September 8, 2016

How Satellite Imaging Will Revolutionize Everything From Stock Picking to Farming (Source: Newsweek)
The number of satellites orbiting Earth increased 40 percent in just the past five years, and those hunks of metal are snapping pictures at a mind-blowing rate. This explosion of images is a revolution that’s going to radically change how we respond to environmental disasters and run our farms. It’s also going to upend the stock market, because it’s turning the whole world into usable data, giving us a precise count of oil tankers in all the world’s ports and how many cars are in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Know that, and you can make some very lucrative investments. Click here. (9/8)

Blue Origin Plans Next New Shepard Test for October (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin plans to conduct the next flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle in October, a launch that the company’s founder says will test the vehicle’s abort system. In an email update Sept. 8, company founder Jeff Bezos said the upcoming New Shepard flight, planned for the first half of October from the company’s West Texas test site, will be an in-flight abort test, where the crew capsule will fire its abort motor to fly away from the propulsion module during the launch. (9/8)

Blue Origin Could Bring Long-Dormant Florida Launchpad to Life (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Blue Origin has asked permission to build at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a launch pad that has been dormant since the 1960's. Billionaire Jeff Bezos' company wants to build on Space Launch Complex 11, which hasn't seen a launch since 1964, and the adjacent Space Launch Complex 36.

The plan was revealed in permit applications with the St. Johns River Water Management District, which oversees permitting on that land. The permits hint at a plan to test rockets onsite while launching from the launch pad. In the permit, the company said it would "contstruct and operate an orbital launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's (Space Launch Complex) 11 and SLC-36."

In the permit application, the company also referenced its efforts to recover launched vehicles, which Blue Origin has done multiple times in west Texas. Editor's Note: This makes sense. Last used in the early 1960s, LC-11 is adjacent to LC-36 and presumably could be subsumed into the LC-36 fenceline, allowing Blue Origin to develop on-site infrastructure for assembly, engine tests, and maybe landings. Here's a graphic of the pad design. (9/8)

India Launches Weather Satellite (Source: The Hindu)
An Indian Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) rocket successfully launched a weather satellite Thursday. The GSLV lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at 7:20 a.m. Eastern and placed the INSAT-3DR advanced weather satellite into its planned geostationary transfer orbit. The launch was delayed by 40 minutes to resolve a problem during fueling of the rocket. The launch was the first operational mission for the Mark 2 version of the GSLV, featuring an Indian-developed cryogenic upper stage. (9/7)

Arianespace Adds Slot to 2017 Manifest, Hoping to Snag Customer Delayed by SpaceX (Source: Space News)
Arianespace is considering adding another launch to its 2017 manifest in response to Proton and Falcon delays. In an interview, Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel said Arianespace was currently planning seven Ariane 5 launches in 2017, but was now considering adding an eighth "given the evolution of the market," a reference to ongoing Proton delays and the recent Falcon 9 pad accident. Arianespace had expected to perform seven Ariane 5 launches this year, but delays caused by a Japanese satellite damaged in shipment to the launch site earlier this year mean the company now expects to perform only six. (9/8)

Congress Fears NOAA Delays Could Push Imagery Industry Abroad (Source: Space News)
A House hearing Wednesday criticized NOAA for delays and uncertainty in the commercial remote sensing licensing process. Members of the House space subcommittee and industry witnesses expressed concern that lengthy delays in the licensing process, particularly for new systems planning infrared or hyperspectral imagery, could push the industry to other countries. Committee members also criticized NOAA for "slow-rolling" a report on potential licensing reforms required by last year's Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. (9/7)

ESA Picks Arianespace Vega to Launch Earth Science Mission (Source: ESA)
The European Space Agency has selected Arianespace to launch an Earth sciences mission. ESA said Wednesday that a Vega small launch vehicle will launch its Aeolus satellite around the end of 2017. The spacecraft, equipped with a lidar, will study winds as well as aerosols and clouds in the Earth's atmosphere. (9/7)

Virgin Galactic Ready to Resume Flight Tests (Source: LA Times)
Virgin Galactic is ready to resume test flights of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle. The company said Wednesday it plans to begin tests of the second SpaceShipTwo in the "near future," starting with captive carry tests where the spaceplane remains attached to its WhiteKnightTwo aircraft. Virgin Galactic unveiled the second SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity, in February. It replaces the original SpaceShipTwo lost in a test flight accident in October 2014. (9/7)

Disaster on the Launch Pad: Implications for SpaceX and the Industry (Source: Space News)
For SpaceX, the reputational injury of suffering two catastrophic failures in a little over a year may prove more damaging than any discrete financial loss. There is a good reason that companies within the Satellite & Space industry do not generally root for the failure of competitors…catastrophic events generally cannot be isolated, and the industry suffers as a whole. Due to crowded launch manifests, SpaceX’s launch competitors (Arianespace, ILS, ULA) typically find it difficult to steal launch customers. (9/8)

Launch Insurers Dodge a Bullet with SpaceX Accident (Source: Space News)
While the Amos-6 satellite was mounted atop a rocket, the launch insurance policy was not yet in effect because SpaceX had not yet triggered an intentional ignition. Consequently, the reported $285 million payout will be paid by IAI’s “marine cargo transit” policy, which covers the transportation and handling of the satellite up until the point of launch.

