April 20, 2016

Local and State Incentives Were Key to OneWeb Florida Site Selection (Source: Reuters)
OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said that the Space Coast’s aerospace and engineering workforce, plus up to about $20 million in financial incentives from the state and county, were key to the company’s decision on where to base the 100,000 square foot plant.

Space Florida also plans to spend up to about $80 million to build and equip the factory, which will then be leased to OneWeb, Space Florida President Frank DiBello said. Also, the local incentive support is part of a North Brevard Economic Development Zone initiative established recently facilitate economic development in the wake of the Shuttle program's retirement.

Editor's Note: So I would call this a $100 million incentive package, because Space Florida's facility investment is obviously one of their tax-beneficial "special-purpose entity" lease-back deals, allowing OneWeb to claim equipment and facility depreciation costs despite being leased. Depending on the terms they reached, OneWeb could end up owning the facility/equipment after Space Florida's financing debt is retired. (4/20)

Embry-Riddle Telescope Tracks Damaged Hitomi Satellite (Source: Space Daily)
Engineering Physics students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Daytona Beach Campus have made several high-cadence telescope observations of the recently damaged Hitomi X-ray satellite and several of its debris pieces.

Hitomi, also known as ASTRO-H, was a Japanese X-ray astronomy satellite that was launched in February. The $275 million spacecraft was 46 feet long when deployed and weighed 6,000 lbs. It carried a number of scientific instruments, including a unique device called an X-ray microcalorimeter that was intended to investigate the evolution and large-scale structure of the universe, dark matter distribution, how matter behaves in high-gravity areas like black holes, and other high-energy phenomena. (4/20)

Khrunichev Gets Bailout From Roscosmos (Source: Space News)
The Russian government is bailing out debt-ridden Khrunichev to get the launch vehicle manufacturer on the path to profitability. Roscosmos is providing Khrunichev with loans and subsidies to help it pay debts owed to suppliers and others. That will be followed by a "broad strategic reorganization" of the company through the end of the decade, putting it on track for sustained profitability into the 2020s. Khrunichev is best known as the manufacturer of the Proton and Angara launch vehicles. (4/20)

NASA Seeks Proposals for Deep Space Habitation Prototypes (Source: NASA)
NASA is soliciting proposals for the development of prototypes for deep space habitats that will give astronauts a place to call home during long-duration missions supporting the agency’s Journey to Mars.

The solicitation, Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2), is a follow-on to the NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) released in October 2014 and requesting industry proposals for concept studies and technology development projects in the areas of habitation, advanced propulsion and small satellites.

NASA’s Orion crew spacecraft and Space Launch System are the agency’s first major components for establishing a human presence in deep space. With these transportation systems progressing toward their maiden flight in 2018, NASA now is looking toward investments in deep space habitation -- the next major component of human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. (4/20)

Space Agencies Forced to ‘Sing for Their Supper’ (Source: The National)
Decades after the Moon landings, the stars look very different for explorers, and the crews of the International Space Station are as much entertainers as they are space scientists. So there you are, zooming along at 27,600 kilometres an hour in the International Space Station, poised to take a photograph of Dubai as seen from more than 400 kilometres above the Earth, when along comes another spacecraft and photobombs your snap.

What are the chances of that happening? Well, next to none. But the wholly implausible conceit was happily swallowed whole by the world’s media last week when British astronaut Tim Peake tweeted a photograph of the coastline of Dubai, partially obscured by the unmanned SpaceX Dragon spaceship.

Of course, Peake and his fellow astronauts knew all about the much-anticipated arrival of Dragon, a moment that had been years in the planning. Minutes after he claimed on Twitter to have been photobombed, he was busy with the real job in hand, deploying a robotic arm to grab and dock Dragon, the latest cargo ship to arrive at the space station. (4/20)

Space-Grown Mouse Embryos Are a Step Toward Human Colonization (Source: Motherboard)
Chinese scientists are creeping a tiny bit closer to the future dream of humans colonizing and reproducing in space. They’ve succeeded, reports the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in developing early-stage mouse embryos aboard the SJ-10, a satellite that was launched into orbit on April 6 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gansu Province.

“This research is a very first step for [we humans] to make interstellar travel and planet colonization come true,” Enkui Duan, the principal investigator of the space mouse embryos project and a researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Stem Cell and Reproductive Biology in Beijing told me over email.

