May 26, 2016

Aerospace Industry Braces for Worker Shortfall as Boomers Retire (Source: Aurora Sentinel)
A wave of retiring baby boomers is poised to leave the aerospace industry with a shortage of skilled workers, prompting leading aerospace corporations to boost efforts to interest young people in science and math. "We can’t wait for somebody else to solve this," said AIA workforce specialist Susan Lavrakas. (5/26)

Redistricting in Florida Shifts Spaceport Representation (Source: SPACErePORT)
State Senator Dorothy Hukill has represented much of Volusia County for several years as a member of the Florida Legislature and she has been a steadfast supporter of aerospace initiatives there, including projects led by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. With the state's redrawing of district boundaries this year, Hukill is running for re-election in a new district that includes not only southern Volusia County but also northern Brevard County, with the Cape Canaveral Spaceport within it.

During the 44th Space Congress this week in Cape Canaveral, Hukill discussed her plans for making Florida more competitive for aerospace business in upcoming legislative sessions in Tallahassee. (5/26)

Space Congress is Back, With Support From NASA, Space Florida, EDC (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Congress used to be an international must-attend event for the space industry, filling three Cocoa Beach hotels. After a multi-year hiatus, its main sponsor -- the Canaveral Council of Technical Society (CCTS) -- attempted three years ago to resurrect the conference with a one-day event, and then again last year with a slightly larger 43rd Space Congress.

This year's 44th Space Congress was a sold-out event, with three days of hot-topic panel sessions, exhibits, receptions and keynotes. And it succeeded despite being scheduled concurrent with two other major space conferences, in California and Puerto Rico. The key was having agencies like NASA KSC, Space Florida, and the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast agree that this event can fill a void for local engagement in the national conversation on space.

One of the event's sponsors is Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has digitized and archived the papers and proceedings from the 44 Space Congress events dating back to 1962. The archive has enabled over 51,000 downloads of technical papers, many from the historic early years of the space program. Click here to access the archive. (5/26)

Deep Space Industries and SFL to Provide Satellites for HawkEye 360’s Pathfinder (Source: DSI)
Deep Space Industries has been selected by HawkEye 360 as the satellite provider for its Pathfinder small satellite mini-constellation. This is the first step towards the launch of the full commercial constellation of HawkEye 360’s space-based radio frequency mapping and analytics system.

Deep Space Industries (DSI) is the prime contractor for the development and manufacturing of the satellites that will host HawkEye 360’s proprietary data processing technology. The system will use space-based detection of radio signals to locate and characterize wireless spectrum information from Earth. Deep Space Industries has partnered with the UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) in Toronto as its platform provider. (5/26)

XS-1: The Government’s Last Shot at Reusable Launch Vehicles (Source: Space News)
For decades, U.S. government agencies, both civil and military, have sought to develop a reusable launch vehicle (RLV), seeing it as a critical tool for lowering the cost of space access. The space shuttle is the best known such effort, but it’s hardly the only one: the National Aerospace Plane, Delta Clipper, X-33, X-34 and Space Launch Initiative all tried to develop reusable launchers — and all failed.

And unlike those earlier programs, XS-1 is still alive and well. With an initial phase of study contracts awarded in 2014 wrapping up, DARPA plans to release a solicitation for the next phase of the program in May. At stake is about $140 million for the development of a prototype and a flight test program that will emphasize the ability to fly, and fly often.

“We want to push the industry to the point where we can fly a lot more often,” Jess Sponable said. A goal from the beginning of the program to demonstrate that capability is to fly XS-1 10 times in 10 days, demonstrating its reliability and low-cost operations. (5/9)

Air Force Considers Ariane 5 for Launching U.S. Military Satellites (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Air Force is studying the option of launching some military satellites on Europe's Ariane 5. Speaking at a conference this week, the Air Force's launch enterprise director, Claire Leon, said the Pentagon has started a study to determine the feasibility of using the Ariane 5 for national security payloads. That analysis is ongoing, but additional meetings between Arianespace and the Air Force are planned. Use of the Ariane 5 could provide a stopgap as United Launch Alliance transitions from the Atlas 5 to the Vulcan and new providers enter the market, but would require significant changes in national space policy. (5/25)

