September 29, 2016

Disappointment Over Lack of Ex-Im Provision in Spending Bill (Source: The Hill)
The White House and leading business groups on Wednesday expressed disappointment that a short-term spending bill doesn’t restore full lending powers to Export-Import Bank in a stopgap spending bill funding the government.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans along with business groups have been fighting for the addition of an amendment in the continuing resolution (CR) that would lower the Ex-Im board’s quorum requirements so agency can approve loans of more than $10 million.

“The administration is also disappointed, that despite overwhelming bipartisan, bicameral support, the Congress failed to ensure that the Export-Import Bank is able to fully assist American businesses and workers by restoring a board quorum to the Bank,” the White House said in a Statement of Administration Policy. (9/28)

What Is SpaceX Going to Do With All That Poop? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
At the end of Elon Musk's big Mars event yesterday, there was a Q&A session riddled with weirdness, but one question really stuck out. It wasn't the guy who wanted to give Elon a comic book or the Funny Or Die rep with a plan to send Michael Cera to Mars for a show. It was the man with the circuitous question about what Musk plans to do with all the poop generated by 100 colonists, screaming through the void on their way to the Red Planet.

On Earth, sewage systems tend to be one of the many invisible infrastructure systems we take for granted. We flush it out of sight right there in the bathroom and then never think of it again. But on a journey to Mars—whether it's one, three, or six months—the crap is going to add up.

You could jettison it into space, but it's not like we don't already have enough untracked space junk floating through our solar system. You could send canisters of dung into solar orbit and track them heavily. You could try to just hang onto it the whole time and then stash it on Mars like the Apollo missions left souvenirs on the moon. And really, who can blame them. (9/28)

More Details on New Space Company Expanding to Florida (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A secretive Canadian company will bring 80 high-paying jobs to Titusville after it invests about $4 million to a new facility at Space Coast Regional Airport. "This company does have skin in the game," said Bill Dymond, chairman of the Space Florida board of directors. "They are invested in the project already."

At a Space Florida board meeting, trustees approved a plan that has Space Florida helping arrange financing and leases for land owned by Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority. Frank DiBello did not mention the company by name but said it would be a "star" that plans on "increasing its presence" on the Space Coast. (9/28)

Space Florida CEO Expects Up To 200 Launches Per Year (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida official says the region could see as many as 200 launches a year as space firms like SpaceX, ULA and OneWeb boost production and ramp up their launch manifests. President and CEO Frank DiBello said that means the region's space economy must be nimble enough to meet that demand.

"We need to move from a paradigm of large federally funded infrastructure to one that is responsive to commercial markets," he said at a Space Florida board meeting in Orlando on Wednesday. (9/28)

Space Florida Authorized to Spend $26 Million at Blue Origin Launch Pad (Source: Orlando Sentinel
The Space Florida board approved as much as $26 million during the next two fiscal years to go toward improvements on Launch Complex 36, which is being prepared for future launches by billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.

Last month, permit applications filed by Blue Origin with the St. Johns River Water Management District revealed that the company planned to refurbish Launch Complex 36 and the adjacent 11, which has not seen a launch since 1964. The company last year promised the creation of more than 300 jobs on the Space Coast. (9/28)

SpaceX Can't Hire International Rocket Scientists Even If It Wants To (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Elon Musk had his head in another world yesterday when he spoke to the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Mexico. His speech was meant to announce the hardware he wants to develop to get humans permanently settled on Mars. Amid the questions from the audience, which included self-promotional goofballs and awe-struck fanboys, a woman from Russia got applause by griping that SpaceX doesn't hire people from outside the United States. "You are going interplanetary," she said. "When will you go international?"

Musk explained that he'd like to bring in international talent, as he does at Tesla, but that U.S. laws restrict him from doing so. The answer shut up the questioner, but some were left puzzled. Why would a peaceful private space program face such security-minded restrictions?

The laws Musk is talking about are export laws called International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. Depending who who ask, they are a drag on cooperation and efficiency or the bedrock of national security. Either way, these laws guarantee that Musk can only go for homegrown talent. Or, at least, talent that knows how to navigate these laws. (9/28)

Human Sexuality Is Space Travel's Known Unknown (Source: Inverse)
We know a lot about how the human body works in space: the way it succumbs to radiation, decalcifies, and compresses on re-entry. But we know startlingly little about how genitals function in zero gravity or what that might mean for future inhabitants of space ships and space stations. Sexuality beyond the atmosphere is an experiment in the offing. We know that it will be different — and we know that we don’t know exactly how.

