July 23, 2016

EchoStar Unit Hughes Satellite Launches $1.5B Debt Offering (Source: Law360)
Satellite provider EchoStar Corp. said Wednesday that its subsidiary Hughes Satellite Systems Corp. has placed $1.5 billion in senior notes, which it plans to sell to qualified institutional buyers. Hughes Satellite placed an offering of $750 million in 5.25 perecent secured notes due in 2026, and $750 million in 6.625 percent unsecured notes also due in 2026, according to a statement about the offering from EchoStar. Proceeds from the debt issuance will be used for capital expenditures, working capital and for general corporate purposes. (7/22)

RocketCrafters Switches Gears From Spaceplane to Vertical Launchers (Source: SPACErePORT)
RocketCrafters, the small aerospace company that planned to develop a family of dual-propulsion spaceplanes for point-to-point spaceflight, has changed its business plan to focus on developing an "Intrepid" family of vertical-launch hybrid-fueled rockets to deliver small satellites to orbit.

The company relocated from Utah to Florida's Space Coast in 2012 to design and build its spaceplanes, with the potential for creating up to 1300 jobs and a manufacturing facility at Titusville's Space Coast Regional Airport, adjacent to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The company's rockets would likely launch from Florida for many missions, but perhaps also from Puerto Rico where RocketCrafters is considering a site for high-inclination and polar-orbit launches. (7/23)

Active Tracking of Astronaut Rad-Exposures Targeted (Source: Space Daily)
Radiation is an invisible hazard of spaceflight, but a new monitoring system for ESA astronauts gives a realtime snapshot of their exposure. The results will guide researchers preparing for deep-space missions to come. A key element of the new system launched to orbit with Monday's Falcon 9 launch to the International Space Station, ensuring it is in place for ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet's November mission to the Station.

As a general rule, radiation exposure increases with altitude - people living on mountains receive more than those at sea level, while airline crews receive a small but noticeable additional dose. Astronauts in orbit receive still more radiation - they are officially classed as radiation workers. The individual dose for the whole flight is carefully measured by keeping a dosimeter on their body, to keep their career exposure within safe limits. (7/22)

Garvey Acquisition Brings 16 Years of Launch Vehicle Development to Vector (Source: Space Daily)
Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, has finalized the acquisition of Garvey Spacecraft Corporation. As part of the acquisition, Garvey Spacecraft Corporation Founder and CEO John Garvey joins Vector Space Systems as Chief Technology Officer.

Founded in May 2016, Vector Space Systems was formed to connect space startups with affordable launch-enabling platforms and vehicles for accessing space at a cost and schedule never before possible. The acquisition allows Vector Space Systems to accelerate its mission of fostering innovation to spark growth in the space commerce industry through reliable and frequent launch opportunities. (7/22)

SSTL Expands LEO Platform Capability with VESTA Nanosatellite (Source: Space Daily)
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has signed a contract with Honeywell to supply the VESTA satellite platform, a technology demonstration mission that will test a new two-way VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) payload for the exactEarth advanced maritime satellite constellation. The contract was signed as part of an MOU between Honeywell Aerospace and the UK Space Agency. (7/22)

Dish Losing Subscribers During Wait for New Satellites (Source: Space News)
Dish Network says it is losing satellite broadband subscribers as it awaits the launch of new satellites. Dish said it lost 15,000 subscribers in the last quarter, a loss it blames on "stricter customer acquisition policies" as well as satellite capacity constraints. Dish sells broadband services provided by both Hughes and ViaSat, who are planning to launch new satellites that will provide additional capacity next year. (7/22)

SSL Wins DARPA Satellite Servicing Contract (Source: SSL)
Space Systems Loral has won a DARPA contract to provide robotic arms for a satellite servicing program. SSL said the contract, valued at $20.7 million, covers the design and development of robotic arm hardware for DARPA's Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites program. That effort seeks to develop a spacecraft that can capture satellites not designed for docking and repair them. (7/22)

Astronaut Mark Kelly to Speak at Democratic Convention (Source: DNC)
Former astronaut Mark Kelly will speak at next week's Democratic National Convention, although not necessarily about space. Kelly and his wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, are among the speakers convention organizers said Thursday will appear at the convention in Philadelphia. Kelly, in a tweet, said he and Giffords will speak on July 27 to discuss why the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, "will make our country safer." (7/22)

