April 6, 2016

An Inside Look at Richard Branson’s Vision for Space Tourism (Source: SalesForce)
“There are millions and millions and millions of people who would love to become astronauts and go to space...and if we can make it affordable for people, and if we can make it safe for people, we can satisfy all their wishes and desires,” said Branson. In short: space tourism. Learn how Branson and his Virgin Galactic team is helping make that dream a reality by watching the full interview here. (4/6)

Spaceport Sweden’s CEO on Running a Successful Space Tourism Business (Source: Space Innovation Congress)
Spaceport Sweden is one of Europe’s tourist space gems, headed by its high profile CEO, Karin Nilsdotter. She wants Spaceport Sweden to become: “A platform for cross-sector innovation, establishing commercial human spaceflight as a new industry for tourism, research and education”.

Spaceport Sweden has received several innovation awards and Nilsdotter was named Saab’s Technology Woman of the Year 2014 in recognition for her activities in promoting Swedish technology and innovation. Click here. (4/6)

Former Armadillo Team Signs with Spaceport America for Launches (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Spaceport America has signed up a new customer to launch from New Mexico. Exos Aerospace signed a five-year partnership to launch its SARGE suborbital rocket from the spaceport, with the first launch tentatively planned for late this year. The company will eventually develop a dedicated facility at the spaceport once its launch rate increases to a certain, unspecified level. Exos includes some of the same people and technology as the former Armadillo Aerospace, which also carried out launches at the spaceport. (4/6)

Did Early Impacts Make Mars More Habitable? (Source: Cosmos)
A barrage of asteroids and comets might have made Mars more habitable early in its history. Models of the planet four billion years ago, during a burst of asteroid and comet impacts known as the Late Heavy Bombardment, show that the collisions would have heated up subsurface ice enough to melt it, even if the planet's atmosphere was as cold and thin as it is today. Those more habitable conditions, though, would have faded within a few million years after the end of the bombardment. (4/5)

Zurich Hotel Features Space Suite (Source: Forbes)
You can go to space without leaving your hotel room, provided you're in the right hotel in Zurich. The Kameha Grand Hotel there features a "space suite" designed by German artist Michael Najjar. The space theme permeates the suite's design, from light fixtures designed to look like engine nozzles to a spacesuit glove protruding from a wall as a place to hold your keys and phone. "Basically, everywhere you look, there’s space. Literally," says a review of the room. The space suite is one of several themed rooms in the hotel. (4/5)

California Bill Advances in Senate, Would Create Aerospace Commission (Source: SPACErePORT)
This bill would establish the California Aerospace Commission to foster the development of activities in California related to aerospace, including, but not limited to, aviation, commercial and governmental space travel, unmanned aerial vehicles, aerospace education and job training, infrastructure and research launches, manufacturing, academic research, applied research, economic diversification, business development, tourism, and education. The bill would specify various related duties of the commission. Click here. (4/5)

Space Community Braces For Another U.S. Transition (Source: Aviation Week)
As the U.S. presidential sweepstakes lurch toward November, a chill is running through the global space community. Space professionals worldwide remember the upset that followed President Barack Obama’s arrival in the White House in 2009, and they are worried that history will repeat itself when President Clinton, Cruz, Kasich, Sanders or Trump takes over the Oval Office next January. That unease certainly extends into the ninth-floor offices of the NASA administrator. (4/5)

UCF, Embry Riddle Researchers Benefit From New Space Race (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Area researchers say a growing private commercial space industry could boost scientific research as more launches increase the ability to experiment in microgravity environments. University of Central Florida professor Joshua Colwell on Saturday high fived colleagues when his experiment was sent into suborbital flight by Jeff Bezos’s space company Blue Origin.