Notably, prior to March 2016, SpaceX did not mount satellites onto the rocket until after the static fire test was complete. Beginning with the SES 9 launch, however, SpaceX modified its testing procedure in a bid to save cost and time. We strongly suspect SpaceX will be forced to revert to its legacy procedures which would have prevented the destruction of the Amos-6 satellite. (9/8)

Space Plasma Hurricanes Suggest New Sources of Energy (Source: Space Daily)
A new study by researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, funded by the National Science Foundation, has identified for the first time a process by which the solar wind is heated along extended regions of the Earth's magnetic shield as it penetrates through this barrier. The process may have parallels to the unsolved problem in astrophysics of how the solar corona is heated. It may also be helpful for understanding the cross-scale transport of energy in man-made plasma devices that may lead to the creation of practical fusion power. Click here. (9/7)

Atlas Flies in Rare Single-Solid Configuration (Source: Ars Technica)
The Atlas V rocket launching NASA's OSIRIS-REx toward the distant asteroid Bennu is of great interest in and of itself. The mission offers the rare opportunity to see the 411 configuration of the Atlas V rocket in action. The Atlas V 411 variant, with just a single strap-on solid booster, has flown only three times previously, and just once from Cape Canaveral back in 2006. The other two launches, in 2008 and 2011, were national security payloads that flew from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (9/8)

Massive Holes 'Punched' Through a Trail of Stars Likely Caused by Dark Matter (Source: Space Daily)
Researchers have detected two massive holes which have been 'punched' through a stream of stars just outside the Milky Way, and found that they were likely caused by clumps of dark matter, the invisible substance which holds galaxies together and makes up a quarter of all matter and energy in the universe. (9/8)

Range Contract Protest Fails to Unseat RGNext (Source: Law360)
A Honeywell-linked "InSpace 21" venture was unable to dislodge a U.S. Air Force contract awarded to a Raytheon-General Dynamics "RGNext" joint venture for maintaining and operating Eastern and Western Range launch facilities, according to a U.S. Court of Federal Claims decision released Wednesday. (9/7)

10 Things to Know About NASA's Mission to Taste an Asteroid (Source: National Geographic)
If NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft were penning a memoir, it might be titled, “There and Back Again: A Spacecraft’s Tale.” The memoir would begin at 7 p.m. eastern time on September 8th, when the launch window opens for blast-off from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. If all goes well, OSIRIS-REx will visit the asteroid Bennu and bring pieces of it back to Earth in 2023. Click here. (9/7)

Aerojet Tests Rocket Engine Tech for Air Force Program (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
 Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully completed its final test series on its sub-scale oxygen rich preburner as part of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator (HBTD) program. Aerojet Rocketdyne tested the preburner at full power and full duration to provide key insights for future engines that use this engine cycle.

The HBTD program is developing key technologies for rocket engines that employ an oxygen-rich staged combustion (ORSC) engine cycle - the same cycle that is used for the Aerojet Rocketdyne AR1 engine - a potential replacement engine for the Russian RD-180. The reusable HBTD demonstrator engine is a 250,000 lbf thrust class engine that is capable of up to 100 flights, and features high-performance, long-life technologies and modern materials. (9/6)

China Planning $1.5 Billion Theme Park That Will Take Visitors to Space (Source: Intl. Business Times)
A top Chinese investor is keen to get the jump on Virgin Galactic and launch trips to the edge of space using weather balloons from China. KuangChi Science has announced that it plans to invest 10 million yuan ($1.5m) into developing a futuristic theme park in Hangzhou province called "Future Valley", that comes with a series of rides aiming to let people experience what it would feel like to be an astronaut in space.

The most exciting experience planned is what the company calls a "deep space tour", whereby a weather balloon carries a capsule up to 21km above the ground at the top of the Earth's atmosphere to simulate real space flight, which the firm says will fulfil mankind's dream of going into space.

