July 27, 2016

NASA Gives Estimate of SpaceX Mars Mission Investment (Source: Space News)
SpaceX will spend about $300 million of its own money on its Red Dragon Mars mission, NASA estimates. In a presentation to a NASA Advisory Council committee meeting Tuesday, an agency official said that NASA will spend about $30 million to support its contributions to a Space Act Agreement with SpaceX, providing advice and other support in a variety of areas.

NASA estimates SpaceX is matching on a 10-to-1 basis, putting SpaceX's costs for the mission on the order of $300 million. Red Dragon will land a Dragon spacecraft on the surface of Mars, with launch on a Falcon Heavy scheduled for May 2018, a schedule NASA considers "extremely aggressive." (7/27)

Telesat Reports Growth in Latest Quarter (Source: Space News)
Telesat reported an increase in revenue and gross profit in its latest quarter. The Canadian satellite operator said Tuesday reported revenue of US$178.4 million in the quarter ending June 30, an increase of 1 percent over the same quarter of 2015 after accounting for the increase in value of the U.S. dollar over the Canadian dollar. The company said it recently won a major contract to provide Ku-band capacity on its upcoming Telstar 19V satellite for a Brazilian customer. (7/27)

India Earned Rs 230 Crore Through Satellite Launch Services in FY16 (Source: Space Daily)
India earned around Rs.230 crore last in fiscal through commercial launch satellite services, parliament was told on Thursday. The Indian Space Research Organization through Antrix Corp. offers satellite launch capacity on a commercial basis.

Citing published reports available in the public domain on the international satellite market, Singh said the average annual revenue over the last three years, is approximately $200 billion (Rs 13 lakh crore), which includes the launch services market (Rs 0.37 lakh crore), satellite manufacturing (Rs 1.07 lakh crore), ground equipment (Rs 3.85 lakh crore) and satellite services (Rs 8.17 lakh crore). (7/26)

Bezos, Tyson Join Pentagon’s Innovation Advisory Board (Source: Space News)
Jeff Bezos, the founder of commercial space company Blue Origin, and celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson are joining the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board to help transfer Silicon Valley culture and technologies to the U.S. Defense Department. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement July 26 at the new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Boston. The addition of Bezos and Tyson gives the 15-person board at least two members with strong space backgrounds. (7/26)

The Lunar Rover Was Almost as Badass as the Astronauts Who Drove It (Source: Gizmodo)
The crew of the Apollo 15 moon landing were a distinctive group, working patriotic colours into everything from their personal vehicles to the stylized birds on their mission patch. The US Air Force astronauts Jim Irwin, Dave Scott, and Al Worden were clearly proud of their country by their coordinated color set of red, white, and (dark) blue corvettes (which were apparently the sensible alternative to NASA renting vehicles for them to use around Cape Canaveral), but their true pride and joy was the lunar rover.

The crew of Apollo 15 had the first moon buggy, the first vehicle to be sent off-planet in a quest to give astronauts greater range while exploring the moon. Apollo 15 was the first lunar landing mission to use a rover, allowing astronauts Jim Irwin and Dave Scott to explore farther from their landing site while still having time to conduct scientific research. Al Worden stayed in orbit, photographing a quarter of the moon’s surface during his three solitary days in a spacecraft in July 30 to August 2, 1971. Click here. (7/26)

Triple Sonic Booms From Falcon Boosters (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
One of the iconic sounds of the Space Shuttle era has returned to the Space Coast—the sonic boom. The returning Shuttle orbiter produced a signature double-sonic boom on its approach to Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility. Similar sounds were heard again in the early morning hours of July 18 as SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stage returned to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport's Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1), formerly Launch Complex 13, creating a triple-sonic boom.

“[The] first boom is from the aft end (engines),” said John Taylor, SpaceX’s Communications Director, “[The] second boom is from the landing legs at the widest point going up the side of the rocket. [The] third boom is from the fins near the forward end.” As the pace of SpaceX launches, and subsequent landings, are expected to pick up over the next several years, Space Coast residents will here a lot more of these periodic booms.

