August 20, 2016

With Stunning New Images of Jupiter, Harris Builds on Deep Space Legacy (Source: Washington Exec)
In early July, the NASA space probe Juno entered into orbit around Jupiter – the largest planet in our solar system —  and Guinness World Records promptly named the $1.1 billion probe the fastest-ever spacecraft in history. Helping to reach that historic milestone, which began in August 2011 when Juno left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is the Melbourne, Florida-based satellite and communications giant Harris Corporation.

Over the past year, more than 100 Harris employees have provided critical operations, maintenance and engineering services to make the Jupiter Orbit Insertion, as it’s called, a reality. That support has centered on work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the federally funded research and development center responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network — the worldwide network of antennas and communications facilities in the United States, Spain and Australia. (8/12)

Climb Inside Apollo 11 in Virtual Reality and 3D (Source: Time)
The detail captured by this painstaking work is both extraordinary and immersive. There is the sweeping array of switches, indicator, breakers and knobs that fill the wraparound instrument panel—with their names and functions readily readable.

There is the lower equipment bay beneath the seats, where the navigational sextant and computer were located. There are the astronauts’ cloth and canvas couches and the five windows through which they first glimpsed the moon and the closed tunnel in the nose of the spacecraft that once connected to the lunar lander.

And, as with so many places humans go and things they touch, there is graffiti: a calendar indicating every day the mission flew—July 16 through July 24, 1969. There are random numbers scribbled on the bulkhead, as one or the other of the astronauts, without a flight plan or scrap of paper handy, jotted down some coordinates Houston read up to them. Click here. (7/25)

'Star Wars' Cantina Bar to Open 90 Miles from Real Spaceport (Source: Inverse)
The Scum and Villainy Cantina is a pop-up restaurant/bar which will open for a short time on Hollywood Boulevard “sometime this winter.” In anticipation of great demand, Scum and Villainy will start taking reservations next week on their official website, which doesn’t sound like something the real Mos Eisley Cantina would have ever been okay with. (You can’t imagine Han Solo saying, “Creepy booth in the corner for two? Reservation is under ‘Chewbacca’”).

And while it’s a little more of a drive than Obi-Wan and Luke had, there is a real-deal spaceport 90 miles away. Historically, The Mojave Air and Space Port is America’s very first inland space port, and the home to Space Ship One, the famous private space craft designed by Burt Rutan. Before Space X, Space Ship One was one of the first successful non-government funded spaceships ever. (8/20)

Space Elevator Fans Keep Looking Up, Even When They’re Stuck on the Ground Floor (Source: GeekWire)
Once upon a time, entrepreneurs were counting down to a date in 2018 when the first space elevator would open for business. NASA was setting aside millions of dollars to promote the technologies required for building that elevator. And space elevator fans were looking forward to a breakthrough that would drive the cost of space travel down to mere hundreds of dollars.

Today, the countdown is on indefinite hold. The NASA money is gone. And the dream of building the space elevator has been eclipsed by billionaire Elon Musk’s dream of putting colonists on Mars by the mid-2020s. Nevertheless, the fans are still keeping the faith, and they’re backing up that faith with research studies. About 35 of them gathered today at Seattle’s Museum of Flight to kick off the 2016 Space Elevator Conference. Click here. (8/19)

Rocket Lab's New Zealand Launch Site Nears Completion (Source: New Zealand Herald)
Rocket Lab's space program is a step closer to liftoff with the installation of a launch platform at its Mahia Peninsula base. The 50-ton platform is the final step in preparing the site for the arrival of its Electron launch vehicle and will be used to erect the rocket from horizontal to vertical positions. The launch platform was designed in-house at Rocket Lab and transported from Auckland to Mahia, with local contractors hired to complete site works. Click here. (8/20)

How Much Will SLS and Orion Cost to Fly? Finally Some Answers (Source: Ars Technica)
One of the biggest criticisms of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft is that they will be too expensive to fly. Namely—while the large rocket and sizable capsule appear to be more-than-capable vehicles that could form the core of a deep-space exploration program—will there be any money left after producing them for NASA to actually go and explore? Until now, this has been a question the space agency has offered only vague assurances about.

But on Thursday, when Ars sat down to interview NASA’s Bill Hill inside the Michoud Assembly Facility, where the SLS core stage and Orion are assembled, the NASA manager was notably forthcoming. “We’re just way too expensive today,” Hill acknowledged. “It’s going to take some different thinking and maybe a little bit more risk taking than what we’re wanting to do today.”

