September 14, 2016

Homeowners, Park Officials, Concerned About Georgia Spaceport (Source: Golden Isles News)
Residents of Little Cumberland Island have been portrayed by a legislator as a bunch of elitist outsiders who don’t care about Camden County’s efforts to attract new jobs. They defended themselves Tuesday during a state House subcommittee meeting to discuss a proposed spaceport. A member of the Little Cumberland Homeowners Association, said the big concern is the industry’s 6% failure rate. More than 60 homes on the island would be impacted by launches, he said.

He asked the 11 state representatives on the spaceport subcommittee to delay voting on proposed legislation that would grant some protections from frivolous lawsuits against spaceport operators. The site in Camden County is unsuitable because Parker said it would be the only spaceport to launch over property it does not own. He said the FAA is not expected to complete its ongoing environmental assessment until after the 2017 legislative session ends next spring.

Gary Ingram, superintendent of Cumberland Island National Seashore, said the National Park Service has many concerns, including how launches could affect visitors who sometimes make reservations six months in advance. There are also concerns about potential impacts a failed launch could have on the five historic districts and 91 historic structures on the barrier island. (9/13)

Consultants Versus Residents in Georgia Spaceport Debate (Source: Golden Isles News)
Andrew Nelson, a consultant hired by the county to help establish a Georgia spaceport, disputed a claim that 6 percent of unmanned rockets crash. He said more than 99 percent of rockets are successfully launched. He said a commercial spaceport would be a success because of the savings. It costs as much as $5 million in extra fees charged by federal launch sites, he said. Plus, national security launches can disrupt timetables for commercial launches, he said.

An opponent of the project, Steve Weinkle, said a spaceport will have a “negligible” impact on the local economy. In fact, he predicted it will cost local taxpayers millions for a project that is not viable. “We don’t even know how we are going to pay for it,” he said. “Why don’t one of these billion dollar companies come here and build it for themselves?”

Editor's Note: I question Nelson's comment about "$5 million in extra fees charged by federal launch sites." All orbital launch sites are supported by the federal government. So where did this $5 million figure come from? Even Georgia's spaceport, if built, would have federal regulatory oversight, so launch companies would have to comply with the same rules. (9/14)

Women on Spacecraft Missions: Moving Toward Parity With the Percentage in the Field? (Source: Women in Astronomy)
In general, Participating Scientist programs selected a higher percentage of women than the initial mission (20% versus 14%). Only two missions selected a higher percentage of women in the initial mission, Dawn, which, at 30%, had the largest percentage of women on any initial science team, more than twice the average of most missions, and Mars Odyssey, which had a similar percentage of women initially and in the Participating Scientist Program (20% and 18%).

However, since the number of scientists selected as Participating Scientists is substantially less than the number selected in the original team, the final percentage of woman on any team remained lower than the percentage in the field (16% on average). Only Curiosity, which has had two rounds of PS selections, improved the percentage of women substantially (13.5% to 25%). Click here. (9/13)

ULA Touts Rocket Availability as SpaceX Investigates Explosion (Source: Denver Business Journal)
United Launch Alliance wants satellite owners to know it can add missions to its 2017 launch calendar, as rival launcher SpaceX has its Falcon 9 rocket grounded to investigate an explosion. The Centennial-based rocket company on Tuesday unveiled what it calls its RapidLaunch program, promising the industry’s fastest turnaround from rocket order to launch. Some missions could make it to a launch pad as soon as three months from order, ULA said.

ULA changed how it assembles rockets and how it integrates satellite payloads in order to make quicker turnarounds for commercial clients possible, said Kent Lietzau, ULA’s vice president of business development. "We have added additional hardware to the production line, so that we can offer additional vehicles without an impact to our existing customers,” he said, in a written statement. “We have also moved customization for any particular launch to the last three months of production.” (9/13)

How Space Scientists Turn Exoplanets Into Places We Can ‘See’ (Source: WIRED)
Of course, scientists don’t actually know what any exoplanets look like. But imagining how they might be—in a standing-right-there sense—is central to scientists’ perceptions of and interest in them, according to Lisa Messeri, a space anthropologist at the University of Virginia. And people felt so passionate about Proxima b (which is not Earth-like) because its proximity makes it more real. It is a place people could imagine being.