Our ignorance on the topic is singular. NASA, Roscosmos, and SpaceX are, after all, not fans of known unknowns. But even as private and public work toward colonizing Cis-Lunar space and creating settlements on both the moon and Mars, little work is being done to discern how human sexuality might transition into a vacuum or onto another planet. This startling lack of inquiry is made additionally confounding because the sexual revolution didn’t change the strictly regimented culture aboard the shuttle or the ISS.

Sex has remained separate from the culture of space and will remain so until astronauts actually have intercourse in space. Currently, there is no public evidence that has ever happened, and anyone asking about research done on the topic will likely receive disappointing answers. “The truth is that there’s very little research on how gender and sexuality will be affected by space travel.” (9/28)

Hicks a Good Choice to Lead Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
We have previously expressed our concerns with the selection process taken by the Spaceport Authority board in naming the new leader for Spaceport America, but we have no argument with the final result. Daniel Hicks, who for the past 34 years has filled a number of critical positions at White Sands Missile Range, brings both the technical and business skills Spaceport America will need in the critical years ahead.

For the past year he has been WSMR director of plans, where he recently completed a 30-year strategic plan. In that role he was responsible for maintaining relationships with members of Congress, as well as state and local officials. His ability to convince skeptical legislators as to the potential of the spaceport and the wisdom of protecting and building on their investment of more than $200 million will be vital to the success of the spaceport.

Hicks had previously served as WSMR deputy executive director, assisting the commanding general and executive director in the daily operations of the range, which has more than $11 billion in infrastructure and approximately 12,000 personnel. And for the previous six years, he was chief of staff. In his application, Hicks stressed that working with customers outside of the Department of Defense has been a big part of his job. (9/28)

Farming in ‘Martian Gardens’ (Source: NASA)
Of the many challenges involved in sending humans on the journey to Mars, figuring out how to pack enough food for such a lengthy trip looms large. Of course, astronauts will need food on their way to and from Mars, and also during their time on the Red Planet as part of the almost two-and-a-half-year trip. Although prepackaged food will be provided, stowing space-saving seeds to grow one’s own food provides extra nutrition and even increases morale by sprouting a glimpse of home while millions of miles away from Earth.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is partnering with the Florida Tech Buzz Aldrin Space Institute in Melbourne, Florida, to collaborate on research studying the performance of crop species grown in a simulated “Martian garden” — a proving ground for a potential future farm on the Red Planet. “We are using advances in science to learn about increasing plant production to supplement astronauts’ diets,” said Trent Smith, Veggie Project Manager at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (9/28)

AFP Ready to Once Again Oppose Rick Scott on Enterprise Florida Funds (Source: Sunshine State News)
Rick Scott is ready to go to bat again for Enterprise Florida (EFI) even as a fiscal conservative group readies for a rematch. Despite Republicans controlling both chambers, the Florida Legislature rejected Scott’s push for $250 million annually for EFI to lure businesses to the Sunshine State earlier this year.

At a EFI board meeting on Thursday, Scott said he would lower that figure, announcing he intended to ask for $85 million for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The Florida chapter of fiscal conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) was active in defeating Scott’s proposal earlier this year and, on Thursday, showed no signs of backing down. (9/29)

Deep Space Network Glitches Worry Scientists (Source: Science)
Earlier this year, the pulse of planetary science skipped a beat. In January, the NASA Cassini spacecraft was climbing from an orbit around Saturn's equator to a polar orbit, which would allow the spacecraft to cap its 13-year exploration of the planet with gauntlet runs through its rings and a final dive into the atmosphere. Cassini's thrusters would burn for less than a minute to torque it into a new orbit, but fuel was scarce and every second mattered.

When the moment came for an uplink, the radio signal connecting the spacecraft to Earth went haywire. By the time a fix came, Cassini had missed its mark. A day later, managers did get the spacecraft moving toward polar orbit. There had been no problem with Cassini. The problem was on Earth.

