June 29, 2016

The Sun Has ‘Gone Blank’ for the Second Time This Month (Source: Washington Post)
The sun is blank for the second time in less than a month — not a single dark sunspot mars its surface. It’s a sign our star is entering a new period of decreased activity — one that will continue to last for about five years. But, despite the overall decline, history has proven that some of the largest solar storms in memory can occur when sunspots appear to be ebbing. (6/28)

NASA: $118 Million in Cargo Lost in 2015 SpaceX Explosion (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA's inspector general said Tuesday that an explosion of a SpaceX rocket last June destroyed a docking adapter crucial to converting the International Space Station for manned missions. The report, which said the explosion cost $118 million in cargo, came on the one-year anniversary of the Falcon 9 rocket exploding just minutes after launch on Florida's Space Coast on June 28, 2015.

In the report, the inspector general admonished NASA for not being more specific about risks associated with resupply launches, meaning NASA management cannot properly evaluate risks. The one-size-fits-all approach, which, according to the report, essentially places all commercial resupply launches at the lowest level of risk, "deviated from existing procedures for evaluating launch risks." (6/28)

NASA Investigation of Falcon 9 Explosion Questions Single Strut Theory (Source: Parabolic Arc)
While SpaceX blames a faulty strut supplied by a contractor for the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket in June 2015, an independent investigation by NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) concluded there were several “credible causes” for the accident, including poor quality control at Elon Musk’s launch company.

“In addition to the material defects in the strut assembly SpaceX found during its testing, LSP pointed to manufacturing damage or improper installation of the assembly into the rocket as possible initiators of the failure,” according to a report published on Tuesday by the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG). “LSP also highlighted improper material selection and such practices as individuals standing on flight hardware during the assembly process, as possible contributing factors.”

The information is contained in a new OIG audit, “NASA’s Response to SpaceX’s June 2015 Launch Failure: Impacts on Commercial Resupply of the International Space Station.” The report says LSP failed to find a probable cause for a failure that sent a Dragon supply ship carrying cargo for the International Space Station to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Click here. (6/28)

HBO Pays a Visit to MDRS (Source: Mars Society)
HBO Vice, the network's award-winning news program, will broadcast a 15-minute report about current planning for a human mission to the planet Mars on Friday, July 1st at 11:00 pm EDT. The segment will include a visit to the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, which took place last December during the field rotation of Crew 158. The program can be viewed on television, but can also be seen online via HBO GO immediately after the show is aired. (6/28)

Chinese Conduct Surprise Long March 4B Launch with Shijian-16-2 (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
China conducted another orbital launch, this time orbiting the Shijian-16 (#2) satellite via the Long March-4B (Chang Zheng-4B) rocket. The launch took place from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Little information was available about the incoming launch, with NOTAM’s only appearing a few days before the event. However, this only hinted at the launch of a bird to be placed in a 75 degree orbit. (6/29)

The Future of Archaeology Is 'Spacejunk' (Source: The Atlantic)
The grand tour of the future, however, according to historian of astronomy Randall C. Brooks and conservationist Robert Barclay, might take place off the Earth entirely, involving a tour of derelict satellites and abandoned spacecraft, those ruined cathedrals of the sky.

In a paper called “In Situ Preservation of Historic Spacecraft,” collected in the massive 2009 Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology, and Heritage, they specifically use the analogy of the grand tour to describe this vision of future tourists planning “visits to preserved space vehicles.” (6/28)

NASA's New Horizons Views First Distant Kuiper Belt Object Beyond Pluto (Source: Forbes)
NASA’s New Horizons flew by Pluto in July 2015, but continued to coast deeper into the Kuiper belt, away from the Sun. In November 2015, its longest range camera imaged a Kuiper belt object (KBO) – (15810) 1994 JR1 — multiple times, independently, over the course of many hours. The Hubble space telescope imaged the exact same KBO simultaneously, creating the longest-baseline parallax observations ever made.

In April of 2016, New Horizons made its closest approach to this object at just 66 million miles, taking a much longer and more complex series of images. An incredible amount of science was learned, including: it rotates rapidly, with a period of just 5.5 hours, it has no moons, and is small and heavily cratered, with long evening and morning shadows. (6/27)

Virgin Galactic Official Leaves Company to Lead Aerospace Corp. (Source: Aerospace Corp.)
Steve Isakowitz, president of Virgin Galactic, has been elected president of The Aerospace Corporation effective Aug. 1. He will assume the position of Aerospace president and CEO upon the retirement of Dr. Wanda Austin on Oct. 1. (6/28)

City of Midland Offers $2 Million Loan for Spaceport Business Park Improvements (Source: CBS7)
An agreement between the City of Midland and the Spaceport Development Corporation looks to bring new and more diverse businesses to the Spaceport Business Park. The Midland City Council approved an economic development agreement between the Midland Development Corporation and the Spaceport Development Corporation for infrastructure and improvements at the Spaceport Business Park.