KuangChi Science has already designed what the space capsule will look like, stating that it will adopt a similar airtight cabin design as featured in the Shenzhou 5 rocket that carried the first Chinese astronauts into space in October 2003. (9/7)

How NASA Is Making 'Star Trek' Tech a Reality (Source:
One key way NASA is emulating "Star Trek" is by finding ways for humans to spend years in space without requiring constant resupply missions from Earth, said Jason Crusan, NASA's director for advanced exploration systems. This means using the International Space Station as a test bed for technology that can extend an astronaut's stay in space and thus could be used one day on the long journey to Mars.

Ongoing technology developments also allow astronauts to manufacture their own tools using 3D printing and to use atmospheric monitors to check the air in the cabin environment for contaminants. Those monitors shrink huge gas chromatography mass spectrometry units, which identify different substances in test samples, to about the size of a toaster. (9/7)

Supersonic Jet Startup Eyes Washington as Potential Manufacturing Site (Source: Seattle Times)
A privately funded, Boston-based aerospace startup is considering Washington state as a location to manufacture a sleek supersonic commercial jet now in the early stages of development. Spike Aerospace is designing an 18-passenger jet that would cruise at Mach 1.6 (1,100 miles per hour) and could fly with a low sonic boom from New York to Los Angeles in three hours.

Spike has been working on preliminary designs for three years and now employs about 45 engineers, said Chief Executive Vik Kachoria. He envisages flying a two-third-scale prototype late in 2018 and to deliver the first full-scale jet to a customer in 2022 or 2023. Kachoria said the company is talking to “five or six states” and that Washington is “one of the top contenders.” (9/6)

Next Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Program Could Cost Air Force $85B (Source: Bloomberg)
The intercontinental ballistic missile being designed by the Air Force to supplant the Minuteman III could cost $85 billion, according to the Defense Department's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office. This includes $22.6 billion for development and $61.5 in procurement costs. (9/6)

Harris & Globecom Satellite Businesses for Sale (Source: Space News)
Satellite communications equipment and services provider Harris Corp. has put its CapRock maritime satellite services division on the sales bloc after concluding that the business will drop another 25 percent in the coming year after a similar decline in the past year, industry officials said.

Industry officials said satellite services provider Globecomm, which occupies a neighboring sector of the market but like CapRock is a maritime player, is also being put up for sale. The moves, if pursued, would be the latest examples of the long-predicted consolidation among providers of managed satellite services to corporate customers including oil and gas producers and cruise-line operators. (9/7)

Star Wars: China's Planms for the Final Frontier (Source: APPS Policy Forum)
China’s space ambitions are impelled by a long-term resource acquisition strategy. By 2020, China aspires to have its own space station; by 2050, a commercial space-based solar power system in geo-synchronous orbit; and eventually a human settlement on the moon. The country is developing the capacity for asteroid and lunar mining, but in order to mine an asteroid potentially worth trillions of dollars establishing a longer, or perhaps even permanent, outer spatial presence is required.

Significantly, China’s 21st-century space goals transcend the short-term aim of ‘being first’ in space, to long-term investments that will directly benefit the Chinese economy. The key question is whether China’s space quest leads to conflict with other space-faring nations like the US. Understanding the nature of these three key Chinese space ambitions will provide a clue. Click here. (9/7)

NASA Paid Russia More than $70 Million to Bring an Astronaut Home (Source: Business Insider)
Three people who spent 172 days in orbit above the Earth returned home last week. But they weren't riding in a US spacecraft. NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011. Meanwhile, commercial carriers like SpaceX and Boeing are still building, testing, and certifying their spaceships, respectively called Dragon and CST-100 Starliner.

Today only one spaceship can launch people more than 200 miles above Earth, drop them off at the International Space Station (ISS), and fly them back: a Russian spacecraft called the Soyuz, which first launched in 1966 and means "union" in Russian. Though Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, has upgraded the three-module Soyuz design several times over the decades, it has hardly changed its core layout.

What it charges other space agencies per seat, however, has changed dramatically in recent years. The cheapest Soyuz seats NASA ever paid for were $21.8 million in 2007 and 2008. As soon as the space agency permanently grounded its space shuttles, though, Russia sharply raised the cost per seat. And it shows no signs of stopping. By 2018, NASA and its partners will have to pay roughly $81 million per person to ride a Soyuz to the ISS and back again. (9/6)

Registration Open for Spaceport America Open House (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Registration has begun for the Oct. 1 open house at Spaceport America. Registration is limited to the first 400 vehicles. The free open house will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions. The morning session will be from 9 a.m. until noon and from noon to 3 p.m. (9/6)

Are Aliens Talking To Us? (Source: NPR)
There are many barriers to finding signals from intelligent aliens, some technological and others more fundamental. Even assuming that other intelligent and technological species exist (after all, we can measure animal intelligence in many species but not necessarily related to building complex technological devices capable of interstellar communication), they may be behind us, or we may not know which frequency to tune our antennas to listen to them, or their signals may miss us, or they may not have any interest in communicating with strangers.