“My top number for Orion, SLS, and the ground systems that support it is $2 billion or less,” Hill told Ars. “I mean that’s my real ultimate goal. We were running at about three-plus, 3.6 billion [dollars] during the latter days of space shuttle. Of course, there again, we were flying six or seven missions. I think we’re actually going to have to get to less than that.” Ars has learned that the agency’s ultimate goal for annual production and operations costs is about $1.5 billion. (8/19)

Space, Climate Change, and the Real Meaning of Theory (Source: New Yorker)
The facts of climate change are straightforward: there’s been a warming surge over the past hundred years, with a dramatic uptick in this new century. We are seeing the effects in the shrinking of the summer Arctic sea ice and the melting of the Greenland glaciers. That melt, in turn, has been partly responsible for the three-inch rise in sea levels since 1992. The Earth is warming, the ice is melting, and sea level is rising. These are observed facts. Are we humans the cause of these changes? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Many climate-research groups around the world have calculated the various contributions to climate change, including those not related to humans, like volcanic ash. It has been shown repeatedly that it is just not possible to explain the recent warming without factoring in the rise in anthropogenic greenhouse gases. If you left the increase in carbon dioxide out of your calculations, you would see a wobbly but, on average, level temperature trend from the eighteen-nineties to today.

But the record—the reality—shows a steeply rising temperature curve which closely matches the observed rise in carbon dioxide. The global community of climate scientists, endorsed by their respective National Academies of Science or equivalents, is solid in attributing the warming to fossil-fuel emissions. Humans are the cause of the accelerating warming. You can bet your life—or, more accurately, your descendants’ lives—on it. As a scientist, I would like to think that the political discussion of climate change and how to mitigate its worst effects would be sober and fact-based. Unfortunately, this is not the case. (8/17)

Hunting for Peru's Lost Civilizations — with Satellites (Source: TED)
Around the world, hundreds of thousands of lost ancient sites lie buried and hidden from view. Satellite archaeologist Sarah Parcak is determined to find them before looters do. With the 2016 TED Prize, Parcak is building an online citizen-science tool called GlobalXplorer that will train an army of volunteer explorers to find and protect the world's hidden heritage. In this talk, she offers a preview of the first place they'll look: Peru — the home of Machu Picchu, the Nazca lines and other archaeological wonders waiting to be discovered. Click here. (6/15)

Asteroid Mining CEO Says Cities In Space Are 30 Years Away (Source: Daily Caller)
Private companies could begin mining asteroids next year and building cities in space in the next 30 years, according to the CEO of a space mining company. “Its our goal in 30 years to provide all the material and equipment needed to build cities in space,” Daniel Faber, the CEO of the asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries (DSI), told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

DSI announced plans Tuesday to launch a surveying probe that will arrive at an asteroid by 2020. “Our material could be used to build very large solar concentrators and arrays, large radio dishes, fuel tanks, structural members and maybe one day a habitat,” Faber said. “Asteroids are made of basically the same stuff that planets are made of, everything we need is in there. We can even make oxygen out of mined water.” (8/13)

New ‘Front Porch’ Added to International Space Station (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Two members of the International Space Station’s Expedition 48 crew stepped outside the orbital complex to install a new “front porch.” The nearly six-hour long spacewalk had a goal to install International Docking Adapter-2 (IDA-2) to the forward end of the station. (8/20)

Rubio: U.S. Space Program Not 'Third World' as Trump Says (Source: Florida Today)
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said the nation's space program needs a clear goal and long-term funding, but disagreed with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's recent criticism of it as worthy of a Third World nation. "I wouldn’t say we have a Third World space program," Rubio said at Space Florida's offices in Exploration Park at Kennedy Space Center. "We have very talented and capable people."

He broadly backed NASA's goal to send astronauts to Mars and support for the commercial space sector, but warned that both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton could upend progress made in the five years since the space shuttle's retirement. "Our biggest concern is that a new administration could once again throw all of this into chaos and disarray," he said. (8/19)

NASA Wants to Bring Enterprise to the Space Station (Source: Bloomberg)
After 15 years as a pure research lab, the International Space Station might be ready for business. NASA is soliciting ideas from private enterprise on ways to use the orbiting laboratory for commercial purposes, taking another, tentative step in U.S. efforts to create a marketplace in space.

