May 2, 2016

OSTP Recommends Giving Expanded Space Authority for FAA (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has recommended to Congress that the Secretary of Transportation be given the power to provide mission authorizations for such non-traditional space activities as asteroid mining and private space stations, an FAA official revealed last week.

George Nield, FAA associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, said an authorization would stipulate that a mission is in compliance with U.S. space policy, foreign and national security considerations, and international treaty obligations. The government currently lacks a single authority with responsibility for mission approvals, Nield said. The FAA licenses commercial launches and re-entries, the FCC licenses radio broadcasts, and NOAA oversees remote-sensing activities.

The State Department has said the current regulatory framework makes it difficult to determine whether proposed activities comply with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, of which the U.S. is a signatory, Nield added. The uncertainty has left companies pursuing private space stations, lunar bases, asteroid mining, and other non-traditional activities in limbo, he said. They can proceed with their efforts and raise money, but the lack of a clear regulatory process makes it more difficult. (5/2)

Critics: Georgia County Under-Representing Spaceport Risks (Source: SpaceportFacts)
Georgia spaceport supporters last week claimed their Camden site (just north of Jacksonville, Florida) has the nation's best geography for spaceflight. The folks at SpaceportFacts (an anti-spaceport group's site) beg to differ. They point to a variety of safety and operational barriers that they claim are being ignored or whitewashed by county officials (no funding is being provided by the state) who are focused on jobs above all else. They worry the county is wasting millions on a project doomed to fail.

They also worry that by providing misleading information for the spaceport's environmental/public safety analysis, the county is endangering residents downrange from the launch site. They say the Camden site is much farther inland (8 miles) than other orbital vertical launch sites, causing hazards to more homes and properties downrange than the county acknowledges. The critics say this SpaceportFacts graphic shows how the county has shaved property from a downrange hazard map.

Meanwhile, they point to a very limited orbital azimuth possible from Camden, a potentially illegal requirement for the government to "take" downrange property, and federal "Wilderness Act" problems with flying over the Cumberland Island Wilderness Area. Then there are the impacts on boating downrange, potential air traffic corridor interruptions, over-optimistic jobs and wages forecasts, and impacts on the Navy's operations at King's Bay, with nuclear submarines encroaching the downrange safety zone in secrecy. Click here. (5/2)

Vanishing Arctic Ice Shifts Jet Stream, Which Melts Greenland Glaciers (Source: Washington Post)
Investigating the factors affecting ice melt in Greenland — one of the most rapidly changing places on Earth — is a major priority for climate scientists. And new research is revealing that there are a more complex set of variables affecting the ice sheet than experts had imagined. New research proposes a critical connection between sharp declines in Arctic sea ice and changes in the atmosphere, which they say are not only affecting ice melt in Greenland, but also weather patterns all over the North Atlantic.

The new studies center on an atmospheric phenomenon known as “blocking” — this is when high pressure systems remain stationary in one place for long periods of time (days or even weeks), causing weather conditions to stay relatively stable for as long as the block remains in place. They can occur when there’s a change or disturbance in the jet stream, causing the flow of air in the atmosphere to form a kind of eddy. (5/2)

Space Florida Hosting “Water Quality Research in Florida” Workshop (Source: Space Florida)
Florida Research Parks Network (FRPN) with support from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture for Consumer Services (FDOACS), is sponsoring a workshop entitled “Water Quality Research in Florida” at Space Florida’s Space Life Sciences Lab in Exploration Park on the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The event will be held on May 26, with opening remarks by Dr. Lisa Conti, Deputy Commissioner FDOACS. Invited speakers will be from the academic and research world. Due to limited capacity, it's invitation only. Contact for details. (5/2)

UCF Update on Space Research at Space Club Meeting (Source: NSCFL)
University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Florida Space Institute Director Ray Lugo will be the featured speaker at the National Space Club Florida Committee’s (NSCFL) monthly luncheon on Tuesday, May 10. His presentation is entitled “University of Central Florida Space Research Update.” The luncheon event begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral. (5/2)

NASA Astronauts Train on Boeing Spacecraft Simulators (Source:
NASA astronauts are training to fly Boeing's new commercial spacecraft on one of two CST-100 Starliner Crew Part Task Trainers at the company's facility in Missouri. "Testing new airplanes and equipment is great, but testing new spaceships -- well, we here in the United States haven't tested a new manned vehicle for 30 years, so it's a real honor to get the chance," says astronaut Eric Boe. The first piloted test of the Starliner is slated for next year. (4/28)

Sierra Nevada Headed to Mars for 13th Time (Source: SNC)
NASA has awarded Sierra Nevada Corp. multiple contracts to supply critical hardware for the Mars 2020 mission. A robotic science rover will investigate key questions about the habitability of Mars and assess natural resources and hazards in preparation for future human expeditions. SNC will design and manufacture the descent brake, as well as actuators for robotic arm and sample caching system. The instruments will enable scientists to identify and select a collection of rock and soil samples for potential return to Earth. (5/2)

SpaceX: Falcon Rockets are More Powerful Than We Thought (Source: Engadget)
If you thought SpaceX was already making a fuss over the capabilities of both its existing Falcon 9 rocket and the upcoming Falcon Heavy, you haven't seen anything yet. The company has posted updated specs showing that both vehicles are more powerful than previously thought.