Houston to Host ASE Astronaut Convention in 2019 (Source: CollectSpace)
Houston will host a convention of astronauts in 2019. The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) announced this week that its annual Planetary Congress, a gathering of its members, will take place in Houston in October 2019. It will be the first time the ASE has held its annual conference in the U.S. since 2008 in Seattle. ASE, whose membership is open to people who have flown in space, has more than 400 members worldwide. (7/22)

Curiosity Upgrade Gives Laser System Autonomy (Source: Space.com)
The Curiosity Mars rover has an upgrade that allows it to fire its laser on its own. The new software for the rover now gives the rover the ability to target rocks for study by its ChemCam instrument, which fires a laser and studies the composition of the vaporized rock. That autonomy, project scientists say, gives them more flexibility when they don't have time to select targets themselves. (7/22)

Dark Matter Effort Finds No WIMPS (Source: Ars Technica)
The latest effort to detect dark matter has come up empty. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector, based in a mine in South Dakota 1.5 kilometers underground, was designed to detect one possible dark matter candidate called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. However, while LUX turned out to be four times more sensitive than originally designed, scientists failed to detect any signatures of WIMPs colliding with xenon atoms in the detector. The failure to detect WIMPs doesn't rule out their existence, but does set limits on what they may be. (7/22)

Mentor-Protege Program Expanded By Final SBA Rule (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Small Business Administration on Friday released a final rule putting in place a long-awaited expansion to its mentor-protege program, expanding the program's eligibility to cover all small businesses. Under the new rule, set to go into effect in August, any small businesses can form a joint venture with a larger mentor business to help with advice and assistance, while still maintaining eligibility for federal small business set-aside contracts. In its current form, only businesses that participate in the SBA's 8(a) Business Development Program are eligible. (7/20)

Commercializing the Space Station (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA and other governments may have an end date for the International Space Station, but private companies are creating their own for commercial purposes. Senior Space Editor Frank Morring discusses plans for new commercial space modules from which other companies can launch small satellites, or use the advantages of microgravity for new ventures such as one with a plan to manufacture faster fiber optics. Click here. (7/23)

From STEM to Space: Let’s Launch More Careers in Flight! (Source: Aviation Week)
If you had told me when I graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1955 that my career would take me via the U.S. Air Force to the Empire Test Pilot School in Farnborough to the moon on Apollo 15 and back to Farnborough 52 years later – with so many extraordinary experiences and personal connections along the way – I certainly would have laughed it off with a big “No way!” There are probably a lot of you who, similarly, could not have guessed at the start of your careers that you would find such rewarding work in the most exciting industry in the world.

We can’t predict where our passions will take us, but we can all agree, no industry enables mankind to reach as far as aerospace. Consider that just over a century ago, the Wright brothers discovered controlled, powered flight, and today, we’re orbiting Jupiter! This industry is chock-full of such historic human accomplishments, achieved by millions of professionals, connected across the continuum of time by the four cornerstones of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. (7/22)

China Could Legally Seize Moon's 'Peaks of Eternal Light' -- Will 1st Space War Start There? (Source: Daily Galaxy)
A 'research station' on the 'peaks of eternal light' would prevent anyone else from approaching. A Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics senior astrophysicist, Martin Elvis, has sounded the alarm of how an unfriendly power – the Chinese for example – could seize control of an important piece of lunar real estate. They could do it legally by exploiting provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, that bars any nation — and by extension, corporation — from owning property on a celestial body, but a loophole in the pact may amount to the same thing, warns Elvis.

The real estate in question are the so-called “peaks of eternal light” that lay around permanently shadowed craters at the Lunar South Pole. Unlike the Earth, which is tilted so the poles are in six months of darkness and six months of light, the moon is almost perfectly aligned with its orbit around the sun. Because of the way the moon tilts, these peaks are bathed in sunlight for most if not all of the time, which means you can have an almost continuous power supply, ideal for a photovoltaic power station. Click here. (7/13)

The Possibility of a SpaceX Launch Failure (at Texas Spaceport) is Real (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
After the announcement that the hazard zone for the last SpaceX launch at Cape Canaveral was expanded, we took the liberty of measuring the distance from the proposed SpaceX Texas site to Koepernick Shores, it is just about a quarter of a mile. It is just a little over five miles to the nearest town, Port Isabel. Now, would you feel safe if you lived in Port Isabel knowing that you are a mere five miles downwind? Mexico, to the south, is less than three miles away.

Also, the SpaceX launch site lies within the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area, adjacent to the South Bay of the Laguna Madre, the spawning waters of gulf shrimp, redfish, and other aquatic species native to South Texas and of immense economic importance to tourism and commercial fishing. Now imagine that what happened to the Falcon rocket last June was to happen over this aquatic nursery and the toxic gases are carried by the traditional southeast trade winds over the South Bay, to Port Isabel and to the Laguna Madre.

Would Musk have enough money to pay for the ecological damage that would result from all those toxic gases and sludge falling into the water and over the people there? (7/17)

SpaceX Texas Site Jobs Still Haven't Come (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
Remember those 600 jobs with average wages of $55,000 that BEDC's Salinas was using to sell SpaceX? SpaceX promised the FAA in its Environmental Impact Statement that it would have 100 full-time workers at the site by 2015, and 200 local/transient workers. We're in the middle of 2016 and so far there is only a mound of dirt out on Boca Chica and none of the 100 full-time jobs and 200 part-time jobs Musk promised. (7/17)

What If the Moon Disappeared Tomorrow? (Source: Space.com)
Ah, yes, the moon. To it, over it, shooting for it. Blue, green. Pies, faces, shines, lighting. And I haven't even gotten to all the Luna-based concepts. Earth's moon plays a significant role in our culture, language and thoughts. But does it … you know … matter? If it disappeared in the blink of an eye tomorrow (and for discussion's sake let's assume it does so nonviolently), would we even notice? Would we even care? Click here. (7/22)

Vector Space Discussing Cape Canaveral Launch Site with Space Florida (Source: Space News)
Vector's new Garvey-designed engines are now moving into final development and qualification tests, Cantrell said, including a flight test of a second stage engine on a suborbital rocket planned for July 30 from an amateur rocket test site in California’s Mojave Desert.

Another test is planned for September from Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska, a launch site on Kodiak Island, Alaska. That test will also help the company understand how to work with launch ranges to minimize problems Cantrell said often delay launch vehicle development efforts. Ultimately, he said the company plans to launch from Alaska and is in discussions with Space Florida about a launch site at Cape Canaveral. (7/22)

No More Space Race Rhetoric: It’s Not Just About the US Any More (Source: New Scientist)
There has always been a note of nationalism to space exploration. We went to the moon “because it was hard”, as Kennedy said – but we also went because the Russians already had people in orbit around Earth. Every time a NASA spacecraft visits another world, the little American flags come out. NASA administrator Charles Bolden has justified the agency’s bid to create crewed craft for future missions as a way to “bring space launches back to America“.

We may now be seeing the logical conclusion of that focus. Former space shuttle commander Eileen Collins spoke at the Republican National Convention on the night of 20 July – the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing – to call for “leadership that will make America’s space programme first again”. This is a clear reframing of Donald Trump’s intensely nationalistic “Make America Great Again” theme.

This is a step too far. The space community and the science community more broadly should not be co-opted in service of a political candidate who has called climate change a Chinese hoax. It’s time to reassess what we value in space. The best, most exciting, work has been done as part of international efforts; going it alone will not teach us more about the universe. (7/22)

Hunting for Mars-Like Life a Kilometer Below Earth’s Surface (Source: New Scientist)
“Some parts of Boulby mine are similar to environments we see on Mars, and so we’d like to use Boulby to work out where the best places are to look for signs of ancient life on Mars,” says Charles Cockell, an astrobiologist from Edinburgh University, who heads up the Mars Analogues for Space Exploration project. Click here. (7/22)

Debate Accelerates on Universe’s Expansion Speed (Source: Science News)
A puzzling mismatch is plaguing two methods for measuring how fast the universe is expanding. When the discrepancy arose a few years ago, scientists suspected it would fade away, a symptom of measurement errors. But the latest, more precise measurements of the expansion rate — a number known as the Hubble constant — have only deepened the mystery. (7/23)

What Would a Trump Presidency Mean for NASA’s Future? (Source: Inverse)
The thing is, if Trump is serious about getting the U.S. program to launch its astronauts with full independence, he should let NASA do its job with the money it asks for. The new Space Launch System, set for an inaugural launch in 2018, is the key providing the country with its own launch infrastructure once again. If Trump messes with NASA’s budget, it could hamper SLS development and push us into relying on Russian rockets for even longer.

It’s easy to see a businessman like Trump bet big on the free market to replace NASA. After all, a company like SpaceX is already dead-set on doing big things like getting to the red planet. If NASA’s operations were to b cut down, it’s likely the private sector would work fast to fill that void.

But that’s not exactly a great strategy. Private spaceflight companies are still training their space legs, so to speak, and cannot yet handle the type of insanely complex engineering and operational work NASA makes out to look like child’s play. NASA and the ISS are still way too important. (7/22)

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