May 10, 2016

ESA Frustrated at Mars Mission Delay (Source: BBC)
The head of the European Space Agency says the delayed ExoMars rover is in the "last chance saloon." Jan Woerner told reporters Monday he was frustrated with the series of delays in the mission, including the latest that pushed back its launch from 2018 to 2020. Woerner suggested that those responsible for the delays should be denied any additional funding, and that it may not be possible for ESA to accommodate the additional cost created by the latest delay. (5/10)

Falcon 9 Returns to Port on Drone Ship (Source: Florida Today)
The Falcon 9 first stage that launched and landed last Friday is back in port. The landing ship "Of Course I Still Love You" arrived at Port Canaveral Monday night with the first stage that landed on the deck of the ship 10 minutes after launch early Friday. The landing was the second time in four weeks SpaceX successfully landed a stage after sea, after several previous failures. SpaceX also released this video of the landing taken from three different cameras on the ship. (5/10)

Antares Static Fire Test Planned Soon at Virginia Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Orbital ATK is gearing up for a static fire test of its re-engined Antares rocket this month. The first stage of the rocket is set to roll out to the pad at Wallops Island, Virginia, this week in advance of a 30-second static fire test later this month. This will be the first Antares to use RD-181 engines in place of the AJ26 engines used on earlier Antares missions but also blamed for the October 2014 launch failure. The RD-181 will provide a performance improvement of 20 to 25 percent for the Antares. (5/10)

Russia's Angara Rocket Behind Schedule (Source: Tass)
Production of the next Angara-A5 rocket is running several months behind schedule. A Russian space industry source said "manufacture and testing problems" within a division of Khrunichev have delayed work on the Angara by at least three months. The launch of the rocket, carrying a communication satellite for Angola, was scheduled for late this year but will likely be delayed until 2017 because of those production delays. (5/10)

SLS Booster Static Fire Test Planned Soon in Utah (Source: Orbital ATK)
A solid rocket booster being developed for the Space Launch System is ready for a static fire test next month. The five-segment motor is now installed on its test stand in Utah for the second qualification test, known as QM-2, scheduled for June 28. The test will be similar to one performed last March, although in this test the motor will be cooled to about 4˚C to test its performance at the lower end of its operating range. (5/10)

Aussie Startup Coordinating Experiments for ISS (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
An Australian startup is helping high school students fly experiments to the International Space Station. Quberider is working with more than 40 Australian schools to develop experiments that will fly to the ISS on a Dragon cargo mission in June as part of a program to teach coding to students. The company was the first to receive an "overseas launch certificate" from the Australian government for the experiment. (5/10)

Mysterious Star's Dimming Could Be Instrumentation Issue (Source: Vanderbilt Univ.)
They're not saying it's aliens: instrumentation effects could instead explain a mysterious dimming star. A team of astronomers said that a 20 percent drop in brightness of star KIC 8462852, also known as "Tabby's Star," over the last century is likely caused by a change in instrumentation used to monitor the star during that period, and not any activity by an extraterrestrial civilization to enclose the star in "megastructures" to capture its energy.

The new analysis doesn't explain irregular, brief drops in brightness of the star that some suggested could be caused by megastructures, but can also be explained by comet swarms or other natural objects orbiting the star. (5/10)

Moon vs. Mars Debate Heating Up In U.S. (Source: Aviation Week)
As NASA does its best to spark an off-planet economy in low Earth orbit (LEO) before the International Space Station wears out, a new book published last week argues that a potentially lucrative source of revenue in space lies a little farther out—on the Moon. And it isn’t platinum-family metal ore or helium 3, sometimes mentioned as economic enticements for space mining. It’s water.

In the book, Paul Spudis, a well-known U.S. geologist specializing in lunar science, repeats and expands his long-held belief that the next stop for explorers from Earth should be at the Moon’s poles, where the deep freeze in the permanent darkness at the bottom of deep craters preserves millions of tons of water ice deposited by comets and other objects over the past 4.5 billion years. Click here. (5/4)

Lockheed Martin Tops List of Largest Defense Contractors (Source: Defense News)
Lockheed Martin was the largest single contractor for the US government in 2015, easily lapping the rest of the field with $36.2 billion. The next closest competitor was Boeing at $16.6 billion.The federal government’s top 100 as a whole obligated $238.5 billion in 2015, meaning the DoD represented about 73.5 percent of those contracts awarded to the biggest firms.

General Dynamics ($13.6 billion), Raytheon ($13.1 billion) and Northrop Grumman ($10.6 billion) rounded out the top five contractors. Health care services firm McKesson, which has a series of major contracts with the Tricare system, was the only non-defense contractor to make it into the top eight overall federal contractors. (5/10)

NASA Awards Paragon with In-space Fuel Depot Technology Study (Source: Space Daily)
Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) and partner Thin Red Line Aerospace (TRLA) received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from NASA to provide a unique solution that will extend the life of cryogenic upper stage rockets. The useful life of a standard upper stage is no more than a few hours.

