April 7, 2016

Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics Announces Voluntary Layoff (Source: EpiqSpace)
Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics business area announced a voluntary layoff program that is targeted to reduce employment by approximately 1,000 positions at locations in the United States. The voluntary program is available to mid-level employee groups in Fort Worth, Texas; Marietta, Georgia; Palmdale, California; Meridian, Mississippi; Clarksburg, West Virginia; Patuxent River, Maryland; and Edwards Air Force Base, California. (3/8)

Northrop Grumman Plans Bid to Develop Next Generation GPS Satellites (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman confirmed Wednesday that it is bidding on a future batch of GPS 3 satellites. The company said it has submitted an "innovative" proposal that includes a navigation payload whose prototype was built and tested in 2015, and a "heritage space vehicle" proven to operate in medium Earth orbit. The Air Force is expected to award up to three study contracts later this year in advance of a competition in 2018 for an additional set of satellites. Lockheed Martin is building the first set of GPS 3 satellites. (4/6)

Boeing Nabs $275M USAF Deal For Ground-Based Space Tech (Source: Law 360)
The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday announced that it has awarded a unit of The Boeing Co. a $275 million contract to develop ground-based technology designed to boost “space superiority,” according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Boeing’s Directed Energy and Strategic Systems team will perform work under the contract at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, and in Maui, Hawaii, according to the DOD announcement, which was included in its daily posting of major military contract awards on Tuesday. (4/6)

The Latest Multimillionaire with an Out-of-This-World Idea for Space (Source: Washington Post)
The class of wealthy entrepreneurs who have turned their childhood space passions into emerging companies has been dominated by some of the biggest names in technology and business--Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Paul Allen. But now another wealthy, if lesser known, entrepreneur is about to join them on the public stage, unveiling his plans for how humans will finally spread out into the stars to stay.

On Friday, Robert Bigelow, who made millions with his extended stay hotels, is planning to send his expandable space habitat to the International Station. Once in orbit, the module will be attached to the station, inflated and then tested over a two-year period to see how it fares against the harsh environment of space. From time to time, the astronauts aboard the station will venture into the bedroom-sized pod--the first ever expandable habitat to be attached to the station, to take measurements. (4/6)

Nigeria Plans to Send an Astronaut to Space by 2030 (Source: CNN)
Nigeria has announced plans to send an astronaut into space by 2030, as part of its drive to develop a world-class space industry. "The space program is very important," said Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology, during a speech in the capital city Abuja. "Space is a major asset that Nigeria must be involved in for the purpose of protecting national interests."

A Nigerian Space Agency delegation will visit partners in China this month to discuss logistics and investment for a manned space mission, which would be the first by an African nation. Dr. Onu's announcement has been greeted with skepticism, partly as it came soon after a scam email demanding $3 million for a lost Nigerian astronaut went viral, and as policy announcements from the new government have been scoring poorly on the Buharimeter, a Nigerian civil society website assessing policy commitments. (4/7)

One Woman's Audacious Plan to Create Germany's First Female Astronaut (Source: Fortune)
In 2009, Tina Büchner da Costa was one of 1,500 women and 8,500 men who applied to be a part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) latest astronaut class. It was the first time in 17 years that the ESA had put out an open call to recruit astronauts.

Back then da Costa, now 37, was just starting to get serious about space travel. Inspired by movies like Top Gun and Apollo 13, as well as a high school astronomy class in her Southern German hometown, she began studying aerospace engineering and dreamed of the chance to see the Earth from space.

When she wasn’t selected, da Costa believed that she had lost her chance forever—until Claudia Kessler came along. In March of this year, Kessler launched a project called “Astronautin” to recruit and train Germany’s first female astronaut. (4/6)

SunCubes: The Next Big Thing in Space is Really, Really Small (Source: ASU Now)
Going into space is now within your grasp. A tiny spacecraft being developed at Arizona State University is breaking the barrier of launch cost, making the price of conducting a space mission radically cheaper. ASU researchers have spent the past two years developing the SunCube FemtoSat. It’s tiny — 3 cm by 3 cm by 3 cm. Thanga envisions a “constellation of spacecraft” — many eyes in many places. A swarm of them could inspect damaged spacecraft from many angles, for example.