Senate Wants More Oversight of NRO (Source: Space News)
The Senate is seeking increased oversight of the National Reconnaissance Office. The Senate's version of the National Defense Authorization Act would require the Pentagon's Comptroller General to provide annual assessments of NRO programs, arguing that the Government Accountability Office doesn't have sufficient access to study potential cost overruns or schedule delays. Betty Sapp, director of the NRO, said last year that 11 of 12 major NRO programs were on budget, with the 12th running 6 percent over budget. (5/9)

Antares Test at Virginia Spaceport a Step Toward October Return to Flight (Source: NASA)
The static fire test of an Antares first stage is scheduled for next week. NASA said Wednesday that static fire test, from a launch pad on Wallops Island, Virginia, is planned for May 31 between 5:00 and 8:15 p.m. Eastern. The 30-second test will test the performance of the stage and its new RD-181 engines. A successful test would clear the way for the first Antares launch since an October 2014 failure, most likely in early July. (5/25)

India's Next RLV Test Aims for Landing (Source: Hindu Business Line)
India's next step in the development of a reusable launch vehicle will be to have the vehicle make a runway landing — once it builds a runway. On Monday's test of India's Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator, the winged vehicle flew to an altitude of 65 kilometers before it glided to landing at sea, where it was not recovered. On the next flight, India's space agency ISRO wants to fly a vehicle back to a runway landing, but must first build a runway five kilometers long at its spaceport. ISRO officials didn't estimate when that runway would be ready for that RLV test. (5/25)

‘Space Selfie’ Project Canceled: Planetary Resources Offers Kickstarter Refunds (Source: GeekWire)
Three years ago, Planetary Resources raised more than $1.5 million on Kickstarter to build a space telescope that would let users snap selfies from orbit. Today, the company says it can’t follow through on the project – and is offering full refunds to its 17,614 backers.

“It’s a decision that we make with a heavy heart,” Chris Lewicki, president and CEO of Planetary Resources, told GeekWire during a visit to the company’s Redmond headquarters. Lewicki said the support received during the Kickstarter campaign exceeded their wildest expectations, but it wasn’t enough to fund everything that needed to be done to turn the promised system into reality. (5/26)

California Legislator Seeks Extension of Tax Credit Incentive to Meet Delayed Bomber Timeline (Source: SVC News)
Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, motioned a proposal in Budget Sub-4 committee to adjust the Advanced Strategic Aircraft Tax Credit by one year in order to bring the tax credit years in line with the start date of the federal contract for the Long Range Strike Bomber. Due to the complex federal procurement process, the Long Range Strike Bomber contract that was supposed to be awarded on Oct. 27, 2015 didn’t get awarded until February 16, 2016. (5/25)

Planetary Resources Raises $21.1M; Unveils Advanced Earth Observation Capability (Source: Planetary Resources)
Planetary Resources, the asteroid mining company, has secured $21.1 million in Series A funding. The capital will be used to deploy and operate Ceres, an advanced Earth observation business that features the first commercial infrared and hyperspectral sensor platform to better understand and manage humanity’s natural resources.

The funding was led by Bryan Johnson and the OS FUND; and joined by Idea Bulb Ventures; Tencent; Vast Ventures; Grishin Robotics; Conversion Capital; The Seraph Group; Space Angels Network, a syndication of investors from; and Larry Page. Earth observation will be another aspect of Planetary Resources’ operations in addition to prospecting and mining asteroids. (5/26)

Looking for Life on Other Planets? Go Deep. (Source: Air & Space)
In a muggy hotel room off I-40 in Grants, New Mexico, two roboticists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are bent over a mass of electronics, the open body of a robot called LEMUR, short for Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot. LEMUR is designed to climb the porous walls of a cave 150 million miles away, on Mars. At the moment, though, its four multi-jointed limbs are piled in a heap in the closet, beside the complimentary ironing board.

