July 30, 2016

Does the Pentagon Need a Space Acquisition Agency? (Source: Space News)
U.S. Defense Department leaders suggested to government auditors that to improve the management and oversight of the national security space enterprise, the Pentagon should consider creating a single space force, one that would handle duties currently divided between the National Reconnaissance Office and at least seven other Defense Department agencies. (7/29)

Iridium Negotiates Payment Delays with Lenders, Contractor to Mitigate Aireon Shortfall (Source: Space News)
Iridium Communications on July 28 said it had opened negotiations with its lenders and its satellite manufacturer to reduce or delay Iridium payments in the event Iridium’s Aireon air traffic surveillance affiliate cannot make its scheduled payment to Iridium. Aireon may have trouble paying Iridium $200 million between 2016 and 2017, in part because some expected Aireon customers, including the FAA, had not yet committed to the service.

Aireon is a joint venture between Iridium Communications, NAV CANADA, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), ENAV and Naviair, with support from supplier Harris Corporation. Partnered with some of the largest aviation contributors, Aireon is providing technology that will expand air traffic surveillance innovation for a safer,  more efficient global airspace.

Desch said Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Florida, had delivered the Aireon payloads in June, ahead of schedule. They are now being mounted onto the satellites before shipment to the launch site. (7/29)

First SpaceX Launch of Iridium Next Slips to Sep. 19 (Source: Space News)
Virginia-based Iridium said the first launch of its second-generation constellation of satellites, called Iridium Next, had slipped again, this time at the request of launch-service provider SpaceX. Iridium now expects the launch of the first 10 Iridium Next satellites to occur on Sep. 19 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.

The delay is the latest in a series attributed to the Iridium Next satellites and, more recently, to scheduled maintenance at the launch base and the site’s launch manifest. A week’s slip in a launch is not normally an issue for a satellite fleet operator. But for Iridium, it means an automatic delay in the second SpaceX Iridium launch, which for insurance and debt-covenant reasons cannot occur until three months following the first launch. (7/29)

SS/Loral to Build Two SiriusXM Satellites (Source: SSL)
Space Systems Loral has won a contact to build two spacecraft for satellite radio company SiriusXM. The SXM-7 and SXM-8 satellites will be based on SSL's 1300-series bus, and replace the existing XM-3 and XM-4 satellites in 2019 and 2020, respectively. SSL has built seven satellites for SiriusXM, including the original fleet of satellites for Sirius Satellite Radio prior to its merger with XM Satellite Radio. (7/29)

Mars Gullies Likely Not Formed by Liquid Water (Source: Phys.org)
New findings using data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that gullies on modern Mars are likely not being formed by flowing liquid water. This new evidence will allow researchers to further narrow theories about how Martian gullies form, and reveal more details about Mars' recent geologic processes.

Scientists use the term "gully" for features on Mars that share three characteristics in their shape: an alcove at the top, a channel, and an apron of deposited material at the bottom. Gullies are distinct from another type of feature on Martian slopes, streaks called "recurring slope lineae," or RSL, which are distinguished by seasonal darkening and fading, rather than characteristics of how the ground is shaped. Water in the form of hydrated salt has been identified at RSL sites. The new study focuses on gullies and their formation process by adding composition information to previously acquired imaging.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, examined high-resolution compositional data from more than 100 gully sites throughout Mars. These data, collected by the orbiter's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), were then correlated with images from the same spacecraft's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and Context Camera (CTX). (7/29)

KSC Seeks Video Nominations for Heroes Attraction (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is seeking input for its upcoming exhibit called "Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame." The attraction, located in Brevard County, is asking the public to submit a video about a hero that has inspired them. Select submissions will be featured with NASA’s most famous astronauts and celebrity ambassadors in the exhibit.

Videos must answer three questions: Who is your hero, how did they inspire you, and what makes a hero? Submissions can be posted on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, using the hashtag #KSCHero. You can also enter by clicking here. (7/29)

Huntsville Company, NASA Joint Venture Uses Satellites to Find Disaster Areas (Source: WBRC)
When most people think of NASA, they think of astronauts and space travel, but there is more to it than meets the eye. The SERVIR program partners with NASA and the United States Agency for International Department to use satellites in space to find areas of disaster in more than 40 countries. SERVIR means "to serve," and that's what employees are doing. (7/29)

NASA Orders Another Crewed Mission to the ISS from SpaceX (Source: Inverse)
On Friday, NASA announced it was ordering another International Space Station-bound crew flight from SpaceX — making it the second such mission Elon Musk’s company will conduct for the space agency, and NASA’s fourth order from a commercial provider.

