September 4, 2016

Spacecom to Claim Amos 6 Compensation from IAI (Source: Globes)
Following the destruction of its Amos 6 satellite, Spacecom Satellite Communications notified the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange this morning that because the failure occurred before the launch, the company had not invoked the insurance policy covering the satellite. The insurance premium will be returned to the company, which will claim the cost of building the satellite from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Spacecom also states that, under the agreement it has with IAI, IAI is obliged to return to it the cost of construction of the satellite with interest at Libor plus 4% on each payment it made to IAI. Out of this, Spacecom has to repay the state $17 million. The company states that once it collects the repayments from IAI, it will be able to repay the bond series of which the bondholders now have cause to demand immediate repayment.

As for its other bond series, Spacecom says that it is abiding by all the financial covenants relating to them, and that it expects to meet all repayments on them. Spacecom says that it is due to receive $50 million compensation from SpaceX, but that it can choose instead to use SpaceX's services for its next satellite launch without payment. (9/4)

SpaceCom to Recoup $173m, Plus Interest, for Destroyed Satellite (Source: Times of Israel)
The satellite’s owners, Space Communication, will receive over $173 million from IAI plus interest, which provided insurance for the device, a company official said. According to Space Communication, also known as SpaceCom, the total sum from IAI is “approximately $205 million.”

Under the insurance policy, IAI will have to pay the amount “in under 60 days,” a spokesperson for the quasi-governmental firm said. In addition, the Israeli company said it expects to receive either $50 million from SpaceX or “have the launch of a future satellite carried out under the existing agreement and with the payments that have [already] been made.”

Additional insurers are expected to pay SpaceCom an additional $39 million, the company said in a statement Saturday night. IAI said the Amos-6 satellite was “the largest and most advanced communications satellite ever built in Israel.” ... “If it orders a new satellite, it will take between two and three years to fill the gap.” (9/4)

Why Private Companies are Racing to Build Small Rockets (Source: PRI)
There's a new space race underway, but this competition isn’t quite on the scale of the one that took place between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. This time, NASA isn’t even a key player. Instead, today’s space race is taking place among private companies vying to build tiny rockets.

Why the rush to deliver a smaller rocket? Tim Fernholz, a reporter for the website Quartz, says the satellite technology that depends on rockets to reach low Earth orbit is getting smaller — and more popular — all the time. “What used to be a 500-pound or 1-ton satellite is now maybe 100 pounds,” Fernholz says. “As people are seeing what these small satellites can do, they’re getting ideas about what they can do in orbit.” Click here. (9/3)

Entrepreneurs, Bureaucracies, and the Final Frontier (Source: National Interest)
The overall picture of the government and private sector roles in space has been that government has pioneered the technology and the private sector has later exploited it commercially. The main breakthroughs in rocket science have come under a government pedigree than runs from NASA back through the space programs of the U.S. military services and to Wernher von Braun's team in Germany, which invented the V-2.

Most of the technological pioneering had to be government-run because, although national security or national prestige may have been at a stake, any profit opportunities were too far away to provide sufficient commercial incentive to do the pioneering. Although the current privately run activity involves some engineering refinements such as those involved in the recovery of boosters, this is not a matter of major technological breakthroughs. Click here. (9/3)

1970s Spy Satellite 'Better Than Google Earth' (Source: CNN)
Sorry to break it to you, but Google Earth ain't all that. In a pre-digital era more than 30 years before Google Earth, an ultrasecret US satellite program spied on other countries by taking much higher quality photos of the planet's surface. The intelligence community called this program Big Bird and Keyhole-9, but its codename was Hexagon. "These were much better pictures than Google Earth," Phil Pressel told CNN's "Declassified."

Pressel should know. He was a top engineer at Massachusetts-based Perkin-Elmer, designer and builder of Hexagon's cameras -- which played a huge role in protecting the United States during the Cold War. "I honestly think that the Hexagon program was responsible for preventing World War III," Pressel said. Hexagon photos allowed US intelligence analysts to conclusively count numbers of Soviet troops, tanks, aircraft and missiles to make sure Moscow wasn't violating arms control treaties. (9/1)

A Flawed Missile Defense System Generates $2 Billion in Bonuses for Boeing (Source: LA Times)
From 2002 through early last year, the Pentagon conducted 11 flight tests of the nation’s homeland missile defense system. In the carefully scripted exercises, interceptors of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, were launched from underground silos to pursue mock enemy warheads high above the Pacific.

