July 9, 2016

A New Kind of Black Hole (Source: Harvard Smithsonian)
Astronomers Aaron Smith and Volker Bromm of The University of Texas at Austin, working with Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, have discovered evidence for an unusual kind of black hole born extremely early in the universe. They showed that a recently discovered unusual source of intense radiation is likely powered by a "direct-collapse black hole," a type of object predicted by theorists more than a decade ago.

"It's a cosmic miracle," Bromm said, referring to the precise set of conditions present half a billion years after the Big Bang that allowed these behemoths to emerge. "It's the only time in the history of the universe when conditions are just right" for them to form.

These direct-collapse black holes may be the solution to a long-standing puzzle in astronomy: How did supermassive black holes form in the early epochs of the universe? There is strong evidence for their existence, as they are needed to power the highly luminous quasars detected in the young universe. However, there are several problems that should prevent their formation, and the conventional growth process is much too slow. (7/6)

Accelerating Research Into Dark Energy (Source: UCL)
A quick method for making accurate, virtual universes to help understand the effects of dark matter and dark energy has been developed by UCL and CEFCA scientists. Making up 95% of our universe, these substances have profound effects on the birth and lives of galaxies and stars and yet almost nothing is known about their physical nature. Click here. (7/7)

Russian, American, Japanese Astronauts Board Space Station (Source: ABC)
Three astronauts from the United States, Russia and Japan boarded the International Space Station on Saturday after a two-day journey aboard a Russian Soyuz space capsule. The capsule docked smoothly with the space station at a height of 412 kilometers (254 miles) above the Earth. Russia's space agency Roscosmos said the crew entered the station about two hours later. (7/9)

Japanese Satellite Made 'Surprise' Find Before Failure (Source: Japan Today)
A Japanese satellite recorded unprecedented observations of the Perseus galaxy before it disappeared from contact, offering precious new information about how gas travels in the faraway cluster. The pricey ultra-high-tech “Hitomi”—or eye—was launched in February to find X-rays emanating from black holes and galaxy clusters.

But in March researchers said they had lost control of the satellite and after desperate attempts to reestablish communication gave up their salvage effort the following month. However, Hitomi’s quarter-of-a-billion dollar kit managed to observe the Perseus galaxy cluster, some 250 million light years from Earth, with its X-ray spectrometer. The satellite “observed movement of gas at the cluster’s heart for the first time,” said JAXA. (7/9)

Researching How Stars are Born, and Cosmic Structures Evolve (Source: Stanford)
Working with information sent from the Japanese Hitomi satellite, an international team of researchers that include Stanford scientists has obtained the first views of a supermassive black hole stirring hot gas at the heart of a galaxy cluster, like a spoon stirring cream into coffee. These motions could explain why galaxy clusters form far fewer stars than expected – a puzzling property that affects the way cosmic structures evolve. Click here. (7/6)

NASA Parachute Drop at US Army Yuma Proving Ground Aborted (Source: US Army)
Conducting an individual test can be an unbelievably complicated undertaking, particularly when dealing with an expensive one-of-a-kind system. Late June's test of the parachutes destined for use aboard NASA's Orion spacecraft is a case in point, for it involved a vast number of complex moving parts that had to mesh together in a precise, carefully planned and thought-out manner.

These included several aircraft flying out of Edwards Air Force Base, California, additional aircraft from Laguna Army Airfield, ground tracking stations at several points at Yuma Proving Ground, and an exceptionally wide variety, dozens, of technical experts. (7/7)

In Saudi Visit to Paris, Reconnaissance Satellite Deal Not in Sight (Source: SpaceWatch)
Prince Mohammed bin Salman participated in the third Saudi-French Joint Committee, co-chaired by the young Prince and French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. The Deputy Crown Prince also met with French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and Defence Minster Jean-Yves Le Drian while in Paris.

Among the issues thought to be not on the Paris agenda is the long-running French bid to supply Saudi Arabia with reconnaissance satellites. For several years Paris and Riyadh have been negotiating a possible satellite reconnaissance deal where a joint venture between Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space are bidding to supply Saudi Arabia with anywhere between two to eight high-resolution imaging satellites.