Since closing down the Space Shuttle program in 2011, NASA has been forced to cooperate with Russia and buy seats on Soyuz rocket launches in order to safely get American astronauts to the International Space Station. The plan to get our astronaut launches back to U.S. soil and make our space program independent again means that we’ll turn over transportation missions to the ISS (both cargo and crew) to U.S. spaceflight companies. (7/29)

SpaceX Takes Another Step Toward Reusability with 150-Second Stage Firing (Source: Ars Technica)
On Thursday, SpaceX took another step toward reusing rockets when it fired the nine engines on the first stage of a Falcon 9 booster it launched in May. The company released video of the full-duration engine firing, which mimicked the length of a first-stage burn toward orbit, conducted at its test site in MacGregor, Texas.

This particular booster, which launched a Japanese communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit on May 6, will not be re-flown. According to Spaceflight Now, the company designated it as a reference vehicle because it weathered extreme temperatures during its reentry into Earth's atmosphere. The rocket will undergo additional tests as engineers determine the readiness of flown boosters for additional flights into space. (7/29)

We Need To Do A Better Job Of Imagining Aliens (Source: Now.Space)
When imagining civilizations on other worlds, we tend to stick to the familiar. Aliens in the popular imagination are not all that different from us—they often have eyes and ears, walk on two feet, and understand the universe in roughly the same way we do.

These unconscious biases mean that the search for alien intelligence has often been little more than a search for ourselves. Yet the universe is far less likely to be populated by pointy-eared Star-Trek-type characters than to contain races of incomprehensible starfish. We tend to forget that we will share more evolutionary history with bananas than with aliens on another planet. Their senses, their social structures, their very sense of self—any of these could be radically different from us.

In recent years, many researchers have tried to unpack the implicit assumptions that have long held sway in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). By looking at the diversity of beings here on Earth, scientists are starting to realize the difficulties that could be inherent in communicating with those on other planets. (7/29)

New Space Boots Vibrate to Help Astronauts Navigate (Source: Space.com)
Walking on the moon is no bounce in the park, but new space boots created by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology might make working outside a spacecraft safer for astronauts who have to maneuver around pesky moon rocks and rough terrain in bulky spacesuits.

A NASA spacesuit — also known as an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) — is decked out with various gadgets that provide life support and technical assistance to astronauts during missions where they have to leave their spacecraft. Even without those gadgets, the suit's 14 layers of protective material alone make it pretty heavy and difficult to maneuver when walking around in a low-gravity environment like the moon. (7/29)

Simple Exoplanet Calculation Describes Alien Atmospheres in a Flash (Source: Space.com)
A new mathematical formula predicts the ratio of particular molecules in the atmospheres of far-off planets, letting researchers more easily tell when something unusual is happening there. The new method is tailor-made to predict the ratios of nine important atmospheric molecules built from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, so researchers can quickly learn what combination of molecules should be found on a high-temperature planet without using complicated simulations.

The first hint of life on another planet might come from seeing something strange in a planet's atmosphere — such as molecular oxygen or another gas at higher levels than expected — that can't be explained by a planet's geology or chemistry. This method applies specifically to hot exoplanets under certain conditions, but calculations like these offer helpful practice for interpreting signals from alien atmospheres, equipping researchers to identify what to expect in a particular atmosphere and look for those interesting (and perhaps biological) variations. (7/29)

Troubled Japanese Space Agency Seeks Fresh Start (Source: Nature)
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is on a quest for redemption. In March, a software error caused the agency’s Hitomi X-ray astronomy satellite to break up in space, cutting short a planned three-year mission after only one month.