The Cassini incident was one of several recent glitches in the Deep Space Network (DSN), NASA's complex of large radio antennas in California, Spain, and Australia. For more than 50 years, the DSN has been the lifeline for nearly every spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit, relaying commands from mission control and receiving data from distant probes. (9/29)

Congress Reaches Deal To Avoid Gov't Shutdown (Source: Law360)
Congress pulled together a compromise measure Wednesday that would avoid a government shutdown at the end of the week, after a deal was struck to allow aid for Flint, Michigan’s lead-contaminated water system to proceed in a different bill. (9/28)

GAO Upholds DataPath's $363M Army Satellite Contract Win (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office shot down a protest to the U.S. Army's decision to select a $363 million proposal from Georgia-based DataPath Inc. for a satellite support contract, finding the Army's cost analysis and technical evaluations reasonable, according to an opinion released Wednesday. (9/28)

Space Traffic Management May Soon be Here (Source: Space Daily)
Over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in low orbital activities. The government is increasingly concerned with the congestion within these orbits and the growing problem of orbital debris. In order to operate safely in near-Earth orbits, operators must know where their satellites are located, and whether any of these systems may approach other satellites or debris objects.

Today, there are well over 20,000 tracked objects including active satellites and large debris objects. Various agencies and private sector organizations do collect and disseminate space situation awareness data for operators who may be able to plan maneuvers that will mitigate collision threats.

Within the government, the Department of Defense currently collects space surveillance data and compiles it for space situational awareness and orbital safety. The Secretary of Transportation is working with the Department of Defense to develop a report on the feasibility of a civil agency processing and releasing this data and information. There is a good chance that such a responsibility will fall on FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation. (9/28)

Forecasters See Booming Satellite And Launching Business (Source: Aerospace Daily)
Euroconsult says 145 satellites with launch mass of more than 50 kg (110 lb.) will be launched on average each year by 2025 for government agencies and commercial organizations worldwide. Including sub-50 kg and the two mega constellations of OneWeb and SpaceX, the total would grow to 9,000 units— compared with 1,480 launched in the past decade. The future work should represent a market of $270 billion for the space industry to build and launch, $250 billion of which is for satellites. (9/29)

Russia Plans to Deploy Anti-Satellite Airborne Laser Weapons (Source: Defense Update)
Russia is preparing to renew flight testing of a high-power flying laser designed to operate as an anti-satellite weapon. Mounted on a modified Ilyushin Il-76MD-90E transport plane the airborne laser laboratory aircraft flew for its first test mission in August 19, 1981. Two aircraft were modified and equipped for the tests that ceased following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 2009 the project was revived as the A-60SE, mounting the original 1LK222 laser. This laser weapon will likely be used to dazzle adversary satellites or burning through sensitive optics and sensors using intensive enery laser bursts. With an effective range of 1,500 km (930 miles) such a laser can target reconnaissance satellites orbiting at low earth orbit (LEO). The effect on target range to temporarily disrupt to disabling adversary reconnaissance or missile warning satellites.

Some sources claim the program also aims to develop a more powerful laser, that will be able to defeat aircraft and missiles. The program discontinued in 2011 due to lack of funding but has apparently regained interest among Moscow’s strategists as it is considered as an asymmetrical response to looming space-based threats. (9/26)

Offials Warn of U.S. Inaction on Military Space Threats (Source: Space News)
Experts warned Congress that the U.S. is not doing enough to deal with threats to key military space systems. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing this week, retired Navy Adm. James Ellis Jr. said growing threats to space assets have "outpaced our creation of policy and strategy" to deal with them. Martin Faga, former director of the NRO, said the Defense Department is also not emphasizing resilience enough when acquiring space systems. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee, said the hearing is part of a "major reform" to national security space he is seeking to implement in next year's defense authorization bill. (9/28)

Lunar X Prize Competitors Need Launch Contracts Before January (Source: Space News)
Time is running out for teams in the Google Lunar X Prize competition to get launch contracts for their lander missions. Only three of the 16 teams currently in the competition have launch contracts verified by the X Prize Foundation. Teams have until the end of the year to submit launch contracts and have them verified by the foundation in order to remain in the competition. A prize official, speaking at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) this week, said there are no plans to extend the deadline for the launch contracts or overall competition. (9/28)