The systems on offer are thought to be a variant of the EADS Astrium (now Airbus) Pléiades earth observation satellite. This satellite type is the basis for the Falcon Eye satellites being built by Airbus and Thales Alenia Space for the United Arab Emirates. U.S. satellite manufacturing company Orbital ATK is also believed to be bidding for the Saudi satellite reconnaissance deal. (7/7)

Virgin Galactic to Restart Flight Tests of Commercial Spaceship (Source: Bloomberg)
Virgin Galactic Ltd., the commercial space company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, is set to resume test flights next month in a new spaceship that replaces the craft that crashed in a fatal accident two years ago. The company is due to complete ground tests in August and move to testing the vessel in the skies while attached to an aircraft, according to Jonathan Firth, vice president at Virgin Galactic. The spaceship, named Unity, is scheduled to begin the final stage of testing -- independent, fully powered flights -- next year. (7/8)

ASA Chapter Formed in Arizona (Source: Phoenix Business Journal)
One of the 12 astronauts who stepped on the moon joined the inaugural meeting this week for the new Arizona chapter of the Aerospace States Association. Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt talked about his space mission with the association’s members and board of directors at Arizona State University’s School of Earth & Space Exploration. “This was an incredible beginning to this new association,” Arizona State Senator and chapter board chairman Andrew Sherwood, said in a statement. (7/8)

Astronomers Discover Planet with Three Suns (Source: Cosmos)
Astronomers have found a strange world where the seasons last longer than a human lifetime. In some seasons it is always light, while in others there are three sunrises and sunsets a day. The planet, HD 131399Ab, is a gas giant, 340 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus and is a part of a complex three-star system, called HD 131399. Two of the stars are binary system while HD 131399Ab orbits the third, brighter star in the widest known orbit within a multi-star system. (7/8)

New Spirit of Innovation is Transforming Space Industry (Source: Florida Today)
Billionaires like Musk and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, startups with venture capital backing and even Silicon Valley giants like Google are applying their technology and vision to space ventures, pushing new approaches in an industry that was seen as moving too slowly.

Their ideas and investments are raising optimism about a more diverse and creative aerospace community around Cape Canaveral, five years after the end of NASA’s space shuttle program prompted roughly 8,000 layoffs.

“You’re going to see a stronger space program in the future than we had in the past,” said Bill Gattle, president of Space and Intelligence Systems at Melbourne-based Harris Corp. “It will be multi-faceted, where we’re not just dependent upon one thing like manned spaceflight through NASA.” Click here. (7/8)

How NASA Restored My Faith in Humanity (Source: The Week)
You're entitled to feel some despair over the state of our world. I sure do, even after a lifetime in the news business. In recent weeks, there's been an avalanche of evidence of our species' bottomless capacity for stupidity, savagery, and tribal hatred. An alarming number of our existing and would-be leaders have shown themselves to be clueless, corrupt, self-serving scoundrels and buffoons. We teeter on the edge of multiple disasters.

But, my friends, there's always hope. We've also just gotten a reminder that, at our best, human beings are capable of extraordinary intelligence, teamwork, and vision. This week, NASA's Juno spacecraft entered into orbit around Jupiter, after a 1.7 billion–mile journey. Juno arrived just one second off its scheduled arrival time after five years in space, traveling at 165,000 miles per hour — the fastest human-built object ever. Where in everyday life, or in government, do we see such sheer competence? (7/8)

China’s New Radio Observatory is 200 Meters Larger Than Arecibo (Source: Ars Technica)
For half a century, the National Science Foundation's Arecibo telescope, sited in Puerto Rico, has been the world's largest radio observatory. It measures 305 meters across and among other major discoveries has confirmed the existence of neutron stars. The observatory also featured prominently in the movie Contact.

But now a Chinese observatory has superseded Arecibo. According to China's Xinhua news service, installation of the 500-meter FAST radio telescope is complete, with the last triangular reflector put into place. The observatory is expected to begin observing the heavens in September. (7/8)

Thirty Meter Telescope May Not be Built in Hawaii (Source: Physics World)
Officials behind the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) are considering new locations for the $1.4bn facility, and expect to decide whether to opt for a new site early next year. The TMT is due to be built on Hawaii's Mauna Kea mountain but, following protests from local residents, its building permit was revoked last December by the state's Supreme Court.

