May 19, 2016

SpaceX is Already Working on Legal Approval for Its 2018 Mars Flight (Source: Motherboard)
I’ve been to the Humans to Mars Summit, an annual conference thrown by Explore Mars about speeding up human colonization of the Red Planet, a few times. It’s always fun, but it’s highly theoretical: Mars enthusiasts yell at NASA for not moving fast enough, NASA says it’s working on it, a scientist or startup proposes a wildly optimistic mission involving crowdfunding robotic probes or something. This year appears to be different.

Last month, SpaceX announced that it plans on trying to send its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2018. An official with the Federal Aviation Administration, which gives launch clearance to commercial space companies in the US, said at the summit that the agency is already working with SpaceX to make sure its international mission complies with international law. (5/18)

Here's Why It's Illegal to Seed Planets With Alien Lifeforms From Earth (Source: Inverse)
The chance of finding life on another planet remains remote. But as we come to terms with just how many planets there are in the galaxy, it’s important to consider the ramifications of a human-led alien invasion. What happens if we seed other planets with Earth life? From a scientific perspective, the answer is tremendously complicated. From a legal perspective it’s simple: Someone goes to jail.

No nation or entity on Earth is allowed to transport non-human life to any celestial bodies with the intent of jumpstarting an ecosystem. This is because of “planetary protection,” the notion that human exploration of space must be guided by a principle of both protecting space environments from undue influence at the hands of humans, as well as protecting Earth from being irrevocably transformed by materials and objects originating from celestial bodies.

As a result, in 1959, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) was formed by the international community, and five years later issued a resolution saying “all practical steps should be taken to ensure that Mars be not biologically contaminated until such time as [the search for Martian life] can have been satisfactorily carried out.” A few years later, in 1967, the major players in space exploration — the U.S. the USSR, and the UK — formerly ratified the United Nations Outer Space Treaty. (5/19)

The Satellite Industry Is Fueled by Your Need for Global Connectivity (Source: Bloomberg)
When SpaceX set a rocket down on a barge floating in the Atlantic Ocean on May 6, many cheered it as the latest sign man is quickly moving toward being able to explore brave new worlds. Yet the more immediate beneficiaries of SpaceX’s satellite-ferrying rockets will be businessmen checking e-mails from Singapore Airlines flights above the South China Sea or teens posting photos on Facebook from Indonesia’s jungles.

While the global satellite industry brought in $203 billion in revenue in 2014, the latest year for which Satellite Industry Association data are available, only $5.9 billion of that came from launches. Half of satellite revenue, $100.9 billion, came from consumer services, such as transmitting TV programming or cell phone calls, or providing broadband Internet via satellite. (5/19)

If Russia is Selling Engines, the Pentagon Should Keep Buying (Source: Defense One)
One of the more hotly contested defense issues in Congress right now is how to end the U.S. military’s dependence on a Russian-made rocket engine to reach space. But what’s the rush? The U.S. needs these engines and Congress first should make sure a viable alternative is ready. Here’s why. (5/19)

Veto Looms for House's $610B Defense Authorization Bill (Source: Law 360)
House Republicans passed the $610 billion National Defense Authorization bill Wednesday night, despite Democratic objections and a White House veto threat over funding levels and language that critics said would allow LGBTQ discrimination among federal contractors. The 277-147 vote sets up another battle over defense spending and policy between the House, Senate and White House, which last year resulted in President Barack Obama vetoing the bill, as a Tuesday veto threat laid out dozens of pages of objections to the House version of the bill. (5/18)

DiBello to Discuss "Vision 2025" at Space Club's June Luncheon (Source: NSCFL)
Space Florida President and Chief Executive Officer Frank DiBello will be the guest speaker for the National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) luncheon meeting held on Tuesday, June 14. His presentation, entitled “Vision 2025,” begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson at the Port’s Convention Center, Cape Canaveral.