Launch and launch-integration costs currently run into $60,000-$70,000 per kilo. That can get pretty pricey for a full-size satellite. "These high costs put out of reach most educational institutions and individuals from the ability to build and launch their own spacecraft,” ASU's team wrote in a paper detailing the new model. Launch expenses for the SunCube FemtoSat will cost about $1,000 to go to the ISS or $3,000 for flight into low-Earth orbit. (Earth escape will cost about $27,000.) (4/6)

Will Nigeria Beat South Africa In The Race To Space? (Source: AFK Insider)
Nigeria wants to launch the first-ever manned mission into outer space by an African country as early as 2030, the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology said. To get there, Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency plans to collaborate with China, according to Felix Ale, head of communications at NASRDA, Inquisitr reported.

“We contribute to various sectors that benefit the nation,” Ale said. “The focus of our space program is on the socio-economic development of the country. The best way to fast-track development in any part of the world today is through the application of space science and technology.” Several African countries have their sights set on space and want to tap in and harness the potential of space technology. Nigeria has already launched five satellites since 2003 — some still useful and in orbit. Ghana and Kenya launched space exploration initiatives in 2012. South Africa is spearheading space technology. (4/6)

How Rihanna Will Train for Luxurious Space Travel (Source: Inverse)
If companies like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin get their way, space travel will soon expand from the realm of elite astronauts to that of celebrities and the mega-rich. But there’s some big issues these companies will need to grapple with before letting the likes of Justin Bieber or Rihanna onto a shuttle – like how to prepare them for the worst and what to do if somebody vomits.

Commercial spaceflights will have a totally different set of problems than flights that have come before. Until now, space has been limited to an elite few, demanding rigorous training to weed out the best of the best. “They’re looking for every conceivable way of getting rid of you, of not selecting you!”, Erik Seedhouse, an aerospace scientist and author, told Inverse.

Seedhouse’s recent paper, “Passenger Training and Certification,” explores this issue. Civilian flights will want to bring in as many people as possible to make as much money as possible. So what will commercial flight training look like when there’s no space agency looking for an excuse to deny entry? Click here. (4/6)

Ariane 6 Project 'in Good Shape' (Source: BBC)
The dream is moving to reality. That was the message from European Space Agency boss, Jan Woerner, on Wednesday as he discussed the Ariane 6 rocket. The director general was touring the Airbus Safran Launchers facilities at Les Mureaux, France, where much of the future vehicle will be integrated. Reporters were shown the progress being made towards a 2020 maiden flight.

He argues that SpaceX has little choice but to try to recover stages because each of these boosters has nine engines. If the Californian company wants to achieve its stated flight cadence then it absolutely has to re-use some engines, he says. The Ariane core stages, by contrast, have just the one Vulcain engine. Nonetheless, ministers probably will be asked at their big end-of-year gathering to put some money towards reusability research, to look at technology options. (4/6)

Mars Society to Launch Mars 160 Twin Desert-Arctic Analog Missions (Source: Mars Society)
The Mars Society is pleased to announce a new mission, Mars 160, using both of the organization’s analog research stations. This program will involve the same seven person crew doing similar science operations for the same period of time – 80 days – initially at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in southern Utah in the fall of 2016 and then continuing at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) in northern Canada in the summer of 2017. (4/7)

Draper Opens New Facility in St. Petersburg (Sources: Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Business Journal)
Unable to reach even half of its goal for creating high-paying jobs in the Tampa Bay area, MIT-affiliated Draper Laboratory, after seven years, pulled most of its operations out of the area. The company that focuses on biomedical research and high technology came into the area amid great fanfare, receiving a promise of $30 million in government and other incentives in both Pinellas and Hillsborough County for the high-paying jobs it would create.