Musk Mars Plan Skips Details on Some Key Issues (Source: The Verge)
A day after Elon Musk's Mars mission speech, people are weighing what the announcement left out. The speech at the IAC focused on the transportation system that SpaceX plans to develop to carry people to Mars, but very little on other issues, such as dealing with the radiation, microgravity and other human health issues on the trip to Mars, or how people would live once they arrived on Mars. How SpaceX will finance the development effort, which Musk estimated to cost $10 billion, is also a major uncertainty. (9/28)

A Moon Village 'Marketplace' (Source: GeekWire)
A virtual marketplace might be the first step in the development of a "Moon Village." In a panel session at the IAC Wednesday, George Nield of the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation proposed a "Lunar Marketplace and Swap Shop" where companies and organizations interested in establishing an international lunar base could buy and sell capabilities needed for that base. That marketplace would be virtual at first, but Nield said he envisioned it could become a physical shop at a future lunar base. Nield has been an advocate for commercial participation in the Moon Village concept proposed by Jan Woerner, the head of ESA. (9/28)

Did a Second Impact Jolt Earth After Dinosaur Extinction Event? (Source: Science)
Ten million years after a giant impact wiped out the dinosaurs, the Earth got hit again. Scientists said Thursday geological evidence indicates that a smaller impact took place about 56 million years ago, creating global wildfires and increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing temperatures to spike. Other scientists, though, are skeptical about the claims, suggesting the analysis of core samples may be misinterpreted. (9/28)

New York to Tokyo in 25 Minutes? Imagine SpaceX Shipping (Source: Inverse)
Elon Musk wants to go to Mars, but he also thinks that, maybe, he could use SpaceX’s badass rockets to ship packages from New York City to Tokyo in a smooth 25 minutes. The SpaceX co-founder and CEO gave a major presentation about his company’s plans to travel to Mars and colonize it at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Tuesday, but he also took a minute to just kinda riff on some possible terrestrial moneymaking plans.

“Maybe there is some market for really fast transport of stuff around the world, provided we can land somewhere where noise is not a super big deal. Rockets are very noisy,” Musk said, spitballing. “We can transport cargo to anywhere on earth in 45 minutes at the longest. Most places on earth we can get to in maybe 20-25 minutes.”

“Maybe if we had a floating platform off the coast of New York, say 20-30 miles out, you could go from NY to Tokyo in 25 minutes, cross the Atlantic in 10 minutes,” he continued. (9/27)

Bill Nye Isn’t Buying Elon Musk’s Bold New Vision For Mars (Source: Huffington Post)
Bill Nye likes Mars as much as the next guy ― more, probably, since the Science Guy also heads up The Planetary Society, a Pasadena, California-based nonprofit that pushes exploration of the solar system. But Nye isn’t totally sold on SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s bold new plan to colonize Mars.

Under the plan, which Musk detailed Tuesday at a major astronautics conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, SpaceX will build a fleet of vast spaceships and use them to ferry wave upon wave of humans to the red planet. The company aims to send the first humans to Mars in 2025.

“I’m open-minded but skeptical that anyone actually wants to live out his or her life on Mars any more than anyone wants to colonize Antarctica,” Nye told The Huffington Post in an email. “Mars is an exotic place and in some ways very romantic. But it’s cold, barren and you can’t even breathe.” (9/28)

Humans to Mars: A Deeply Distrubing Idea (Source: Doctor Linda)
NASA’s embraced Musk and his wacky ideas as a way to promote its own “journey to Mars.” Musk said yesterday he wants to accomplish his goal by public-private partnership. Really? I don’t want a penny of my tax dollars going into such a project. (Musk has already benefited from millions of dollars in direct subsidies, not to mention contracts, from the federal government.)

Musk said he will take people to Mars for $200,000 apiece, transporting 100 to 200 people at a time, starting in a few decades. First, I don’t believe for a minute that he will accomplish that goal in the foreseeable future.

Second, I have deep moral qualms about this idea, as it appeals to a small fraction of humankind and proposes what would inevitably be an elitist enterprise. Would it be ethical to enable people with enough money to buy a ticket to leave our troubled Earth behind? Would it be ethical for government(s) to subsidize such an enterprise? (9/28)

SpaceX to Mars: Boca Chica May Figure in Martian Plans (Source: Valley Morning Star)
SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site may some day be a departure point for flights to Mars. That’s according to the company’s founder, Elon Musk, in a presentation yesterday at the International Aeronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico. Musk’s talk, which was streamed live online, laid out highly technical, detailed plans for development of a space vehicle capable of getting humans to the red planet in sufficient numbers to colonize it, build a city and create a self-sustaining civilization.