The interceptors failed to destroy their targets in six of the 11 tests — a record that has prompted independent experts to conclude the system cannot be relied on to foil a nuclear strike by North Korea or Iran. Yet over that same timespan, Boeing Co., the Pentagon’s prime contractor for GMD, collected nearly $2 billion in performance bonuses for a job well-done, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

The Pentagon paid Boeing more than $21 billion total for managing the system during that period. A Times investigation also found that the criteria for the yearly bonuses were changed at some point to de-emphasize the importance of test results that demonstrate the system’s ability to intercept and destroy incoming warheads. (9/2)

Israelis Fear Satellite Loss Could Set Back its Space Industry (Source: AFP)
The launchpad destruction of an advanced Israeli communications satellite may have dealt a blow to the country's aerospace industry, the Israel Space Agency (ISA) said Friday. ISA chairman Yitzchak Ben Yisrael said the incident could jeopardise a pending deal for the sale of private Israeli firm and Amos-operator Spacecom to China's Xinwei group, reportedly worth $285 million (255 million euros) and conditional on the satellite successfully entering service.

Amos 6 manufacturer Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) said the satellite was "the largest and most advanced communications satellite ever built in Israel." "Obviously, we are disappointed about this incident in the launch vehicle and are ready and willing to assist Spacecom in any manner," it said. "The communications satellite business is strategic for IAI and the State of Israel." The Israel Space Agency, part of the country's science ministry, said that "support for the space industry in Israel will continue with the aim of continuing at the forefront of technology." (9/2)

What Would Life be Like on a Planet Orbiting a Red Dwarf? (Source: Inverse)
When searching for life elsewhere in the universe, it’s a natural inclination to go looking for Earth-like planets capable of supporting Earth-like biology. After all, finding life as we know it is hard, but that’s nothing compared with even imagining life as we don’t know it. But the best candidates for life might be in solar systems very different from our own. As NASA astronomer Elisa Quintana explained, the best place to look might be around tiny, dim red dwarfs.

Some of this just comes down to basic math. It’s estimated red dwarfs account for more than 70 percent of the galaxy’s stars, meaning there’s a whole lot more of them than there are Sun-like Class G stars. Quintana also pointed out red dwarfs burn for billions, maybe even trillions of years, meaning they give their planets far, far more time to develop than our star’s piffling few billion years. The habitable zones of such dimly burning stars would be much closer in than Earth’s orbit, with the whole thing comfortably fitting inside Mercury’s orbit.

Being so close to a star, even a relatively small one, would create unique challenges for life on such planets, and we have no way of knowing whether life could survive such hardships. The red dwarf’s gravitational forces would be a particular problem. Quintana described tidal heating, in which the star’s gravity would constantly reshape the planet from spherical to football-shaped as it orbited the planet, with potentially devastating consequences for the planet’s internal heat. Click here. (9/3)

Roscosmos: More Tourists May Go To Orbit Within Next Two Years (Source: Tass)
The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, will send to the orbit the first space tourist within next two years. "I believe, within next two years (the first tourist will fly)," he said. "The time to prepare a flight of the kind is not a week or month - it will take more than a year."

Russia will develop the project together with foreign counterparts, he said, though refusing to name them. "I think, we shall say about it before the yearend," he said. "We have requests from very serious counterparts, the industrial counterparts - those, who work in the sphere of space and produce space equipment." (9/3)

Jeff Bezos to Receive $250,000 Heinlein Prize (Source: Washingtonian)
On September 14 Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos will receive the Heinlein Prize for Accomplishments in Commercial Space Activities at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. The prize, named for science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, honors Bezos’s work with his spaceflight company Blue Origin, which has successfully tested reusable space vehicles and hopes to offer human spaceflight by next year. (9/2)

Roskosmos to Develop Space Tourism in 2 Years (Source: RBTH)
The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, will send the first space tourist to the orbit "within next two years," the agency’s head Igor Komarov said in an interview with TASS on Sept. 3. "I believe, within next two years [the first tourist will fly to the orbit]," he said. "The time to prepare a flight of the kind takes not a week or a month. It will take more than a year."

Russia will develop the project together with foreign counterparts, Komarov said. However, he refused to name them. "I think, we shall talk about it before the end of the year," he said. "We have requests from very serious counterparts, the industrial counterparts, those, who work in the sphere of space and produce space equipment." (9/3)

Strike Rockets Into Space Age, Cripples ISRO (Source: The Telegraph)
Left-ruled Kerala's history of street protests entered the space age today when the all-India trade union strike hobbled work at three Indian Space Research Organization centers, including the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. Strike supporters had laid siege to the Isro garage at the city's Pattom neighbourhood, from where buses ferry employees to the Sarabhai Centre, Liquid Propulsions Systems Center and the Isro Inertial Systems Unit.