Draper closed its lab at USF and sold its manufacturing plant, but continued its work “focusing on rapid prototyping of new technology solutions to increase our support” to U.S. Special Operations based at MacDill Air Force Base at a new facility in St. Petersburg. The 20,000-square-foot facility is starting with 35 employees, with 50 likely by late 2017. (4/6)

Boeing Wins $2.5 Million Contract to Manage U.S. Air Force Telescopes (Source: Space News)
Boeing  won a $2.5 million contract to provide research, engineering and program management for U.S. Air Force ground telescopes in New Mexico and Hawaii. The award, made by the Air Force Research Lab, is part of a $275 million contract vehicle known as RASTER, short for the Research and Development for Advanced Space Superiority Technology and Engineering Requirements. (4/6)

Balloon Payment: Arizona County Foray into Space as Dubious as it is Inspired (Source: Tucson Sentinel)
The Pima County Board of Supervisors is facing the real prospect of a lawsuit to stop a January agreement that commits the county to build a headquarters for space tourism startup World View, along with a launch pad and other infrastructure costs adding up to $15 million. In return, the company has agreed to increase its workforce from 75 to 448 by 2020.

The deal may be illegal but I like the gumption. There's no magic bullet here because it's about taking a stand against corporate welfare — the kind of stand most can agree on right until our puritanical position lands us on unemployment.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry wrote a memo Monday that took on the Goldwater Institute point-by-point. According to him, Goldwater completely neglected World View's rent payment requirement, it misstated which certificates of participation are being used and neglected to mention other incentive-based deals successfully negotiated by conservative communities like Mesa and Chandler. Click here. (4/6)

Orbital ATK Wins NASA Suborbital Launch Operations Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract III to Orbital ATK. The contract has a one-year base period and four one-year options. The total contract value, including the option periods, is approximately $199.5 million.

Orbital ATK will provide the design, fabrication, integration and flight qualification testing of suborbital payloads, as well as the provision of launch vehicles, associated hardware and various activities associated with subsequent mission launch operations. The contractor will conduct an estimated 18 launches per year throughout the period of performance.

The work will be performed at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia; White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico; remote launch sites, including the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska and Andoya Rocket Range in Norway; and mobile launch sites, including Reagan Test Site in Kwajalein Atoll and Woomera Test Range in Australia. (4/6)

The Space Renaissance and Regulatory Environment: Moving Beyond Oversight (Source: Space News)
Regulation, and regulators, often get a bad rap. As a practical matter, most of the space industry recognizes the role of regulatory oversight to protect national security. Industry also sees the need for balance in implementing regulatory authority, so as to not hinder U.S. success in global markets.

In the context of the space renaissance, wherein new technology is driven first by markets and not national security, and where hundreds of millions of dollars of private capital is now being invested in this uniquely regulated industry, it is worth taking a moment to revisit what principles should guide the approach that government takes to regulate our industry. Click here. (4/6)

With £40bn for the Taking, SMEs are Venturing Into Space (Source: Guardian)
The UK has big ambitions for its space sector. The Space Innovation and Growth Strategy, has set a goal of capturing 10% of the global space market by 2030 (up from about 6.5% in 2010, when the plan was published). That amount would represent about £40bn of space-related revenues. The plan relies on the growth of small businesses in the sector. Click here. (4/6)

Huntsville is ‘the Only Community’ Good Enough to Land Dream Chaser (Source: YellowHammer)
The Rocket City is looking to be the landing site for a new model of spaceship in the near future. Colorado-based space company Sierra Nevada is taking steps to make Huntsville the only city where their new mini-space shuttle Dream Chaser will come back to earth. Last week, government, business, and academic leaders came together to create a plan to ready the city for this new ship.

“There was a leap of faith on the Huntsville side that we would be a company that could get this vehicle built and start servicing the space station,” Sierra Nevada Vice President John Roth said Thursday. “Yes, we have been approached by other airports for ventures. We’re not moving forward at this time with any of those. Right now, Huntsville is the only community we’re moving forward with a (landing) license on.”

The Dream Chaser shuttle has only been in the testing stages, but NASA recently agreed to use the spaceship for six supply missions to the International Space Station. This agreement means the Dream Chaser can move to the next stages, which includes choosing a landing site. Huntsville has been a top contender ever since they partnered with Sierra Nevada during the Paris Air Show last year. The Colorado company then pledged to help prime the Huntsville market for the Dream Chaser. (4/5)

All About BEAM, the Space Station's New Inflatable Module (Source: Planetary Society)
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is a technology demonstrator designed to test the viability of inflatable space habitats, which compress into a small space for launch and inflate like a balloon in orbit. Inflatable habs are often pitched as the space modules of the future, with advertised benefits like protection from radiation and the extreme temperatures of space.

