May 15, 2016

NASA Temperature Data Show Last Month was Hottest April On Record (Source: Independent)
It is hot. And it is only going to get hotter. New data released by Nasa revealed that last month was the hottest April on record. The information released by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Saturday showed that April 2016 was the sixth month in a row to be more than one per cent above the 1951-1980 average. (5/16)

Space Florida, Florida Venture Forum to host Early Stage Capital Conference May 17 (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida will partner with the Florida Venture Forum for the 9th Annual 2016 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference, held Tuesday, May 17 at the Hilton Carillon in St. Petersburg, Florida. Space Florida will present a total of $150,000 in prize money, divided among the first, second and third-place companies. Past early and growth-stage companies have garnered more than $76 million in funding. Click here. (5/10)

China's Fifth Launch of 2016 Lofts Yaogan-30 Remote Sensing Satellite (Source: GB Times)
China's fifth space mission of 2016 saw the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite launched on a Long March 2D rocket early on Sunday from the Jiuquan satellite launch center. Yaogan-30 blasted off from the site in the Gobi Desert at10:43 am Beijing time (02:43 UTC), entering an initial orbit around 700km above the Earth. (5/15)

Trump Prioritizes Earth Over Space as Spending Priority (Source: Telegraph)
Donald Trump has hinted that space exploration could face a fight to protect its share of public spending should he win the US presidential election in November. Early in the campaign he made clear that earth should be a greater priority.

“Right now we have bigger problems, you understand that, we've got to fix our potholes.  You know we don't have exactly a lot of money,” he said in New Hampshire. Interviewed in writing by Aerospace America, the billionaire mogul and Republican frontrunner appeared cool towards committing large amounts of public money to the US space program.

Asked whether he thought the existing NASA budget was adequate, Mr Trump made clear that much would depend on the state of the US economy. “What we spend in NASA should be appropriate for what we are asking them to do,” he said. “We also have to balance our spending priorities based on our economic circumstances, and right now, those circumstances are quite challenging. (5/15)

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Galaxy's Mysterious 'Exo-Planets' (Source: Herald Scotland)
It has now been estimated that there are around 10 billion exoplanets just in the Milky Way galaxy. Some are gaseous, some dense, some orbit around two stars. Even rocky planets vaguely similar to earth are actually quite common. As Professor Ken Rice of Edinburgh University puts it: “It appears that every star will have some sort of rocky companion. Of course the thing we still don’t know is how many of those are going to be in the right place to potentially have life.”

What are exoplanets like? Almost as mind-blowing as the notion that there may be another Earth, are the revelations around the vast variety of exoplanets that are entirely unlike our planet. These are other worlds, utterly alien to us, mostly completely inhospitable. There is for instance, HD 189773b, 63 light years from Earth, which glows with the azure blue of light that is reflected from particles of silicate in the upper atmosphere. Gravity causes these particles to form glass shards that whizz around the planet on winds of 4,000 miles per hour. (5/15)

Space Junk Orbiting Our Planet Has Become a Big Mess (Source: Vice)
The little ding that appeared recently on a window in the International Space Station is minor compared to the epic collisions that experts fear will occur as more satellites and debris clutter Earth's orbit. "We are going to have some massive objects colliding in space and creating big, big field of debris and present a problem for satellites," said Darren McKnight, technical director at Integrity Applications. "The problem is it's very, very difficult to predict when that will occur."

NASA estimates that more than 100 million man-made objects the size of a grain of salt are orbiting the planet. About 500,000 objects that are roughly the size of a marble are also believed to be out there, as well as 23,000 objects the size of a softball or larger.

The amount of such fragments has expanded exponentially since the dawn of space exploration in the early 1960s. It has primarily resulted from discarded rocket parts and satellites, as well as from smash-ups between chunks space junk over the years — much of the debris is made up of bits of other debris. (5/15)

India Embarks On Launching Space Shuttle (Source: NDTV)
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will embark this month on a never before space flight that would make history. The Indian space agency is set to undertake the maiden launch of its very own indigenous version of a 'space shuttle', a made-in-India effort. Today, a sleek winged body almost the weight and size of a sports utility vehicle (SUV) is being given final touches at Sriharikota, awaiting the final countdown.

The RLV-TD is unlikely to be recovered from sea during this experiment as it is expected that the vehicle will disintegrate on impact with water since it is not designed to float. The purpose of the experiment is not to see it float but to glide and navigate from a velocity five times higher than the speed of sound onto a designated virtual runway in the Bay of Bengal some 500 km from the coast. (5/15)

Queen to Announce UK Spaceport Site in Transportation Speech (Source: Mirror)
Cornwall might be a beach holiday hotspot – but tourists looking for something a bit more out of this world could soon be heading there for the UK's first spaceport . Plans for a £150 million British rocket launch site will be revealed this week and officials have earmarked six potential sites.

