July 28, 2016

China's Agreement with UN to Help Developing Countries Get Access to Space (Source: Space Daily)
Last month, China has signed an agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to open the country's future space station for science experiments and astronauts from UN member states. According to a spokesperson from the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), this cooperation heralds better accessibility to space for developing countries.

"The agreement will provide exciting opportunities to further build the space capacity of developing countries and increase awareness of the benefits human space technology can bring to humankind, and thus to promote the achievement of the sustainable development goals," Aimin Niu, CMSA spokesperson, told Astrowatch.net.

In particular, this agreement means that UNOOSA and CMSA will work together to give UN member states an opportunity to conduct space experiments onboard China's future space station, as well as to provide flight opportunities for astronauts and payload engineers. (7/28)

China to Expand International Astronauts Exchange (Source: Space Daily)
China will expand international exchange in the training of astronauts in a bid to push it closer to becoming a space power, an official said Wednesday. Li Xinke of the Astronaut Center of China made the remarks while briefing an international training mission for astronauts. Chinese astronaut Ye Guangfu participated in the mission.

Ye is the first Chinese to receives CAVES (Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills) training, an advanced training course for astronauts, organized by the European Space Agency (ESA). The training took place in the Sa Grutta underground caves, Sardinia, Italy. Prospective astronauts from Japan, Russia, Spain and the United States also took part in the training. (7/28)

Can Intelsat be Both Jedi Knight and Defender of the Empire? (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on July 27 positioned itself on both sides of the barricades of the satellite services business — a company storming the entrenched widebeam satellite pricing structure with its Epic high-throughput spacecraft (HTS) while at the same time maintaining a strong vested interest in that structure with the rest of its fleet. (7/28)

GAO: NASA Odds Slip for 2021 Crewed Orion Flight (Source: Space News)
NASA has less than a 50 percent chance of having Orion ready for its first crewed mission in 2021, according to a GAO report. NASA is working to an internal goal of August 2021 for that mission, although a joint confidence level analysis done last year set a goal of April 2023 at a confidence level of 70 percent. A GAO report on Orion released Wednesday said that 2021 date is only at the 40 percent confidence level, making it "aggressive beyond agency policy."

The GAO also concluded that NASA was asking for Orion funding that would only achieve the 2023 date, counting on Congress to provide additional money to keep 2021 feasible. A second GAO report released Wednesday raised cost and schedule concerns about SLS and ground systems in advance of its 2018 first launch. (7/27)

Trump: NASA is Wonderful (Sources: Ars Technica, Space News)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called NASA "wonderful" in an online question-and-answer session. Trump, answering a question during an "ask me anything" discussion on Reddit about the role NASA should play in his campaign's theme to "make America great again," responded, "Honestly I think NASA is wonderful! America has always led the world in space exploration." That is a different theme than one offered at last week's Republican National Convention, when former astronaut Eileen Collins called for "leadership that will make America’s space program first again." (7/27)

Kelly Speaks at Democratic Convention (Source: Space News)
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, speaking Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. "From orbit, I saw our planet as a perfect blue marble, just floating there in the blackness of space. But I also saw receding glaciers and shrinking rain forests. At war, and in space, I saw the awesome extent of American power and capability. But it was so frustrating to return home and see how we struggle to address some of our greatest challenges." (7/28)

How Jupiter's Red Spot Makes Things High Above It Hot, Hot, Hot (Source: NPR)
Jupiter's Great Red Spot is such a crazy, turbulent storm that it creates sound waves that travel hundreds of miles up and actually heat the planet's upper atmosphere. That's the conclusion of scientists who found a striking hotspot right above the Great Red Spot. The Great Red Spot is a vast storm about 10,000 miles wide — around 1.5 times the size of Earth. "It's the largest storm in the solar system," says James O'Donoghue.

Recently, O'Donoghue realized that the Great Red Spot could help explain a mystery about gas giant planets: Why are their upper atmospheres so darn hot? "Essentially all of the gas giants' upper atmospheres are measured to be several hundred degrees warmer than they should be, based on simulations of heating from the sun," he explains. To try to understand why, he and some colleagues decided to map out the temperatures across the upper atmosphere of Jupiter. And, lo and behold, they discovered a spike in temperature directly above the Great Red Spot. (7/27)

GAO Reports: SLS and Orion Cost and Risk Estimates Are Still Unreliable (Source: NASA Watch)
"GAO found that the Orion program's cost and schedule estimates are not reliable based on best practices for producing high-quality estimates. Cost and schedule estimates play an important role in addressing technical risks. ... For example, the cost estimate lacked necessary support and the schedule estimate did not include the level of detail required for high-quality estimates."

