July 25, 2016

Florida Tech Experiment Gives Students a Shot at NASA Research (Source: Florida Tech)
Not many students get a chance to do research for NASA as undergrads, but it’s the type of opportunity that’s possible at Florida Tech. Aerospace Engineering professor Hamid Hefazi was recently awarded a grant that will allow students to test a wire repair system developed by NASA and Vencore Inc. The experiment will be conducted on sounding rocket launched from Wallope Island, Virginia some time in October 2016.

The patch material in question is a flexible and temperature-resistant polyimide film currently used for aircraft applications. The new technology is heated with a custom tool that cures the film so that its hermetically sealed. The end result is more flexible than repairs made using methods such as tape or shrink wrap.

The goal of the two-year NASA Undergraduate Student Instrument Project is to see if the patch could be used in a microgravity environment, such as a space vehicle or even the International Space Station—thus the need for the rocket to carry the experiment to sub-orbital space. (7/25)

India Plans Weather Satellite Launch (Source: IANS)
India is planning to launch a weather satellite next month. A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian space agency ISRO, said his weekend a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is scheduled to launch the Insat-3DR satellite in August. An upgraded version of the GSLV, the GSLV Mark 3, is scheduled to launch at the end of this year to launch a communications satellite that, at 3.2 tons, will be the heaviest geostationary orbit satellite launched by India. (7/25)

Democrats Add Space Policy to Platform (Source: DNC)
Democrats have added a space policy plank to their 2016 platform. The updated platform, published Friday, includes one paragraph about NASA, with general support for the space agency and space exploration. "We will strengthen support for NASA and work in partnership with the international scientific community to launch new missions to space," it stated, without offering specifics. An earlier draft of the platform included no mention of NASA. The platform will be formally adopted this week at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (7/25)

CASIS Recruits Marvel Characters for ISS Contest (Source: CollectSpace)
Another Rocket is heading to the International Space Station — along with Groot. At the San Diego Comic-Con Friday, Marvel Comics and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit that manages the national lab portion of the ISS, unveiled a new patch for science payloads heading to the ISS this year. The patch features Rocket Raccoon and Groot, two characters from "The Guardians of the Galaxy" comics and movies. CASIS plans to use the patch, and the characters, for an educational flight contest later this year. (7/24)

NASA Wants More Private Uses of the International Space Station (Source: Engadget)
NASA doesn't just see the International Space Station as a place where government space agencies can work together in harmony -- it could be a business hub, too. The agency has put out a call for ideas that could increase commercial use of the ISS. Those private outfits have potential uses that researchers hadn't imagined, NASA says. They could likely take better advantage of the "unique capabilities" of the low-Earth orbit facility, such as hooking up to underused attachment ports.

Companies have quietly been soliciting ideas since the start of July, and they'll have until the 29th to get their ideas in. This won't necessarily turn the ISS into a marketplace. However, you shouldn't be surprised if the station soon gets more of a private presence than the occasional SpaceX capsule. (7/25)

Sorry Donald Trump, It Doesn't Matter if the U.S. is 'First' in Space (Source: Mashable)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump likes to say that he's going to make America's space program "first" again. The details of his plan to make that happen are pretty much non-existent and he hasn't actually explained why NASA isn't "first" these days. But honestly, who cares. The fact is, it shouldn't matter if America is "first" in space or not. In fact, a go-it-alone strategy on space exploration would be a huge mistake.

Talking about access to space as some kind of national rat race to the top is damaging for every nation hoping to extend its reach into the solar system in the increasingly globalized world we live in. The ability to launch satellites and people to space is not only a point of pride for nations, it's also quickly becoming an absolute necessity. The United States is increasingly reliant on space-based assets for navigation and imagery, and other countries need to have a part in that too, or they will be left behind. (7/24)

Senators Want Continuity for NASA's Exploration Program (Source: Space Policy Online)
A recent Senate committee hearing focused on how to ensure that the human spaceflight program avoids another dramatic change when a new President takes office next year as it did in 2009. While most of the hearing dealt with maintaining the status quo amid political change, one witness, Mike Gold of SSL, looked more to the future and the need for a synergistic relationship between government and private sector space activities.

The hearing before the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on July 13 was chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). This was only the third space hearing he had called since becoming subcommittee chairman last year.  SpacePolicyOnline.com summarized his February 24, 2015 hearing on human spaceflight and commercial space and his March 12, 2015 hearing on NASA's FY2016 budget request.

Joining him were the top Democrat on the subcommittee, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), the top Democrat on the full committee Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and subcommittee member Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), who introduced Gold, a Montana native. Peters and Nelson explicitly said they want to pass a new NASA authorization bill before the end of the Congress, and Cruz inferred it by saying that the subcommittee wants to provide NASA with security and stability and he would work with Peters to achieve that. Nelson made clear that he wants to extend the lifetime of the International Space Station (ISS) to the end of the decade, instead of the current U.S. commitment of 2024. (7/24)

NASA Establishes Institute to Explore New Ways to Protect Astronauts (Source: Space Daily)
NASA is joining with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to operate a new institute charged with researching and developing innovative approaches to reduce risks to humans on long-duration exploration missions, including NASA's Journey to Mars. Work under the Translational Research Institute Cooperative Agreement, overseen by NASA's Human Research Program, begins Oct. 1.

