the leadership over both the 2016 and 2018 phases of the program. (3/18)

Panic Reaches New Heights: 'Russia, China Planning Space Attacks on US' (Source: Sputnik)
In a new campaign of budget-bolstering and fear-mongering, the Pentagon has warned of impending attacks on US satellites by Russia and China. "Adversaries are developing kinetic, directed-energy, and cyber tools to deny, degrade and destroy our space capabilities," Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of the Air Force Space Command, told the US House Armed Service strategic forces subcommittee on Tuesday.

"They understand our reliance on space, and they understand the competitive advantage we derive from space. The need for vigilance has never been greater," he asserted. Hyten has campaigned for a new Air Force project group, whose sole purpose would be to protect US space assets against foreign "aggression." On Tuesday, he warned that US Global Positioning System satellites are vulnerable to attack.

Lt. Gen. David Buck, commander of Joint Functional Component for Space, testified alongside Hyten. "Simply stated, there isn't a single aspect of our space architecture, to include the ground architecture, that isn't at risk," Buck declared. "Russia views US dependency on space as an exploitable vulnerability and they are taking deliberate actions to strengthen their counter-space capabilities." (3/18)

NASA is Sending a 3D Printer to Space That You Can Use (Source: Tech Crunch)
NASA is preparing to send its first commercial manufacturing facility to the International Space Station (ISS). The 3D printing company Made in Space has partnered with NASA to send their Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF) to the space station on a launch scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

Users on Earth can pay to use AMF, a 3D printer specially designed to operate in a microgravity environment, to print products on the space station. Once it arrives, Made in Space will be able to command AMF remotely from their headquarters in the NASA Ames Research Park. (3/18)

NASA Keen to Go Exploring with Asian Agencies, Private Sector (Source: Nikkei)
NASA is eager to explore the heavens with partners in Asia, the head of the U.S. agency's Planetary Science Division told the Nikkei Asian Review on Tuesday during a visit to Japan. James L. Green said Asian countries' space exploration efforts have been "really expanding over the past several years." And at NASA, he said, "We think partnerships are very important to do."

Green pointed to NASA's existing relationship with the Indian Space Research Organization. The ISRO has sent a probe to the moon and an orbiter to Mars, and Green said the agencies are discussing the Indian organization's next Mars missions. He called the ISRO's Mars endeavors "a huge step for Asia." NASA also works with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, and Green said there are plans to partner with the United Arab Emirates as well. (3/20)

Stuffed Animals in Space: An Appreciation (Source: Mashable)
Space fans on Twitter got a new mascot Friday. A small stuffed owl blasted off to the International Space Station with a trio of space explorers Friday, catapulting it into our hearts at the same time. The little owl was a gift given to Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin by his daughter before launching on the Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft to the station. Click here. (3/19)

Military Space Leaders Alarmed by Growing Russian, Chinese Anti-Satellite Threats (Source: America Space)
The latest intelligence from Russia and China is alarming top military and civilian space officials about multiple new antisatellite (ASAT) threats against U.S. military and intelligence satellites—at all altitudes. Key commercial satcoms and other civilian satellites are also at great risk. The Pentagon says both Iran and North Korea are also developing new ASAT systems.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, told the House Armed Service Strategic Subcommittee that threats to American satellites “have reached a tipping point.” “Simply stated, there isn’t a single aspect of our space architecture, to include the ground architecture, that isn’t now at risk,” Lt. Gen. David Buck, commander of the Joint Functional Component for Space at U.S. Strategic Command told a subcommittee hearing in mid-March.

