March 24, 2016

NASA's Female Leaders Share Challenges of Working in Male-Dominated Field (Source:
They may have taken very different roads to arrive at their current jobs, but many of NASA's top female administrators have at least one thing in common: They have shared the experience of being a woman in a male-dominated field. Click here. (3/21)

IrazĂș Project: The First Satellite Made in Costa Rica (Source: KickStarter)
The first space program for satellite development in Central America with the objective of generating data for climate change analysis. Click here. (3/23)

Virgin Galactic Eyes Superonic Point-to-Point Passenger Market (Source: Guardian)
Virgin Galactic is getting into the supersonic airliner business. The Spaceship Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Virgin Galactic, has signed on to provide engineering, design and manufacturing services for a supersonic airliner planned by a startup company, Boom. Virgin also holds an option for the first 10 aircraft. Boom is developing a prototype of its 40-seat airliner in Colorado that could be ready for flight by the end of next year. (3/23)

Pakistan Opts Out of India-Led Satellite Project (Source: PTI)
Pakistan has no plans to participate in a satellite project being led by rival India. The proposed satellite was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a meeting of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in late 2014. Pakistan has decided to opt out of the project, India's minister for external affairs said this week, but did not disclose a reason. India plans to move ahead with the planned satellite, which would provide communications services for the region, with other SAARC member nations. (3/23)

Belgian Students Participating in Utah Mars Simulation (Source: Mars Society)
The terrorist attacks in Brussels this week had a space-related impact half a world away. Six Belgian university students are currently participating in a Mars simulation at a Mars Society analog base in Utah. The students were informed of the attacks, and decided to continue their two-week-long mission at the Mars Desert Research Station. "Despite this attack, we will remain on Mars until the end of our mission," said one member of the crew. (3/23)

New Chief for NASA's Astrobiology Institute (Source: NASA)
NASA has named a new director for the agency's Astrobiology Institute. Penny Boston, a professor of Earth and environmental sciences at New Mexico Tech, will take over as director of the institute, based at the Ames Research Center, on May 31. Boston has spent much of her career studying caves and the exotic life forms that exist there to better understand the potential adaptability of life elsewhere. Boston succeeds Carl Pilcher, who retired as director in 2013 but has been serving as a part-time interim director since 2014 during an extended search for a permanent director. (3/23)

Aldrin to Discuss Mars Plan at Space Congress Event in Cape Canaveral (Source: CCTS)
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin is scheduled to speak at the 44th Space Congress on Tuesday, May 24, at the Radisson Resort at the Port. He will be featured during the dinner banquet speaking about the future of space exploration: “Achieving the Impossible and Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars.”

Aldrin will be addressing the revolutionary transformations occurring in the aerospace industry, how these changes affect us today and where these changes will lead us tomorrow. His highest expectation for the future is human missions to Mars, which he will elaborate on during the banquet. Since retiring, Aldrin has remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure America’s continued leadership in human space exploration. (3/22)

Florida Will Bid on Blue Origin Engine Production Facility, If Time Comes (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Florida’s Space Coast would like to make a pitch to bring a new Blue Origin rocket engine production facility to Central Florida if the company’s billionaire owner, Jeff Bezos, opens up bidding. Space Florida would spearhead the effort. Dale Ketcham, the group’s chief of strategic alliances, said Florida would likely have to compete with states such as Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama to land the deal, but it would mean more lucrative jobs.

Blue Origin hasn’t announced an official location for the facility, which would manufacture the company's new BE-4 engine. Blue Origin announced a partnership with ULA in September to build the BE-4 for ULA's Vulcan spacecraft. Bezos has already announced that a new testing facility for the BE-4 engine would be located in Florida. The company is expected to break ground on the $200 million facility, which will bring 330 jobs, this summer. (3/23)

Inside Europe's Quest to Land a Rover on the Red Planet (Source:
The successful launch of Europe's first ExoMars mission last week set the stage for a much more ambitious second act: arover landing on the Red Planet. But the timing on that mission may not be so certain. Rolf de Groot, ESA's coordinator of robotic exploration, said it's going to be "very challenging"to have the mission fully prepared for its 2018 launch window but that program managers will know soon whether they'll have to start seriously thinking about a 2020 launch instead. (3/23)

DigitalGlobe Expands Contract with International Defense & Intelligence Customer (Source: DigitalGlobe)
DigitalGlobe announced an agreement to convert an existing letter of intent into a definitive agreement to extend and expand a contract with an existing international defense and intelligence customer. The contract was extended by four years, adding direct access to the WorldView-3 satellite. This agreement was included in the previously announced $38 million of incremental annual revenue starting in 2017 from contracts and letters of intent with international defense and intelligence customers. (3/23)

How the Moon Moved: Lunar Poles Have Wandered (Source:
The moon's poles have shifted over the eons, likely as a result of geological activity beneath the lunar crust, a new study suggests. This finding — which is based on an analysis of the distribution of water ice near the lunar north and south poles — sheds light on the structure and evolution of the moon, and also provides clues about where Earth's water came from, researchers said. (3/23)

NASA Looks to Test Planetary Defense Options on ARM Mission (Source:
When NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) launches next decade, the flight will not only be tasked with bringing a piece of an asteroid to lunar orbit, but also with testing vital planetary defense options that could enable the deflection of a collision-hazardous asteroid away from Earth. (3/23)

Zero2infinity Lays Out Goals for Balloon-Rocket Launch System (Source: Via Satellite)
Zero2infinity, a high altitude balloon company based in Spain, is making progress on a launch vehicle that uses the combination of a balloon and a rocket to deliver small satellites to Low Earth Orbit. Called Bloostar, the vehicle’s baseline design aims at carrying 75-kilogram payloads to a 600-kilometer Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO) for a price tag of about $4.5 million (4 million euros). The vehicle’s first orbital mission is currently slated for the second half of 2018, preceded by numerous suborbital development launches.

The logic behind Bloostar is that once the balloon carrying the payload reaches the stratosphere, it will have cleared more than 99 percent of the atmosphere, at which point a streamlined rocket can carry payloads the rest of the way to space. Lopez-Urdiales said the Bloostar rocket component would have an order of magnitude fewer parts than something launched from sea level. By shedding this complexity, Zero2infinity hopes to offer a unique and competitive dedicated SmallSat launch service. (3/23)

Report: The EmDrive Finally Will Undergo Peer Review (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The gist of EmDrive is that it's an engine that appears to gain intense amounts of propulsion via ambient microwave energy. Supposedly, this could make for spaceships that can gain speed without propellant in the vacuum of space. If it's true, then this technology would be a revolution in space—a way to drastically cut down on the mass of spaceships and keep them going by producing continuous thrust, bringing long voyages closer to reality.

In reality, of course, the EmDrive has always been dubious at best. A tenuous connection to NASA has made the idea sound more plausible, but it isn't. People get starry eyed at the idea of a low-power microwave drive that could propel humanity to the stars and forget the cardinal rule of technology: that if something seems to violate the law of physics, then there's probably something wrong with the analysis, not the physics.

Now, the International Business Times (no stranger to hyperbole and claims NASA is covering up UFOs) claims that the EmDrive is under peer review as we speak. IBT pulls this news from the NASA Spaceflight forum, where one member of the EmDrive team, Paul March, also says that the claims that Eagleworks (an experimental lab at Johnson Space Center) is dead are quite exaggerated. (3/23)

North Korea Conducts Ground Test of Solid-Fuel Rocket Engine (Source: Sputnik)
North Korea has conducted a ground test of a heavy-lift, solid-fuel rocket engine and its separation, Chinese media report. The test was monitored by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. According to Kim Jong Un, the successful test will help boost the power of North Korea’s ballistic missiles. (3/23)

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