New locations that are being considered include Baja California in Mexico, the Canary Islands and Chile, as well as locations in India and China. TMT managers began to consider other sites for the telescope in January. "The TMT's board of directors decided to study other potential sites while the contested case takes its course in Hawaii," says TMT spokesperson Scott Ishikawa. "We need a reasonable plan B, should the Hawaii option not be feasible in a timely fashion." (7/8)

Russia Not to Leave Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Spaceport (Source: Tass)
Russia has no plans to leave the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. "I see it as a goal of our joint work to preserve and expand the Baikonur space center’s potential, to provide people living in the city of Baikonur, regardless of their ethnic identity or citizenship, with comfortable conditions for work and living," he said. "Baikonur must go on. It has big future." (7/8)

Russia and Kazakhstan Agree on Ways of Implementing Baiterek Rocket Project (Source: Tass)
Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Rogozin said on Friday that Russia and Kazakhstan had reached understanding on ways of implementing the Baiterek project for the development of a new space rocket complex.

The Russian vice-premier added that the sides were planning to sign a joint action plan for implementing the Baiterek project at the IV session of the Russian-Kazakhstani inter-governmental commission. He also added that the Russian side had met all the commitments linked to training experts for the Baiterek joint venture who will later prepare components for the launch of Proton-M rockets as part of joint crews.

According to the vice-premier, Kazakhastani experts will soon be able to help launching this type of carrier rockets. "They are undergoing training and will soon be able to be directly involved in the work of the ground infrastructure of the Proton-M space rocket complex," Rogozin said. (7/8)

Russia Ready to Discuss Joint ISS Crews With BRICS States (Source: Sputnik)
Russia is ready to discuss forming joint International Space Station (ISS) crews with BRICS states, Igor Komarov, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos said Thursday. He noted that forming joint ISS crews with BRICS states (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) was a priority for Roscosmos but the space agency is also discussing the issue with NASA, as well as with the European Space Agency (ESA). (7/7)

NASA Investigators Raid Florida Spaceport Engineering/Construction Firm (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Federal agents raided the Titusville office of a NASA construction contractor on Thursday. Investigators with NASA's Office of Inspector General, the agency in charge of probing crimes against NASA, removed boxes of documents and computer towers from SDB Engineering and Constructors Inc. The company has worked on several big projects at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport including upgrades to the Vehicle Assembly Building and corrosion control work at Launch Complex 41 and Launch Complex 37, used by ULA.

SDB Engineering and Constructors Inc. has contracts with the U.S. Air Force, SpaceX, ULA, and previously United Space Alliance, before the Space Coast company closed in 2014. SDB Inc. is a subcontractor for engineering company Vencore, audited by NASA OIG in 2014. The audit resulted in the loss of a $250 million contract with the space agency.

Vencore has a $1.9 billion overall contract with NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The audit was initiated because of concerns about Vencore's "ability to motivate contractor performance and improve acquisition outcomes," according to the 2014 report. (7/7)

Virginia Spaceport Engineering Firm Slams Trade Secrets Lawsuit (Source: Law360)
Livingston & Haven LLC asked a Pennsylvania federal judge Wednesday to effectively toss Advanced Fluid Systems Inc.'s lawsuit, arguing it had nothing to do with allegations that one of AFS's then-employees worked to steal its designs and subcontracts for hydraulic systems at NASA's Wallops Island spaceport.

The evidence does not support trade secrets misappropriation or aiding and abetting of AFS employee Kevin Huber's alleged breach of his responsibilities to the company by taking its designs and subverting its contracts, L&H said. (7/7)

Competition Revitalizes Space Travel (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Competition is revolutionizing the space industry. The vertical landings, for example, aren't just for show but are key to reducing the cost of spaceflight by protecting booster stages from damage for quick reuse. So with newly dubbed "astropreneurs" involved in space, the purpose is not just the mission but also the bottom line, which makes the industry more sustainable.

Such innovation comes at a critical juncture as NASA is stalled by uncertainty over its next major mission. While NASA is working on a new mega rocket that will have more thrust than the legendary Saturn V, it is burdened by a clunky, expensive bureaucratic system reliant on a dysfunctional Congress for funding.