Grants is the perfect place to field test a climbing robot. It’s surrounded by an ancient volcanic lava flow spread across the landscape like a jagged sea of Oreo cookie crumbs. In one corner of the flow, located in nearby El Malpais National Monument, is a network of subterranean corridors known as lava tubes: long, winding caves big enough to drive a subway train through. There are tubes just like them on Mars, only bigger, due to that planet’s weaker gravity. They may be some of the best places in the solar system to look for extraterrestrial life. (5/26)

Russia to Test Humanoid Robot at International Space Station in 2020 (Source: Sputnik)
Russian scientists plan to test their first humanoid robot capable of performing outer space missions at the International Space Station (ISS) in four years, a deputy chief of the space agency Roscosmos said Tuesday. A human-like robot can take on dangerous missions by being remotely-controlled by an operator inside the ISS. (5/25)

Next Generation of Carbon-Monitoring Satellites Faces Daunting Hurdles (Source: Nature)
Today just two satellites monitor Earth’s greenhouse-gas emissions from space. But if the world’s leading space agencies have their way, a flotilla of such probes could be launched beginning in 2030. The ambitious effort would help climate scientists to improve their forecasts — and it could also help to verify whether countries are upholding their commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

But researchers will need to clear a daunting array of political and technical hurdles if they are to get the system — estimated to cost several billion dollars — off the ground. Competition for satellite launch slots is stiff: last year, for instance, the European Space Agency shelved plans for an advanced carbon-dioxide-monitoring probe in favour of a mission to measure plant growth. And scientists must still prove that satellite measurements of gases such as CO2 and methane can match the accuracy of data from observatories on Earth. (5/25)

NASA Chief: Congress Should Revise US-China Space Cooperation Law (Source: Voice of America)
NASA says the U.S. can someday cooperate with China as it did with the Soviet Union on the Apollo-Soyuz joint project in 1975. Responding to questions Monday at an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute on Capitol Hill, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the U.S. should pursue such a relationship with China in human space exploration.

"We were in an incredible Cold War with the Soviets at the time we flew Apollo-Soyuz; it was because leaders in both nations felt it was time," he said. "That represented a great use of soft power, if you will. Look where we are today. I think we will get there [with China]. And I think it is necessary."

Current law prohibits NASA from engaging with its Chinese counterparts on such projects. But Bolden, who will travel to Beijing later this year, says Congress should consider revising the law. (5/25)

Interstellar Space Travel Won't Be Successful Without a Better Braking System (Source: Inverse)
One of the very important keys to making interstellar travel possible in space is to build something that can go fast — very fast. Another thing that’s not so obvious? Efficiently hitting the brakes. Click here. (5/20)

SpaceX Lines Up for Upcoming Missions (Source:
SpaceX is working a conveyor belt of Falcon 9 rockets for what it hopes will be a record year of missions and achievements. SpaceX is preparing to conduct its next launch just over three weeks since successfully lofting the JCSAT-14 communications satellite. This increasing launch cadence is being achieved via just its SLC-40 pad at Cape Canaveral, providing a glimpse into the company’s launch rate potential once it has four active pads at its disposal. (5/24)

Billionaire's Newest Moonshot Venture Aims to Change the World (Source: CNBC)
Most iconic entrepreneurs don't build billion-dollar empires by chasing riches. Instead, they're in hot pursuit of fulfilling a dream that can change the world. It's that imaginative spirit that drives innovation. Take serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain, who's founded the World Innovation Institute and five companies over the past 20 years, including InfoSpace, Intelius and Moon Express.

The former Microsoft executive believes technology is key to solving global societal issues — from curing disease to harnessing resources to sustain the exploding human population. He's now busy building his latest brainchild: BlueDot, a start-up that aims to form agriculture, health-care and energy businesses from federal research. Already, Jain has assembled a top-flight management team — which includes co-founder CTO Dr. Scott Parazynski, a NASA astronaut — and raised $8.3 million in start-up capital to fund the venture's innovation factory.

The company now has a $60 million post-money valuation. We are not an incubator or an accelerator, but an entirely new asset class. Our model is to buy the license to a technology developed at a research center that has a proof of concept and then put together a management team to create a company around it. The lab will receive a royalty stream that is a return on the government's investment. (4/18)

Building a Supermassive Black Hole? Skip the Star (Source: Ars Technica)
It seems that nearly every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its core. Based on the presence of extremely bright objects early in the Universe's history, it seems that this relationship goes back to the galaxy's very start—galaxies seem to have been built around these monstrous black holes.