Basic science requires experimentation, collection and recording of data, and, if a hypothesis isn’t met, an adjustment for further testing. That’s why frequent launches mean good things for science, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University professor Justin Karl said. “At the basic level, cheaper and more frequent experiments gives you more room to work.” (4/5)

Elusive Japanese black Hole Seeking Satellite Breaks Silence (Source: Space Daily)
Japan's X-Ray Astronomy Satellite Hitomi, which was launched last month, has managed to make fleeting contact with ground control amid reports that the spacecraft has separated into six parts. The X-Ray Astronomy Satellite Hitomi, which was launched into low-Earth orbit from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center on February 17, has communicated sporadically with ground control in spite of reports that the satellite has separated into six parts.

Amid fears that the satellite would not be able to fulfil its investigative mission, on March 29 JAXA announced that it had received two more short signals from the satellite, but had "not been able to find the state of its health." The first was at about 10:00 a.m. on March 28 at Japan's Uchinoura Ground Station, and the second was at around 12:30 a.m. on March 29 at the Santiago Tracking Station in Chile. (4/5)

Satellite Images Suggest Activity at North Korean Nuclear Site (Source: Newsweek)
Recent satellite images have shown "suspicious" activity at North Korea's main nuclear site at Yongbyon, which could mean reprocessing is under way to produce more plutonium for atomic bombs, a report published by a U.S. research institute said on Monday.

The report on the 38 North website said that in the past five weeks, exhaust plumes had been detected on two or three occasions from the thermal plant at Yongbyon's Radiochemical Laboratory, the site's main reprocessing installation to produce plutonium. (4/5)

NASA Nearly Crashed the Vomit Comet on a Reckless Trip to Greenland (Source: Motherboard)
NASA's infamous “Vomit Comet” zero gravity airplane briefly served as a delivery plane for the Navy and a private company owned by an ex astronaut, which some of the plane’s crew members who filed formal complaints felt was a misuse of the craft, according to documents obtained by Motherboard.

The unorthodox use of the C-9 aircraft was driven, according to the complaints, by a desire at the high levels of the agency to prove the Vomit Comet was of practical use. Apparently, it didn't work—the C-9 aircraft program was defunded and shut down in 2014.

In the first instance, NASA officials pressured the crew to transport a giant wooden engine from Houston to Costa Rica as a favor to a former astronaut, according to two of the crew members. Although the mission was successful, NASA seemed to deliberately avoid publicizing the flight. On another occasion that year, the crew was asked to deliver Navy cargo to Greenland even though members of the crew said the trip was unsafe, resulting in a “near fatal crash,” according to documents from a NASA Inspector General investigation. (4/4)

Is Mysterious 'Planet Nine' Tugging on NASA Saturn Probe? (Source: Space.com)
The hunt is on to find "Planet Nine" — a large undiscovered world, perhaps 10 times as massive as Earth and four times its size — that scientists think could be lurking in the outer solar system. After planetary scientists presented evidence for its existence this January, other teams have searched for further proof by analyzing archived images and proposing new observations to find it with the world's largest telescopes.

Theoretically, its gravity should also tug slightly on the planets, moons and even any orbiting spacecraft. With this in mind, researchers checked whether a theoretical model with the new addition of Planet Nine could better explain slight perturbations seen in Cassini's orbit. Without it, the eight planets in the solar system, 200 asteroids and five of the most massive Kuiper Belt objects cannot perfectly account for it. The missing puzzle piece might just be a ninth planet.

They found a sweet spot—with Planet Nine 600 astronomical units (about 90 billion kilometers) away toward the constellation Cetus — that can explain Cassini's orbit quite well. Although Fienga is not yet convinced that she has found the culprit for the probe's odd movements, most outside experts are blown away. (4/5)

Meet The 'Rocket Girls,' The Women Who Charted The Course To Space (Source: NPR)
In the 1940s, an elite team of mathematicians and scientists started working on a project that would carry the U.S. into space, then on to the moon and Mars. They would eventually become NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (or JPL), but here's what made them so unusual: Many of the people who charted the course to space exploration were women. Click here. (4/5)

Long March 2D Launches the Recoverable Shijian-10 Spacecraft (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Following in the steps of the Shijian-8 mission in 2006, China has launched the Shijian-10 recoverable satellite. The launch of Shijian-10 took place using a Long March-2D launch vehicle from the 603 Launch Pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center’s LC43. Microgravity experiments on Shijian-10, the 24th recoverable satellite of China, cover the fields of physical science and life science. (4/5)

Private Lynx Space Plane Could Take Off in Early 2017 (Source: Space.com)
The Lynx currently under construction is a prototype, and it was a wingless shell when Space.com dropped by XCOR's Mojave headquarters on Feb. 19 — the same day that Virgin unveiled its shiny new SpaceShipTwo, dubbed "Unity," at a hangar just down the road. But Lynx's four-engine propulsion system is nearly ready to go, and the prototype could conceivably take to the skies for the first time in early 2017. (4/5)

Gravitational Background Noise Could be Much Louder Than Expected (Source: Physics World)
Gravitational-wave background noise created by merging back holes could be 10 times louder than had been expected, according to calculations by astrophysicists working on the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors. Using information gleaned from LIGO's recent detection of a gravitational wave, the team believes that the background noise is so loud that it could be measured by LIGO and Virgo in 2020, when the detectors are running at their full design sensitivities. (4/5)

There’s Far More to the Galaxy Than Meets the Eye (Source: Science News)
The pale arch of light from the plane of our galaxy can be a humbling sight on a clear, dark night. But it’s just a sliver of all the treasures lurking in the Milky Way. Dense clouds of interstellar dust block visible light from remote regions of the galaxy but allow longer wavelengths to pass through. In February, astronomers completed a new map of our galaxy as seen in submillimeter light, which is shorter than radio waves but longer than infrared waves.

Submillimeter light can penetrate dust clouds, revealing details at the center of the galaxy and in stellar nurseries not visible at other wavelengths. The map was produced by ATLASGAL, a project using the APEX telescope in northern Chile to map part of the Milky Way. The project charted one-third of the band of galactic light that encircles our solar system; the images below show a narrow slice toward the constellation Sagittarius. (4/5)

Here’s How Jeff Bezos Plans to Remake Spaceflight (Source: Ars Technica)
After Blue Origin completed the third flight of its New Shepard launch system on Saturday, the spaceflight community applauded the effort. And on Sunday, after video emerged showing the dramatic firing of its engines just before the rocket would have struck the ground, the response was again approbation. This third test in a little more than four months demonstrated that Blue Origin has continued to progress toward its goal of launch, land, and repeat—the holy grail of low-cost spaceflight.

But among the cheers were also a few mutterings. What does it matter if all Jeff Bezos is going to do is take rich people on joy rides, some said. Or, if researchers want to do suborbital experiments, can't they get those done in conventional aircraft flying parabolas? Others have complained that New Shepard's propulsion module is relatively small and has only a single engine, and flying to suborbital space requires a fraction of the energy that getting into orbit does.

In short, some critics say Bezos is just dabbling at the edges of space, not doing the hard stuff of going all the way. This may all be true, but it misses the point. Much like Mercury represented America's first tentative steps into outer space, so does New Shepard represent only a beginning for the company. New Shepard, after all, is named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space who rode inside a Mercury capsule. It may or may not succeed, but Blue Origin aspires to be much more. Click here. (4/5)

Grunsfeld Announces Retirement from NASA (Source: NASA)
John Grunsfeld will retire from NASA April 30, capping nearly four decades of science and exploration with the agency. His tenure includes serving as astronaut, chief scientist, and head of NASA’s Earth and space science activities. Grunsfeld has directed NASA’s Science Mission Directorate as associate administrator since 2012, managing more than 100 science missions -- many of which have produced groundbreaking science, findings and discoveries. (4/5)

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