NASA posed the request as a way to engender “out of the box concepts” for the space station since the agency says it’s become clear that “companies don’t think they can go straight to a commercial space station without continuing to take advantage of the ISS to test the waters and see what really will sell or where there may be issues.”

NASA also requested ideas on operating models, contract structures, and other sustainable business plans for future commercial endeavors 250 miles above the planet. “It’s an opportunity to gather new ideas from people/industry for future opportunities on the space station,” NASA spokeswoman Tabatha Thompson said in an e-mail. (8/19)

NASA Tests Shuttle Engine Destined for SLS (Source:
NASA put a former shuttle engine through its paces Thursday in a test tied to the development of the Space Launch System. The RS-25 engine, formerly used on the space shuttle, fired for 420 seconds during a test at the Stennis Space Center, running at between 80 and 111 percent of its rated thrust. NASA is repurposing the shuttle-era engines for use on the core stage of the SLS, which will use four RS-25 engines on each launch. (8/18)

Venus-Like Exoplanet Might Have Oxygen Atmosphere, But Not Life (Source: Space Daily)
The distant planet GJ 1132b intrigued astronomers when it was discovered last year. Located just 39 light-years from Earth, it might have an atmosphere despite being baked to a temperature of around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. But would that atmosphere be thick and soupy or thin and wispy? New research suggests the latter is much more likely. (8/19)

Florida-Based NASA Contractor Wins Legal Ruling in Subcontractor Complaint (Source: Law 360)
A Louisiana federal judge released the contractor of a NASA painting project from a suit brought by a subcontractor claiming wrongful termination from the project, finding the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. In an order dated Aug. 11 and filed in court records on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Shelly D. Dick granted a bid from the project's prime contractor, Harry Pepper & Associates Inc., of Jacksonville, to dismiss the suit brought by subcontractor PASI of LA Inc. (8/18)

Asteroid Mission Could Shed Light On Origins Of Life On Earth (Source: Aviation Week)
The first U.S.-led mission to collect a small sample of an asteroid’s surface material is poised for launch next month. The $1 billion mission, dubbed Osiris-Rex, could shed light on the origins of life on Earth. It also could provide valuable information about the possibility that an asteroid collision could wipe out life on the planet.

The solar-powered spacecraft, whose official name is the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resources Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, awaits final integration activities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and liftoff atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 from nearby Cape Canaveral AFS on Sept. 8, at 7:05 p.m. EDT. As of Sept. 8, a 34-day launch window opens. (8/19)

The Inside Story of How Billionaires are Racing to Take You to Outer Space (Source: Washington Post)
Driven by ego, outsize ambition and opportunity, they are investing hundreds of millions of dollars of their own money to open up space to the masses and push human space travel far past where governments have gone. Musk and Bezos are the most prominent of a quartet of billionaires aspiring to open the frontier of space the way the public-private partnerships of the 19th century pushed west at the dawn of the railroad age.

The two others are Paul Allen, a Microsoft founder, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. All have upended industries, including retail, automobiles and credit cards, and are now embarking on the greatest disruption of all — making space travel routine — in a business long dominated by commercial-space contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

While their efforts have reignited interest in space, they also have raised moral complexities and regulatory challenges in pursuing an endeavor that is inherently dangerous. Congress has opted to regulate the industry only loosely, granting it an extended “learning period” that would allow companies to grow and to practice space travel. Click here. (8/19)

Energia, Boeing Reach Deal on Dispute Over Sea Launch (Source: Sputnik)
Russia's Energia and Boeing reached an agreement to solve dispute over the Sea Launch project, Energia's General Director said. In 2015, a US District Court awarded Boeing a multimillion compensation from its former partners under the Sea Launch, including Energia, following a bankruptcy procedure. Energia and its Ukrainian counterpart Yuzhnoe claimed that Boeing had given unwritten assurances to its Sea Launch partners that it would not seek reimbursements.

"We have signed a preliminary agreement with Boeing to settle a dispute on 'Sea Launch,' in that context a court in the United States suspended all the activities to collect debts. Before the end of the year we are planning to sign a final agreement with Boeing, which should stipulate conditions of the [dispute's] settlement," Vladimir Solntsev said. He added that Energia and Boeing had already evolved a program of long-term cooperation, which included projects of far space exploration. (8/19)

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