Not knowing the answer for such an essential question feeds the imagination. We need to know whether we are the only intelligent species out there. The implications are profound. If we are this unique, the stakes suddenly become much higher. We become guardians of life, of the galaxy, the coalescence of matter at its highest complexity in the cosmos (or at least in our galaxy). That's quite a ponderous take on humanity — and should incite a brand new ethics, a cosmic ethics of life preservation that starts right here on Earth.

However, we must remember that even if there are other smart beings out there, in practice we remain alone. Interstellar travel is a true scientific challenge, one that may take millennia to crack, or that can't be cracked at all. Maybe, in its wisdom, nature knew this all along — putting intelligent beings so far away from one another that each needs to come to grips with its role. (9/7)

It’s Official: You're Lost in a Directionless Universe (Source: Science)
Ever peer into the night sky and wonder whether space is really the same in all directions or if the cosmos might be whirling about like a vast top? Now, one team of cosmologists has used the oldest radiation there is, the afterglow of the big bang. or the cosmic microwave background (CMB), to show that the universe is “isotropic,” or the same no matter which way you look: There is no spin axis or any other special direction in space.

In fact, they estimate that there is only a one-in-121,000 chance of a preferred direction—the best evidence yet for an isotropic universe. That finding should provide some comfort for cosmologists, whose standard model of the evolution of the universe rests on an assumption of such uniformity. (9/7)

Antares Awaits Date for Return to Flight (Source:
The Return To Flight (RTF) of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket is currently waiting on a launch date decision, following resolution work after May’s Static Fire test. The launch, expected to take place in the next four or five weeks, will task Antares with lofting the OA-5 Cygnus en route to a berthing slot in the International Space Station’s increasingly convoluted Visiting Vehicle schedule.

The long-awaited return of Antares will take place almost two years after the CRS-3 mission failed just seconds after lift-off from the Wallops launch site. With repairs of the Wallops launch site at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) complete, the new Antares rocket was rolled out to Pad 0A for a static fire test. At the time of the test, Antares was targeting a return date of July 6 for the OA-5 mission to the ISS. (9/7)

A Bus-Size Asteroid Just Gave Earth a Close Shave (Source:
An asteroid the size of a school bus buzzed by Earth on Sep. 7 in an exceptionally close — but safe — flyby. Scientists discovered the object on Monday, just two days before its encounter with Earth. The newfound asteroid, named 2016 RB1, is between 13 and 46 feet wide. The space rock made its closest approach to Earth at 1:28 p.m. EDT. According to NASA's Near Earth Object Program, RB1 zoomed past Earth at a relative speed of over 18,000 mph (8.13 km/s) and passed within 23,900 miles of the Earth's surface.

This is only one-tenth the average distance between Earth and the moon. Even if asteroid 2016 RB1 had hit the Earth, it would not have been big enough to cause a catastrophe. By contrast, the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia in 2013 started out as an asteroid bigger than asteroid 2016 RB1, with a diameter of about 56 feet (17 m). While falling debris from that explosion injured more than 1,000 people, no one died during this dangerously close encounter. (9/7)

Did China Lose a Spy Satellite in a SpaceX-Style Launch Failure? (Source: Daily Mail)
September has not been a good month for launching satellites. Reports have emerged that the Chinese government may be covering up a failed rocket launch which resulted in the loss of a cutting edge spy satellite. The rocket, which launched from Shanxi on Thursday, is thought to have failed to get its cargo – an advanced earth observation satellite – into orbit. There are social media reports of a police search carried out to find debris strewn across the neighbouring Shaanxi province. (9/6)

SpaceX Is Cribbing From Boeing's 1920s Playbook (Source: The Atlantic)
SpaceX’s business strategy looks remarkably similar to the one that made Boeing so successful. “The people at Boeing had a vision. They knew that in order for the [aviation] industry to develop it needed Wall Street money. And in order to get that, they needed a reliable source of revenue.” Click here. (9/6)

Our Interstellar Neighbors: 5 Potentially Earth-Like Planets Nearby (Source:
A possibly Earth-like planet has been found within the habitable zone of humanity's closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, and astronomers think the world could potentially support life. While there is still a lot to learn about this newfound world, called Proxima Centauri b or just Proxima b, astronomers are sure of a few things: The Earth-like rocky exoplanet is 4.2 light-years away; its minimum mass is 1.3 times that of the Earth, and it orbits Proxima Centauri every 11.2 days. Click here. (9/6)

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