September 21, 2016

North Korea Claims Successful Test of Rocket Engine (Source: CNN)
North Korea claims to have successfully conducted a ground test of a new type of high powered rocket engine, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Tuesday. KCNA said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the Sohae Space Center to guide the test of "a new type high-power engine of a carrier rocket for the geo-stationary satellite." KCNA said the engine would boost North Korea's capability to launch "various kinds of satellites including earth observation satellite at a world level." (9/19)

Satellite Operators Unconcerned About Competition From UAVs (Source: Space News)
Operators of commercial remote sensing satellites are not concerned about competition from UAVs. At a recent conference, representatives of several commercial imaging companies said that while UAVs can complement satellites, aerial systems have limitations in terms of the areas they can cover and the time it takes to field them. Satellite imaging companies also said that while they're seeing growth in value-added services, their single largest business continues to be selling imagery to military customers. (9/20)

Need to Get Going on Road to Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
We welcome the news that work will finally begin soon on the much-needed southern road to provide access to Spaceport America from Las Cruces. Last week the New Mexico Spaceport Authority board of directors voted to authorize Chairman Richard Holdridge to sign a memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to allow the right-of-way access needed for the 24-mile road from Upham to the spaceport.

The BLM is expected to sign off on the agreement in October, with approval for access in November, it is hoped. If all goes well, requests for proposals on construction could go out in December, with work beginning next year. It can’t start soon enough. The need for a southern road has always been a top priority for southern New Mexico to ensure that spaceport visitors stay here, in counties where our tax dollars are supporting the facility. (9/19)

Central Florida's Harris Corp. Works on New Weather Prediction System (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A new high-tech satellite scheduled to head into space from Florida is designed to help residents get more advanced warnings when powerful storm systems threaten a region. It's the latest in the series of weather satellites that provide pictures and data that help create the forecasts we see on the nightly news and websites like Accuweather or

The satellite, complete with new high-tech tools and gadgets, has a seat on a United Launch Alliance rocket set for Nov. 4. Harris Corp., which is based on the Space Coast, is building cameras and ground-based systems for the new satellites. (9/20)

Apocalyptic Asteroid with Power of 3 Billion Nukes May Be Headed for Earth (Source: AOL)
It might be time to stock up on emergency supplies and finally invest in that fallout shelter you've been talking about building -- not that it would really do you too much good in this scenario. Experts are saying a huge meteor is rocketing close to Earth with the power of three billion atomic bombs.

China's Purple Mountain Laboratory discovered the massive asteroid using Asia's largest telescope, determining the meteor was passing our planet with a range of 18.8 times the distance between the Earth and the moon -- aka, WAY too close for comfort. (9/16)

Chinese Spaceplane Effort Would Feature Combined-Cycle Propulsion (Source: China Daily)
Chinese engineers are interested in developing a spaceplane with advanced propulsion. A meeting this week organized by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology endorsed the development of a spaceplane powered by combined-cycle engines that can operate in a wide range of environments. It's unclear if the proposed spaceplane project has the support, and funding, of the government. (9/20)

Wildfire at California Spaceport Threatens Launch Sites (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Firefighters are making progress in efforts to contain a wildfire threatening launch sites at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base. The "Canyon Fire" has consumed 12,000 acres and is 45 percent contained as of late Tuesday night. The fire is near several launch sites at Vandenberg, but does not pose an immediate threat to any of them.

United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno said Tuesday that employees were able to access Space Launch Complex 3, the site that has an Atlas 5 rocket waiting to launch WorldView-4, for several hours to install a backup generator and other support equipment. SpaceX says it's taken precautions to protect Space Launch Complex 4, where 10 Iridium satellites are awaiting a Falcon 9 launch. (9/20)

Strategic Command Nominee: Be Prepared for Space-Based Warfare (Source: Space News)
The nominee to become the next head of U.S. Strategic Command told senators the U.S. must be prepared to fight in space. At a confirmation hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten said that space control efforts, and a battle management command and control system, should be among the Defense Department's top space priorities.