Now JAXA is considering whether to rebuild and relaunch a copy of the spacecraft’s key instrument — a US-built X-ray spectrometer — with help from NASA. On 5 August, representatives of the two space agencies will meet to discuss the possibility of resurrecting the instrument that was the heart of Hitomi’s science. But whether JAXA can regain the confidence of the Japanese nation, and of its international partners, remains to be seen. (7/29)

Crimes in Space: Whose Laws Willl We Use? (Source: Seeker)
As more people gain access to space, criminal acts will seed a new kind of law and order. It sounds like the plot of a bad movie: a crew member decides to do something evil for the sake of money, or fame, or four a cause. It's not something that we've seen in space -- but that may be just because of the high level of srutiny that goes into astronaut selection. Click here. (7/29)

The Private Sector has Driven Down the Cost of Getting to Space (Source: Fortune)
Billionaires have fostered the rise of commercial space companies, says NASA's Philip McAlister, bringing a "laserlike focus on cost and efficiency" that the agency couldn't. The startups have "really disrupted our industry," driving down the cost of space transportation. McAlister explains how the disruptors fit in. Click here. (7/29)

Candidates' Lack of Space Talk Concerns Former Astronauts (Source: MyNews13)
Former astronaut Mark Kelly is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday. But he's expected to talk about guns, not space. While an important issue, the topic of space has been neglected so far in this presidential election. There’s only a few lines in each party's platform this year about NASA and nothing specific about their visions for the future of our space program.

So Space Florida's Dale Ketcham is heading to Chicago, hoping to get space into the campaign conversation. Representing Florida, he's meeting with aerospace leaders from Ohio, Virginia and Colorado. “Collectively those four states represent most of the electoral college, votes that are up for grabs in the campaign,” said Ketcham. “And we all have key interests in space. So for the first time we’re working collaboratively to maintain communication to take advantage of opportunities.”

So far, there haven't been many opportunities to talk space. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have said much about their vision for the future of NASA: Will they continue with planned manned launches from Florida's Space Coast next year? And what about the agency's goal to use the Orion spacecraft to send humans to Mars in the decades ahead? (7/29)

India Should Not Lag Behind in Outer Space Mining (Source: Hindustan Times)
With the US wanting to press ahead with asteroid mining and unlock resources of the moon, India will lag behind if it does not seize the outer space mining opportunity, said a TIFAC official here on Thursday. Prabhat Ranjan, executive director of Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC), said the potential exploitation of moon and asteroids as a mineral resource can be a “big game-changer”.

“Moon is already being seen as a mineral wealth and further one can go up to the asteroids and start exploiting this. This can be a big game changer and if India doesn’t do this, we will lag behind,” Ranjan told reporters. (7/29)

Sierra Nevada Lifts Curtain on Dream Chaser Space-Cargo Taxi (Source: Denver Post)
Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Louisville-based Space Systems unveiled a model of its Dream Chaser spacecraft, which will be ready to ship cargo to and from NASA’s International Space Station by the end of 2019. The craft showed off Thursday, though, won’t actually get time in space. Instead, it will be shipped to California in the next several weeks to undergo a series of atmospheric and software tests. The company will take the results from the tests to help create the actual craft, which will be assembled in Colorado. (7/29)

NASA Orders Second SpaceX Crew Mission to ISS (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA took another important step Friday in returning U.S. astronaut launches from U.S. soil with the order of a second post-certification mission from commercial provider SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. Commercial crew flights from Florida's Space Coast to the International Space Station will restore America's human spaceflight launch capability and increase the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research. (7/29)

Expert: ULA Recovering From 'Grim' Outlook (Source: Decatur Daily)
United Launch Alliance on Thursday celebrated its 109th successful launch, as one of its Atlas V rockets hoisted a classified payload into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office. The rocket was assembled at ULA's 850-employee plant in Decatur. The launch comes as the company recovers from a precarious political situation and battles increasing competition from rival SpaceX.

“I think probably grim is a good word to use for what things looked like a year ago,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst for the Lexington Institute and a consultant for Lockheed-Martin Corp., one of ULA’s parent companies. Boeing is the other. For years, ULA dominated the defense market, but SpaceX broke the monopoly, undercutting ULA launch prices by as much as 40 percent.

ULA responded to competition by cutting costs, laying off about 10 percent of its workforce, including about 55 employees in Decatur. At least one cost-cutting measure will bring new jobs to Decatur. RUAG Aerospace is moving its operation, which provides carbon fiber payload fairings for ULA rockets, from Switzerland to ULA’s plant in the River City. By 2020, RUAG is expected to employ 150 workers in Decatur with an average annual salary of $100,000. (7/29)

Seattle is Turning Into a Space Center (Source: New York Times)
Inside an office in this city's South Lake Union neighborhood, engineers in lab coats fuss over a contraption unlike the usual creations flowing from Amazon, Facebook and other technology companies with offices nearby. Click here. (7/29)

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