A Falcon 9 is now known to be capable of hauling 50,265lbs to low Earth orbit, up from just shy of 29,000 pounds. The Falcon Heavy, meanwhile, will carry 119,930lbs instead of the previously promised 116,845lbs. Elon Musk chalks up the improved figures to more thorough testing -- SpaceX hasn't upgraded the hardware, at least not yet.

However, the private space firm is also raising expectations across the board. Musk plans to increase the Falcon 9's rated liftoff thrust to 1.71 million (up from 1.3 million), and the Falcon Heavy will now put out 5.1 million pounds on liftoff instead of the earlier 4.5 million. That's twice the thrust of any other rocket in service, the exec claims. (5/2)

Exploring an Asteroid Without Leaving Earth (Source: NASA)
One building at JSC houses a spacecraft that will bring its 10th crew face-to-face with an asteroid on May 2. HERA – the Human Exploration Research Analog – is one of several analogs used by the Human Research Program to research ways to help NASA move from Lower Earth Orbit to deep space explorations. An analog is a situation on Earth that produces physical and mental affects on the body similar to those experienced in space.

From ingress to splashdown the HERA crew goes through all the motions of a real deep space mission without ever actually leaving the building. The habitat used for the HERA analog study, located in Building 220, is a three-story research laboratory containing an airlock, medical station, work area, flight deck, four bunks, a kitchen, and a bathroom. It is a generic design not meant to replicate any particular spacecraft. (4/25)

Space Tourism to Bring New Health Concerns (Source: Brisbane Times)
The groundbreaking push toward space tourism is throwing up new challenges for those charged with keeping people safe as they break free of Earth's gravity. Beyond the obvious dangers of hurtling into space at roughly three-and-a-half times the speed of sound, endeavours such as Virgin Galactic raise many questions the industry needs to prepare to deal with, according to one of Australia's most respected researchers in the field. Click here. (5/2)

How to Bump an Asteroid Off Course (Source: Guardian)
Roughly every other week a one-metre-wide asteroid impacts on Earth’s atmosphere and creates a spectacular fireball. Meanwhile, every few decades a lump of rock the size of a double-decker bus comes our way, creating a small crater on the ground like the Russian Chelyabinsk event on 15 February 2013.

Asteroids that cause significant damage (football-field-sized rocks) slam into us every 5,000 years or so, and the real biggies – capable of causing global disaster – arrive every few million years. So what can we do when Earth ends up in the crosshairs of the next big one? One idea is to bump it off its course. And in 2022 scientists plan to test this idea, when the Didymos asteroid and its mini-satellite known as “Didymoon” will be passing relatively close to Earth. Click here. (5/2)

Time for Fresh Thinking About Collaboration in Space (Source: Space Review)
The International Space Station has demonstrated how the US and Russia can cooperate in space even when terrestrial relations are strained. Ajey Lele argues that this can serve as a model for cooperation in space between China and India. Click here. (5/2)

A New Chapter for a Commercial Space Pioneer (Source: Space Review)
Jeff Greason and two other co-founders of XCOR Aerospace have left the company in recent months and started a new venture, Agile Aero. Jeff Foust reports on Agile’s vision for the future of space vehicle development, as well as where XCOR stands on its Lynx suborbital spaceplane. Click here. (5/2)

Another Overview of the American Space Renaissance Act (Source: Space Review)
In the second part of his comprehensive review of a new space policy bill, Michael Listner examines the civil space portion of the act, including changes to how a NASA administrator is chosen. Click here. (5/2)

The US Should Challenge the EU to Lead Lunar Development (Source: Space Review)
As ESA seeks to drum up support for its “Moon Village” concept, the US appears content to focus instead on missions to Mars. Vid Beldavs, in an open letter to the president, argues that the US should push Europe to take the lead on lunar development and take on a supporting role that can help support its own Mars ambitions. Click here. (5/2)

DOJ Floats Cape Canaveral Launch Site Cleanup Settlement (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Department of Justice and a defunct government contractor have reached a tentative $331,566 settlement in Florida federal court over decades-old contamination at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport site where Titan missiles were first launched. Wednesday’s consent decree, between the United States on behalf of the U.S. Air Force and EG&G Florida Inc., would help fund the cleanup at Space Launch Complex 15, where rockets that boosted the Gemini missions, the Voyager deep space probes and the intercontinental ballistic missile programs were first launched. (4/29)

Europe and Rusia Postpone ExoMars Mission Launch to 2020 (Source: ESA)
ESA and Roscosmos have decided to postpone the launch of the ExoMars lander mission from 2018 to 2020. The agencies said in a joint statement early Monday that, after a "Tiger Team" review of schedule delays in the mission's development, they would push back the launch to July 2020. The scheduled 2018 launch of the mission, featuring a lander and rover, had been in question for months because of development delays. The first phase of ExoMars, an orbiter, launched in March and is in good condition en route to Mars. (5/2)