Newquay in Cornwall is the favourite to become the first spaceport outside America – meaning travelers could be rocketing off for a six-hour flight within years. Locations in Wales and Scotland are also under consideration for what could become the European hub for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. (5/15)

Florida-Based Starfighters Pursuing New Spaceflight, Research Markets (Source: Aviation News)
Starfighters Aerospace is operating a fleet of F-104 'Starfighter' jets at the former Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. “Thanks to its exceptional performance in speed, the Starfighter can claim to be the ideal aircraft for missions in the sub-orbital field. Even today the aircraft is still among the select few that can easily and quickly reach Mach 2, with an impressive rate of climb which is almost comparable with that of a missile.

“The Starfighter is capable of reaching 100,000ft in less than four minutes with a 1,500lb payload. On reaching 80,000ft the F-104 starts the ballistic flight path climb to 100,000ft for [launching] lower orbit nano and pico satellites." It seems that the aircraft once dubbed the ‘missile with a man in it’ has plenty of customers for its impressive capabilities, and will be tearing through the skies for years to come. Click here.

Editor's Note: I have been working with Starfighters for about a year now, trying to open access to markets like air-launch for microsatellites, training and research for commercial human spaceflight, and microgravity research. Multiple companies are pursuing the F-104 air-launch opportunity; the regulatory/legal landscape is evolving for human spaceflight training; and when NASA operated its own fleet of F-104s they estimated it could achieve microgravity durations of 60-90 seconds per parabola. (5/14)

Congressionally Mandated Space Support Vehicles Study Underway (Source: SPACErePORT)
Congressmen Bill Posey (R-FL) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) co-sponsored the Suborbital and Orbital Advancement and Regulatory Streamlining (SOARS) Act  (HR-3038) in 2013. The bill intended to facilitate the use of certain FAA-designated experimental aircraft -- like Virgin Galactic's White Knight Two, the Starfighters Aerospace F-104, and others -- to provide for-hire spaceflight support services.

The SOARS Act died in committee but key provisions were added to the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (HR-2262) in 2015. But before HR-2262 passed the SOARS "Space Support Vehicles" language was weakened into a requirement for the Comptroller General (General Accounting Office) to study the issue and provide recommendations for statutory and regulatory changes that might be needed to allow the vehicles to operate with both experimental permits and FAA AST spaceflight licenses.

That GAO study is now underway and a team from the agency is working closely with FAA AST to address the issues. The GAO team is planning to visit the Cape Canaveral Spaceport within the next week to discuss the operations planned by Starfighters Aerospace and meet with other stakeholders. Click here. (5/15)

NASA Upgrades Our System's Third-Largest Dwarf Planet (Source: Engadget)
Meet 2007 OR10: "the largest unnamed world in our solar system," according to NASA. At 955 miles in diameter, the dwarf planet is about two-thirds the size of Pluto, and is believed to have both water ice and methane on its surface. The still-unnamed dwarf planet has an elliptical orbit that brings it about as close to the sun as Neptune, but with an orbital period of 548 years it takes over twice as long as Pluto to make it all the way around. (5/13)

Iranian Space Agency Announces Future Satellite Plans (Source: SpaceWatch)
Speaking to senior officials earlier this week at an Iranian Space Agency (ISA) meeting, the ISA Director Mohsen Bahrami announced that Iran will launch two indigenously built satellites in the very near future, and that three other satellites are currently being manufactured. The two satellites due to be launched are the Mesbah-2 and the Nahid.

Mesbah-2 (Mesbah is Farsi for ‘Lantern’) is a limited application communication satellite that is indigenously designed after the original Mesbah project failed to materialise due to international sanctions on Iran. All of these satellites are supposed to be launched by either the Simorgh or Safir space launch vehicles from one of Iran’s three launch facilities. Many space analysts expect to see increased space activity from Iran with the anticipated unraveling of the international sanctions regime over the coming months and years. (5/14)

Virgin Galactic's New Commercial for Spaceflight and Satellite Launch Services (Source: SpaceWatch)
Virgin Galactic, the private spaceflight and satellite launch company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments PJS, has just released its first television commercial.

The commercial features both Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight service for wealthy individuals seeking a flight into suborbital space; and also for its proposed small satellite launch services that will be provided by a modified Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet with a small rocket booster strapped to its underside that will then be launched at altitude into low-earth orbit. Click here. (5/13)

China May Send Astronauts to the Moon – Will an Iranian Be Among Them? (Source: SpaceWatch)
The deputy commander of the Chinese manned space program, Lieutenant General Zhang Yulin, has suggested that China will send astronauts to the Moon no later than 2036, perhaps as early as 2030. But would China eventually take an Iranian astronaut to the Moon?

A manned Chinese moonshot will depend in large part on the successful development and manufacture of the heavy lift Long March 9 space launch vehicle by 2030. The Long March 9 is expected to weigh 3,000 tonnes, be over 100 meters tall, and be able to lift a payload of up to 130 tonnes to the Moon and beyond.

I would fully expect the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization [APSCO] members to be among the first non-Chinese aboard, although more likely Pakistani than Iranian. But since Iran is a full member of APSCO, and is currently chairman of its council, it could easily be among the first few foreigners to go up.” (5/13)

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