But this presents a bit of a problem. There's a limit to how fast black holes can grow, and they shouldn't have gotten to the supermassive stage anywhere near this quickly. There have been a few models to suggest how they might grow fast enough, but it's hard to get any data on what's going on that early in the Universe's history. Now, however, a team is announcing some of the first observational support for one model: the direct collapse of gas into a black hole without bothering to form a star first.

It's technically possible for a stellar mass black hole to grow to that size by drawing in surrounding matter, but the process takes time. Part of that is just getting that much mass into the vicinity of the black hole in the first place. But black holes are also messy eaters. As material spirals in, it heats up and emits radiation, which can push back against any further matter that's falling in. This process sets a limit—called the Eddington limit—on how fast material can enter the black hole. (5/25)

Report Endorses Greater Use of Cubesats for Science Missions (Source: Space News)
A National Academies report recommends that NASA and the National Science Foundation make greater use of cubesats for science missions, while also centralizing the management of NASA’s diverse cubesat efforts. The report, prepared by a committee under the auspices of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board and released May 23, argued that cubesats represent a “disruptive innovation” whose capabilities continue to grow while remaining faster to develop and less expensive than more conventional spacecraft. (5/25)

NASA Fires Back at Nathan Myhrvold in Spat Over Asteroid Mission’s Data (Source: GeekWire)
NASA issued a statement disputing Seattle tech icon Nathan Myhrvold’s critique of asteroid data analysis from the space agency’s NEOWISE mission. Myhrvold had said NEOWISE’s analysis relied on flawed statistical calculations, which resulted in incorrect or highly uncertain measurements for thousands of asteroids.

When GeekWire showed Myhrvold’s critique to scientists associated with NEOWISE and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, they identified what they said were serious errors – including misinterpretations of NEOWISE’s methods and an apparent confusion between radius and diameter in one key equation. GeekWire’s report on Monday referred to those problems, as well as Myhrvold’s acknowledgment of mistakes. (5/25)

SpaceX Running More Than One Year Behind Schedule on Commercial Crew (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceX’s commercial crew program is running more than a year behind schedule on the Commercial Crew program it is performing for NASA. Garrett Reisman, SpaceX’s Director of Crew Operations, said on Tuesday that an automated flight test of the Crew Dragon vehicle to the International Space Station (ISS) has slipped into the second quarter of 2017. (Spaceflight Now has the mission listed for May 2017.) It was scheduled to occur in March 2016 under the contract NASA awarded to SpaceX in September 2014. (5/25)

Russia to Create New Powerful Plasma Rocket Engine (Source: Sputnik)
A Russian rocket engine company, with the assistance of a major research and development institute, will work on a project to create a powerful electrodeless plasma rocket engine, Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation said Wednesday. The project will be developed by the Kurchatov Institute, Russia's leading research and development institution in the field of nuclear energy, and the Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (CADB). (5/26)

Could Black Holes be the Dark Matter Everyone Has Been Looking For? (Source: Washington Post)
"We are still finishing up the analyses of the second set of LIGO data from our first observing run, and [will] be reporting results from those analyses sometime in the near future, hopefully in June," LIGO's David Reitze, of Caltech, told us by email.

In the meantime, one maverick theory has entered the conversation. Two different papers have been published recently suggesting that LIGO may have stumbled upon the solution to the enduring mystery of dark matter. Maybe black holes are the dark matter, these papers say. Click here. (5/25)

Lasers Could Blast Astronauts to Mars, Protect Earth from Asteroids (Source:
The same laser system being developed to blast tiny "Breakthrough Starshot" spacecraft between the stars could also launch human missions to Mars, protect Earth from dangerous asteroids and help get rid of space junk, project leaders say. Such technology could be used for much more than just interstellar flight, Lubin said. "You build one [system], and then you have, suddenly, a radically transformative tool on your hands," he said earlier this month during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group. (5/25)

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