DiBello was selected in May 2009 to lead Space Florida, which serves as the single point of contact for aerospace-related economic development in Florida. In this position, he develops and executes programs designed to retain, grow and expand aerospace business in Florida. He also focuses on the development of Florida aerospace workforce retention and vendor appreciation programs. (5/19)

Australian, U.S. HIFiRE Rocket Achieves Mach 7.5 (Source: Space Daily)
Australia and the United States have successfully fired an experimental rocket with a speed of more than seven times the speed of sound. The rocket, which reached an apogee, or highest altitude, of about 172.7 miles, is part of a joint research program called HIFiRE, or Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program. (5/19)

Space Club Sponsors Summer Networking Event on June 8 (Source: NSCFL)
The National Space Club Florida Committee (NSCFL) in association with Orbital ATK are sponsoring a Summer Networking Social on Wednesday, June 8, 4 – 7:30 pm, Fish Lips – lower level, Port Canaveral. “The goal of the Networking Social is to bring the next generation of space leaders together to discuss our mutual interests in launch and space operations,” said Mark Jager, NSCFL Chair. (5/19)

First Global Topographic Map of Mercury Unveiled in Remarkable NASA Video (Source: Futurism)
We have known about Mercury’s existence since at least the time of the Sumerians (3rd millennium BCE). But it wasn’t until nearly the end of the space race (between 1974-75) that we got a hard look as the planet. At this time, 45% of the Mercurian surface was mapped by Mariner 10. Thanks to NASA’s MESSENGER and a collaboration of Universities who assembled over 100,000 of its images, we now have a detailed map of Mercury’s craters, volcanoes, and landforms. Click here. (5/19)

Space Exploration will Spur Transhumanism and Mitigate Existential Risk (Source: Tech Crunch)
When people think about rocket ships and space exploration, they often imagine traveling across the Milky Way, landing on mysterious planets and even meeting alien life forms. In reality, humans’ drive to get off Planet Earth has led to tremendous technological advances in our mundane daily lives — ones we use right here at home on terra firma.

These types of advancements are one of the most important reasons I am hoping our next U.S. president will try to jump-start the American space program — both privately and publicly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear any of them are talking about the issue. But they should be. As we enter the transhumanist age — the era of bionic limbs, brain implants and artificial intelligence — space exploration might once again dramatically lead us forward in discovering the most our species can become. (5/19)

What Makes a Good UK Spaceport Site? (Source: BBC)
The Civil Aviation Authority, or CAA, are in charge of the rules for flying aircraft in the UK. They've teamed up with the government to make a list of guidelines for a good spaceport location. The first one is about the length of the runway. Some space planes will take off in a similar to normal planes, using a runway to build up enough speed to take-off from the ground. The CAA have said that a spaceport runway should be at least 3000 meters long.

Another of the guidelines says that it is very important that the spaceport is build far enough away from where people live, so it will not cause them too much trouble, but near enough so that people can still travel to it without too much difficulty. This is because airports can be very noisy, and also because the quality of the air could be affected. As a result of this, the CAA have advised the the UK spaceport should be built near to the sea.

The weather can have a serious impact on flight travel. If the winds are too strong it would mean that the plane wouldn't be able to take-off. Also if the weather was too cloudy, then space tourists wouldn't be able to get very good views of the Earth from the space plane. The government have already made a list of eight possible locations for a spaceport. But with a potential price-tag of £150 million, they are being very careful about making a final decision. (5/19)

Why Billionaires Are Launching Extraterrestrial Adventures (Source: The Spectator)
Imagine you were lucky enough to assemble Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon; Paul Allen, co-founder with Bill Gates of Microsoft; Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and Tesla; and Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire, all in the same room. If you asked this illustrious gathering for some investment ideas, you’d expect them to come up with something pretty impressive.

New sources of power to replace oil and gas, perhaps. Androids that would take over any manual task, or a form of artificial intelligence that would replace white-collar work. Something that would make a lot of money, naturally — and turn established industries upside down. Instead, what you’d probably get is some kind of rocket. Click here. (5/19)

The Homemade Astronaut (Source: Men's Journal)
On his nightly walk home from Portland State University, in Oregon, where he is an adjunct professor, Cameron Smith often puzzles through the countless engineering details that will ensure his space suit is airtight. An archaeologist by training, the 49-year-old has learned the hard way that glued seams do not hold air pressure. In fact, they blow out every time. "It's a real thrill to be walking down the street and say, 'Eureka! I've got the solution.' "

What usually follows is a stop at Ace Hardware to pick up a pie tin or a mechanical valve. "If I'm looking for something, they'll occasionally ask, 'What are you trying to do with it?' " Smith says. "Then I have to go into the whole spiel."