Though BEAM represents a large portion of Dragon's cargo haul, it's incredibly light when compared to other ISS modules like Tranquility, which has a mass of about 19,000 kilograms. When filled with air, BEAM expands to about four times its packed size. Its total, inflated volume is 16 cubic meters—the size of a small bedroom.

BEAM represents an important private sector partnership for NASA, which dabbled in inflatable modules in the 1990s before the program was canceled due to a lack of funding. The Las Vegas-based firm Bigelow Aerospace licensed the technology and launched two, uncrewed expandable habitat modules in 2006 and 2007 called Genesis I and II. Both were just slightly smaller than BEAM. Click here. (4/5)

Ariane 6 Designers Say They’ll Beat SpaceX Prices on Per-Kilogram Basis (Source: Space News)
Europe’s next-generation Ariane 6 rocket remains on track for a 2020 first launch with a cost structure allowing the heavier Ariane 64 version to advertise per-kilogram prices below today’s Space X Falcon 9, European government and industry officials said April 6.

They said they saw no roadblocks to the 2020 first-flight date despite what they described as noncritical delays that have no impact on the rocket’s design, performance or cost targets.

These issues include a delay of several months in the ramp-up of Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), which is the Ariane 6 prime contractor, due to tax issues in France, and an extended antitrust review by the European Commission of ASL’s plan to become the dominant shareholder of the Arianespace commercial launch consortium. (4/6)

Record-Breaking Steel Could be Used for Body Armor, Shields for Satellites (Source: Space Daily)
A team of engineers has developed and tested a type of steel with a record-breaking ability to withstand an impact without deforming permanently. The new steel alloy could be used in a wide range of applications, from drill bits, to body armor for soldiers, to meteor-resistant casings for satellites. The material is an amorphous steel alloy, a promising subclass of steel alloys made of arrangements of atoms that deviate from steel's classical crystal-like structure, where iron atoms occupy specific locations. (4/6)

One to BEAM Up (Source: Space KSC)
Sixteen years after Congress killed NASA's TransHab program, and fifteen years after Bob Bigelow licensed the technology from NASA, we are about to see deployed the prototype of what may become humanity's forts in space. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is now in the unpressurized trunk of the SpaceX Dragon. The mission, called SpaceX-8, is scheduled to deliver its payload to the International Space Station as early as April 8. Click here. (4/6)

Behemoth Black Hole Found in an Unlikely Place (Source: NASA)
Astronomers have uncovered a near-record breaking supermassive black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, in an unlikely place: in the center of a galaxy in a sparsely populated area of the universe. The observations, made by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Telescope in Hawaii, may indicate that these monster objects may be more common than once thought.

Until now, the biggest supermassive black holes – those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun – have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. In fact, the current record holder tips the scale at 21 billion suns and resides in the crowded Coma galaxy cluster that consists of over 1,000 galaxies. (4/6)

How Will the Hubble Space Telescope Die? (Source: Space.com)
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been circling Earth for 25 years, but the iconic observatory won't last forever. Hubble launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, and has been capturing stunning views of the cosmos since astronauts fixed a flaw in the telescope's mirror during a 1993 servicing mission.

The telescope's operators express confidence that the device will keep operating through at least 2020, and possibly even farther into the future, thanks in large part to the success of the five servicing missions astronauts performed between 1993 and 2009. But serious problems could conceivably crop up in a number of different Hubble systems, Sembach said.

