August 25, 2016

DARPA Picks SpaceWorks SBIR for Persistent GEO Platform (Source: SpaceWorks)
SpaceWorks Enterprises announces the recent award of a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the development of a persistent, geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO)-based platform capable of sustainable and evolvable on-orbit operations.

SpaceWorks' system design seeks to offer a wealth of new capabilities at reduced cost compared to current systems and solutions. The six-month base effort will focus on the detailed design of the platform, evaluating the operational aspects of the system, and identifying potential payloads to support missions relevant to the Department of Defense. (8/24)

Russia to Spend Big Upgrading Rocket Engine Reliability (Source: Space Daily)
Russian state space corporation Roscosmos is allocating over 1.9 billion rubles ($29 million) to upgrading carrier rocket engines, rocket boosters and spacecraft, according to materials published on Russia's official public procurement website on Tuesday.

The contracted upgrades include replacing engine parts and materials, increasing engine reliability and reducing defects and failures during test flights. Roscosmos also plans to improve the technological quality of engine production and ensure that the process adheres to the latest requirements. The work is scheduled to complete by late November, 2018, while the contractor will be chosen on September 15. (8/25)

Kourou Busy with Upcoming Arianespace Missions (Source: Space Daily)
The diversity of Arianespace launch services available to commercial and institutional customers is underscored by the current mission preparations for flights that will orbit Earth observation platforms, telecommunications relay spacecraft and global navigation satellites from the Spaceport. Click here. (8/25)

Massive Galaxy Made Almost Entirely of Dark Matter (Source: Space Daily)
Using the world's most powerful telescopes, an international team of astronomers has discovered a massive galaxy that consists almost entirely of dark matter. Using the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini North telescope - both on Maunakea, Hawaii - the team found a galaxy whose mass is almost entirely dark matter. The findings are being published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters this week.

Even though it is relatively nearby, the galaxy, named Dragonfly 44, had been missed by astronomers for decades because it is very dim. It was discovered just last year when the Dragonfly Telephoto Array observed a region of the sky in the constellation Coma. Upon further scrutiny, the team realized the galaxy had to have more than meets the eye: it has so few stars that it quickly would be ripped apart unless something was holding it together. (8/25)

A Better Way to Learn if Alien Planets Have the Right Stuff (Source: Space Daily)
A new method for analyzing the chemical composition of stars may help scientists winnow the search for Earth 2.0. Yale University researchers Debra Fischer and John Michael Brewer, in a new study that will appear in the Astrophysical Journal, describe a computational modeling technique that gives a clearer sense of the chemistry of stars, revealing the conditions present when their planets formed. The system creates a new way to assess the habitability and biological evolution possibilities of planets outside our solar system. (8/25)

SpaceX to Lease Building at Port Canaveral, May Build Another One (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is moving some of its operations to Port Canaveral, port Chief Executive Officer John Murray said Wednesday. The space launch company plans to lease the now-vacant former Spacehab building on the north side of the port, and is looking at constructing a second building on vacant land adjacent to that site, Murray told port commissioners.

SpaceX is expected to process and refurbish rockets, as well as potentially perform other functions, at the port, Murray said. A formal lease agreement with SpaceX could come before port commissioners for approval as early as next month. In the meantime, SpaceX plans to move into the 52,000-square-foot former Spacehab building through a temporary property-use permit between the company and the port. (8/24)

Ariane 5 Lofts Two Communications Satellites for Intelsat (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Thundering off the launch pad at Kourou in French Guiana, an Ariane 5 booster took to the skies Wednesday, Aug. 24, to deliver the Intelsat 33e and Intelsat 36 communications satellites into orbit. The mission, designated VA232 in Arianespace’s numbering system, lifted off at 5:55 p.m. EDT from the Ariane Launch Complex No. 3. (8/24)

Where No Miner Has Gone Before (Source: New Republic)
On September 8, NASA is embarking on a new mission to investigate the origins of the universe. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a small spacecraft, the OSIRIS-REx, will journey 509 million miles to an asteroid called Bennu. Named for an Egyptian deity linked to the sun and creation, Bennu has likely gone untouched for the past four billion years, offering us a valuable glimpse into the early days of our solar system.

The spacecraft will orbit the asteroid for approximately 19 months. Once it has mapped Bennu’s surface, the Osiris-rex will inch closer to the asteroid. Then its eleven-foot robotic arm will reach out and collect a two-ounce sample to bring back to Earth in 2023.

A seven-year journey to fetch a candy bar–sized sample of rock hasn’t sparked the kind of global excitement reserved for, say, the prospect of blasting Sir Richard Branson off the planet and into deep space. But there’s a bigger game at play here: The precious minerals and metals in asteroids may be worth billions of dollars to galactic prospectors, and NASA’s mission is paving the way for an outer-space gold rush. (8/23)

Earthlike Planet Could Be Next Door, Orbiting Proxima Centauri (Source: New York Times)
Another Earth could be circling the star right next door to us, scientists say. It's close enough we might even someday go there. Astronomers announced on Wednesday that they had detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbor to our solar system. Intriguingly, the planet is in the star’s “Goldilocks zone,” where it may not be too hot nor too cold. That means liquid water could exist at the surface, raising the possibility for life.

Although observations in recent years, particularly by NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission, have uncovered a bounty of Earth-size worlds throughout the galaxy, this one holds particular promise because it might someday, decades from now, be possible to reach. It’s 4.2 light-years, or 25 trillion miles, away from Earth, which is extremely close in cosmic terms. (8/24)

Virgin Galactic to Host Aerospace Diversity Summit (Source: Inverse)
Virgin Galactic will host a diversity event this fall called ‘The SUMMIT: The Power of Inclusion’ in what the company calls an effort to increase the presence of women and minorities in the space industry. The private spaceflight company is partnering with the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight for the summit, which will take place October 14.

Diversity has been repeatedly shown to have wide-ranging benefits for every industry, of course, but also especially for the space industry. STEM fields are, as we know, dominated by white dudes, so Virgin Galactic’s choice to focus on how it can be better is laudable.

There are some peculiarities, however, in some of the company’s promotional methods for the workshop, beginning with why the website chose to include a subhead called “Workshop details” in its informational section and then answer it, somewhat forebodingly, with “We will take care of all the details.” (8/23)

14 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became an Astronaut (Source: Cosmopolitan)
#13: You have to be good at basically everything. In addition to your own specialty, you have to know how to do a little of everything. Mechanical skills are important, since a lot of the work we do is assembling experiments or doing maintenance on the space station. You have to understand a wide range of technology. Public speaking is part of our job, too. Click here. (8/23)

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