ISS Crew Rotation Delayed (Source: ESA)
Three members of the International Space Station's crew will get more time on the station. NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, Roscosmos cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and British astronaut Tim Peake will now return from the station on June 18, 13 days later than originally planned. The ISS partners decided to delay their return to allow them to continue work and maximize the research performed on the station. Their replacements, originally scheduled to launch on a Soyuz June 21, are now set to fly June 24. (5/2)

SpaceX Releases Updated Performance and Price Details for Falcon Fleet (Source: Space News)
A new chart released by SpaceX shows that reusability comes at a price. The updated chart of price and performance for both the Falcon 9 and upcoming Falcon Heavy show that the Falcon 9 can launch payloads weighing up to 8,300 kilograms to geostationary transfer orbit, but only if the rocket is expended. The reusable Falcon 9 is limited to 5,500 kilograms to the same orbit in order to preserve propellant needed for landing. A Falcon 9 launch is currently priced at $62 million, but SpaceX executives have suggested it will cut prices for reusable launches by about 30 percent. (5/2)

OneWeb Submits Application for Space-Based Internet (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
OneWeb LLC recently submitted its application for satellite-based Internet operations to the Federal Communications Commission. The application seeks access to the U.S. market for the company's planned low-Earth orbit satellite constellation. (5/2)

How NASA's Next Big Telescope Could Take Pictures of Another Earth (Source: Scientific American)
Can NASA’s next big space telescope take a picture of an alien Earth-like planet orbiting another star? Astronomers have long dreamed of such pictures, which would allow them to study worlds beyond our solar system for signs of habitability and life.

But for as long as astronomers have dreamed, the technology to make those dreams a reality has seemed decades away. Now, however, a growing number of experts believe NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) could take snapshots of “other Earths”—and soon. The agency formally started work on WFIRST in February of this year and plans to launch the observatory in 2025.

WFIRST was conceived in 2010 as the top-ranked priority of the National Academy of Sciences’ Decadal Survey, a report from U.S. astronomers that proposes a wish list of future missions for NASA and other federal science agencies. The telescope’s heart is a 2.4-meter mirror that, although the same size and quality as the Hubble Space Telescope’s, promises panoramic views of the heavens a hundred times larger than anything Hubble could manage. (5/2)

Three Potentially Habitable Worlds Found Around Nearby Ultracool Dwarf Star (Source: ESO)
Astronomers using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory have discovered three planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth. These worlds have sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth and are the best targets found so far for the search for life outside the Solar System. They are the first planets ever discovered around such a tiny and dim star.

TRAPPIST-1 is an ultracool dwarf star — it is much cooler and redder than the Sun and barely larger than Jupiter. Such stars are both very common in the Milky Way and very long-lived, but this is the first time that planets have been found around one of them. Despite being so close to the Earth, this star is too dim and too red to be seen with the naked eye or even visually with a large amateur telescope. It lies in the constellation of Aquarius (The Water Carrier). (5/2)

Study Finds FAA Could Take Over Space Situational Awareness from Air Force (Source: Parabolic Arc)
A Department of Transportation (DOT) review has found that it would be possible for it to take over responsibility for space situational awareness from the U.S. Air Force. George Nield, FAA associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (AST), told a meeting of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) that the DOT review supports developing an implementation plan as soon as possible.

The Air Force currently handles space situational awareness, which involves tracking objects in orbit and determining whether collisions are likely. Air Force officials have said they want the service to get out of the business of being an orbital traffic cop so it can focus on national security issues. The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act passed last year ordered the DOT to study whether the department would be capable of taking over the duties. (5/2)

SpaceX Will Send Your Stuff to Mars Starting at $62 Million (Source: Motherboard)
Looking to chuck some of your belongings over to Mars? SpaceX has you covered, provided you have the dough. This weekend, the company updated its standard price options to include specs for journeys to the Red Planet. The damage shakes out to $62 million for a Falcon 9 rocket launch with a payload of 4,020 kilograms (8,860 pounds) and $90 million for a ride on the much-anticipated Falcon Heavy rocket, which can ferry 13,600 kilograms (29,980 pounds) to Mars. (5/2)

Former Moonwalker Pushes Colonization of Mars From Florida Tech (Source: Chronicle of Higher Ed)
Although renowned for long-ago exploits, Buzz Aldrin, at 86, seems as focused on shaping the future as on celebrating his past. The second man to walk on the moon, in 1969, Mr. Aldrin was the first astronaut with a doctorate in astronautics, or anything else, when he was selected by NASA, in 1963. For decades, he has pressed federal aerospace officials and corporations to plan a permanent settlement on Mars.

To advance that mission, last summer he and the Florida Institute of Technology said they would set up the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute there. Mr. Aldrin became a research professor of aeronautics at Florida Tech and senior faculty adviser to the institute. At the same time, the university said its John H. Evans Library would establish the Buzz Aldrin Special Collection and Archives. (5/2)

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