I caught Duan as he spent a sleepless night travelling to retrieve the mouse embryos (some of which survived) from Sizi Wangqi in Inner Mongolia—where the SJ-10 satellite landed on April 18—and back again to his team’s lab in Beijing for further analysis. (4/19)

India to Launch Navigation Satellite on April 28, Complete Full System (Source: Indian Express)
India is slated to put into orbit its seventh and final navigation satellite on April 28, thereby having its full satellite navigation system up in the sky, said a senior space agency official. The IRNSS-1G (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System-1G) will be deployed by a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). (4/20)

SpaceTEC Schools-to-Space Program Assists Student STEM Experiments (Source: LinkedIn0
SpaceTEC’s Schools-to-Space Program (www.schools-to-space.com) is a proud co-sponsor of 10 student teams that were selected by Teachers in Space as winners of its Airbus Perlan Mission II CubeSat Flight Experiment contest.

The teams, who come from schools in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, Oregon, and Puerto Rico, will be the first scientists in history to test global warming and other theories by capturing uncontaminated gases from the stratosphere as part of Airbus Perlan Mission II. The experiments will be flown onboard the Perlan 2 glider up to 90,000 feet this fall, where the air density and temperature are similar to the atmosphere of Mars. The two-seat glider has no engine and is carried aloft only by air currents, called stratospheric mountain waves. Click here. (4/19)

NASA Plans Major Test of Drone Management System (Source: CIO)
A NASA-developed air traffic control system for drones could take a major step forward this week when up to 24 drones take to the skies from locations across the U.S. in the agency's first coordinated test. Called UTM, for unmanned aircraft system traffic management, the platform is seen as a key safety system that would allow greater numbers of drones to fly in the sky and avoid mid-air collisions with piloted aircraft and other drones.

It allows drone operators to enter a flight plan and request clearance for the flight. The system checks the plan for conflicts with other planned drone flights and accepts or rejects it. For example, a farmer could program a drone flight above her land, effectively reserving it for a certain period of time, and then carry out the flight in the knowledge that a delivery drone scheduled to arrive at the same time will automatically calculate a path to avoid a collision. (4/18)

Rogozin: Vostochny Will Be Ready for Next Week's Inaugural Launch (Source: Tass)
Russia's new spaceport will be ready in time for its first launch next week. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday that the Vostochny Cosmodrome will be ready as soon as Wednesday to support its first launch. That launch, of a Soyuz-2 rocket carrying several small satellites, is scheduled for April 27. (4/19)

Fermi Scientists Are (Probably) Fooling Themselves About Gamma Rays From Black Holes (Source: Forbes)
On September 14th, 2015, the Advanced LIGO detectors in Hanover, WA and Livingston, LA, both detected a strong, coherent and compelling gravitational wave signal: the first direct detection of such an event. After theoretical and experimental research and development work spanning five decades, an unambiguous signal lasting just 20 milliseconds was recorded, consistently, in both detectors.

As a result, we saw the incredible: two black holes, 36 and 29 solar masses apiece, completed their inspiral and merged together, creating a 62 solar mass black hole in the end, spinning at 67% the speed of light, while radiating the other three solar masses away in the form of gravitational waves, having converted them into pure energy from Einstein’s E = mc^2. (4/19)

Four Ways NASA is Teaching Us How to Live More Sustainably (Source: BBC)
Astronauts who spend months on end in orbit have to learn to make do and mend in the best tradition of sustainability. Missions to bring fresh supplies are expensive and time consuming. For any astronauts who take on a mission to Mars, planned for the 2030s, with the round trip likely to take two years, life would be even tougher.

That prospect has helped focus minds at NASA, on clever ways to provide for daily needs in challenging conditions. But the lessons being learned are also proving to have knock-on benefits down here on Earth. Click here. (4/19)

Even an Embezzled Diamond-Encrusted Mercedes Can’t stop Russian Launch (Source: Ars Technica)
Russia began working on a new spaceport, the Vostochny Cosmodrome, in 2011. Located in the far east of Russia, the modern, $3 billion facility is one of President Vladimir Putin's signature projects. Yet it has been beset by hunger strikes, claims of unpaid workers, and other challenges.

For example, in 2015, Russia’s Prosecutor General reported that $126 million had been stolen during construction. Additionally, a man driving a diamond-encrusted Mercedes was arrested after embezzling $75,000 from the project. However, after a visit by Putin in October, the project appears to have swiftly progressed. (4/19)

Entrepreneur Naveen Jain Fleshes Out Plans for BlueDot Innovation Factory (Source: Geek Wire)
Naveen Jain’s Moon Express is well along in its plans for a lunar mission next year, but the Seattle dot-com entrepreneur is also pursuing “moonshots” here on Earth through his BlueDot venture.