A sizeable proportion of the 5,000 employees use the official bus service, which starts at 8.45am every day. Led by former CPM lawmaker V. Sivankutty, who lost to the BJP's O. Rajagopal in the May Assembly elections, the siege began at 8am and continued till around 11.45am. "Hundreds of contract staff too work at the three centers, and had also been allowed to use the bus today," a source at the Sarabhai Center said. (9/2)

China's Heavy-Lift Long March 5 Arrives at Spaceport for Debut Launch (Source: GB Times)
China's long-awaited Long March 5 rocket has arrived at Qinglan Port near the Wenchang space centre in preparation for its debut launch in November. The Long March 5 will become the country's largest ever rocket and will be used for constructing the future Chinese Space Station, launching the Chang'e-5 lunar sample return mission and the country's ambitious 2020 Mars mission. (9/2)

The Impossible Propulsion Drive Is Heading to Space (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The EmDrive, a hypothetical miracle propulsion system for outer space, has been sparking heated arguments for years. Now, Guido Fetta plans to settle the argument about reactionless space drives for once and for all by sending one into space to prove that it really generates thrust without exhaust. Even if mainstream scientists say this is impossible.

Fetta is CEO of Cannae Inc, and inventor of the Cannae Drive. His creation is related to the EmDrive first demonstrated by British engineer Roger Shawyer in 2003. Both are closed systems filled with microwaves with no exhaust, yet which the inventors claim do produce thrust. There is no accepted theory of how this might work. Shawyer claims that relativistic effects produce different radiation pressures at the two ends of the drive, leading to a net force.

Fetta pursues a similar idea involving Lorentz (electromagnetic) forces. NASA researchers have suggested that the drive is actually pushing against "quantum vacuum virtual plasma" of particles that shift in and out of existence. Most physicists believe these far-out systems cannot work and that their potential benefits, such as getting to Mars in ten weeks, are illusory. (9/2)

Orion EM-1 Taking Shape at KSC, Spacecraft's LAS Jettison Motors Continue Testing (Source: AmericaSpace)
Nearly two years after NASA successfully completed the first in-flight test of its Orion crew module during Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1), the next Orion spacecraft continues to take shape as it gets ready for its first integrated flight test to the Moon and back atop NASA’s giant SLS heavy-lift rocket, due to launch in late 2018 (at the earliest).

The first propellant system tube welds have now taken place on Orion’s pressure vessel, and its all-important heat shield arrived at NASA’s Landing Facility (formerly the SLF) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Aug. 25. In addition, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced this week that they successfully tested the spacecraft’s jettison motor, which is an essential part of Orion’s Launch Abort System (LAS). (9/2)

HawkEye 360, Lockheed Martin to Launch First Commercial RF Mapping, Analytics (Source: RF Globalnet)
HawkEye 360 has announced that it is collaborating with Lockheed Martin and Deep Space Industries to build and deploy low-Earth orbit satellites for its pioneering space-based radio frequency (RF) detection and mapping service to commercial clients.

Launched last year by science and technology holdings firm Allied Minds, HawkEye 360 plans to launch small satellites to collect data and generate reports on wireless signals that can be used for maritime tracking, logistics monitoring of aircraft and ground transportation, and emergency response. It will be the first to offer space-based RF mapping and analytics commercially, using data processing technology originally developed at Virginia Tech's Hume Center for National Security and Technology. (8/2)

When a Rocket Blows Up, Space Insurers Pay For It (Source: CNBC)
Insuring a payload on the tip of a rocket is entirely different from insuring a home, boat or car. There are only about 50 insured launches each year paying about $750 million in premiums to a handful of companies. If just a few big accidents pile up, there is a real risk of the industry ending up in the red. "The nature of this business is very volatile," said Chris Kunstadter, senior vice president and global underwriting manager for space at XL Catlin, last year. "You don't have many losses, but when you do, they're large."

Not only are the potential losses huge, but there are too few launches each year to do the same sort of actuarial math as in other types of insurance. A few bad launches in an unlucky year can cause the failure rate to bounce between 3 percent and 10 percent, and accidents tend to be total losses. But the industry has other unique upsides that have attracted investors. A company knows right away whether its coverage is a loss or a gain.

Space insurance is also uncorrelated with other types of insurance, so even if a hurricane wipes out hundreds of seaside homes all at once, the space insurance market remains serenely independent. The huge premium payments are also attractive to companies. (9/1)

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