April 29, 2016

NASA’s Challenge: Making Meals That Can Last Five Years (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA is taking a hard look, sometimes in unconventional ways, at what astronauts consume, as part of the agency’s plans to undertake human deep-space voyages that will separate human explorers from their normal food choices and health care services for months to years.

Over time, nutrition could become as essential to mission success as robust life support and propulsion systems. Ensuring the right balance between calories and nutrients vital to the health of astronauts—who are already fighting bone and muscle loss due to the absence of gravity, deteriorating immune systems and even changes to their eyesight—could lead to a reevaluation of the whole culinary experience due to the limited storage volume of the modest space habitats NASA envisions.

There is also the uncertain resupply chain. “For a Mars mission, we will probably have to send that food 2-2.5 years ahead of the time the crew actually starts to consume it. What they eat on the return trip is probably going to be 5-7 years old,” says Vickie Kloeris, who manages NASA’s Space Food Systems Laboratory (SFSL), of the logistics challenge that will mean prestaging many supplies on the red planet ahead of the first human explorers. Click here. (4/27)

Heavy Metal Tribute Band Honors Elon Musk (Source: The Verge)
What sort of music do you imagine Elon Musk listens to when he's looking over SpaceX rocket designs at home? Smooth jazz, perhaps? Some country, or show tunes? No. When Musk is hanging out in his secret lair with his secret robot butlers he turns to one genre: power metal. Only power metal's ceaseless rhythms and symphonic splendor can match Musk's soaring ambition, and now, one band has had the courage to try and capture this spirit in musical form.

Raptor Command are a self-described "heavy metal tribute to Elon Musk" and their first single is the no-nonsense "Elon: Champion for Humanity." The lyrics are vaguely focused around the idea of Musk flying a Falcon 9 rocket to Mars, but more broadly they're about his often-stated desire to see humanity become a multi-planetary species. (And maybe they want Musk to be, like, president of the world?) The chorus goes: "Elon, champion for humanity / He'll take the world beyond the stars  / Elon, one to lead us all / The champion for the future of humanity." Click here. (4/29)

World View Raises Investment for "Stratollite" Balloons (Source: Space News)
World View has raised $15 million to develop a new class of high-altitude balloons. The company plans to use the Series B round to work on "Stratollites," balloons that can operate in the stratosphere for extended period of time, remaining over the same location or traveling extended distances. The company anticipates using them for communications, remote sensing and weather applications traditionally performed by satellites or other aerial systems. The company is still developing its high-altitude passenger balloon system, which will use some of the technology being developed for its Stratollites. (4/29)

SpaceVR Raises Investment for Overview 1 Satellite (Source: Silicon Valley Business Journal)
A company developing space-related virtual reality applications has raised $1.25 million. SpaceVR raised the seed round to work on a small satellite, Overview 1, that will provide a virtual reality view of the Earth from space. The company is planning a technology demonstration satellite for launch in early 2017. (4/29)

House Bill Expands RD-180 Access, Focuses Spending on Replacement Engine (Source: Space News)
A House bill not only increases the number of RD-180 engines, but also focuses funding for work on a replacement engine. An amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act passed in a marathon markup session Wednesday instructs the Air Force to spend money for a next generation launcher almost entirely on development of a main engine for that vehicle. That amendment is good news for Aerojet Rocketdyne, which already received Air Force funding for work on its AR1, but may disrupt other Air Force contracts awarded to Orbital ATK, SpaceX, and ULA. (4/29)

SpaceX GPS Launch Bid Comes In Lower Than USAF Expected (Source: Florida Today)
The contract the Air Force awarded to SpaceX this week for a GPS satellite launch was 40 percent below its estimate. SpaceX bid $82.7 million for launching the satellite, winning the contract after United Launch Alliance declined to bid. Despite the lack of a ULA bid, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said the competition was still "very successful." Another competition for a GPS satellite launch is planned for May or June. (4/28)

SES Buys Controlling Stake in O3b (Source: Space News)
SES is buying a controlling stake in broadband constellation O3b Networks. SES announced Friday it was increasing its holding in O3b from 49.1 percent to 50.5 percent, giving it control over the company. SES is spending $20 million to acquire those additional shares, and has committed to buying the remaining 49.5 percent of the company for $710 million by October 2017 unless O3b decides to do an IPO.

O3b operates 12 satellites in medium Earth orbit to provide broadband services primarily between 45 degrees north and south of the Equator. The company has eight additional satellites on order for launches by 2019 and is also considering placing satellites in high-inclination orbits to serve higher latitudes. (4/29)

GAO Sides With NASA On $451M IT Contract
NASA adequately assessed potential risks in awarding a $451 million information technology contract to SAIC based on an “aggressive” approach to reducing staff, the Government Accountability Office said in a bid protest decision. NASA properly assigned SAIC's proposal only a non-fatal weakness based on the reduction plan — which didn't completely justify how those reductions would be achieved and was found to be unrealistic — the GAO said in denying a bid protest from competitor CACI. (4/28)

SpaceX's "Red Dragon" Mission Leverages NASA Support (Source: Space News)
The Red Dragon concept, using a relatively unmodified version of the Dragon spacecraft to land on Mars, is not new. Studies of the Red Dragon concept date back to early this decade, when SpaceX and a NASA team based primarily at the Ames Research Center jointly examined the idea of using a Dragon spacecraft to land on Mars and carry science equipment.