Messeri studies how scientists effect the transformation from random planet to real place. In her new book, Placing Outer Space, she maps that mental shift among scientists at the Mars Desert Research Station, at a Silicon Valley NASA center, at a mountaintop observatory in Chile, and in an MIT exoplanet group. Click here. (9/13)

Houston Spaceport Development is Looking Up (Source: Xinhua)
Houston airport officials are stepping up efforts to lure new aerospace tenants to Ellington Airport, the site of the ninth licensed spaceport in the United States. Last June, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted a launch site license to the airport, allowing Ellington to be used as launch site for reusable launch vehicles. Last year, the Houston Airport System spent 6.9 million U.S. dollars to purchase a 53,000-square-foot office building that will house new spaceport tenants.

The building, located near NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, had been solely occupied by Boeing until the company relocated part of its operations on July 31. Boeing now operates from a six-story building to serve the aerospace and defense sectors. Now, Houston aerospace officials are turning up the volume on efforts to land new tenants that will help usher in Houston's ascent into all things space.

The spaceport's first aerospace tenant, Intuitive Machines, moved into the mega-office complex on August 11 where it is building unmanned aerial systems, or drones, for commercial use. "It's a great opportunity and experience for us," said Health Mooney, director of production facilities management at Intuitive Machines. "We're the first ones (tenants) here. This is a burgeoning industry and this place will only grow and we want to be a part of it." Spaceport officials are working to include more aerospace entities into the fold. (9/13)

Rocket Crafters Touts Hybrid Rocket Fuels After SpaceX Explosion (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
An executive with a Titusville company says a rocket his company has been developing that uses 3-D-printed fuel grains could make rocket launches safer, cheaper and more reliable. It's an issue brought into the forefront by the SpaceX explosion that rocked the Space Coast early this month. There were no injuries but the cause of that disaster remains unknown.

A combustion system developed by Rocket Crafters sets aside the typical process of a liquid oxidizer reacting with liquid fuel to create thrust, said CEO Sid Gutierrez, a retired astronaut. Instead, the combustion system in the company's experimental Intrepid rocket stores fuel grains alongside liquid nitrous oxide, converts the nitrous oxide into gas and pushes it through long, thin fuel grains. An igniter then creates the reaction that leads to the rocket's thrust.

On the company's website, Rocket Crafters' rocket is described as "almost immune to accidental detonation" because the fuel and oxidizer exist in different states — the liquid nitrous oxide and solid fuel. The motor is considered a hybrid. "Everybody ought to be thinking about hybrid rocket motors," Gutierrez said. "We need to be moving away from liquid propellants." (9/13)

Gaia Space Telescope Plots a Billion Stars (Source: BBC)
The most precise map of the night sky ever assembled is taking shape. Astronomers working on the Gaia space telescope have released a first tranche of data recording the position and brightness of over a billion stars. And for some two million of these objects, their distance and sideways motion across the heavens has also been accurately plotted. Gaia's mapping effort is already unprecedented in scale, but it still has several years to run.

Remarkably, scientists say the store of information even now is too big for them to sift, and they are appealing for the public's help in making discoveries. To give one simple example of the scope of Gaia: Of the 1.1 billion light sources in Wednesday's data release, something like 400 million of these objects have never been recorded any previous catalogue. Click here. (9/13)

NASA Tweaks Cost-Type Contract Pay Request Reviews (Source: Law360)
NASA issued an interim rule Tuesday updating how the space agency reviews payment request vouchers under cost-type contracts, to fill the gap left by a congressional prohibition on the Defense Contract Audit Agency's reviewing nondefense contracts. (9/13)

SEC Fines Harris Unit Ex-Boss For $9.6M Bribery Scheme (Source: Law360)
The former CEO of a unit of communications company Harris Corp. agreed to pay a fine to settle allegations he facilitated a widespread bribery operation to win Chinese government business for his unit’s medical records software, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday. (9/13)

Space Exploration Funding's Link with Public Interest (Source: Brown Daily Herald)
“The message space exploration sends to the rest of the human race is that when you get a bunch of people together who love what they do and put their talent together, you can do almost anything,” said Michael Genest, a key member of the Mission Control Center for the International Space Station in his lecture, “The International Space Station and The Future of Humans in Space,” Tuesday afternoon.

Despite NASA’s problem-solving abilities, the program is still faced with significant challenges when it comes to funding and public support. “The lifeblood of space exploration for now is funding,” Genest said, and “as long as we’re in the Lewis and Clark mode of exploration — government funded, expensive and therefore purely exploratory — we’re going to be vulnerable to political will.”

One potential solution would be to “shift the center of gravity more to a more self-interested, commercial model. Then the things that motivate all commercial successes will motivate space flight,” Genest said. Until there can be this shift toward a more commercial model, NASA has attempted to gain public support through social media efforts and through the internet. (9/13)

Proton Light and Medium Variants Focus on Smaller Payloads (Source: ILS)
The Proton Light and Proton Medium vehicles will be capable of launching payloads weighing between 3 and 5 metric tons, to geostationary transfer orbit, ILS officials said. Proton Medium is expected to debut in 2018, with the smaller vehicle to follow in 2019.

Proton Medium and Proton Light give ILS a more competitive offering for satellites weighing 5 metric tons or less, which now make up more than half the commercial market. This shift has been driven in part by the introduction of electric propulsion systems that reduce – and in some cases eliminate – the need for the dense chemical propellant that satellites have traditionally used to fuel their climb to their final geostationary orbit. (9/13)

We Need to Change the Wildly Inefficient Way We Design Rockets (Source: Inverse)
There’s a renewed interest in exploring space, but the way we design the rockets and propulsion systems that actually get people to the final frontier is super inefficient and insanely expensive. If mankind really wants to explore deep space, that has to change. So says Vigor Yang, the William R. T. Oakes Professor and Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Aerospace Engineering.

In the past, NASA and other agencies have spent up to 75 percent of their recourses on testing and redesigning propulsion systems. To Yang, that’s far too costly and not fast enough. High-fidelity designs — careful and precise planning ahead of the testing stage — and a “defense-in-depth” approach could make more advanced systems a reality.

Consider how engineers tried out pretty much everything when designing the rockets that would eventually propel the Apollo missions to the moon. For instance, the rockets required baffles — dividers used to restrain or direct the flow of gas or fuel. Yang said the scientists tested designs that had numbers of baffles ranging from a modest three to an absurd 81. Click here. (9/14)
Is SpaceX’s Rocket Failure Blue Origin’s Opportunity? (Source: CS Monitor)
“Our mascot is the tortoise. We paint one on our vehicles after each successful flight. Our motto is 'Gradatim Ferociter' – step by step, ferociously. We believe ‘slow is smooth and smooth is fast.’ In the long run, deliberate and methodical wins the day, and you do things quickest by never skipping steps. This step-by-step approach is a powerful enabler of boldness and a critical ingredient in achieving the audacious,” Bezos said in the announcement, drawing attention to the contrast between his company and Mr. Musk’s.

The traditionally secretive Blue Origin, meanwhile, has been focused on space tourism and only cryptically alluded today to mysterious grand plans for its space business and for human colonization. It isn’t delivering cargo to space yet, but the company is starting to open its curtain a little wider and offering glimpses into its spaceflight developments. Blue Origin has good reason to be a little more public, following several successful suborbital launches and booster, or engine, landings of its New Shepard rocket.

"Look at the pattern of names,” Bey suggests. He points out that Blue Origin rockets appear to have been strategically named after the astronaut associated with each of the country’s major space milestones: from the first person to reach space (Alan Shepard), to the first one to orbit Earth (John Glenn), to the first person to walk on the moon (Neil Armstrong). “But that’s a story for the future,” writes Bezos. (9/12)

China's Aerospace Progress (Source: CCTV)
China has been developing aerospace technologies for decades. Yet in recent years, China has made significant progress in aerospace activities, including satellite deployment, manned space flights, and deep space exploration. China now has a complete satellite system, ranging from scientific experiment to practical applications satellites.

For high-resolution earth observation, six satellites named “Gaofen” have been launched since 2013. They are equipped with optical and radar sensors, which can work in all-weather conditions. China's Beidou Navigation Satellite system is expected to have worldwide service by 2020. Also, it is set to consist of 35 satellites, with the 23rd having been launched in June of this year. Click here. (9/13)

SpaceX Targeting November Return to Flight (Source: Ars Technica)
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company "anticipates" a return to flight as early as November, most likely from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. A return to flight in three months appears to be aspirational, as SpaceX still has not identified the root cause of the anomaly. Indeed, it remains unclear whether the problem occurred with ground systems or the rocket itself. On Friday SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the investigation was "turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years."

Nevertheless, such a rigorous timeframe is consistent with SpaceX's accelerated operational tempo, and it did receive praise from NASA in 2015 after quickly returning to flight following an upper stage failure with the Falcon 9 rocket. Shotwell also confirmed Monday that the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which SpaceX had hoped to send up late in 2016, would slip at least until the first quarter of 2017. (9/13)

30 Ton Meteorite Found in Argentina (Source: i4u)
Scientists have discovered a meteorite weighing over 30 tonnes in northern Argentina. The meteorite was found in the town of Gancedo, 1,085 km north of capital Buenos Aires, Mario Vesconi, president of the Astronomy Association of Chaco, said on Monday. "While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tons," Vesconi said, adding that "the size and weight surprised us."

"It was in Campo del Cielo, where a shower of metallic meteorites fell around 4,000 years ago," Vesconi added. The meteorite will be weighed again to ensure an accurate measurement. The largest meteorite ever found is called Hoba, weighing 66 tonnes in Namibia, Africa. (9/12)

Georgia Lawmaker Criticizes Spaceport Critics (Source: Golden Isles News)
State Rep. Jason Spencer says opponents of a proposed spaceport in Camden County are using “underhanded tactics” to block his proposed Georgia Spaceflight Act. Opponents to the legislation that would protect spaceport operators from nuisance claims are a group of property owners who live part-time on Little Cumberland Island, he said. “They live outside Camden County and they’re not part of the community,” he said. “This is very elitist of them.”

Spencer, R-Woodbine, said he received an email from the Little Cumberland Homes Association that outlines the strategy to use to stop his proposed legislation. A state House spaceport subcommittee will meet 8:15 to 11 a.m. today to discuss the project at the College of Coastal Georgia auditorium in Kingsland. After the public meeting, Spencer said the state legislators will tour the site and some will fly over the launch site and Cumberland Island.

Supporters and opponents have been selected to speak to the state lawmakers but members of the audience will not be allowed to ask questions or voice their opinions. If the legislation is approved, opponents believe it takes away their rights to sue if a rocket accident causes death and property damage or to complain about light pollution and noise. (9/13)

What’s Behind the Names of Chinese Spacecraft? (Source: CCTV)
When China launched its first satellite in 1970, the country was far from being the pioneer in space technology it is today. The test satellite, named DFH-1, the acronym for Dong Fang Hong or "The East is Red," had a simple telemetry system transmitter that played the tune "The East is Red," a song which was the de facto anthem in the country during the 1960s, to tell people around the globe how China was rising to become a force to be reckon with.

China might have debuted its space program with a patriotic melody, which gave its name to the spacecraft, but the country slowly started to draw inspiration from its vivid mythology and lively legends to refer to its vessels propelled into space.

Names like Chang'e (the Chinese goddess of the moon), Yutu or jade rabbit (the pet of Chang'e), or Wukong (the rebellious Monkey King from the Chinese classical novel "Journey to the West"), have become a household name as well as synonyms of China's success in its ever-evolving space program. We take a look at the fascinating stories behind the names of some of China's most famous spacecraft. Click here. (9/13)

Gripping Details Emerge of Air Force Response to SpaceX Explosion (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
“There’s been an explosion on Pad 40.” Chilling words, but when the 45th Space Wing’s Fire Chief made the call over the safety net, the Incident Management Team (IMT) was ready. Having trained extensively for this scenario, the team was quick to respond and began implementing emergency operation procedures designed to protect the public, area personnel, and site infrastructure.

Benefiting from constant training and preparation, the IMT was rapidly mobilized and began stationing assets at strategic locations around Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the pad during a pre-test fueling operation. Click here. (9/13)

Moon's Birth May Have Vaporized Most of Earth, Study Shows (Source:
The massive collision that created the moon may have vaporized most of the early Earth, according to a new analysis of samples collected during the Apollo moon missions. In the early days of planet formation, a grazing collision between the newborn Earth and a Mars-size rock named Theia (named after the mother of the moon in Greek myth) may have led to the birth of the moon, according to a prevailing hypothesis. Debris from the impact later coalesced into the moon.

This "giant-impact hypothesis" seemed to explain many details about Earth and the moon, such as the large size of the moon compared with Earth and the rotation rates of the two bodies. But in the last 15 years, evidence has arisen that has challenged scientists to alter the details of this hypothesis.

In 2001, scientists began discovering that terrestrial and lunar rocks had a lot in common: the two bodies possess many of the same chemical isotopes. (Isotopes of an element have different numbers of neutrons from each other. These subvarieties are identified by different numbers; for example, potassium-39 or potassium-40). Isotopes can act as geologic fingerprints, because prior work has suggested that planetary bodies that formed in different parts of the solar system generally have different isotopic compositions. Click here. (9/13)

LeoLabs to Establish Space Debris Tracking at Midland Texas (Source: Midland Dev. Corp.)
The Midland City Council and the Midland Development Corporation (MDC) approved two agreements with LeoLabs, Inc., a company offering space debris tracking services. The city of Midland has executed a License Agreement regarding city-owned property for the use of LeoLabs. The MDC has entered into a promotional agreement with LeoLabs, Inc., which will include advertising and publicizing for the City of Midland for the purpose of developing new and expanded business enterprises.

LeoLabs, Inc. is a dedicated to protecting satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). LeoLabs is building a world-wide network of radars to track space debris and prevent collisions. The space industry is growing rapidly as technology developments enable new services to be offered from space. Many new satellites will be launched over the next few years to provide imagery, communications, ship tracking services, weather data, and more.

Space traffic congestion is a significant issue that will become more pressing as more satellites are launched and the amount of space debris grows due to collisions and satellite breakups. The CEO and cofounder of LeoLabs, Dan Ceperley, said, “[We are] excited to work with the City of Midland to deploy the Midland Space Radar, the first radar purpose-built for commercial space debris tracking services.” (9/13)

Virginia Leaders Confront Disputes with Northrop Grumman Over IT Contract (Source: WVIR)
Virginia could be heading toward a legal showdown over substantial disagreements with Northrop Grumman. Virginia leaders plan to phase out a massive contract with Northrop Grumman that deals with state agency computers, email, servers, and other software programs. Those managing the transition say they're having trouble getting the information they need for new bidders.

“This was a whirlwind courtship, a short honeymoon, a rocky marriage, and now we're headed for an ugly divorce,” said Delegate John O’Bannon (R-73d District). Virginia's IT department, called the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA), has accused Northrop Grumman of breach of contract five times this year. As a result, the commonwealth is withholding more than $10 million in payments. (9/12)

Israel Launches Shavit Rocket. Satellite Malfunctions. (Source:
Israel launched its Shavit rocket for the first time since 2014 on Tuesday, carrying an Ofek reconnaissance satellite into low Earth orbit. However, while Israel confirmed the satellite has reached orbit, officials soon cited unspecified problems with the spacecraft during the checkout period post-launch.

Tuesday’s launch, which appears to have carried an optical imaging satellite, took place at 16:38 local time from the Palmachim airbase on Israel’s Mediterranean coast following a 24-hour delay due to adverse weather. Israel did not announce the launch until the spacecraft was already in orbit. Reports shortly after the launch suggested that the satellite had experienced some form of problem during its early phases of operation. (9/13)

We Just Lived Through the Hottest Summer on Record, According to NASA (Source: Mic)
We just lived through the hottest August on record, in the hottest summer on record, during the hottest 11 months on record, according to a report released Monday by NASA. NASA has been analyzing global temperatures going all the way back to 1880 — when global temperatures first began being comprehensively recorded — which means this is the hottest its been in at least 136 years.

Scientists at the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies explained in the report that while July is ordinarily the hottest month of the year, August tied it this year. In addition to being tied for the hottest month on record, August was 1.76 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the month's average temperature between 1951 and 1980, GISS' base period to which subsequent data is compared.

While the increases in temperature may seem incremental, the cumulative effect can be devastating. As global temperatures rise, temperatures in the Arctic are rising even faster. As the earth becomes warmer, ice in the Arctic melts. The ice, however, crucially reflects energy from the sun back into space, and when it melts, the water and rocks that take its place absorb more of the sun's energy — making temperatures even hotter in the region. (9/12)

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