"... the SLS program has not positioned itself well to provide accurate assessments of core stage progress - including forecasting impending schedule delays, cost overruns, and anticipated costs at completion - because at the time of our review it did not anticipate having the baseline to support full reporting on the core stage contract until summer 2016 - some 4.5 years after NASA awarded the contract." (7/27)

Boeing Reports 2Q Loss (Source: AP)
Boeing reported a second-quarter loss of $234 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier. The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The airplane builder posted revenue of $24.76 billion in the period, also exceeding Street forecasts. Three analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $24.45 billion. (7/27)

OneWeb Announces Appointment of Eric Beranger (Source: OneWeb)
OneWeb which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, announces the appointment of Eric Beranger as Chief Executive Officer. At Airbus Defence & Space, Eric has led the technical and operational relationship with OneWeb, overseeing the formation of and presiding on the Board of the satellite manufacturing joint venture.

The joint venture, named OneWeb Satellites, is building the world’s purpose built first high volume satellite manufacturing facility and producing 900 satellites as the basis of the OneWeb constellation. OneWeb Satellites will also be producing similar sized production satellites for third party operators. (7/26)

NASA Developing Plans for Commercially-Built Mars Orbiter (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA is advancing a plan to send a robotic orbiter to Mars in the early 2020s, developing designs with five U.S. satellite makers for a mission to extend high-resolution mapping capabilities, telecommunications relay functions, and potentially act as a waypoint for Martian soil samples destined for return to Earth. The orbiter could launch as soon as late 2022, when Mars and Earth are in the correct positions to make a direct journey possible. Mars launch opportunities come every 26 months. (7/27)

Old Planets Always Get Too Hot or Cold for Life in the End (Source: New Scientist)
Age matters. Searching for alien life on planets orbiting older stars may be fruitless because they always become prohibitively hot or cold. The search for life on other worlds has focused on planets in what’s known as the habitable zone – the ring around stars where it’s the right temperature for liquid water. That has led some to target planets orbiting red dwarf stars, as their smaller size and cooler temperatures mean planets in the habitable zone are closer in, and so easier to spot.

But we should also look for planets whose stars are the right age, regardless of their size, say Shintaro Kadoya and Eiichi Tajika at the University of Tokyo, Japan. Because stars grow brighter with age, planets at the inner edge of the habitable zone enter a “runaway greenhouse mode”, in which their oceans boil away. Meanwhile, planets at the outer edge lose heat-trapping gases from their atmospheres as volcanic activity decreases, so they enter an ice-covered “snowball state”. (7/27)

Exotic White Dwarf Brutalizes its Red Dwarf Partner (Source: Seeker)
Comprised of a tiny white dwarf and red dwarf that orbit one another every 3.6 hours, the AR Scorpii system was misidentified in the 1970s as a single variable star that fluctuated in brightness. But in 2015, amateur astronomers stumbled upon the star and made a note of its strange behavior. In followup observations, culminating in observing time with the Hubble Space Telescope, AR Scorpii's binary nature was revealed.

Binary stars are common in our galaxy, but this particular system has an exotic side that that is causing some confusion. Every 1 minute and 58 seconds, the white dwarf blasts its red dwarf binary partner with an incredibly powerful beam of radiation. This pulse of radiation causes the whole system to brighten and dim like clockwork and includes radiation over a broad range of frequencies, including radio waves. And herein lies the puzzle. (7/27)

Mars Samples May Be Left Exposed On Surface (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA plans to leave rock-core and soil-sample packages exposed on the surface behind its Mars 2020 rover as it moves from site to site, instead of storing them inside the rover for a single pickup. Science planners believe that would increase the chances another surface vehicle eventually will be able to recover them for analysis on Earth, regardless of who sends it to Mars. “The samples are about the size of a piece of chalk,” says NASA's Jim Green. (7/28)

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