Smith's homemade space suit, which he's building in the living room of  his apartment, began as a rubber dry suit for scuba diving that was retrofitted with hose attachments. Then he stitched in custom-fitted thermal long johns webbed with cooling hoses. Click here. (5/19)

UK Spaceport Will Need a Good Lawyer (Source: Law Gazette)
This is a country that has for decades bottled out of building a decent hub airport for subsonic airliners, never mind spaceplanes. What chance a venture which will have a noticeable environmental impact (though it will be many years before space launches are a significant source of greenhouse emissions) for the apparent benefit of a few billionaires? I can see the 'No space for spaceport' placards now.

When the epic legal challenges begin, on issues that will include the British Isles' inherent unsuitability as a spaceport location, remember you read about them here first. (5/18)

‘India Should Build its Own Space Station’ (Source: Udaipur Kiran)
India should actively get into building its own space station in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) as its next space frontier since the time is opportune for this, a retired space scientist has said. According to M.Y.S. Prasad, who retired as director of the Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC), India should have long-term strategic goals that will have a cascading technological benefit across several areas. (5/18)

Aldrin Says NASA is Ggoing About Mars Exploration the Wrong Way (Source: Ars Technica)
Of all the Apollo astronauts that walked on the Moon, none has made more of his fame than Buzz Aldrin, who followed Neil Armstrong onto the lunar surface in 1969. But long before he danced with the stars and inspired Buzz Lightyear, and even before he served as the Apollo 11 lunar module pilot, Aldrin was known as an expert in orbital rendezvous.

In recent years, Aldrin has used his astronautics expertise and fame to push a cycler concept that he believes would be the best way to visit and eventually inhabit Mars. In his public lectures, however, Aldrin has largely avoided criticizing the present approach being taken by NASA with the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft and its two-decade "Journey to Mars." Click here. (5/19)

Japanese Lunar Lander to be Built by Mitsubishi Electric (Source: Nikkei)
Mitsubishi Electric has been contracted to manufacture Japan's first lunar lander for launch as early as fiscal 2019, paving the way for future space exploration and development with more accurate landing technology. The company will work with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, as well as several Japanese universities on the 18 billion yen ($164 million) project. (5/18)

Japanese Orbiter Officially Begins Science Mission at Venus (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Five months since a belated arrival at Venus, Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft has officially started a modified scientific survey of the sweltering, shrouded planet’s atmosphere and climate. The probe’s science cameras are collecting regular images of Venus’s exotic clouds, and Japanese engineers are optimistic Akatsuki can remain operational for at least two years, and perhaps through 2020. Akatsuki braked into orbit around Venus in early December, five years later than originally planned after it missed an arrival opportunity in 2010. (5/17)

Subsurface Ocean on Europa Could be Habitable for Life (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Jupiter's moon Europa has long been thought to harbor a subsurface ocean of liquid water. Now, a study conducted by a group of scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) suggests that ocean may have a balance of hydrogen and oxygen similar to that found in oceans on Earth. (5/18)

Orbital ATK Advocates Cislunar Outpost as America’s Next Step (Source: SpaceRef)
Orbital ATK has advocated for a manned lunar-orbit outpost as America’s next step in human space exploration. During testimony this afternoon to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space, Frank Culbertson, President of the company’s Space Systems Group, said, “A lunar-orbit habitat will extend America’s leadership in space to the cislunar domain."

"A robust program to build, launch and operate this initial outpost would be built on NASA’s and our international partners’ experience gained in long-duration human space flight on the International Space Station and would make use of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion deep-space transportation system.”

Orbital ATK was recently selected by NASA to study an initial version of a cislunar habitat that could evolve over time to a much larger research platform with many of the capabilities required for a human mission to Mars. These studies fall under NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, a public-private partnership model that seeks commercial development of deep-space exploration capabilities. (5/18)

NRO Discloses Previously Unannounced Launch Contract for SpaceX (Source: Space News)
SpaceX is scheduled to launch a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office in March 2017 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, a spokeswoman for the intelligence agency said. SpaceX has not announced the launch. The NRO, which builds and operates the nation’s spy satellites, is thought to have previously discussed the contract – even broadly – in a public setting just once, during a House subcommittee hearing three years ago.

The March 2017 mission is known as NROL-76, but further details about the launch, including which rocket SpaceX would use to lift the satellite, the cost of the launch, or whether the mission was competitively bid were not immediately available, an NRO spokeswoman said. However, an industry source told SpaceNews the mission was not awarded as part of a competition. (5/18)

NRO Planning Shift to Smaller Satellites, New Ground System (Source: Space News)
The director of the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds and operates the country’s spy satellites, said May 18 that the intelligence agency, known for its gigantic satellites, intends to increase its use of cubesats in the near future. Betty Sapp, the head of the NRO, rarely grants interviews and her annual speech at the GEOINT conference is one of the few, if only, unclassified opportunities to better understand how the agency is operating.