Additionally, SpaceX expects to begin the launch, and landing, of its Falcon Heavy rockets by the end of the year. The Falcon Heavy will consist of three Falcon 9 first stages, strapped together, and could result in all three stages landing back at CCAFS. The two side boosters will land almost simultaneously. Each will produce three sonic booms, for a total of as many as nine. (7/27)

Boeing Mentors Small Business During Commercial Crew Development (Source: WMFE)
Boeing announced a new mentor-protégée program with one if its subcontractors working on the next capsule that will send U.S. astronauts to space. Bastion Technologies works with Boeing by manufacturing training mock-ups of the next crewed spacecraft, the CST-100 or Starliner. Bastion is a small business based out of Houston, Texas, that worked with Boeing in the past on computer aided modeling. Now, under the mentor-protégée agreement announced Tuesady, for the next 18 months Boeing will provide resources like best practices and marketing guidance to help the small business grow. (7/26)

Why We Are Not Ready For Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
After weeks of witnessing disturbing events that exemplify how angry, vindictive and dangerous humanity can be when it turns on itself, Mars — as an escapist adventure situated enticingly in our near futures — looks great in comparison.

Human exploration and eventual habitation of Mars is often described as the ultimate do-over, the proverbial slate wiped clean, a place where we can make a fresh start. When we get there, we will experience the unblemished purism of a new world and will have unprecedented opportunities to pursue science, increase our knowledge of the universe, extend our species beyond our native planet, perhaps even to preserve the human race if something untoward happens to our home planet Earth. Click here. (7/26)

Israel vs. USA: Google's Competition to Go to the Moon (Source: CNN)
The Google Lunar XPRIZE launched in 2007 as a way to reignite space exploration. It challenged teams to land a spacecraft on the moon, have it move 500 meters in any direction, and feed back high-definition video. The first team to complete the mission would be awarded $20 million. The second team would be awarded $5 million, with $5 million more in prizes along the way.

Moon Express's MX-1 craft is designed to be the "iPhone of space," said Moon Express CEO Bob Richards when it unveiled the craft three years ago. MX-1 is supposed to be a flexible tool to explore the lunar surface, which the Moon Express team calls the "Eighth Continent." Moon Express won two X Prize Milestone Prizes totaling $1.25 million for the spacecraft's landing hardware and camera. SpaceIL designed a spacecraft where every part is multifunctional. (7/26)

Aircraft Search Delays India Scramjet Rocket Test (Source: The Hindu)
The search for the IAF transport aircraft An-32 has delayed by some days the launch of the RH-560 rocket equipped with a supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) engine for conducting an air-breathing propulsion test. The two-stage sounding rocket was to be fired by the Indian Space Research Organisation from Sriharikota in the Bay of Bengal in the next few days.

However, sources said, permission had not been given for the launch because several IAF aircraft were flying over the Bay in search of the missing An-32 plane. The naval vessels are also engaged in the search over a big area. (7/27)

APT and Chinese Ppartners Plan Global Mobile Broadband Network (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong has created a joint venture with mainland Chinese institutions to launch a global mobile broadband satellite network aimed principally at the aeronautical and maritime markets, APT said July 23.

The network, if launched as planned, would catapult APT from its current position as a midsize regional satellite operator into a global player. Other companies with similar global-mobility ambitions include fleet operators ViaSat Inc., Intelsat, SES and Inmarsat. (7/27)

Sky and Space Global Details Vision for 200 Satellite Narrowband Network (Source: Satellite Today)
Small satellite company Sky and Space Global is planning a network of nanosatellites for narrowband communications that it expects will cost $160 million or less to complete in total. The company, located in the U.K., Israel and Australia, has fully funded the first three satellites to precede an initial constellation of 200 nanosatellites. (7/26)

Kazakhstan to Launch Two Satellites in 2017 (Source: Kazakh TV)
In 2017, Kazakhstan will launch two satellites into space. One of them (STSat) will be equipped with a system of remote sensing. The satellite is ready and being run for the necessary tests. The satellite will be delivered into orbit by a carrier rocket ‘Dnepr’ from Yasniy spaceport. STSat is the first national satellite assembled by the Kazakh specialists. The onboard computer and software have been fully developed by Kazakh engineers. (7/26)

Future ICBM: Industry Predicts ‘Low Risk’ Development (Source: National Defense)
The nation’s top defense contractors are drafting bids in anticipation of an Air Force request for proposals to develop the next generation of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. Based on preliminary guidance given to potential bidders, industry officials said, the Air Force is avoiding the pitfalls of past development programs and has written the requirements for the new missiles with the intent to avoid technological show stoppers. (7/26)

Market Doesn’t Justify Reusable Launchers, Expendable Rocket Makers Argue (Source: Ars Technica)
The US government and some of its major aerospace contractors have tried to tackle the problem of reusable rockets and spacecraft for several decades. Even after spending hundreds of billions of dollars, neither the government nor its traditional aerospace contractors have mastered the art of reusability. During the last half year, however, both SpaceX and Blue Origin have begun to demonstrate these capabilities.