“Dragon launched on Falcon Heavy would be a cost effective option for future missions,” concluded an October 2011 report prepared by the NASA/SpaceX team on that initial Red Dragon study. It concluded that Dragon would be able to handle all aspects of entry, descent and landing (EDL) on Mars “with margin,” and deliver more than one metric ton of payload to the surface. That is more than the mass of the Curiosity rover NASA landed on Mars in 2012.

NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman briefly mentioned the revised agreement with SpaceX in an April 27 blog post that broadly discusses the agency’s commercial partnerships. “In exchange for Martian entry, descent, and landing data from SpaceX, NASA will offer technical support for the firm’s plan to attempt to land an uncrewed Dragon 2 spacecraft on Mars,” she wrote. (4/28)

NASA Releases its Zika Virus Forecast Map (Source: SpaceAim)
NASA has created a map to better target the future spread of the deadliest animal on the planet, the female Aedes aegypti mosquito. The map shows the likelihood the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes being present in a given city. It applies factors such as temperature, amount of rainfall, poverty levels and travel to the United States from Zika-affected areas of the world.

The cities in the study with the highest potential risk include Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville in Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans. (4/28)

Made In Space Taps Northrop Grumman as Subcontractor (Source: Via Satellite)
Northrop Grumman is serving as subcontractor to Made In Space, a nascent space company developing a product to enable additive manufacturing — or 3-D printing — aggregation and assembly of large and complex systems in space without astronaut Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA). Made In Space achieved success in two previous or 3-D printing endeavors and applied lessons to Archinaut, its latest project, according to Jason Dunn, the company’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and co-founder.

Made In Space first developed a 3-D printing demonstrator before creating a commercially operated, more robust printer called Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF). Both projects are currently on the International Space Station (ISS) and Dunn said AMF, awaiting installation, is set to start printing within roughly one week. (4/26)

Why Arizona Can Win in the Next Frontier of Space (Source: Phoenix Business Journal)
While at the Space Symposium, I had a chance to meet with people charting direction for government space organizations. We also had the opportunity to listen to a handful of new space pioneers who may well drive the traditional company approaches to the sidelines.

For Arizona, changes in the space industry present an amazing opportunity. Although not generally known, we have a “space base” here in Arizona that has significant, real experience in commercial, civil and defense arenas. Not only do we have some of the industry giants in the state, but we have bold, nimble, smaller companies like KinetX Aerospace and Worldview, plus a very vibrant startup community. With expertise from both sides, Arizona is well-positioned to play a commanding role in the next phase of space exploration. (4/28)

Why Putting Something in Orbit is Getting So Much Cheaper (Source: Newsweek)
Rocket travel was supposed to zip us around the solar system like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, but that future—with goofy space suits and ray guns—never materialized. In fact, for most of the past few decades, space travel has been pretty blah: No one has even walked on the moon since 1972, and Mars seems as far off as it was for Galileo.

Even the space shuttle is grounded.But there has been one huge leap in the past decade: The declining cost of putting something in orbit. That is opening up space to the private sector and making it possible to put all sorts of new things up there. The shuttle promised to be able to put stuff in low Earth orbit, where most satellites live, for $1,000 per pound. It never got close—NASA’s numbers led to a calculation of about $8,000 a pound, although others put the figure much higher.

In recent years, that math has been changing, in part due to private rocket companies. SpaceX tends to get the most attention, but Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are also getting into the business of space cargo. Cheaper rockets, according to SpaceNews senior staff writer Jeff Foust, have put pressure on the traditional players: France’s Arianespace; ULA, which handles mostly U.S. government contracts; and International Launch Services. (4/28)

Japan Looks Set to Dominate 'Newspace' in Asia; India, China in Play (Source: Forbes)
There is a lot of excitement about the concept of “newspace,” loosely meaning cutting-edge frontiers in commercial space development. Newer, smaller, and potentially transformative businesses from Blue Origin to Terra Bella are today bringing forth what can best be described as a revolution in space affairs (RSA). The Space Angels Network, which helps to discover, select, and invest in startups, projects that the global space economy will grow from over $300 billion today to $600 billion by 2030.

In Asia, where governments continue to be important shapers of space trajectories, the landscape is uneven. Perhaps no country is better poised to harness the new trends than Japan. It has significant advantages in the contemporary space realities – top-level government support of the private sector, the shift to a national security paradigm, and the elevation of space in the U.S.-Japan alliance that promises to grow in new ways.

Prime Minister Abe has made the support of space in the private sector one of his top priorities. Most people think that his administration’s policy pronouncements are only relevant for the usual big suspects in Japan’s space industry – MHI, IHI, Melco, NEC, for example. But there is an entirely different class of entrants worth noting, and for whom this prioritization also matters. Click here. (4/28)

BlackSky Inks Partnership with United Nations to Enhance Global Decision-Making (Source: Parabolic Arc)
BlackSky, a satellite-imaging-as-a-service company, today announced that it has established an official partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). UNITAR, created in 1965, is an autonomous body within the United Nations that was formed to develop capacities to enhance global decision-making and support country-level action for shaping a better future.

BlackSky officially announced its commercial entry into satellite imagery in June 2015, with initial operating capability in 2017 and plans for a 60-satellite constellation in the coming years. This will enable the company to provide cost-effective, high-resolution, rapid-revisit satellite imaging services, capturing all of the Earth’s populated area. (4/28)

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