While the NRO is often associated with some of the space industry’s heaviest and largest satellites, Sapp said the NRO is also launching cubesats, and not just as experiments or technical demonstrations. “Now, we’re using them for actual mission application,” she said. (5/18)

Lockheed Martin Wants to Send Humans to Mars in 12 Years (Source: Popular Science)
Before our species set foot on the moon, we orbited it first. The same will probably be true for Mars, and Lockheed Martin has unveiled its vision for a spacecraft that could make it happen. The "Mars Base Camp," as the company is calling it, would set up a laboratory, staffed by 6 astronauts, in Mars orbit in 2028.

Up to now, NASA has outlined the first few steps to Mars. It's building a heavy-lift rocket and working with Lockheed to build the Orion crew capsule. The rocket and capsule will launch for the first time, uncrewed, in 2018, and then in 2023 they'll carry astronauts into deep space, just beyond the moon, for the first time ever. But after the moon it's still a very long way to Mars, filled with unknowns, and then once you get to Mars, landing is a whole new challenge. This is where NASA's plans get particularly vague.

"We think that orbiting Mars is a necessary precursor to landing humans on the surface," Tony Antonelli, Lockheed Martin's chief technologist for civil space exploration, and a former NASA astronaut, told Popular Science. "NASA has that in their plans, and we're coloring in the details." Although NASA didn't commission Lockheed to come up with the Base Camp concept, the company is hoping the space agency will consider the design as it continues to solidify plans to land on Mars in the 2030s or 40s. (5/18)

DigitalGlobe Still Waiting on NOAA Nod for High Res Sales (Source: Space News)
DigitalGlobe said NOAA has yet to act on its request to sell higher resolution data, nearly three years after it submitted it. Company executive vice president and CTO Walter Scott said at the GEOINT conference this week that the company is restricted to selling images from the short wave infrared imager instrument on the WorldView-3 satellite at a resolution of 7.5 meters, while the government can purchase images from that instrument at a resolution of 3.7 meters. Scott said NOAA, working with other government agencies, is still reviewing a company request submitted nearly three years ago to allow it to sell images at higher resolutions, and has not indicated when it will make a decision. (5/18)

House Passes Defense Authorization Allowing Expanded Use of Rocket Money (Source: Space Policy Online)(
The House passed a defense authorization bill Wednesday night with revised language on launch system spending. Members approved an amendment that increases the share of overall rocket propulsion funding work that can be spent on items other than a main engine from 25 percent to 31 percent. The amendment also removed an earlier requirement that the government retain intellectual property rights. The overall National Defense Authorization Act passed on a 277–147 vote. (5/18)

German Astronaut to Command ISS (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Alexander Gerst will be the first German astronaut to command the International Space Station. The European Space Agency said Wednesday that Gerst will serve as commander of the Expedition 57 crew starting in September 2018. That command will cover the second half of a six-month stay on the station for Gerst that will begin with a launch in May 2018. Gerst previously spent six months on the ISS in 2014. (5/18)

Canadian Satellite Bumped From Russian Launch Catches Ride on Indian Rocket (Source: Space News)
A Canadian microsatellite bumped from a 2014 Russian launch because of geopolitics will finally fly next month. The Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite (M3MSat), built by Com Dev for the Canadian military, will be a secondary payload on a June launch of an Indian PSLV rocket.

M3MSat was scheduled to launch two years ago as secondary payload on a Soyuz rocket, but the Canadian government withdrew the satellite from that launch in protest of Russia's annexation of Crimea. The satellite will test an improved system for tracking ships at sea. (5/18)

SpaceX Spaceport Construction Upsets Texas Neighbors (Source: KGBT)
Construction of a SpaceX launch site in Texas has upset some neighbors. Residents of a  housing development near the site outside Brownsville have complained that trucks carrying dirt to the site pose a safety issue for them, and that there's a lack of adequate signage to indicate what is SpaceX property. SpaceX said it's working with the contractor to address those issues. The trucks had been bringing dirt to stabilize the soil at the site before construction can begin, but those trucks will not return for several months as the initial phase of soil stabilization has ended. (5/18)

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