Committee chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he found it "deeply disturbing" China and Russia were developing systems designed to "cripple" U.S. satellites. The hearing also covered several other space issues, from problems with the next-generation GPS ground system to plans to phase out the Delta 4 launch vehicle. (9/20)

This Company Wants to Shoot Satellites Into Space -- Via Fighter Jet (Source: Fox Business)
Sixty yearsyoung today, Lockheed Martin's F-104 Starfighter won't be eligible for early retirement for two more years (although in fact, the last F-104 was retired from service in 2004). Designed to intercept and shoot down Warsaw Pact fighters in the 1950s, the Starfighter was built for one thing: speed. "Sharp as the blade of a dagger," Lockheed called it, with "thin seven-foot wings" that didn't produce much drag, the F-104 was the first fighter to hit Mach 2.

Yet today, the Starfighter is getting a new lease on life. The fighter jet that resembled a rocketship when it was invented 60 years ago is being reborn -- as a rocketship in its own right. CubeCab has a plan to revive the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter as a launch vehicle for transporting tiny "CubeSat" microsatellites into space. The plan works like this:

In cooperation with Florida-based Starfighters Inc., which owns a fleet of F-104s, CubeCab will pack customers' CubeSats into rockets, attached to one of the Starfighter's wing-mounted weapons pylons. A Starfighter so equipped will then launch from the ground and fly a sortie anywhere from 60,000 to north of 100,000 feet above ground. At the apex, the Starfighter will fire its rocket, providing the added oomph needed to boost its satellite payload to orbital velocity. Click here. (9/20)

United Launch Alliance Announces CubeSat STEM Education Program Winners (Source: Parabolic Arc)
United Launch Alliance has selected four proposals from university students to receive free CubeSat launch slots on future Atlas V missions through the company’s new innovative rideshare program. Dubbed CubeCorp, the program encourages hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experience to motivate, educate and develop the next generation of rocket scientists and space entrepreneurs.

“ULA is passionate about educating and developing future leaders in the space industry,” said Tory Bruno, ULA CEO and president. “We’ve established a very low-cost approach to CubeSat design and launch to accommodate our commitment to STEM and innovative commercial CubeSat entrepreneurs.”

This year’s first place winner of the CubeSat STEM education program was the University of Texas at El Paso, with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette coming in second. Other winners are: Purdue University and University of Michigan. A team of reviewers from across ULA and Tyvak, ULA’s primary auxiliary payload integrator, thoroughly evaluated each proposal. Selection criteria included mission objective, educational outreach and ability to meet technical requirements. (9/20)

China Confirms Its Space Station Is Falling Back to Earth (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Chinese officials appear to have confirmed what many observers have long suspected: that China is no longer in control of its space station. China's Tiangong-1 space station has been orbiting the planet for about 5 years now, but recently it was decommissioned and the Chinese astronauts returned to the surface. In a press conference last week, China announced that the space station would be falling back to earth at some point in late 2017.

Normally, a decommissioned satellite or space station would be retired by forcing it to burn up in the atmosphere. This type of burn is controlled, and most satellite re-entries are scheduled to burn up over the ocean to avoid endangering people. However, it seems that China's space agency is not sure exactly when Tiangong-1 will re-enter the atmosphere, which implies that the station has been damaged somehow and China is no longer able to control it. (9/20)

Cancer Research Aided by NASA's Space Exploration (Source:
Advanced cancer research is calling on techniques used by NASA scientists who analyze satellite imagery to find commonalities among stars, planets and galaxies in space. Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory use complex machine learning algorithms to identify similarities among galaxies that may otherwise be overlooked, NASA officials said in a statement. Using similar techniques, medical professionals are able to analyze a lung sample for common cancer biomarkers.

However, analyzing a biopsy specimen for biomarkers is not the only way in which JPL's complex machine learning algorithms can be used in the medical field. Cancer researchers can also use the space exploration tools to identify common chemical or genetic signatures related to specific cancers, which could revolutionize strategies for early cancer detection. (9/20)

NASA to Hold Media Call on Evidence of Surprising Activity on Europa (Source: NASA)
NASA will host a teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Monday, Sept. 26, to present new findings from images captured by the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope of Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa. Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa. (9/20)

Antares Mission to ISS Between Oct. 9-13 at Virginia Spaceport (Source: Washington Post)
A space station supply mission by a Virginia company has been pushed back to October. NASA said Tuesday that Orbital ATK plans to launch sometime between Oct. 9 and Oct. 13. The mission is to return the company’s unmanned Antares rocket to flight after nearly two years. It also would be Orbital ATK’s first mission from Virginia since a launch failure in October 2014. (9/20)

Another Mystery Space Project Planned for Space Coast (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
There’s a new mystery project shaping up on the Space Coast in Titusville, to bring about 80 new high-paying jobs to the region. Space Florida is calling it “Project Swanson.” The agency says it is an existing company seeking a U.S. site for manufacturing. Space Florida’s board is preparing to vote on approving certain services to help the company locate in Central Florida, at the board’s next meeting on Monday.