Translational research is an interdisciplinary model of research that focuses on translating fundamental research concepts into practice, with appreciable health outcomes. The NASA Translational Research Institute (NTRI) will implement a "bench-to-spaceflight" model, moving results or methods from laboratory experiments or clinical trials to point-of-care astronaut health and performance applications. (7/25)

20 New Countries to Invest in Space Programs by 2025 (Source: Space Daily)
According to Euroconsult's latest report, Trends and Prospects for Emerging Space Programs, 24 countries are identified as emerging space programs (ESPs) in 2015 having launched a total of 69 satellites in the last 20 years. As satellite technology has become more accessible and affordable, the number of countries investing in their first satellite system has increased dramatically. 2015 set an all-time record with nine satellites launched, confirming the dynamism of this market.

By 2025, we estimate that the number of emerging space programs will increase to 47 countries around the world. This includes 23 newcomers who will have committed their first investment in space between 2016 and 2025. Over 130 satellites are forecast to be launched in the next 10 years, nearly double that of the last decade. The total value of these satellites should more than double at nearly $12 billion, versus more than $5 billion during 2006-2015. (7/22)

Sally Ride, Mae Jemison Among 'Women of NASA' Proposed as LEGO Minifigs (Source: Space.com)
They have been launched to the space station and journeyed on a probe to Jupiter, have honored moonwalkers and made spaceflight the stuff of child's play. Now, they are going where no man — or rather woman — LEGO minifigure has gone before: showcasing the role of female pioneers in the U.S. space program.

"Women of NASA," a proposed LEGO set by a science writer and fan of the iconic toy brick brand, features LEGO minifigures in the likeness of five women who made lasting contributions to the space agency's exploration efforts. The set, posted to the LEGO Ideas website, needs 10,000 supporting votes in order to be reviewed by the Danish toy company for possible production. (7/25)

Return to the Underwater Space Station (Source: Space Daily)
This year, NASA's underwater training mission for astronauts promises to be longer and better than ever. Starting on 21 July, space agencies will test technologies and research international crew behaviour for long-duration missions using a permanent underwater base off the coast of Florida. The 21st NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO, sortie will enact a mission to Mars to test equipment for astronauts. The six 'aquanauts' will spend 16 days 20 m underwater in their habitat and perform 'waterwalks' - by adjusting their buoyancy, the aquanauts can simulate Mars gravity. (7/22)

NASA Seeks Picometer Accuracy For Webb Telescope (Source: Space Daily)
Finding and characterizing dozens of Earth-like planets will require a super-stable space telescope whose optical components move or distort no more than a few picometers - a measurement smaller than the size of an atom. It also will require next-generation tools with which to assure that level of stability.

With NASA funding, a team of scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has begun working with an Arizona-based company to develop a highly sophisticated laboratory tool - a high-speed interferometer - capable of assuring picometer-level stability, a feat not yet accomplished. (7/22)

Commercial Space Needs Regulatory Clarity (Source: Breaking Defense)
The past decade has been an exciting one for commercial space enthusiasts like myself. A plethora of space startups have entered the market and many incumbents have re-energized their commercial space businesses. While a few of the larger startups are backed by billionaire investors with a passion for space exploration, many are funded by venture capital investors looking for a return on investment. 

Many of us remember a similar period of space optimism in the 1990s with grand plans for hundreds of satellites blanketing the sky. That came to a crashing halt as cellular networks outpaced satellite communications constellations in coverage and price, leading to the bankruptcies of Iridium in 1999 and Globalstar in 2002. Will this time be different?  It’s too soon to tell, but one thing is certain: policy makers have an important role to play in helping these new commercial space ventures get off the ground.

I’m not talking about tax credits, investment incentives, or direct government funding, although I’m sure many companies would welcome this kind of help. What commercial space needs most today is something only the government can provide: regulatory clarity. Right now there are significant gaps in the U.S. government’s regulatory authority and licensing process for newly emerging commercial space ventures. Click here. (7/25)

PDL Space Receives Additional $1.1 Million From Spanish Government (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The European rocket company PLD Space has received another $1.1M contract to foster its liquid rocket engine propulsion program. This new economic support has been provided by the regional investment fund of the Aragón area, called SUMA Teruel. PLD Space had already received the $1.56M TEPREL contract in April 2016 to upgrade for flight its 25 KN Liquid Oxygen – Kerosene rocket engine.

PLD Space is the first European rocket company that made in 2015 the critical leap from Powerpoint and cool drawings to full-scale hardware and real tests.

The $1.1M investment will provide all the necessary economical resources to upgrade PLD Space’s current propulsion test stand and to develop 2 new benches at Teruel Airport, located in the desert area of Aragón (Spain). The activity of the company is growing at this location since 2014, when PLD Space began the construction of the first fully-private liquid propulsion test facility in Europe. In June 2015, PLD Space become the first European company to test a full-scale and full-power liquid rocket engine demonstrator for small satellites launcher. (7/25)

ULA and Ball Interns, Colorado Students Participate in Record-Setting Launch (Source: ULA)
A 50-foot-tall high-power sport rocket carried payloads thousands of feet above Fort Carson Army Post today at the Student Rocket Launch. Sponsored by United Launch Alliance, Ball Aerospace and the Space Foundation, the record-setting event marked the culmination of an experience designed to simulate a real-life launch campaign and inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). (7/24)

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