And speaking before a recent aerospace forum, the head of Strategic Command Navy Admiral Cecil Haney also sharply warned that space threats are evolving so fast that, if employed now, they “potentially threaten national sovereignty and survival.” “After years of post-Cold War stagnation, our adversaries have become re-energized and re-motivated to challenge our long-held advantage in space and cyberspace. We must take decisive action now,“ said Hyten. (3/19)

Cygnus to Take Flight Tuesday Aboard Atlas 5 Rocket From Florida (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A hundred days after the last U.S. commercial resupply of the International Space Station by a Cygnus cargo ship launched atop an Atlas 5 rocket, the booster and freighter duo will do it again Tuesday. It was just three months ago when a ULA Atlas delivered Orbital ATK’s Cygnus — the S.S. Deke Slayton II — into orbit from a pad at Cape Canaveral. That cargo ship spent 72 days at the station to drop off over 7,000 pounds of supplies and take away 3,000 pounds of trash.

The plan is identical this time, too, with the new S.S. Rick Husband, named for the fallen commander of space shuttle Columbia, filled with nearly four tons of cargo headed for the station atop an Atlas 5. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 is scheduled for 11:05 p.m. EDT on Tuesday night, at the opening of a window that runs 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the exact moment when the orbital plane of the station passes over the launch pad. (3/19)

Can Orbital ATK Turn Old Satellites Into New Money? (Source: Motley Fool)
Everything old is new again. Six months ago, Lockheed Martin blew probably its best chance at winning a contract under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services program. It blew it by inflating the cost of its bid -- asking NASA to pay not just for the cost of delivering supply capsules to the ISS, but trying to get the government to also fund development of a new "space tug" that would help push the capsules toward ISS, then remain in orbit for other duties.

NASA balked at that prospect. But as we learned earlier this week, another customer thinks space tugs are a pretty keen idea -- and this one's willing to pay for them. The customer in question is satellite operator Intelsat. But -- bad news for Lockheed Martin here -- the supplier of tug services will be not Lockheed, but Orbital ATK.

Orbital Sciences is developing a self-propelled robotic spaceship that can be launched into orbit, then operate in orbit as a mobile servicer of other satellites. When an old satellite runs out of fuel, and ceases to be able to maneuver, or its orbit degrades unexpectedly, such a satellite is usually written off as a loss. (3/19)

Let's Get Small (Source: SpaceKSC)
What's a satellite? When we use the word, we tend to think of artificial satellites — “a device designed to be launched into orbit around the earth, another planet, the sun, etc.” Until recently, we think of artificial satellites as very large.

Take for example TerreStar-1, the self-proclaimed largest commercial satellite ever built, launched in July 2009. It had a launch mass of about 15,000 pounds, or 7,000 kilograms. TerreStar filed for bankruptcy in October 2010. “Analysts estimated the cost of the satellite, launch and insurance to exceed $500 million.”

But if you're willing to go small, you can launch your own satellite into space for a few thousand dollars. Anticipating the demand to launch small payloads, Kennedy Space Center in July 2015 dedicated Launch Pad 39C. According to the KSC Partnerships page, “Launch Pad 39C will serve as a multi-purpose site allowing companies to test vehicles and capabilities in the smaller class of rockets, making it more affordable for smaller companies to break into the commercial spaceflight market.” (3/19)

The Mercury 13 Women Who Never Got to Fly (Source: Alamogordo Daily News)
At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the tiny satellite that triggered the Space Race Oct. 4, 1957.  The launch inspired new political, technological, and scientific developments, and set the stage for a series of Russian firsts. The Soviets accomplished the first human space flight on April 12, 1961, by launching cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space.

Curiously, unlike the previous firsts, Tereshkova’s 1963 flight did not compel the U.S. to launch an American woman into orbit, even though, three years earlier, 13 female pilots of Dr. Randy Lovelace’s Albuquerque-based and privately funded Woman in Space Program were testing and passing the first phase of strenuous physiological and psychological exams that the male Mercury astronauts were undergoing.  Unfortunately, the women never got the opportunity to fly.

Dr. Lovelace’s Woman in Space Program ran from 1960 to 1962 and produced the “Mercury 13,” the first U.S. women to test for space travel. Eastern Michigan University’s Dr. Philip M. Tartalone will present Friday a special program at the Museum of Space History that will explore the genesis of the Woman in Space Program, the personalities involved, the testing, and the social mores of the early 1960s that ultimately doomed the program. (3/19)

No comments: