August 22, 2016

Make Your Plans Now for 2017's Total Solar Eclipse (Source: Travel & Leisure)
Sunday marks exactly one year before what will be the easiest total solar eclipse ever to travel to and witness. And if you've never seen one before, you don't know what you're missing. Legions of eclipse-chasers from across the country and the world will be in the United States for the Aug. 21, 2017 event. A New Moon will completely block out the Sun for a few minutes, throwing a 70-mile Moon-shadow across the states from Oregon to South Carolina. (8/21)

Through the Looking Glass (Source: Space Review)
After the Pentagon cancelled the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program in 1969, it faced the question of what to do with the hardware already built for it. Dwayne Day examines what’s known from declassified documents about that effort, including the transfer of mirrors for use in an observatory. Click here. (8/22)
Human-Rating the Atlas V Centaur for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (Source: Space Review)
Part of the effort by NASA to develop commercial crew transportation systems involves human-rating the Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Anthony Young discusses that effort to prepare both the rocket and the launch site for missions to fly astronauts to the space station. Click here. (8/22)
CubeSats: Faster and Cheaper, But Better? (Source: Space Review)
There’s growing interest in using CubeSats for a variety of scientific, commercial, and other applications. However, Jeff Foust reports that CubeSat developers are grappling with the issue of reliability of such satellites, which suffer higher failure rates than larger spacecraft. Click here. (8/22)
Why a Coherent Middle East Space Policy is a Necessity (Source: Space Review)
Some in the Middle East are concerned that Iran, now free of sanctions linked to nuclear weapons development, might become more aggressive in the region. Michael Listner argues that this should provide an impetus for other nations there to develop comprehensive, coherent space policies. Click here. (8/22)

Anderson: Spaceport America Generated $104 Million* (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Spaceport America CEO Christine Anderson has taken to New Mexico media to say that things are going great at the spaceport as she steps down. “Spaceport America is alive and well,” she declared in an op-ed. “It saddens me to read uninformed articles to the contrary.” I can’t recall anyone writing that the Spaceport America is actually dead, just that it has cost New Mexico taxpayers about $225 million (and counting) without returning any of the benefits the state’s leaders and Virgin Galactic promised when it was launched a decade ago.

Residents of two revenue-challenged counties continue to pay a special tax they voted to impose on themselves to support the spaceport long after the levy was supposed to end. Anderson claimed: "Within the last year, the Spaceport America brand has generated over $104 million worth of global earned media value for the project and the state of New Mexico." However they figured it, one thing is clear: "global earned media value" doesn’t pay the bills.

Spaceport America was purpose built for Richard Branson’s company to fly tourists into suborbital space. The massive hangar sitting out near the runway was built to house that business. No number of sounding rocket launches, drone flights or film shoots will get around that. If they had wanted to build a sounding rocket range, the state could probably have saved more than $200 million. Given Virgin Galactic’s frequent delays (flights were to have started in 2007), it’s not surprising Anderson didn’t mention the company. Commercial flights from Spaceport America remain a ways off. (8/15)

Russia Gains Customers for Commercial Lunar Flyby (Source: Sputnik)
Russian officials claim they have eight customers for a commercial human lunar flyby mission, at $150 million each. Vladimir Solntsev, general director of RSC Energia, said his company had eight potential candidates for such a mission willing to pay that cost, including a Japanese family. Energia, working with American space tourism company Space Adventures, has long promoted a plan to send a modified Soyuz spacecraft around the moon with one cosmonaut and two tourists on board. (8/22)

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