September 19, 2016

Surplus Shuttle Engines Key To Space Exploration (Source: Aviation Week)
The future of space exploration waits wrapped in plastic bags here, across Lake Pontchartrain from the historic old factory in New Orleans where NASA is beginning to assemble its next big launch vehicle. The heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) won’t go anywhere without the 16 surviving space shuttle main engines (SSME) preserved in an Aerojet Rocketdyne warehouse against the day when NASA managers hope they will reignite mankind’s move into the Solar System.

Designated RS-25, the old cryogenic powerplant remains the state of the art in rocket technology. While the private sector has big plans for reusable human-rated launch vehicles, the surplus engines are the only ones that have actually been there and done that. Click here. (9/14)

The Possibility of a SpaceX Launch Failure (at Texas Spaceport) is Real (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
NASA's recent warnings about the SpaceX launch danger area at Cape Canaveral should make all those who have been cheerleading the coming of the SpaceX commercial vertical launch to Boca Chica Beach take a good hard look at their support for this project. SpaceX mogul Elon Musk has already been given $25 million in incentives to bring his rocket show to the lomas of Boca Chica.

And – as is his trademark for these projects – the flights he predicted would begin in 2013, have not materialized. Yet, the restrictions on local residents to use the beach have been passed into law. When and if the launches start, the company would virtually own the public beaches and even spectators would have to crane their necks from as far as 10 miles away to see the takeoffs. That would happen 12 times a year, or once a month. SpaceX would have full control of access to the beach days before and after the launch.

After the announcement, we took the liberty of measuring the distance from the Kennedy Space Center NASA press site and the Vehicle Assembly building. They are both approximately three miles from the launch site. Measuring the distance from the proposed SpaceX site to Koepernick Shores, it is just about a quarter of a mile. It is just a little over five miles to the nearest town, Port Isabel. Click here. (7/17)

Feds to Assess if SpaceX, South Texas LNG Plants will Make Good Neighbors (Source: San Antonio Business Journal)
Officials with two federal agencies are looking into whether or not SpaceX and three liquefied natural gas plants proposed for deep South Texas will make good neighbors. SpaceX has already started construction for a rocket launch site on Boca Chica Beach, just a few miles east of where Texas LNG, Rio Grande LNG and Annova LNG are seeking permission to build export terminals at the Port of Brownsville. (9/16)

Airbus Invests in 4 High-Resolution Optical Earth Observation Satellites — With No Government Net (Source: Space News)
Airbus Defence and Space on Sept. 15 said it would finance, apparently on its own, a constellation of four very-high-resolution optical Earth observation satellites to launch in 2020 and 2021. The program, which industry officials said likely represents a capital investment of more than 500 million euros ($550 million), was surprising to the extent that many Airbus officials regretted the company’s 2009 decision to invest 300 million euros into two medium-resolution optical satellites, called Spot 6 and Spot 7.

Then as now, Airbus was concerned about protecting its existing geospatial imagery business even if it meant making a commitment without any guarantee by the French government or any other anchor customer. But Airbus has said its geospatial-imagery business, which includes both optical and radar satellites, has improved in recent years. (9/16)

China Enraged After Obama Orders SpaceX Rocket Destroyed On Florida Launch Pad (Source: Maine Republic)
A new report circulating in the Kremlin today prepared by the Security Council (SC), with input from the Ministry of Defense (MoD), states that China became so “enraged” at President Obama’s ordering the destruction of a SpaceX rocket in Florida on, they refused to greet him as a visiting head-of-state upon his arrival, with one Chinese official accosting his top National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, and screaming at her “this is our country, our airport.”

According to this report, Spacecom is an Israeli communications satellite Operator in the Middle East, European Union, and North America, headquartered in the city of Ramat Gan, Israel, who agreed last month (24 August) to the sale of their company to the privately owned Chinese company Beijing Xinwei Technology Group.

MoD analysts note that the US Navy nuclear powered supercarrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) reported last week that it was operating in these waters to test F-35C Lightning II fighter aircraft capabilities—but was instead conducting secret test flights of a Northrop Grumman X-47B (drone) that was equipped with a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) high-energy laser type device the Pentagon had previously reported they wanted to have operational in 2017. Click here. (9/5)

Colliding Black Holes Tell New Story of Stars (Source: Quanta)
Already, the new gravitational-wave data has shaken up the field of astrophysics. In response, three dozen experts spent two weeks in August sorting through the implications at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) in Santa Barbara. Click here. (9/6)

Wildfire at California Spaceport Burns Over 2,000 Acres (Source: Lompoc Record)
A wildfire that broke out Saturday evening at Vandenberg Air Force Base has scorched more than 2,200 acres as of Sunday evening. Firefighters from Vandenberg Air Force Base, assisted by crews from Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service, are battling the Canyon fire on the South Base.

More than 250 firefighters are working to control the blaze that is still zero percent contained, fire officials said. Engine crews are attacking spot fires directly, and Vandenberg and Santa Barbara County bulldozers are cutting new fire breaks, a base spokesman said. Air tankers from Santa Maria Public and Paso Robles airports made “aggressive” fire retardant drops until darkness fell. (9/18)

Professor Faces 120 Years in Prison for Defrauding NASA (Source: Brown and White)
A Lehigh professor is facing a statutory maximum of 120 years in prison for a $700,000 scheme to defraud NASA. His sentencing has been set for Sept. 28. Yujie Ding, 54, was previously an electrical and computer engineering professor. Ding and his wife, Yulija Zotova, 42, proposed a development project to NASA in 2010. The project was to be carried out by their company, ArkLight, according to The Morning Call. Ding pocketed $300,000 of the grant money while the majority of the work was done by a sole graduate student, identified only as D.L. in court papers.

Ding was arrested by NASA special agent Erik. J. Saracino in 2014 while attempting to flee to Reykjavik, Iceland, wrote Peter Hall, a reporter for The Morning Call. Ding was then freed on $50,000 bail. Zotova was not initially charged, but was identified as the sole owner of ArkLight. The couple said their research was aimed at creating a “single photon detector,” a device to detect trace levels of chemicals, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, according to The Morning Call. The project was eventually completed through the work of graduate students in Ding’s lab and delivered to NASA. (9/18)

FAA Poised to Take On Role as Traffic Cop for Space (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The FAA appears poised to take on a new role some agency officials have coveted for years: serving as traffic cops in space. Since at least 2013 there has been on-again, off-again debate in Washington about which civilian agency should take over the Defense Department’s responsibility to warn commercial-satellite operators about collision hazards from tens of thousands of man-made and natural objects circling the Earth. Some travel at speeds nearly 10 times faster than a bullet.

With roughly 1,400 commercial satellites currently flying and several thousand more expected to be launched into popular low-altitude orbits over the next 10 years, Pentagon brass are ready to hand over the painstaking task to civilian authorities. The shift would allow the Department of Defense to focus on its primary mission of protecting military spacecraft from potential jamming, threatening orbital maneuvers or other hostile acts by foreign governments. Click here. (9/18)

Space Traffic Management Conference Planned at Embry-Riddle in November (Source: ERAU)
The Commercial Space Operations Program and Applied Aviation Sciences Department of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s College of Aviation, are pleased to announce the 3rd Annual Space Traffic Management Conference “Emerging Dynamics”. The conference will be held in Daytona Beach, Florida 16 - 18 November 2016 at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus. Click here. (9/18)

Space Art Makes Alien Worlds Feel Like Home (Source: Seeker)
As we push deeper into space, artists and planetary scientists often make these strange new worlds familiar to us, influencing our imagination and boosting our enthusiasm to explore. Anyone who watched Bugs Bunny cartoons or read Life Magazine in the 1950s could already imagine space, even though we hadn't visited it yet. Artists had nifty visualizations of planets near and far, based on observations we picked up on telescopes from the time. Click here. (9/18)

Moon-Walker Aldrin Hopes Florida Exhibit will Inspire Future on Mars (Source: Florida Today)
Apollo 11 moon-walker Buzz Aldrin says he hopes the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's new "Destination: Mars" experience will be help inspire human exploration of the Red Planet. Aldrin was at the complex on Sunday at a media preview and ribbon-cutting for the attraction, which features a holographic image of Aldrin, as he guides visitors on a walk along the virtual Martian surface.

A proponent of colonization of Mars, Aldrin told reporters that he would like to see the next president make a bold statement shortly after taking office in January for accelerating the timeline for human spaceflight to Mars, so that we can one day "call two planets 'home.' " He said Congress — not technology — would be the big stumbling block for landing humans on Mars, alluding to the expense of doing so. (9/18)

Airbus Safran Launchers Aims For 2020 Ariane 6 First Flight (Source: Aviation Week)
Airbus Safran Launchers confirms that the Ariane 6 program is on schedule for a first flight in 2020, assuring Arianespace that it will remain competitive as a launch service provider in the midterm against ambitious entrants such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. At a time when the European Union believes it needs to reinvent itself, the confirmation also points to a textbook example of a successful Europe-wide project. (9/18)

China to Conduct Brain-Computer Interaction Experiments on Tiangong-2 (Source: People's Daily)
Tiangong-2, China’s first space lab in a real sense, was successfully launched into space on Sept. 15. A brain-computer interaction test system, developed by Tianjin University and installed in the lab, will conduct a series of experiments in space. Ming Dong, the leader of the research team in charge of the brain-computer test system, said that brain-computer interaction will eventually be the highest form of human-machine communication. China will conduct the first ever space brain-machine interaction experiments, ahead even of developed countries. (9/18)

Three Words: Chinese. Space. Station. (Source: Daily Beast)
China has just launched its second small Tiangong space station into orbit, more or less catching up to what the United States’ and Russia’s own space programs achieved starting in the 1970s. Riding atop a Long March rocket, the 34-foot-long, 10-ton Tiangong-2 blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Sept. 15, aiming for an orbit 240 miles over Earth’s surface.

While Beijing’s effort to establish a long-term human presence in orbit is impressive on a political level, on a technological level it’s decades behind the curve. In the United States and elsewhere, private companies are poised to establish a long-term presence in space that doesn’t depend on big, government-run orbital structures. (9/19)

Northrop Grumman Hit With $500M Chemical Exposure Suit (Source: Law 360)
A group of Long Island residents have filed a $500 million proposed class action in New York state supreme court against Northrop Grumman, alleging the defense contractor exposed the residents to toxic chemicals that came from its manufacturing operations. (9/19)

Despite SpaceX Setback, Wave of Southern California Rocket-Makers Capitalize on New Economy (Source: Daily Breeze)
SpaceX and a handful of other new-generation private spacecraft startups — including space tourism pioneer Virgin Galactic in Long Beach — are reviving a stalled aerospace industry and developing an economy aimed at making space travel as ubiquitous as airplane flight. Behind them, a fast-growing sector of suppliers and smaller rocket companies are quickly filling out the new economy.

Southern California jobs for workers making guided missiles, spacecraft and parts have increased 64 percent since 2004, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “We don’t have the outright number of jobs we used to have, but we’re well-positioned to build an industry,” said Mike Quindazzi, co-chair of LAEDC’s Southern California Aerospace Council.

“We have suppliers, people doing machine and engineering work, artificial intelligence, building autonomous systems, robotics parts, new drone solutions. We can build off the platforms already here.” The highly innovative new industrial sector incorporates emerging technologies and operates alongside — and increasingly hand in hand with — corporate aerospace giants and NASA. (9/17)

SpaceX’s Mars Colonial Transporter Can Go “Well Beyond” Mars (Source: Tech Crunch)
Elon Musk just teased that one of SpaceX’s more future-focused projects might be more ambitious than previously thought. On Twitter, the SpaceX CEO revealed that the company’s Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) will need a new name, since in fact, it “can go well beyond Mars.”

The MCT is SpaceX’s personnel transport craft, designed to be used with the company’s large Raptor rocket engine to transport the first humans to Mars, with a pilot unmanned launch planned for 2022, and a first flight with people on board slated for 2024. Musk’s teaser is timely – we should find out more about the MCT and its mission at the International Astronautical Congress on September 27, where the Spacex CEO is a special keynote speaker, and will deliver an address called “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.” (9/17)

SpaceX Explosion is Causing Some to Question Elon Musk's Ambitious Plans (Source: Mashable)
When one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets exploded on a launch pad just before a test on September 1, the spaceflight community collectively gasped. Private spaceflight's golden child had failed again, for the second time in about 15 months. SpaceX is still hunting for the root cause of the accident.

The company founded by Elon Musk is far from the first private spaceflight outfit to lose a rocket and destroy a payload, but the company's failures appear to be seen  as different from the rest of the industry, at least by the public-at-large. But what are the real ramifications of the unsolved incident for SpaceX and other spaceflight companies around the world?

SpaceX will have to put its particularly ambitious launch schedule on hold for at least a few months while engineers hunt for the root cause of the failure. But even standing down for just a short amount of time could mean major delays for companies relying on SpaceX to send their satellites to orbit. The company was expected to launch a total of 18 missions in 2016, according to industry analyst Chris Quilty, but because of the failure, it's unlikely that will happen. Click here. (9/17)

Great Lakes on Mars: Rewriting the Red Planet’s History (Source: CS Monitor)
Liquid water existed on the surface of Mars more recently than previously thought, according to a new study that found several lakes, some as large as the Great Lakes of North America, that were formed between 2 billion and 3 billion years ago. The new discovery not only suggests that water remained on Mars once it lost its magnetic field it started losing its atmosphere about 4 billion years ago, but also that the Red Planet was capable of sustaining microbial life much longer – and more recently – than previously thought.

"We discovered valleys that carried water into lake basins,” Sharon Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, said in a statement from NASA. "Several lake basins filled and overflowed, indicating there was a considerable amount of water on the landscape during this time." (9/17)

No comments: