June 16, 2016

Scientists Have Detected Gravitational Waves for the Second Time (Source: The Verge)
Scientists with the LIGO collaboration claim they have once again detected gravitational waves — the ripples in space-time produced by objects moving throughout the Universe. It’s the second time these researchers have picked up gravitational wave signals, after becoming the first team in history to do so earlier this year.

This second detection boosts the likelihood that LIGO is truly measuring waves and not something else. "Seeing a second loud signal like this means the first detection wasn’t just luck," said Duncan Brown, a LIGO researcher and a professor of physics at Syracuse University. These two wave signals also occurred within just a few months of each other, hinting that these detections may happen pretty frequently for LIGO moving forward.

As with the original finding, these waves came from the merger of two black holes — super dense objects that form when a star collapses and dies. During the merger, these black holes rapidly spun around each other several times a second, before joining together into a single extra-dense object. The whole process generated massive gravitational waves that rippled outward at the speed of light. (6/15)

Students and Educators Develop Their Rocket Skills at NASA Wallops (Source: SpaceRef)
During Rocket Week, held from June 18-24 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, nearly 200 university and community college students and instructors from across the country will build and fly experiments on a NASA suborbital rocket through the RockOn! and RockSat-C programs. Another 20 high school educators from the eastern United States will examine how to apply rocketry basics into their curriculum through the Wallops Rocket Academy for Teachers (WRATs). (6/15)

ESA Reaffirms ExoMars Plan (Source: BBC)
The European Space Agency has reaffirmed its support for a Mars rover mission despite launch delays. The ESA Council, meeting in Paris this week, backed plans to launch the ExoMars lander and rover mission in 2020, two years later than previously planned. That support includes the immediate release of 77 million euros ($87 million) in funds from ESA's four largest member states into the project to ensure work on the mission is not further delayed. ESA officials said the rover mission now has a "realistic technical schedule" to support that 2020 launch. (6/16)

ULA Resolves Atlas Engine Anomaly Issue Ahead of June 24 Launch (Source: ULA)
ULA says it has identified and resolved the problem on the previous Atlas 5 launch. In a statement Wednesday, the company said an "unexpected shift in fuel pressure differential" across a mixture ratio control valve in the RD-180 engine, nearly four minutes after liftoff, caused the engine to run oxidizer-rich. That depleted the supply of liquid oxygen and shut down the engine prematurely, even though there was still "significant fuel" left on the first stage.

ULA said the engine supplier, NPO Energomash, has made a minor change to the valve to prevent that problem from taking place again, and that change has been verified in hot-fire tests. The Atlas 5 is set to return to flight June 24 with the launch of the MUOS 5 military communications satellite. (6/16)

Bezos Likes NASA Prizes Approach (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said he thinks NASA should pursue large prize competitions and "gigantic" technology development efforts. Bezos, interviewed during a presentation at the National Air and Space Museum this week, said that if the next administration asked him for space policy advice, he would recommend NASA offer large prizes for efforts currently being done in-house by NASA, like Mars sample return. NASA should then pursue very difficult technology efforts, like an in-space nuclear reactor, he said. (6/15)

JAXA Officials Take Pay Cut for Hitomi Failure (Source: JAXA)
Three top JAXA officials will take a temporary pay cut in response to the failure of the Hitomi mission. The agency announced Wednesday the three, including JAXA President Naoki Okumura, would take a 10 percent pay cut for four months. Hitomi, an x-ray astronomy mission launched in February, failed in March after a series of problems, with human error playing a factor. (6/15)

Cygnus Fire Experiment Succeeds (NASA)
An experiment to create the largest controlled fire in space was a success. NASA said Wednesday the Saffire experiment, included in the Cygnus spacecraft that departed from the station Tuesday, burned a sample material nearly one meter long in an enclosed space within the spacecraft. Images and data from Saffire will be returned to Earth before the Cygnus reenters next week. Two more Saffire experiments are planned for future Cygnus missions. (6/15)

Air Force Recovers IG Investigation Records After Crash (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Air Force made an about-face Wednesday after previously announcing that its inspector general had lost more than a decade's worth of records when its case tracking system crashed, saying it has now successfully recovered all data from the database. (6/16)

SETI Gets an Upgrade (Source: Air & Space)
For decades, astronomers have been listening for messages sent to us—a “Hello, is anyone out there?” signal from intelligent aliens. But now Dan Werthimer's team at the University of California at Berkeley is conducting the first search for communities on other worlds that are speaking to one another—between planets and even across star systems. And to do it, he has two of the world’s largest radio telescopes and support from a planet‑hunting optical telescope.

Thanks to a new initiative announced last July, Werthimer’s team will begin searching for extraterrestrial civilizations, using instruments with greater sensitivity and scanning across a wider range of frequencies than any SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project to date. Called Breakthrough Listen, it began earlier this year and will continue for a decade at a price tag of $100 million. “It’s a lot of money, a lot of telescope time,” says Werthimer. “We’ll be able to look at a hundred billion radio channels simultaneously. (6/15)

The Universe is Ringing (Source: Air & Space)
Practically every action makes gravitational waves—you can create them by waving your arms—but it takes serious astronomical doings to generate anything powerful enough to be detected. Earth orbiting the sun produces them, but they are low energy (which is good for the long-term stability of our solar system); two pulsars, the ultra-compact remnants of massive stars, locked in binary orbit produce far more substantial waves.

As those bodies sweep around each other, they compress and expand the structure of space-time itself, creating a disturbance that travels out at the speed of light.Conceived as a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency, LISA was originally projected to launch between 2012 and 2016. However, NASA withdrew participation in 2011, leaving the very expensive project entirely up to ESA. By cutting back on the ambition a bit, the project survived as European LISA, or eLISA, but now the launch date is 2034, which is far enough in the future to make any forecasts doubtful. (6/15)

SpaceX's Banner Year Continues with Dual ABS Launch, Failed Landing (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
With the year halfway over, SpaceX conducted its sixth launch of the year with a “Full Thrust” Falcon 9 taking to the skies with the ABS / Eutelsat-2 satellites. SpaceX had already conducted five missions this year, all of them successful. Things did not go as planned with the rocket’s first stage landing. “Maybe hardest impact to date,” according to Elon Musk via Twitter. Upon impact the stage encountered a "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly.” (6/15)

How a GPS Glitch Can Change the Taste of Your Salad (Source: The Atlantic)
Satellites can reveal themselves in unexpected, even astonishing ways, and not only by flaring in the sun of an evening horizon, like artificial stars. Their presence can also be inferred indirectly—by causing subtle, nearly undetectable problems elsewhere, such as a briefly wandering tractor. Click here. (6/15)

ULA to Launch MUOS Navy Satellite Atop Atlas-5 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Lockheed Martin)
The fifth Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite built by Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Navy was encapsulated in its protective launch vehicle fairing on June 4. It is scheduled to launch June 24 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (6/15)

GOP Candidate Would Drop Out if Rubio Runs for Senate Seat (Source: Daily Beast)
Rep. David Jolly, one of four top Republican candidates for Senate in Florida, says he would drop out of the race if Marco Rubio changes his mind about running for re-election for the seat. Rubio, a former 2016 presidential contender, said during the campaign he would not seek re-election for his Senate seat. However, in recent weeks Rubio's fellow Republican senators—including presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump—have encouraged him to reconsider.

Editor's Note: Rubio had plans to visit the Cape Canaveral Spaceport on Friday to meet with space industry leaders, but the visit was postponed due to the Orlando shooting. Senator Rubio, like Sen. Bill Nelson, has been an advocate for the state's space interests in Washington. (6/15)

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