Where once the space race was between the U.S. and Russia, it's now between corporations with profit as an incentive. These companies' plans for space are right out of science fiction that, as Musk and Bezos have shown, is quickly turning into reality. (7/7)

Congress Reauthorizes FAA to September 2017 (Source: GA News)
Leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee reached a bipartisan agreement July 6 on extending the FAA’s authorization through Sept. 30, 2017.

“We have reached an agreement on an FAA extension that provides much-needed stability for our aviation system through September 2017,” Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA); Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR); Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD); and Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said in a joint statement. (7/7)

Cash-Strapped Avanti Looks at Financial Options (Source: Space News)
Satellite operator Avanti may be forced to sell at least part of the company to meet its cash demands. The London-based company said Thursday it needed to raise $50 million by this fall as it expects a loan from an unnamed export credit agency. The company said its financial adviser has started talks with strategic investors about buying at least part of the company. Avanti said Thursday the company would not meet previous forecasts for revenue and earnings growth. (7/8)

Air Force Seeks to Shift Funds to GPS and OCX Control Systems (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is seeking to shift funds to a troubled GPS ground management system and an alternate space control center. In a budget reprogramming request filed with Congress at the end of June, the Defense Department asked to increase funding for the OCX ground system for GPS by $39 million, warning the program would face an additional four months of delays without the additional funding.

The Pentagon is also seeking an additional $30 million for the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center (JICSpOC) to support "test and experimentation environments" at the center. JICSpOC received $60 million for 2016, but the center is considered a top priority for Defense Department leadership. (7/8)

Cruz Plans Space Hearing (Source: Senate Commerce Committee)
A former presidential candidate who chairs the Senate's space subcommittee will hold a hearing on the future of NASA next week. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced the hearing, scheduled for July 13, on "NASA at a Crossroads: Reasserting American Leadership in Space Exploration," with NASA's Bill Gerstenmaier and several others from industry and academia testifying. (7/8)

SpaceX Expands Southern California Presence (Source: Orange County Register)
SpaceX is opening a new office in Southern California. The company is leasing 8,000 feet of office space in a building in the Orange County city of Irvine, according to the building's property manager. SpaceX hasn't disclosed what it will use the office space for, but the company does have job openings for several spacecraft engineering positions in Irvine. Earlier this year, Irvine-based chip developer Broadcom filed suit against SpaceX, claiming the company poached several of its top engineers after previously discussing a joint effort to develop chips for an undisclosed SpaceX project. (7/8)

NASCAR Team Building First Internal Combustion Engine for Space (Source: Jalopnik)
ULA is turning to NASCAR for help on one component of its new launch vehicle. Roush Fenway Racing is working with ULA to develop the first internal combustion engine designed to work in space. The engine will be used as part of the Integrated Vehicle Fluids system in the new ACES upper stage planned for the Vulcan launch vehicle that eliminates the need for batteries and helium pressurant in the stage.

While the engine will be built to aerospace tolerances, it will use off-the-shelf components where possible, including some available in a typical automotive supplies store. Editor's Note: This article makes no mention of XCOR Aerospace's "proprietary" internal combustion engine work for ULA's upper stage. Click here. (7/8)

Rubio Wants to Take Ex-Im Bank Out of Boeing's Deal with Iran (Source: Sunshine State News)
Florida Republican Marco Rubio has joined up with other GOP senators, including once and possible future presidential rival Ted Cruz of Texas, to unveil a bill ensuring the Export-Import Bank can’t provide Iran assistance. Rubio pointed to Boeing’s $17 billion aircraft deal with the Iranian government which could be financed in part by the bank. The Obama administration supports Boeing’s deal with Iran. (7/8)

Jacksonville-Area Congresswoman Indicted (Source: Sunshine State News)
Longtime Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown and her chief of staff, Ronnie Simmons, were indicted Friday on a series of charges related to what federal prosecutors describe as a "scheme involving a fraudulent education charity," the News Service of Florida has reported. The 24-count indictment includes allegations of mail and wire fraud, concealing facts on financial-disclosure forms, filing false tax returns and theft of government property.

