May 14, 2016

Two Florida-Based Tech Projects Among Eight "Advanced Concepts" to Receive Grant Funding (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected eight technology proposals for investment that have the potential to transform future aerospace missions, introduce new capabilities, and significantly improve current approaches to building and operating aerospace systems.

Awards under Phase II of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program can be worth as much as $500,000 for a two-year study, and allow proposers to further develop concepts funded by NASA for Phase I studies that successfully demonstrated initial feasibility and benefit.

The two Florida-based projects are a 'Cryogenic Selective Surfaces' initiative by researchers at Kennedy Space Center; and a 'Flight Demonstration of Novel Atmospheric Satellite Concept' by researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. (5/13)

Tugboat Hauling Shuttle Tank to California Rescues Passengers of Sunk Fishing Vessel (Source: Planetary Society)
The crew of the tugboat hauling the last unflown space shuttle external fuel tank to California reports they have rescued four passengers from a fishing boat that sunk off the coast of Mexico. The tugboat Shannon Dann is currently hauling the fuel tank, known as ET-94, aboard the barge Gulfmaster I. ET-94 left NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility on April 12 and traversed the Panama Canal on May 25 and 26. It will make a final stop in San Diego before arriving in Los Angeles on May 18.

Officials at the science center say a fishing vessel named Maximus sunk off the coast of Mexico on the evening of May 12. ET-94 was roughly 200 miles south of San Diego when it happened upon a lifeboat carrying all four Maximus passengers. The crew of the Shannon Dann brought the survivors aboard, and remain en route to San Diego. (5/13)

SpaceX Preps Another Dragon Mission From Florida (Source: Inverse)
SpaceX has been enjoying an adventurous spring season, leading the charge on the race to send civilians to outer space. At the center of their fanfare, SpaceX’s Dragon has been running cargo missions to and from the International Space Station in a series of unmanned tests. The company’s goal is to successfully send a manned Dragon to the ISS in two to three years’ time.

Most recently, the Dragon touched back down on earth after completing a cargo mission to the ISS, and SpaceX has wasted no time when it comes to preparing for the next one. Editor's Note: The next SpaceX launch is currently planned for May 26, a commercial Thaicom-8 satellite mission with a launch window opening at 5:40 p.m. The next Dragon mission to the ISS is planned for June 27. (5/14)

The Space Renaissance: Creating a 21st Century Space Industry (Source: Space News)
Governments should recognize that two previous core competencies of nations — work force and financial markets — are no longer an area of differentiation: the work force is global and international finance flows freely. Today, legal, regulatory and policy frameworks, and the implementation of those policies into programs, differentiate governments.

Specific to aerospace, the space renaissance trend could evolve to create three strong pillars of a symbiotic industry for long-term success: national security, civil space, and commercial space. We believe a strong commercial pillar leads to an integrated aerospace ecosystem and a secure future in space.

Over the next few years government programs should evolve that embrace the space renaissance in the ways we previously described: partnering with industry for demos and commercial services; implementing new acquisition models; and creating a regulatory environment that holistically combines insight, oversight, and foresight. This is only an initial list. (5/13)

UAE Space Agency to Cooperate with Japan (Source: Gulf News)
The UAE Space Agency has signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Government of Japan, representing a major step forward in safe space exploration and strategic cooperation in the short and long term. Recognizing the advantages and benefits of cooperating in the realm of space science and peaceful space exploration, the memorandum promotes the exchange of information and collaboration in research and development, human capital development and the development of space-related industries. (5/14)

How One Former Astronaut Is Prepping For A Trip Outside The Solar System (Source: Forbes)
Mae Jemison is probably best known as the first black woman to go to space. But now she’s working on an even bigger goal: Sending humans beyond our solar system. “People don’t actually get it,” she explained in an interview during the Forbes Women’s Summit Thursday. “Why space matters.”

The 100 Year Starship project was launched with a grant from DARPA in 2011 and one goal: “to make the capability of human travel beyond our solar system a reality within the next 100 years.” And Jemison is the person in charge, doing everything from organizing symposia to finding researchers. (5/14)

Generation Beyond Brings Mars Closer to the First Person Who Will Set Foot on It (Source: US News)
As dusty, red rocks pass by the windows in a virtual approximation of Mars' surface, it's hard not to feel like a hostile alien is going to pop out any moment. It isn't a new action game, though; it's Lockheed Martin's new Mars Experience Bus, created with the latest video game technology to get children excited about aerospace. It's part of the company's Generation Beyond initiative, which is all about "bringing Mars closer."