BlueDot, based in Bellevue, Wash., came into the open last November with the goal of turning the discoveries made at research institutions around the country into innovative products. At the time, Jain told GeekWire that the venture’s first technological targets would be charging devices that harvest ambient energy and non-invasive devices that detect pathogens.

CNBC reports that the venture has brought in $8.3 million in investment, which translates into a valuation of $60 million. And NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski has surfaced as the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer. That’s an interesting choice: Parazynski is an M.D. who served as John Glenn’s “personal physician” during his history-making space shuttle flight in 1998. (4/19)

Aerojet Wins $67 Million NASA Contract for Solar Electric Propulsion (Source: Geek Wire)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has won a $67 million contract from NASA to design and develop an advanced electric propulsion system that could power future trips to an asteroid and Mars. The goal of the 36-month project is to deliver an integrated system that could improve fuel efficiency by a factor of 10 over today’s chemical rocket propulsion systems, and double the thrust capability of current electric propulsion systems. (4/19)

How Alien Can a Planet Be and Still Support Life? (Source: Science News)
Just how fantastical a planet can be and still support recognizable life isn’t just a question for science fiction. Astronomers are searching the stars for otherworldly inhabitants, and they need a road map. Which planets are most likely to harbor life? That’s where geoscientists’ imaginations come in. Applying their knowledge of how our world works and what allows life to flourish, they are envisioning what kind of other planetary configurations could sustain thriving biospheres. Click here. (4/19)

Senate Spending Panel Leaves NSF Flat, Cuts NASA Science (Source: Science)
A Senate spending panel today approved a tiny budget increase next year for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and flat funding for NASA—and congratulated themselves for doing so given a cap on overall domestic discretionary spending across the government.

NSF would receive $46 million above its current level of $7.46 billion. That 0.6% hike is well below the $500 million increase sought by the Obama administration. But some $400 million of that requested boost would have come from so-called mandatory spending, a mechanism that legislators have repeatedly said was a nonstarter.

The discretionary portion of NASA’s budget would have shrunk by $1 billion under the president’s request. But the panel restored that cut, giving NASA essentially its 2016 budget of $19.3 billion. The agency’s science programs would receive $5.4 billion, some $194 million below current levels. But it’s $92 million more than the White House requested for science in the discretionary portion of its budget. Again, stay tuned for details. (4/19)

Senate Bill Gives NASA $19.3 Billion for 2017 (Source: Space News)
A fiscal year 2017 spending bill approved by a Senate appropriations subcommittee April 19 would give NASA $19.3 billion, nearly the same as 2016 but with a significant increase for the agency’s Space Launch System program.

The overall NASA funding in the commerce, justice and science (CJS) bill is $21 million above what the agency received in 2016. It is also $275 million above the administration’s overall request for NASA, which used a combination of discretionary and mandatory funds to get around spending caps, a maneuver this bill does not adopt. (4/19)

Dark Dwarf Galaxy Discovered (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Astronomers using the ALMA array of radio dishes have detected a dwarf galaxy 4 billion light-years away by the pull of its dark matter. A long time ago around a galaxy far, far away, a dwarf galaxy awaited discovery. This miniature galaxy is almost entirely dark matter dominated — it contains few, if any stars. Only by combining the power of dozens of radio dishes high in the Atacama Desert in Chile could astronomers spot the dark dwarf’s gravitational mark. (4/19)

Stay the Course: Continue America’s Progress in Space (Source: Space News)
There is growing awareness among the public, industry and policymakers of the value and importance of U.S. leadership in space exploration. Congressional support is broadening for Orion, SLS, the James Webb Space Telescope, and for the transition of human exploration to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. Public interest in planetary science missions such as the New Horizons Pluto flyby and early planning for a mission to Europa is also strong.

Private investment and entrepreneurial activity in space is increasing. Finally, space-related themes — present in advertising and marketing in the United States since Apollo — are enjoying a resurgence, with images and references appearing in campaigns ranging from the Make-A-Wish Foundation to music videos to the signature episode of a popular ad campaign for beer. All of these suggest a rising tide of interest in space exploration beyond traditional boundaries.

Leadership in space pays dividends to a broad array of stakeholders, not the least of which is the American taxpayer. The benefits of a national space program are well known and include gains in human knowledge, scientific discovery, technical innovation, and national aspiration and pride. In the case of human spaceflight, some of the most valuable benefits are strategic. (4/19)

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