The thermally isolating structure is a key piece to allowing systems to operate for weeks or months on orbit, giving upper stage platforms additional flexibility for payload maneuvering and deployment timing as well as direct use of upper stages for commercial and scientific use. (5/9)

Mike Gold Leaves Bigelow for Space Systems Loral (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Mike Gold has left Bigelow Aerospace to become vice president of Washington, DC, operations for Space Systems Loral (SSL). Gold has served in a similar role for Bigelow Aerospace since 2003. “Expanding our DC-Area office demonstrates our commitment to further build on the work we are doing with US government agencies,” said SSL John Celli. “Michael Gold brings a wealth of experience with both civil and defense organizations and will strengthen our ability to make a contribution to government programs.” (5/9)

Mining Issues in Space Law (Source: Space Review)
Legislation passed by the US Congress last year appeared to clear the way for space mining ventures. Jeff Foust reports that there are still policy issues these and other companies have to overcome both at a national and an international level. Click here. (5/9)
An Overview of the American Space Renaissance Act (Source: Space Review)
In his final installment examining a wide-ranging space policy bill, Michael Listner examines the sections of the bill dealing with commercial space law and regulations. Click here. (5/9)
Life on Pluto (Source: Space Review)
For decades, Pluto was largely ignored in science fiction, with too little known about the distant world to stimulate the imaginations of authors. Dwayne Day wonders if, with New Horizons revealing Pluto to be a far more dynamic place than expected, it now will become fodder for more works of fiction. Click here. (5/9)
The Future of Space Economics and Settlement (Source: Space Review)
Many still assume that human presence and activity in space will always have government in the lead.  Dick Eagleson makes the case that this view ignores fundamental limits on government involvement in space activities and sketches out how human expansion into space must be increasingly driven by private entrepreneurship if it is to happen at all. Click here. (5/9)

DARPA Plans Workshop on Controlled Entry of LEO Objects (Source: DARPA)
The objective of the workshop is to gather information regarding near-term technologies and solutions for the controlled reentry of objects from low Earth orbit; and long-term advanced concepts that could evolve from near-term capabilities. Information gathered will inform decisions regarding potential future DARPA programs. The workshop is planned for June 1. Click here. (5/9)

Earth’s Ancient Atmosphere Was Half as Thick as it is Today (Source: Science)
Air pressure is crucial for life. Not only does it help the atmosphere retain water vapor and trap heat from the sun, but it also affects the very chemical reactions on which life depends. Yet very little is known about how thick Earth’s ancient atmosphere once was. Now, a new study suggests that Earth’s atmosphere 2.7 billion years ago was between a quarter to half as thick as it is today.

The finding could force scientists to re-examine nearly everything they know about Earth’s early atmosphere, from nitrogen-fixing cycles to how the young planet trapped enough heat to give rise life as we know it. Scientists have long assumed that Earth’s ancient atmosphere had a stronger greenhouse than today’s. That’s because the sun put out 20% less heat than it does today, and even with elevated levels of greenhouse gases, Earth would have struggled to keep global temperatures above freezing. (5/9)

NASA Commercial Crew Program Moving Into Test Phase (Source: Aviation Week)
It is crunch time for Boeing and SpaceX, the companies that will fly astronauts from U.S. soil on the commercial crew vehicles they are developing for NASA. The new approach to spacecraft development could change the way humans leave the planet, if it works. Both companies say they are on track to send crews on demonstration missions to the International Space Station (ISS) before the end of next year and to begin commercial service early in 2018. (5/10)

Teen Looks to Stars to Find Lost Mayan City (Source: Yucatan Expat Life)
A teenager from Quebec has discovered a hidden Mayan city, an accomplishment that proves his own theory that links the location of ancient cities with the position of the stars. William Gadoury, 15, has received accolades by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency, and his discovery is about to be disseminated in a scientific journal.

Passionate about the lost Mayan civilizations for several years, Gadoury analyzed 22 Mayan constellations and realized that if he connected on a map the stars of the constellations, the shape of each corresponded to the position of 117 Mayan cities. No scientist before had ever found such a correlation between the stars and the location of the Mayan cities.

“I did not understand why the Maya built their cities away from rivers, on marginal lands and in the mountains,” said Gadoury. “They had to have another reason, and as they worshiped the stars, the idea came to me to verify my hypothesis. I was really surprised and excited when I realized that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched the largest Maya cities.” (5/9)

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