At Lockheed Martin, they think that they "have a responsibility to help prepare this generation to become the first Mars explorers," according to Director of Media Relations Bill Phelps. That's the rationale behind Generation Beyond. The Mars Bus uses GPS technology and an approximation of 200 miles of Mars' surface to sync the virtual experience with what riders undergo as the bus accelerates and turns along the streets. (5/14)

Clyde Space Wins Order for Four Satellites for UK Government-Backed Project (Source: Herald Scotland)
A Glasgow company has won a 1 million order to build four satellites for a UK Government-backed program aimed at developing fast, regular and more affordable access to space. Clyde Space has been commissioned by the Satellite Applications Catapult and Innovate UK to build four CubeSats for the program. (5/14)

How Elon Musk Exposed Billions in Questionable Pentagon Spending (Source: Politico)
Elon Musk’s SpaceX had to sue before it got access to the Pentagon — but now, as it promises to deliver cargo into space at less than half the cost of the military’s favored contractor, it has pulled back the curtain on tens of billions in potentially unnecessary military spending.

The entrenched contractor, a joint operation of Boeing and Lockheed Martin called the United Launch Alliance, has conducted 106 space launches all but flawlessly, but the cost for each is more than $350 million, according to the Government Accountability Office. SpaceX promises launches for less than $100 million.

Yet despite the potentially more cost-effective alternative, taxpayers will be paying the price for ULA’s contracts for years to come. Estimates show that, through 2030, the cost of the Pentagon’s launch program will hit $70 billion — one of the most expensive programs within the Defense Department. (5/13)

House Appropriators Want Air Force to Buy Fewer Launches Next Year (Source: Space News)
A $517 billion defense spending bill the U.S. House Appropriations Committee will mark up May 17 cuts nearly $500 million from the Air Force’s main launch budget. The cuts would only permit the Air Force to award contracts next year for three launches instead of the five the Defense Department plans to buy from either ULA or SpaceX for missions slated for 2019 or later.

The Air Force is seeking $1.8 billion for the EELV Program for fiscal year 2017, which starts Oct. 1. House appropriators included only $1.3 billion for the program, saying $478 of the Air Force’s request is “early to need”  — or premature — but not not provide further explanation.

Three of the five launch contracts the Air Force intends to award next year would be put out for bid to SpaceX and ULA, the only two EELV-certified launch service providers. The other launch contracts the Air Force intends to award in 2017 are covered under a 2013 block buy deal with ULA. (5/13)

Accion Raises $7.5 Million to Accelerate Production of Miniature Space Thrusters (Source: Tech Crunch)
Accion Systems, the company developing miniature space propulsion systems, has raised $7.5 million in Series A funding led by Shasta Ventures. RRE Ventures, Founder Collective, and Slow Ventures also participated in the round. The company had previously raised $2 million from seed funding and $6.5 million from partnerships with the Department of Defense. (5/13)

Astrobotic Raises $2.5M in Race to Moon (Source: Tech Crunch)
Astrobotic Technology, the company that plans to deliver payloads to the moon, has completed a $2.5 million seed round led by Space Angels Network. The company was originally spun out of Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 to compete for the Google Lunar XPRIZE (GLXP). As of today, they’ve secured 10 deals from governments, companies, universities, nonprofits and individuals for their first mission to the moon. (5/13)

Robotic Miners Converge on KSC for Competition (Source: NASA)
The 7th Annual NASA Robotic Mining Competition (RMC) is set up for college students to design and build a mining robot that can travel over a simulated Martian surface, excavate regolith — or Mars dirt — and deposit as much of it as possible into a bin, all within 10 minutes.

Team members may control their bots remotely from a trailer where their only line of sight is via a computer screen, or completely autonomously, with their programming skills put to the test as their robot handles the mission on its own. Essentially, NASA is crowdsourcing ideas from inventive college students who want to be part of NASA’s journey to Mars.

The competition, which takes place May 16-20 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, focuses on technologies necessary to extract consumables such as oxygen and water to support human life and provide methane fuel to spacecraft. (5/13)

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