"We might have trouble with the fine-guidance systems on board," he said. "We have three fine-guidance sensors. Their electronics are all original, so they're as old as the observatory itself." These sensors remain in good condition, but they are being degraded by the relatively high radiation levels. A substantial failure in Hubble's communications system is another realistic possibility, as is a problem with the observatory's orientation-maintaining reaction wheels. (4/6)

Zuckerberg’s Speechwriter Left to Head Up Communications at SpaceX (Source: ReCode)
Dex Torricke-Barton spent the past half-decade writing speeches for two of the tech industry’s most prominent CEOs. Now he’s headed to SpaceX to run communications for a different one. Torricke-Barton is taking the head communications job at SpaceX. He spent the last four years working at Facebook, primarily writing speeches for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but also the company’s other top executives. He did the same at Google for then-CEO Eric Schmidt before that, and also spent three years working with the United Nations and its secretary-general. (4/6)

Foundation Advances Cause for Space Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Settlement (Source: SFF)
Tthe Space Frontier Foundation announced a new strategy and commitment to entrepreneurship in the space industry that will drive the nonprofit organization's activities and initiatives over the next five years. The Foundation also added that as settlement of space becomes both achievable and inevitable, it is equally important that we advance environmental principles that ensure the intelligent management of space resources and planetary protection.

With the equally important goal of empowering innovation and investment in the space economy in mind, the Foundation has created NewSpace Venture Labs (NSVL). A virtual accelerator and leading initiative of the organization, NSVL supports the development of young ventures looking to utilize space as a resource and competitive advantage. The Foundation will also offer an investor concierge service at the NewSpace 2016 conference that connects entrepreneurs with investors in the $315 billion global space economy. (4/6)

Orlando Entrepreneur Invests in Space Businesses (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
An Orlando tech entrepreneur has invested in his second space-related business in roughly three months. Jonathan Taylor, whose company Sighthound serves as the anchor to a Winter Park coworking office, announced on LinkedIn his investment in RBC Signals, a ground support provider for satellites in space. The self proclaimed “space geek” earlier this year invested in Texas-based KubOS, a software company that provides flight software and operating systems to satellites. (4/6)

Astronaut Scott Kelly Says He Suffered Damaging Stress During Year in Space (Source: Geek Wire)
During his year in space, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said he could do another year if he had to. But now that Kelly has returned to Earth and retired from NASA, he says the experience took an emotional and physical toll. The down side of long-term stints on the International Space Station came up today when Alfred A. Knopf announced it would be publishing Kelly’s memoir.

“During my time in orbit, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained my heart. Every day, I was exposed to 10 times the radiation of a person on Earth, which will increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life. Not to mention the psychological stress, which is harder to quantify and perhaps as damaging.” (4/6)

Earth-Bound Evidence for Supernovae in the Galactic Neighborhood (Source: Physics World)
Research suggests that two supernovae exploded within 330 light-years of Earth in the past 2.3 million years. The findings – which combine "deep-sea astronomy" with "galactic archaeology" – hint at the possibility that the supernovae may have affected Earth's climate, leading to the Pleistocene geological epoch from which homo sapiens evolved.

Astronomers have long suspected that supernovae taking place in our galactic neighborhood could have decided effects on our planet, possibly causing mass extinctions or global climate changes. Iron-60 (60Fe) is produced when a supernova explodes, and its presence in the Earth's deep-sea crust means that one or more supernovae have occurred within the last few million years. (4/6)

NASA Thinks a Hive Mind Can Solve Mars Colony Problems Before Rocket Scientists (Source: Inverse)
A lot of very smart people work at NASA. Many of them are literally rocket scientists. And yet, despite employing some of the top brains in America, NASA regularly asks civilians for help with its most complicated problems. Part of the reason for this is financial. NASA has a $19 billion dollar budget, but it gets eaten up quickly by long-term projects. Limited resources means that the space agency has to budget intelligently. When NASA needs solutions at a discount, they call NineSigma, a company that crowdsources innovation initiatives.

“You can’t employ every technical mind on the planet,” Kevin Andrews, senior program manager with NineSigma, points out. Andrews recently managed NASA’s in-situ materials challenge, a call for new extraterrestrial infrastructure proposals involving space rocks and dust. The nature of the problem is highly technical, and yet somehow also very well suited to the innovation-by-public-competition model.

“It doesn’t really hit you until you think about it for a moment — the impact of the cost of delivery of any material or machinery from our planet to Mars,” says Andrews. For every pound of Mars rock that NASA can figure how to use, the agency saves $50,000 in transportation and fuel costs that would otherwise have to spend shipping material from Earth. That’s a pretty big incentive. (4/6)

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