The entire project is estimated to cost $2.7 Million. $2 Million of those funds is coming from the Office of the Governor in a grant secured by the Spaceport Development Corporation. The Midland Development Corporation has agreed to cover the remaining $700,000 and up to $1 Million for the costs to improve the infrastructure in the Spaceport Business Park. (6/28)

Let’s Talk About the Space Industry in Australia’s Election Campaign (Source: The Conversation)
New Zealand’s announcement this month that it will establish a space agency means that of the 34 countries in the OECD, only two are not represented in the international community by a space agency: Iceland and Australia. Could we be last in space? The benefits of a national space program have been listed many times, most recently by the Canadians in their Comprehensive Socio-Economic Impact Assessment Of The Canadian Space Sector. Click here. (6/28)

Public Relations in Space: How to Pitch a Product That Doesn't Exist (Source: Inverse)
Commercial space travel is on the rise, and with it, budding young upstarts are looking to plant their flag in the next big thing. But how do you get investors to cough up dough for products that don’t exist? Here’s what experts at the NewSpace 2016 conference said were the best ways to make your star dreams come true.

One of the most important values to bear in mind is credibility. Promising investors that you can take them to the moon and back may seem like a great way to get your foot in the door, but it could be catastrophic further down the line. Click here. (6/28)

Midland Texas Spaceport Business Park Gets Closer to Construction (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
Midland Development Corp. board members voted to release $3 million to Midland Spaceport Development Corp. during a special meeting Monday morning at City Hall. The money will go toward funding Phase 1 of building Spaceport Business Park at Midland International Air & Space Port. Construction in this phase includes the extension of water and sewer to future tenants, as well as paving roads and building entrance points to the business park.

Lacy said competing with other states in the race for space will require more capital. “Well, $15 million is a great start, but you look at Spaceport Florida, which gets hundreds of millions of dollars, that puts us at a financial disadvantage when we’re trying to attract additional aerospace companies to our state because we don’t have the resources,” Lacy said. “You can’t put it all on the local entities. The city of Midland can’t spend $50 million, $60 million building a facility.

We’re going to need help from the state of Texas if it’s going to be a viable option.” Lacy added that Midland needs facilities and amenities to attract businesses that states with large aerospace presences, such as California and Colorado, currently offer. Doing so could mean huge payoffs for the city and the state. (6/28)

‘Infant’ Alien Planet Discovery Shakes Up Ideas About How Worlds Form (Source: Huffington Post)
Astronomers have found what they say is the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever seen, and it’s shaking up ideas about how planets form. “This discovery is a remarkable milestone in exoplanet science,” said Erik Petigura. The discovery, he said, could help explain the origins of Earth “and eventually the origin of life.”

More than 3,000 exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) have been found to date, and just about all are believed to be at least a billion years old. But the newly identified exoplanet, a body roughly six times the size of Earth that’s located about 470 light-years from Earth in the constellation Scorpio, is just 5 million to 10 million years old. (6/28)

Why This Former NASA Exec Is Building a Private Space Station (Source: Inc.)
When the International Space Station (ISS) is taken out of commission in 2024, it will end a a 26-year run as a hub of experimentation and exploration in low Earth orbit. One former NASA employee sees that as a big opportunity.

Mike Suffredini, the former manager of the ISS at NASA, has co-founded a startup with the intention of building a brand new, private space station. The company, Axiom Space LLC, will build a module to attach to the current ISS, and will eventually expand that module into a full station that can be used for space tourism and research. (6/28)

Sierra Nevada Talks with United Nations on Dedicated Dream Chaser Mission (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding toward defining one or more Dream Chaser missions that will host payloads from member countries. SNC’s Dream Chaser is a reusable, orbital spacecraft designed to be a flexible Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) and transportation system for a variety of low-Earth orbit (LEO) missions.

Under the agreement, UNOOSA and SNC will work with member countries to develop an interface control document and payload hosting guide to allow payloads developed by participating countries to be hosted and operated on a dedicated mission, providing those countries affordable access to space.  By utilizing Dream Chaser as a flexible SUV for LEO missions, countries will benefit from social, economic and educational opportunities. (6/28)

Spaceport America Offers Deal for First-Time Users (Source: Spaceport America)
Your first flight and optical tracking are on us! We are here to help you get off the ground. Spaceport America and MARS Scientific welcome the brave new breed of commercial space entrepreneur, research and development operators, aerospace test and evaluation operators, corporate and academic users with our First Flight First Sight* program.

Spaceport America will waive the user fee for your first launch of a new customer’s flight campaign coupled with MARS Scientific for telescopic imaging and optical tracking at nominal cost. Post-campaign we will keep our user fees reasonable to make it easier for space innovators and prospective tenants to achieve those first essential milestones. (6/28)

DigitalGlobe, Esri Partner to Expand World Imagery Map (Source: Parabolic Arc)
DigitalGlobe announced an agreement to make more current satellite imagery of the entire world available to users of Esri’s ArcGIS product family. The new long-term partnership with Esri will enhance the World Imagery Map and give ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Data Appliance users access to current and complete high-resolution satellite imagery mosaics.

The World Imagery Map is foundational to Esri’s vision of connecting people with maps, data, and apps through geographic information systems. The multi-year subscription features DigitalGlobe’s Basemap +Vivid and Basemap +Metro products, which will be refreshed with the latest content throughout the contract term. New imagery will start flowing into the World Imagery Map later this year. (6/28)

DSI Seeks Florida Student Technicians to Produce Asteroid Simulant (Source: DSI)
Deep Space Industries is seeking Student Technicians to assist with the development and production of asteroid simulants in partnership with UCF and under a contract with NASA. Duties will include operation and maintenance of milling equipment; handling containers weighing up to 60 pounds, and processing of raw materials including comminution to fine powders; combining source materials under the direction of project leaders to produce asteroid simulants; and characterizing those simulants. Location: Orlando, Florida. Click here. (6/28)

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