July 12, 2016

Two SLS to Jupiter: Motivations and Ramifications of Europa Mission’s Launch Vehicle Mandate (Source: Space Review)
At the direction of Congress, NASA is not only working on a mission to send an orbiter and lander to Jupiter’s moon Europa, it’s also planning to launch them on the Space Launch System heavy-lift rockets. Cody Knipfer examines both the benefits and drawbacks to this approach. Click here. (7/11)
More Money, No Problem (Source: Space Review)
Venture capital investment, once a rarity for entrepreneurial space companies, is becoming increasingly commonplace. Jeff Foust reports on some of trends that both investors and companies see in the market, and how long that surge of investment might last. Click here. (7/11)
We Are All Pluto Now (Source: Space Review)
One year ago this week, the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, providing our first close-up views of that distant world. Dwayne Day examines what’s changed, and what hasn’t, in the year since the spacecraft encounter. Click here. (7/11)

Sierra Nevada Completes First NASA Dream Chaser Cargo Service Milestone (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corp. is pleased to announce the successful completion of ISS Integration Certification Milestone 1 for the Dream Chaser Cargo System under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. Under this milestone, NASA approved SNC’s complete program implementation plan for the design, development, test and evaluation of the Dream Chaser Cargo System.

This includes plans and processes for meeting technical performance and CRS2 integration schedules associated with execution of docking and berthing missions to the International Space Station (ISS). Details included supplier plans, integration schedules, organizational structure and status of program risks and risk mitigations. Under the CRS2 contract, Dream Chaser will provide a minimum of six cargo delivery services to and from the ISS between 2019 and 2024. (7/11)

Astronomers Spotted a Dwarf Planet That’s Farther Out than Pluto (Source: GeekWire)
Astronomers have found an icy world that ranges far beyond the orbit of Neptune and may well rank as a dwarf planet alongside Pluto. The newly detected object, designated 2015 RR245, is thought to be less than a third the width of Pluto (435 miles vs. 1,474 miles), but its orbit is more eccentric.

Its distance from the sun ranges from about 34 to more than 120 astronomical units, where each AU equals the distance between Earth and the sun. In comparison, Pluto’s orbit has a range of 30 to 50 AU. Right now, 2015 RR245 is 80 AU from the sun and closing in, based on observations from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii’s big island. It should reach the nearest point in its 733-year orbit in the year 2096. (7/11)

The Next Generation Space Suit (Source: Vice)
We met with two guys who are creating the next generation of space suits from scratch, something that has traditionally taken teams of people to achieve. Click here. (7/11)

Orbital ATK Purchases Additional Cygnus Modules (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo-Finmeccanica (33%), today announced the signing of a new contract with Orbital ATK. The announcement was made at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, UK. Under terms of the agreement, Thales Alenia Space will supply nine additional Pressurized Cargo Modules (PCM) to Orbital ATK for upcoming cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). (7/11)

Hubble Space Telescope Reveals "The Genesis Planet" (Source: Daily Galaxy)
In 2015, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope precisely measured the mass of the oldest known planet in our Milky Way galaxy. At an estimated age of 13 billion years, the planet is more than twice as old as Earth's 4.5 billion years. It's about as old as a planet can be. It formed around a young, sun-like star barely 1 billion years after our universe's birth in the Big Bang.

The ancient planet has had a remarkable history because it resides in an unlikely, rough neighborhood. A few intrepid astronomers have concluded that the most productive to look for planets that can support life is around dim, dying stars white dwarfs. The ancient planet orbits a peculiar pair of burned-out stars in the crowded core of a cluster of more than 100,000 stars. The new Hubble findings close a decade of speculation and debate about the identity of this ancient world.

Until Hubble's measurement, astronomers had debated the identity of this object. Was it a planet or a brown dwarf? Hubble's analysis shows that the object is 2.5 times the mass of Jupiter, confirming that it is a planet. Its very existence provides tantalizing evidence that the first planets formed rapidly, within a billion years of the Big Bang, leading astronomers to conclude that planets may be very abundant in our galaxy. (7/11)

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