The company currently makes small solid rocket motor propellant somewhere outside the U.S, according to Space Florida. “People keep asking us what’s next, and this is it. It may not be as flashy as some recent announcements like OneWeb and Blue Origin ...but it’s a welcome addition,” said Dale Ketcham.

According to Space Florida, the mystery company will invest about $4 million in its new facility at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville. Space Florida will help arrange financing and leases of land owned by the Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority. The 80 jobs would have an average wage of $83,000. Space Florida is not considering approval of any incentive dollars for Project Swanson. (9/20)

Medical Company Considers Expansion Into Former USA Space Facility (Source: Florida Today)
A medical services and management company is considering expanding in Cape Canaveral, creating 150 jobs in the process and making a $4.5 million capital investment. The company — whose identity has not been disclosed — will come before the Brevard County Commission on Tuesday seeking initial support for a property tax break.

The tax break would depend on the company meeting its goals for creating 150 jobs paying an average of $66,000 a year by the end of 2019, as well as making the capital investment at its proposed expansion site at a former United Space Alliance complex at 8600 Astronaut Blvd. Even with the tax break, the company would pay $27,790 a year in new taxes, or a total of $277,900 over the 10-year period.

Documents filed with the county indicate that the company — which is going by the code name "Project Zeus" — has been in business since the 1970s. It opened its Florida office in the 1990s with three employees in a 500-square-foot office. Project Zeus would relocate the company's Virginia operations with a $4 million renovation to the former United Space Alliance building in Cape Canaveral, then adding $500,000 in office equipment. (9/20)

Reaction Engines Refines Hypersonic Engine Demonstrator Plan (Source: Aviation Week)
Freshly infused with government and industry funding, and riding a wave of interest in Europe and the U.S., Reaction Engines Ltd. is firming up plans to build a fighter engine-size ground demonstrator of its reusable hypersonic propulsion system. As that rarest of beasts, a powerplant concept combining the air-breathing efficiency of a jet engine with the power and vacuum operating capability of a rocket, the SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) cycle is a potential game changer. (9/21)

NASA's HQ, One of D.C.'s Largest Federal Leases, Offered for Sale (Source: Washington Business Journal)
Piedmont Office Realty Trust wants to shed one of the largest federally leased office properties in Greater Washington, NASA's Southwest Washington headquarters — another sign that investment sales activity is gaining momentum heading into the fall buying season. (9/20)

ULA Vulcan Engine Reuse Gains Ground (Source: Aviation Week)
While both Blue Origin and SpaceX have demonstrated the feasibility of recovering and reusing boosters as part of an industry-wide push to cut the cost of access to space, United Launch Alliance (ULA) is taking the first steps along an alternate path involving recovery of only the first-stage engines—the highest-value element of the booster.

ULA’s sensible modular autonomous return technology (SMART) reuse concept, first unveiled in 2015, is based on the premise that it is more economical to recover only the engines, rather than the entire first stage. The recovery concept includes the use of parachutes and aircraft to capture the Vulcan' engine pods before they fall into the ocean. (9/21)

ULA Competes with SpaceX for GPS Satellite Launch (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX’s lower launch price may not be the best deal for taxpayers, ULA has warned the Air Force in a bid to launch a Global Positioning System satellite. The bid appears to set up the first head-to-head competition between the companies for a national security launch, nearly a year after ULA refused to pursue another GPS mission.

SpaceX did not confirm if it had submitted a bid by Monday’s deadline, and the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, which will award the contract, also did not comment immediately. ULA did submit a proposal this time, while repeating its reservations about price again being the competition's determining factor. (9/20)

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