August 19, 2016

Rubio Meets with Space Industry Leaders at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast hosted a roundtable meeting for Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the former presidential hopeful who is now campaigning to keep his Senate seat. Rubio met with local aerospace officials from companies like Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance.

Some highlights of the discussion included comments from SpaceX that they may grow their presence in Florida due to their success in landing Falcon rockets. It apparently makes sense to keep the rockets in Florida rather than sending them to California or Texas for refurbishment, so more infrastructure and jobs could come to the Space Coast.

Also, Space Florida discussed the need for nitrogen and helium gas pipelines to serve the growing needs of ULA, SpaceX and other launchers. This commercially driven requirement, along with things like rebuilding the bridge from Titusville to KSC, is too low a budget priority for NASA or the Air Force, so again comes the notion of putting a spaceport authority (Space Florida or possibly a federal entity) in charge of running the Cape Canaveral Spaceport...with NASA and the Air Force transitioning to some form of 'tenant' status. (8/19)

Texas Congressman Launches Mission to Reboot Space Program (Source: Texas Standard)
It’s been a long time since kids sat with parents on living room couches watching live pictures from Mission Control in Houston. Even though NASA no longer looms in the American imagination as much as it once did, with a Mars expedition in the works and the rise of Space X and Blue Origin among others, a powerful case can be made that a renaissance is just around the corner.

Houston-area U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, who’s chair of the House Space subcommittee, has launched a new mission on Capitol Hill. Babin says he wants to establish a bipartisan caucus to “advocate and protect” the space program. “The work, the funding, our workforce, our capabilities – all at the NASA Johnson Space Center, which Houston is home to, and also to the space industry across Texas,” he says.

In Babin’s district, he says 14,000 employees work at Johnson Space Center. “We’ve seen some ups and downs over the last few years of our space program,” he says. “NASA’s overall budget is less than one-half of one percent of our federal budget. The nation’s investments in space drive our technology, advancements and inventions we have there… It’s hard to match the bang for the buck that we get (out of it).” (8/19)

Air Force, ULA Launch 2 Military Surveillance Satellites on Delta Rocket (Source:
The U.S. Air Force has launched two more satellites designed to help keep some of the nation's most valuable military space assets safe and secure. The third and fourth satellites in the military's Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) lifted off atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Spaceport. (8/19)

More Evidence Emerges That Life's Building Blocks are Scattered Throughout Space (Source: Mashable)
A team of scientists have tracked the development of molecules known as "life's building blocks" in a nebula far from Earth, adding to an ever-growing field of research that could one day help us figure out exactly how life formed in our solar system. Scientists peered deep into the Iris Nebula — located 1,400 light-years from our planet — using powerful observatories to figure out exactly how the molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are distributed in the dusty region.

The medium-sized PAHs — which are "flat molecules consisting of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern, surrounded by hydrogen," according to NASA — actually appear to grow larger when ultraviolet light from the large star at the nebula's center hits them. Instead of being destroyed like the small PAHs, the medium PAHs combine when irradiated, growing into larger complex organic molecules, according to NASA. (8/17)

Florida Tech Researchers Explore the Possibilities of Growing Plants on the Red Planet (Source: FIT)
A little more than a year after the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute was created at Florida Institute of Technology with the mission to get humans to Mars, researchers are already looking at realistic ways we can grow food on the Red Planet.

Though difficult, it’s possible with the addition of fertilizers and leaching out the perchlorates to grow various plants in a Martian soil–eventually. Florida Tech scientists have partnered with scientists from NASA who have experience growing plants in space on the International Space Station and whom are also interested in growing plants on Mars. Florida Tech’s Drew Palmer, an assistant professor of Biological Sciences and his team are are leading the charge in developing a Martian Garden here on campus. (8/17)

Industry Remains Optimistic About Continued Growth of Cubesats (Source: Space News)
Despite concerns about reliability and access to launch vehicles, the small satellite industry expects the number of cubesats to continue to grow as they find new commercial and government applications. Bill Doncaster of SpaceWorks Engineering said his company was maintaining a forecast issued earlier this year that predicted about 200 satellites weighing between 1 and 50 kilograms would launch this year, a number that would break the record of 158 set in 2014.

SpaceWorks, in a similar forecast last year, forecast 163 such satellites would launch in 2015, but only 131 actually flew. “That was an anomaly based on available launch slots,” he said. He noted that both Antares and Falcon 9 rockets, which have launched many such spacecraft on cargo missions to the International Space Station, were recovering from launch failures. “The number of opportunities was somewhat limited.” (8/17)

How to Succeed in the Asteroid Business Without Really Mining (Source: WIRED)
To support a prototype mission, Deep Space Industries has partnered with Luxembourg. Yes, the country. Why … Luxembourg? It’s known for finance and banking, says Meagan Crawford, Deep Space Industries’ director of communications, and has “a deep background in mining and the steel industry, as well as a vibrant high-tech industry.”

After Prospector-X (hypothetically) proves its technology, Deep Space Industries plans to launch the real deal, the 50-kilogram Prospector-1. This spacecraft will—by the end of the decade, the company says—actually go to an asteroid and appraise its value, using a mid-infrared camera and a neutron spectrometer to see up to three feet below ground.

But that money is a long ways away. Which is why it’s important to realize that Prospector-1’s bones are a “solar system exploration platform,” says Crawford. That platform doesn’t have to be mine-oriented. Once Deep Space Industries has its own Prospector-1, it plans to sell other copies of the platform to other entities. Businesses, sure. But also nations. “Countries that don’t have their own space programs who are looking to break in to the space industry,” says Crawford. (8/17)

Small Satellites: Obvious Benefits But Also Concerns (Source: National Defense)
Commercial technology companies are providing key imaging and communications services via small satellite systems that may provide cost-effective options for boosting the United States’ space resiliency, and they’re developing them faster than the U.S. military can, experts said.

More satellites in operation will also mean sharing increasingly less available radiofrequency spectrum. “Most of them need to communicate using radio signals. … You’re dealing with congestion, not just between satellites, but between satellites and the Earth,” Weeden said.

If it were a question of two planes about to collide in mid-air, the Federal Aviation Administration would be authorized to regulate how each aircraft moved and operated in relation to the other. But there is currently no such global agency for space systems that has the power to order an operator to move one system away from another to avoid a collision, Weeden said. (8/17)

NASA Hopes to Hand the ISS to a Commercial Owner by Mid 2020s (Source: Tech Crunch)
NASA is giving us some more insight into its plans to get humans to Mars, under the blanket mission called ‘Journey to Mars,’ and during the press conference, NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Bill Hill revealed that the current hope is to hand off control of the International Space Station to a commercial owner by sometime around the mid 2020s.

“NASA’s trying to develop economic development in low-earth orbit,” Hill said, speaking on a panel of NASA staff assembled to discuss the upcoming Mars mission. “Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-earth orbit, so that research can continue in low-earth orbit.”

The timing fits with the end of The U.S. Government’s current funding of the ISS program, which was extended by President Obama’s administration from its original deorbiting date of 2016 through 2020. Operations were prolonged through 2024 to help give NASA a platform from which to run its near-Earth preparatory missions leading up to the ultimate manned mission to Mars. (8/17)

Ixion Initiative to Study Conversion of Rocket Upper Stages into LEO Habitats (Source: Via Satellite)
NASA has selected the Ixion Initiative Team, comprised of NanoRacks, Space Systems Loral (SSL), and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to participate in the agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (“NextSTEP-2”) program. The Ixion Team is a new addition to NASA’s NextSTEP effort, and will begin by conducting a comprehensive feasibility study evaluating the conversion of rocket upper stages into habitats.

This approach offers a pathway that is more affordable and involves less risk than fabricating modules on the ground and subsequently launching them into orbit. The Ixion Team proposes demonstrating this low-cost concept via the conversion of a Centaur rocket upper stage, which will be attached to the International Space Station (ISS). The Ixion Team will leverage the habitat as a proving ground for a variety of private-sector activities. (8/17)

Former ISRO Chief: Money Given for Human Spaceflift Mission is Peanuts (Source: Business Standard)
Eminent space scientist G Madhavan Nair has said India must take steps to undertake human space flight mission without delay, stating such a venture would give a new "life and vigor" to entire research activities in ISRO. Nair termed as "very unfortunate" the government's stand on the mission. He said the government is yet to give a formal approval to the mission, even a decade after a meeting convened by ISRO which was attended by 80 senior scientists who favoured initiation of such a project. (8/17)

UK Military Orders Third High-Altitude Pseudo Satellite From Airbus (Source: Space News)
The British Defence Ministry on Aug. 17 said it had exercised an option for a third solar-powered, high-altitude surveillance and communications platform from Airbus Defence and Space, with flight trials to begin in mid-2017. The Airbus Zephyr-S aircraft, one of several designs of what are called high-altitude pseudo satellites, or HAPS, is designed to operate for up to 45 days before landing for refurbishment and to provide a range of persistent surveillance and communications services. (8/17)

Air Force Sent GSSAP Satellite to Check on Stalled MUOS-5 (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force said Aug. 18 it sent one of its high-orbiting space surveillance satellites to check on a Navy communications satellite that ran into propulsion problems about halfway to geosynchronous orbit. Following a June 24 launch, the fifth satellite in the Navy’s next-generation narrowband communications constellation, known as the Mobile User Objective System, had been expected to reach geosynchronous orbit and a test location about 35,400 kilometers above Hawaii by July 3. (8/17)

Lego Contest Winners Dream of Future Space Exploration (Source:
Four winners have been announced in a space-themed Lego building challenge, created in collaboration with NASA. The "Mission to Space: Build Your Future" challenge asked participants to use Legos to create a scene that imagined how humans might explore other planets or space destinations one day. Four winning entrants were selected by judges from Lego and NASA, according to a video message on the Lego website.

The winning designs included a moon house, a home on Mars, a spaceship and a "laboratory expedition module." Pictures of the winning builds are on the Lego website, in a gallery that includes the other contest entries. This isn't the first time NASA and Lego have teamed up for a space-themed building contest, and Lego regularly hosts build challenges on their website. (8/17)

Star Caught Exploding After Long Hibernation (Source: Mashable)
In 2009, astronomers watched as a star suddenly and unexpectedly brightened. This brightening event, which happened in the V1213 Centauri star system, grew more and more luminous over the course of several days, putting on a show for people on the ground. But that extreme brightening didn't come from just anywhere.

A new study in the journal Nature this week tracks the evolution of the star system's brightening and eventual fading using data collected by a telescope, which just happened to be keeping an eye on its part of the sky. Astronomers think that a brightening event like the one that happened in 2009 occurs when a white dwarf star pulls matter from a companion star onto its surface, causing instability and an explosion known as a "classical nova" which makes the star glow more brightly than usual. Click here. (8/17)

Satellite Images Can Map Poverty (Source: Science)
You can fix the world's problems only if you know where they are. That’s why tracking poverty in Africa, for example, is critical for the United Nations, which launched a global poverty campaign last year. But gathering the data on the ground can be dangerous, slow, and expensive. Now, a study using satellite images and machine learning reveals an alternative: mapping poverty from space. Click here. (8/17)

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