Orbital ATK's Ben Goldberg expressed the most skepticism about the business case for reusable rockets. Goldberg said Orbital ATK had studied the potential for reusability and found only a limited benefit to developing these systems and using them for missions to low-Earth orbit, geostationary transfer orbit, and exploration into deep space. “We ran a study, and a whole bunch of interesting things jumped out of this study,” he said. "One really interesting thing is the best you’re going to get is suborbital.”

Goldberg was much more dubious about the potential cost savings for orbital and deep-space missions. He took issue with claims made by SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has said that because fuel costs account for just a fraction of one percent of launch costs, the potential exists to reduce launch costs by a factor of 100. At most, according to Goldberg, missions to low-Earth orbit can expect a 30-percent cost savings, with less for even higher-energy launches. (7/26)

Power Failure Blamed for Loss of USAF Weather Satellite (Source: Space News)
A power failure caused the loss of a U.S. Air Force weather satellite earlier this year. In a statement Monday, the Air Force said the DMSP-F19 satellite suffered a power failure in its command and control system, preventing commands sent from the ground from reaching the spacecraft's main computer system. The Air Force said the failure cannot be repaired or otherwise worked around. The spacecraft stopped responding to commands in February, although it does continue to return some weather data. Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the satellite, said it was responsible for the subsystem that failed. (7/26)

First SLS Launch On Schedule for 2018 (Source: Space News)
NASA says the first launch of its Space Launch System is on schedule for the fall of 2018 despite issues with one element of the Orion spacecraft. Agency officials told a meeting a NASA Advisory Council committee Monday that they are adjusting the schedule for work leading up to the Exploration Mission 1 launch to account for a delay of at least three months in the delivery of Orion's service module, being built in Europe. Those changes could include doing a wet dress rehearsal of the SLS on the pad without Orion attached. That mission is scheduled for launch between September and November of 2018. (7/26)

ISRO Loses Big in Arbitration Over Antrix-Devas Controversy (Source: The Wire)
An international tribunal has ruled against India's space agency in a dispute with an Indian company. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency ISRO, acted unfairly in annuling a contract for satellite capacity it had with Devas Multimedia. The court also ruled India failed to provide fair and equitable treatment to Devas' foreign investors. The ruling is the second victory for Devas on the international stage, after the International Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the company last year and said it was owed more than $650 million. (7/26)

Japan’s H-3 Rocket to be More Powerful, Cost-Effective Than Predecessor (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Japan is working on its newest launch vehicle, known as the H-3, which will be more powerful and cost-efficient than the H-2A booster currently in service. On July 20, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced it has completed the basic design of the rocket, scheduled to be ready for its maiden flight in 2020.

JAXA hopes the fact that H-3 will be equipped with simpler systems and that it will use commercially available components will allow it to be launched more frequently. It is hoped these factors will also reduce the cost of putting payloads into orbit. The agency expects the time needed for the assembly of the booster and payload encapsulation in the launch vehicle will be shortened. (7/26)

Space Team Scouts UAE Sands for Lander Tests (Source: The National)
One of the 16 remaining teams in a Google competition that will reward the first privately funded missions to the Moon has landed in the UAE to reconnoitre testing locations for its lunar vehicle. The country’s hot, dry conditions and sandy, rocky terrain are ideal for putting a lunar rover through some of the rigours that will be encountered on the Moon, said Robert Boehme of the Part Time Scientists.

The vehicle, which cost in the region of US$750,000 (Dh2.75 million)to build, will need to traverse at least half a kilometre of the Moon’s surface to qualify for the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition that encourages private space ventures by offering $30m in prize money.

Made largely of aluminium, the 35 kilogram rover has a top speed of 3.6 kilometres an hour and has already been tested in ice caves in the Austrian Alps and on volcanic terrain on the Greek island of Crete but is yet to be tested on soft sand inclines such as those of the Empty Quarter. (7/25)

Anderson Guided Spaceport America in Tough Time (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
When Christine Anderson was hired as executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority in 2011, her job was to oversee construction of Spaceport America and make sure anchor tenant Virgin Galactic had all it needed to begin a successful new venture blasting high-paying space-tourism adventurers into sub-orbit.

The construction process went even better than expected, with the project being completed under budget, said Richard Holdridge, chairman of the Spaceport Authority board of directors. He said the state was able to take advantage of a downturn in the economy that led to a low demand and high supply for construction work. As it turned out, building the spaceport was the easy part. (7/25)

Jack White Launches Bid to Play First Vinyl Record in Space (Source: Guardian)
Details of Jack White’s cosmic world record attempt have been confirmed: on 30 July, Third Man Records will bid to play the first vinyl record in space.

Following rumours of White’s astral ambitions, on Monday Third Man published a blog outlining plans to celebrate its seventh anniversary by playing a gold-plated 12-inch master of Carl Sagan’s A Glorious Dawn in orbit. The selection is described as “a moving arrangement of Sagan’s sagacious words, culled from his magnificent Cosmos series, previously pressed and distributed as a 7-inch in [Third Man’s] first year of operation, 2009”, and was chosen because it was the label’s three millionth record pressed.

It will be played via The Icarus Craft, a custom-built “space-proof” turntable attached to a high-altitude balloon designed by Kevin Carrico, who is responsible for assisting in the restoration of many of Third Man’s machines. Non-profit programme Satins – Students and Teachers in Near Space – will also assist with the mission. (7/26)

US Plan to Diversify Expendable Space Launch Vehicles Being Questioned (Source: Sputnik)
The US Air Force strategy to encourage different companies to provide competing first stage rocket boosters for launching satellites into orbit is being questioned as potentially unsustainable, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said on Friday. "[Q]uestions have been raised about whether competition among US launch providers is sustainable given market conditions, both domestically and internationally," the report noted.

In 2015, there were 86 global launches of which only 22 were considered commercial launches, the GAO pointed out. The US Department of Defense "is gathering and analyzing information on predicted launch demand. However, history has proven that it is difficult to reliably predict the demand for launch services," the report warned. (7/26)

Alien Solar System Boasts Tightly Spaced Planets, Unusual Orbits (Source: Space Daily)
Tightly spaced planets inside an alien solar system known as Kepler-80 boast a rare orbital configuration. The study was led by Mariah MacDonald as an undergraduate with Darin Ragozzine, an assistant professor of physics and space sciences, both at Florida Institute of Technology.

The unusual planetary array highlighted in the study deepens the ongoing examination of similar systems known as STIPs - Systems with Tightly-spaced Inner Planets - and contributes to the understanding of how Earth formed. Analysis by MacDonald and her collaborators revealed that the outer four planets had masses about four- to six-times that of Earth, though they shared Earth's rocky composition. (7/26)

NASA Floats Contractor Property Reporting Rule (Source: Law 360)
NASA contractors may soon have to keep better track of the agency’s property, as the space agency proposed a rule Monday to require monthly reporting of NASA assets. Contractors holding at least $10 million of NASA’s property, plant or equipment would have to provide detailed accounting monthly under the new rule, to “ensure that [the assets] are being presented fairly in the agency’s financial statements,” a statement said. The rule is set to be published in Tuesday’s Federal Register. (7/25)

Congress Concerned with Lack of Oversight as Satellite Use Increases (Source: Washington Post)
Congress is voicing concern over the lack of oversight and the amount of traffic caused by the nearly 1,400 operational satellites in orbit, a figure that is expected to more than double in the next five years. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., has introduced legislation that would allow the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor satellites and provide warnings when satellites are too close to one another. (7/26)

New Space Startup Audacy Shoots for the Moon (Source: Space.com)
A new company aims to provide the communications capacity required for the ongoing private spaceflight revolution. California-based Audacy plans to close a Series A fundraising round of at least $15 million to begin creating three satellites and two Earth stations. The goal is to raise four major rounds of funding, build the ground stations and get the satellites launched by 2019. All told, the plan will cost about $750 million — $250 million in funding and $500 million more in government-backed debt, Audacy representatives said.

The three satellites could support perhaps 2,000 tiny cubesats, all working at the same time, anywhere in Earth orbit. Alternatively, Audacy could have up to 12 high-capacity customers and perhaps 1,000 smaller ones sharing the bandwidth simultaneously. If all goes well, the company hopes to break even in 2023. In the future, if the demand is there, Audacy's infrastructure could also support some moon missions, because the ground stations could reach that far. (7/26)

Chinese Mega-Telescope Obtains Data on 7 Million Stars (Source: Xinhua)
A Chinese telescope has collected data on over 7 million stars, exceeding the sum of all existing spectroscopic data on stars and making it the world's largest database in the field. The Guo Shoujing telescope, named after a 13th-century Chinese astronomer, is operated by the National Astronomical Observatories under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which recently released the findings. (7/26)

Something is Wiping Away All of the Craters on Dwarf Planet Ceres (Source: The Verge)
Ever since NASA’s Dawn spacecraft started snapping pictures of the dwarf planet Ceres in the Asteroid Belt in 2015, scientists have been perplexed by the space rock’s relatively smooth surface; the object should have way more impact craters than it does now. To get to the bottom of this mystery, scientists have used computer simulations to model how Ceres most likely evolved over time, showing just how many different types of craters the dwarf planet should have on its surface.

Many of the craters predicted in the models have seemingly been erased, meaning that some kind of major geological activity has wiped them away. According to the computer simulations, Ceres should have at least 40 craters that are larger than 62 miles wide, and somewhere between 10 and 15 craters that are larger than 250 miles across. But that’s not what the surface of Ceres shows.

It’s possible that salty ice underneath Ceres’ surface has weakened the crust, causing it to smooth out over time. Plus, there are signs of cryovolcanoes — volcanoes that spew molten ice instead of hot lava. These may help spread ice on to the surface of Ceres, slightly covering up older impact craters. Though scientists aren’t exactly sure the root cause of the craters’ disappearance, they may get answers soon enough. NASA recently extended the Dawn mission, so the spacecraft will remain in orbit around Ceres. (7/26)

Should We Be Protecting Historic Sites in Space? (Source: PRI)
Nearly 47 years ago, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin emerged from Apollo 11 and became the first humans to set foot on the moon. In addition to leaving their iconic footprints, the crew left equipment and memorabilia scattered on the lunar surface. Archaeologist Beth O’Leary says that the landing area constitutes an archaeology site that should be preserved. Click here. (7/24)

Why Scientists Say Some Unusual Mars Rocks are Hints of Life (Source: CS Monitor)
There are a lot of rocks on Mars, and most of them wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. But one in particular has revealed new insights about the ancient Martian atmosphere. In 2013, Mars rover Curiosity identified large amounts of the element manganese in a piece of rock – which, by all accounts, shouldn’t have been there. Now, analysts say the discovery could be proof of a once-oxygenated Martian atmosphere.

Most planetary crusts are composed of basalt, a type of rock that forms when lava is cooled near a planet’s surface. Mars is no exception, so researchers expected that Curiosity would find plenty of basalt on the red planet. But on the formation dubbed “Caribou,” the rover found something unusual: manganese. This element can be found in basalt, but only in trace amounts.

The manganese would have to be concentrated significantly to reach the levels found on Caribou. Researchers say that condensed manganese could only form on Mars if, somehow, basalt rock was dissolved in oxygenated water. It is widely accepted that Mars was once abundant in surface water. But until recently, few would have guessed that the planet was ever oxygen-rich. (7/26)

Rural Broadband Access Innovator to Speak at Space Club Meeting (Source: NSCFL)
Greg Wyler, Founder & Chairman of OneWeb will be the featured speaker at the National Space Club Florida Committee’s (NSCFL) monthly luncheon on Tuesday, August 9. His presentation is entitled “Enabling Rural Broadband Access.”  The luncheon event begins at 11:30 am and will be held at the Radisson at the Port Convention Center, Cape Canaveral. NSCFL will also acknowledge the successes of the Florida space worker with its annual Space Worker Hall of Fame recognition. Fourteen individuals were chosen for the 2016 Hall of Fame class. (7/26)

Boeing Shows off Starliner Factory at Florida Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
A notch at the top of high bay doors that allowed an orbiter's tail fin to pass through is the only obvious sign that a Kennedy Space Center hangar once housed a space shuttle. After renovations to the former Orbiter Processing Facility-3, levels of access platforms that surrounded the orbiter Discovery have all been removed.

In the now gleaming and wide-open bay, Boeing teams are assembling the first flight version of the company’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew capsule, which is expected to fly astronauts to the International Space Station by 2018. As that work proceeds, the tail fin opening in the hangar doors remains a small but powerful symbol of the facility's decades of human spaceflight history. (7/26)

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