His primary goal, and the sole reason he’s busy accumulating assets, is to do the best thing Musk can think of for humankind: make it an interplanetary species in order to ensure its survival, he said. "What I really want to achieve here is to make Mars seem possible, something we can do in our lifetimes,” Musk said. One of the biggest obstacles is making the per-passenger cost of a trip relatively affordable, he said. With the traditional approach that sent Apollo astronauts to the moon, a single ticket to Mars would cost about $10 billion, Musk said. (9/27)

To Mars From Boca Chica? Not Likely (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
Bob Lancaster, the president of the Alliance said during that hearing that Musk will send men to the moon from Boca Chica, to Mars and beyond, to quote Buzz Lightyear. "It is exciting to think that you will be able to see the launch of a manned space missIon to Mars," Lancaster said to wild applause.

In fact, the space launches that were set to begin in 2013 have been delayed going on four years now. In between we've seen the stop-and-start efforts of Musk's SpaceX to become a dependable launch and delivery vehicle just to resupply the International Space Station. But SpaceX isn't using the Boca Chica site for any of that. In fact, all the launches envisioned from there are limited commercial payloads (communications, weather satellites, etc.) for private customers that could include foreign states or other businesses, not for NASA. (9/28)

Zubrin Comments on Musk's Mars Plan (Source: Mars Society)
The key thing I would change is his plan to send the whole trans-Mars propulsion system all the way to Mars and back. Doing that means it can only be used once every four years. Instead he should stage off of it just short of Earth escape. Then it would loop around back to aero-brake into Earth orbit in a week, while the payload habitat craft with just a very small propulsion system for landing would fly on to the Red Planet.
Used this way, the big Earth escape propulsion system could be used five times every launch window, instead of once every other launch window, effectively increasing its delivery capacity by a factor of ten. Alternatively, it could deliver the same payload with a system one-tenth the size, which is what I would do.

So instead of needing a 500 ton launch capability, he could send the same number of people to Mars every opportunity with a 50 ton launcher, which is what Falcon Heavy will be able to do. Done in this manner, such a transportation system could be implemented much sooner, possibly before the next decade is out, making settlement of Mars a real possibility for our time. (9/28)

Reality Check: Musk’s Mars Plan Will Cost More, Take Longer. What Else is New? (Source: GeekWire)
In order to make the figures work for Elon Musk’s plan to put settlers on Mars, SpaceX will have to build boosters and interplanetary spaceships for less than the price of a Boeing 777x jet, on a shorter time frame. What’s more, Musk is aiming to ramp up to building 1,000 of those spaceships. That’s three times the number of 777x orders to date.

The comparisons between Boeing’s next airplane and SpaceX’s ultimate spaceship suggest Musk is overly optimistic about what it’ll take to get a million settlers to Mars by the end of the century. So what else is new? Based on past estimates, SpaceX should have started flying astronauts into orbit two years ago. Another one of Musk’s ventures, Tesla Motors, should have delivered its first Model X electric car in 2013. Even Musk acknowledged during this week’s presentation to the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara that he tends to lean forward in his expectations. (9/28)

To the Moon, North Korea? Or Does Rocket Have a Darker Aim? (Source: New York Times)
Kim Jong-un is headed to the moon. That, at least, is one of the official explanations for the testing last week of a rocket engine that, if as powerful as the North claims, would rival the commercial rockets of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

The North may not be working alone. An intelligence finding that the U.S. quietly made public in January suggests that the development of the North's big engine, which it claims produces 80 tons of thurst, may be part of a joint partnership with Iran. U.S. Treasury Dept. sanctions against Iranian officials and engineers named two who had "traveled to North Korea to work on an 80-ton rocket booster being developed by the North Korean government. (9/26)

Flashback April 2016: Iran Tests New 'Space Rocket' with North Korean Technology (Source: Daily Mail)
Iran has test-fired a new space rocket, built with North Korean technology, which could be used to deliver nuclear warheads. The Simorgh space rocket was fired on Tuesday from a secret Iranian missile base. According to reports, the rocket did not put any satellite into orbit and the launch may not have been a success. The missile is believed to have been manufactured using North Korean technology exported to Iran. (4/21)

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