March 9, 2016

Ariane 5 Launches Eutelsat (Source: Space News)
An Ariane 5 successfully launched a Eutelsat communications satellite overnight. The Ariane 5 lifted off from French Guiana at 12:20 a.m. Eastern Wednesday and placed the Eutelsat 65 West A satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. The launch was the second straight Ariane 5 mission that carried only one satellite, contrary to Arianespace's usual approach of launching two satellites at a time. Eutelsat, like Intelsat before it, was willing to pay a premium to accelerate the launch of its satellite. (3/9)

Intelsat Likes Orbital's Satellite Servicing Spacecraft (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Orbital ATK is nearing a satellite servicing deal with Intelsat. The agreement, which could be announced as soon as next month, will be the first contract for Orbital's Mission Extension Vehicle, a spacecraft that would attach to a satellite to help extend that satellite's life. Intelsat had previously worked on another satellite servicing concept with MDA, but cancelled that agreement in 2012. (3/8)

Skybox is now Terra Bella (Source: VentureBeat)
A Google-owned satellite imaging company has a new name and business model. Skybox Imaging announced Tuesday it had changed its name to Terra Bella. The company, founded in 2009 to develop small, high-resolution imaging satellites, was acquired by Google in 2014 for $500 million. Terra Bella still has plans to deploy more than a dozen imaging satellites over the next few years, but will move beyond providing just imagery to a variety of information products using that imagery and other data sources. (3/8)

SpaceX Brings Landing Barge to Cape Canaveral (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX's "drone ship" returned to port Tuesday with what appeared to be debris from Friday's attempted Falcon 9 first stage landing. Photos of the ship as it arrived at Port Canaveral, Florida, showed what appeared to be "charred debris" on its deck, presumably from the Falcon 9 that attempted to land there on the company's latest launch. That landing, the fourth attempt by SpaceX to land the stage on a ship, was considered to have lows odds of success given the mission's profile. (3/8)

Spaceport America OKd for Booze Service (Source: AP)
You'll now be able to get a drink before your flight at Spaceport America. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill Tuesday that allows the state-owned spaceport to seek a liquor license. That license is primarily intended to be used for events hosted by the spaceport, as it seeks to diversity its customer base and revenue beyond spaceflight activities. (3/8)

First Tomatoes, Peas Harvested from Mock Martian Farm (Source: Space Daily)
Round two of the Martian farming experiment at Wageningen University and Research Center in the Netherlands has proven more successful than the last. This week, researchers announced a bountiful harvest from soil designed to mimic the makeup of Martian soil. Harvested crops included tomatoes, peas, rye, garden rocket, radish and garden cress. (3/8)

Lockheed Ducks Most Of Racial Discrimination Suit at Stennis (Source: Law 360)
A Louisiana federal judge tossed most of a former Lockheed Martin employee’s race discrimination suit Monday after the terminated worker conceded he did not qualify as a protected whistleblower and that misconduct alleged under Louisiana law had actually occurred across the river in Mississippi.

With no opposition from Mark Javery — the former operations manager for a preventative maintenance program at NASA’s Stennis, Mississippi, facility, where Lockheeed contracted to support rocket engine tests — U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey tossed his claims for retaliation. (3/8)

Google Satellites Will Now Do Much More Than Just Update Your Maps (Source: TNW)
Google likes maps. To make better maps, the company bought Skybox Imaging back in 2014, which helped to keep Google’s satellite imagery up-to-date, with nearly 100,000 images since the launch of the company’s first satellite. Now Skybox Imaging wants to venture further than just helping keep your local city map updated; it looks towards “pioneering the search for patterns of change in the physical world.” In order to reflect that new mentality, the company has been rebranded under a new name: Terra Bella.

Terra Bella will continue to deploy satellites, but now that it’s fully a Google company (which, in turn, is owned by Alphabet), it can work “with a wide array of geospatial data sources, machine learning capabilities, and experts” in order to “transform raw imagery into data to help people and organizations make more informed decisions.”

Its website shows off some of the ways its satellites can provide a view of how the world is evolving, such as construction development, monitoring shipping port traffic, or filming natural disasters live. It seems the company will be taking a different track from the original rumors that suggested Skybox Imaging would be used for cloud services after the acquisition. Whatever the case, we’ll find out soon, Terra Bella says it will share more about the products it’s developing and how users can access them later this year. (3/8)

Treasury Isn't Moving to Sanction Russian Rocket-Engine Maker (Source: Bloomberg)
The U.S. Treasury Department has reaffirmed that it’s not imposing sanctions on the Russian company that makes rocket engines used to launch U.S. national-security satellites, providing the latest twist in a two-year dispute.

Since Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Ukraine, U.S. Senator John McCain has campaigned against continued purchases of the engines made by NPO Energomash. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says the company is “controlled by two sanctioned cronies” of the Russian president, Sergei Chemezov, chief executive officer of Rostec State Corp., and Deputy Foreign Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (3/7)

Introducing SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, the Most Powerful Rocket in the World (Source: Mic)
When SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launches later this year, it will be the largest operational rocket in the world. Its debut could mark a major shift in commercial spaceflight because it will be the only reusable, and therefore cheaper (if SpaceX can reliably land and relaunch it) heavy-lift rocket available for contract. Here's everything you need to know about it. (3/8)

It's Time for America to Start Worrying About Losing the Space Race (Source: Inverse)
Since the United States beat the Soviet Union to the moon, America has enjoyed almost a half-century of uncontested space supremacy. Yet, if the U.S. doesn’t make an effort to finance the pursuit of new frontiers and technologies, it could find itself losing its orbital empire.

That’s the conclusion behind a report issued last Friday by a 12-group coalition at the National Press Club. The report suggests that the key to making sure the U.S. continues to maintain an unrivaled leadership in space includes completing a crewed launch system, drafting stable NASA budgets with adequate funding, and doing more with international partners on various different projects like the International Space Station.

It’s easy to see why people are afraid that the country’s space leadership is threatened. Competing countries and private companies are making serious efforts to break into space mining while the ground is soft. Some countries are forging partnerships with each other and excluding the U.S. from their space exploration projects. (3/8)

Why SpaceX Will Be at the Center of the NASA Hearings This Week (Source: DC Inno)
SpaceX and its rivals in the commercial space flight industry will be watching closely as President Obama's proposed $19 billion 2017 NASA budget comes under Congressional scrutiny on Wednesday. The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce is holding a hearing with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden about the budget and the arguments over costs and priorities will likely put the Commercial Crew program right in the cross-hairs.

NASA created the program, which SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada are all part of, as a way of encouraging the development of commercial manned spaceflight that would handle Earth orbit missions, freeing up NASA resources for longer-term plans like missions to Mars. That also frees up money for other scientific research and programs. But it's not going to come easy if the fight over the Commercial Crew funding for SpaceX last year is any guide.

Republican Congressional leaders overseeing the budget don't like NASA's roadmap for manned spaceflight. The argument they make is that NASA should be putting more resources into building its own super-heavy rocket if it wants to go to Mars, the SLS rocket. The budget for that rocket, has been boosted by Congress for the last five years above what the president and NASA proposed. (3/8)

Blue Origin Plans Growth Spurt This Year (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin plans to grow significantly over the next year as the company ramps up development of its BE-4 engine and an orbital launch vehicle, while continuing a series of test flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle. In a first-of-its-kind media tour of the company’s headquarters here March 8, Blue Origin executives, including founder Jeff Bezos, said that the company’s multiple lines of work will lead it to hire several hundred people this year.

“We’re at 600 people now, and we’re going to be, over the next year, going above 1,000,” Bezos said. “A lot of the people that we’re hiring will be for BE-4 and for our orbital launch vehicle.” The total could approach 1,200 employees, he added, counting the company’s development of a manufacturing facility and launch site in Florida for its orbital launch vehicle.

That projected growth in its workforce is forcing Blue Origin to take several measures to accommodate those new employees. “We’re busting out of the seams right now,” Bezos said of its headquarters, which covers nearly 28,000 square meters. The company is renovating part of the building to make room for additional offices, and just leased space in a nearby office building. (3/8)

Blue Origin Plans Engine Production at New Site After Initial Runs (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin is also planning revisions to its Washington-based factory floor this year to accommodate development and initial production of the BE-4. That includes a “BE-4 highway” that individual engines will follow during their assembly, culminating in a two-story platform where final assembly of the engines, about six meters tall, is performed.

Blue Origin plans to carry out initial, low-rate production of the BE-4 at its headquarters, building up to 12 a year for use on the company’s own launch vehicle and, as currently planned, United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan launch vehicle. The company plans to later develop a separate BE-4 manufacturing facility for higher-rate production, and is considering a range of potential sites for that factory. (3/8)

Space Race Losers? US Leadership in Danger, Report Warns (Source:
The United States could lose its long-held leadership position in space science, technology and exploration if the country doesn't renew its commitment to those fields soon, a coalition of space-industry organizations has warned.

Such a commitment should include the completion of a crewed launch system, stable NASA budgets and continued partnerships with other nations on projects such as the International Space Station, said the 12-group coalition, which jointly presented a white paper at the National Press Club on Friday (March 4). Click here. (3/8)

Blue Origin Aims for Passenger Flights in 2018 (Source: Reuters)
Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin expects to begin crewed test flights of its reusable suborbital New Shepard vehicle next year and begin flying paying passengers in 2018, Bezos said. Bezos’ remarks, made during the first ever media tour of the Blue Origin manufacturing facility, marked the first time the billionaire founder of had put a target date on the start of the commercial space flights Blue Origin is developing. (3/8)

Lockheed Aims to Build Satellites 40 Percent Quicker, Lower Costs (Source: Reuters)
Lockheed Martin, known for making big, expensive military satellites that take years to complete, is setting ambitious targets for lowering costs, shortening the time it takes to build new satellites, and adopting new technologies.

Rick Ambrose, who heads Lockheed's space business, said his goal over the next three to five years was to shorten the time it took to develop a new satellite by 40 percent, and to get to a point where satellites could be reprogrammed for new missions while already in orbit. Lockheed is scrambling to become more agile and lower its costs as the U.S. Air Force nears decisions on how to replace and augment the large missile warning and protected communications satellites that Lockheed builds. (3/8)

Russian Rocket Engines and China’s ICBM Force (Source: The Hill)
Pentagon leaders have identified Russia and China as the top military threats in a new budget proposal sent to Capitol Hill. Yet at the same time, the U.S. continues to rely on heavy-lift rocket engines from Russia to power its most reliable launch vehicle for national security missions.

As the U.S. military focuses on countering the aggressive behavior of Russia and China, the government simultaneously undercuts that effort by supporting the military industrial complexes of both countries while putting its own space activities at increasing risk. Click here. (3/8)

UAE Sets Sight on Space, to Launch Four More Satellites by 2020 (Source: Khaleej Times)
The UAE will be sending into orbit four more commercial, communication and governmental satellites by 2020 apart from eight CAN or Cube satellites that are for educational purposes, said Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency.

The satellite program is part of the UAE ambitions in space and outer atmosphere. The Mars probe announced last year has already gathered steam as the UAE Space Agency has entered into MoUs with the world's leading nations who have expertise in satellite technology. The director-general said that the country, which is already leading the Arab and Muslim world in satellite technology, has already sent six satellites for communication, environment and defence purposes. (3/8)

United Nations Aerospace Workshop Begins in Costa Rica (Source: Costa Rica Star)
The Workshop is organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in cooperation with the Government of Costa Rica and co-organized by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), as part of the Human Space Technology Initiative (HSTI) within the framework of the United Nations Program on Space Applications.

The Workshop brings together senior experts, professionals, and decision-makers from public sectors, academia and industries worldwide. The Workshop participants will exchange information on achievements in human space programmes and discuss how to promote international cooperation by further facilitating the participation of developing countries in human space exploration-related activities. (3/7)

NASA Launches Suborbital Rocket from Wallops Flight Facility (Source: Virginian-Pilot)
A suborbital sounding rocket successfully launched this morning from the Wallops Flight Facility. The Terrier-Improved Orion rocket lifted off just after 7 a.m., carrying three new technologies to the microgravity environment of suborbital space, according to a NASA news release and the live broadcast.

The technologies on board are the Radiation Tolerant Computer System (RadPC) from Montana State University, the Vibration Isolation Platform (VIP) from Controlled Dynamics in California and Sub-Orbital Aerodynamic Re-entry Experiments-9 from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, according to the release. The rocket reached more than 99 miles altitude and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean afterward. Crews recovered the payload. (3/8)

Meteorite Hunters Find 6 Space Rocks from Florida Fireball (Source:
Meteorite hunters in Florida have found six space rocks associated with a rare daytime fireball that streaked through the Sunshine State's skies on Jan. 24. The newfound meteorite assemblage was the sixth recorded from Florida, and the first one linked to a fireball observed by witnesses, experts said. (The other meteorites were uncovered beneath layers of Earth long after they fell.) (2/24)

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