Editor's Note: Brown serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, chairing its Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, and Ranking Member of the Veteran' Affairs Committee. (7/8)

Terrifying NASA Image Shows the True Power of Super Typhoon Nepartak (Source: Science Alert)
Taiwan has been battered by super typhoon Nepartak, which made landfall on Friday morning, ripping off rooftops, flipping cars, and injuring at least 69 people, with one death reported so far. A color-enhanced image was taken by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument onboard NASA's Suomi NPP satellite, and it gives a pretty crazy overview of just how powerful the storm is. Click here. (7/8)

Real-Time Tracking of Animals From the ISS (Source: Popular Science)
We can see a lot from space. Satellite imagery has gotten to the point where saying that something is "big enough to see from space" doesn't really mean much anymore. But there are some things that still elude us, like the day-to-day tracking of small animals in real time from above our atmosphere. One group, the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space (ICARUS) hopes to change that.

In June 2017, the group's instrumentation will be deployed on the ISS' Russian Service Module, allowing members to track the movement of animals from insects to birds as they move around the world. And it's not just animals. Members of the group hope to monitor everything from growing trees to transportation of goods as a part of the initiative. They'll accomplish all this by affixing tiny tags weighing just 1 or 2 grams to the thing they want to track. (7/8)

Space Florida Joins State Officials at Farnborough Airshow (Sources: Miami Herald, EFI)
Enterprise Florida is leading a delegation of Florida small and medium-sized businesses at the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow from July 11-17, 2016. The agency will host the Florida Pavilion, which has long been the largest pavilion of any U.S. state in attendance. Governor Rick Scott will attend, as will Space Florida President Frank DiBello. (7/8)

U.S. Navy’s Newest Satellite Hits Glitch Following Launch (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Navy’s newest communications satellite has experienced an undisclosed “anomaly” following its June 24 launch, causing the Navy to suspend the transfer of the satellite to geosynchronous orbit. The Navy said the fifth satellite in its next-generation narrowband communications constellation, known as MUOS, had expected to reach geosynchronous orbit and a test location about 35,400 kilometers above Hawaii by July 3.

But following a successful launch, “the satellite experienced an anomaly that required the transfer maneuver to be temporarily halted,” said a Navy spokesman. He did not elaborate. Since the event, the Navy “has reconfigured the satellite from orbital transfer into a stabilized, safe intermediate orbit to allow the MUOS team to evaluate the situation and determine options for proceeding,” he said. (7/8)

Why Investment in Space Companies is Heating Up (Source: LA Times)
It used to be that the only way to get to outer space was through the government. Those days are long gone, as the commercial space industry becomes increasingly crowded with companies geared toward such diverse goals as launching small satellites and mining the moon for minerals.

This has made the commercial sector increasingly active for investors. A January report from aerospace consulting firm the Tauri Group found that space start-ups have attracted more than $13.3 billion of investment, including $5.1 billion of debt financing, since 2000. Nearly two-thirds of that investment funding has come in the last five years. Click here. (7/7)

Satellite Manufacturer Employee Arrested for Selling Protected Tech Secrets (Source: USDOJ)
A Culver City, California, man was arrested yesterday on federal charges of economic espionage and violations of the Arms Export Control Act for his attempts to sell sensitive satellite information to a person he believed to be a foreign intelligence agent. Gregory Allen Justice, 49, who worked for a cleared defense contractor as an engineer on military and commercial satellites during his alleged crimes, was arrested yesterday by FBI special agents. The judge ordered him detained pending trial.

According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Justice stole proprietary trade secret materials from his employer and provided them to a person whom he believed to be a representative of a foreign intelligence service, but who was in fact an FBI undercover agent. In addition to their proprietary nature, the documents contained technical data covered by the U.S. Munitions List. In exchange for providing these materials, Justice allegedly sought and received cash payments. (7/9)

Why SpaceX Lost Its Bid To Ban Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Forbes)
The most bitterly contested issue in Senate floor debate of the National Defense Authorization Act this year was whether the Department of Defense would be allowed to continue using Russian rocket engines to lift national-security satellites into orbit. If SpaceX’s lobbying campaign had succeeded, Musk’s company would have ended up with a monopoly on pretty much any military payload it was capable of lifting into orbit. Click here. (7/8)

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