October 11, 2016

Sierra Nevada and European Partners to Assess Dream Chaser for European Missions (Source: SNC)
The Dream Chaser for European Utilization (DC4EU) program kicked off its pilot phase with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. Sierra Nevada, Telespazio, the European Space Agency and OHB System AG will now assess the feasibility and commercial viability of the DC4EU dedicated mission to provide affordable, independent European access to low-Earth orbit via the Dream Chaser space utility vehicle (SUV). (10/11)

Waiting for New Export-Control Rules (Source: Space News)
A number of European nations, as well as Japan, Russia and India, view the space market as a strategic commercial opportunity for growing their economies — and so should the United States. Yet in the past, we have consciously limited our own expansion with detrimental laws, a lethargic interagency review process, and political apathy — all of which seem to be continuing today even as new, global commercial space opportunities are growing.

A classic example of this was the 1998 congressionally mandated imposition of munitions-level export controls on satellites and related technologies. Before 1998, U.S. companies had a 63-percent share in the global commercial satellite market. Today, because of the restrictions, U.S. market share has plummeted to 30 percent, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars in export sales and thousands of potential well-paying jobs.

Thanks to the efforts of the Obama administration, a series of reforms was put in place, removing most satellite technologies from the Munitions Control List — modernizing most export controls for friendly nations and giving U.S. companies a fair chance to compete for international commercial satellite contracts. Unfortunately, while the interagency process does not require congressional action to enact most changes to export regulation, it does not appear to be much more responsive to the commercial need for prompt action. Click here. (10/10)

Pre-Launch Insurance Rates Could Double (Source: Space News)
Insurers warn that the current low rates for space insurance cannot be sustained. Rates for pre-launch insurance could double after the Sep. 1 Falcon 9 pad explosion destroyed the Amos 6 satellite prior to a planned static-fire test. Launch insurance rates may also go up despite a lack of recent claims because premiums are likely to be a multi-year low this year. Insurers are cautious about a "nearly complete changeout" of commercial launch vehicles as a new generation enters service over the next several years. (10/10)

China to Launch Satellite for Pulsar Navigation Test (Source: GB Times)
China plans to launch a spacecraft next month to test the ability to use pulsars for navigation. The XPNAV-1 satellite will use X-ray emissions from pulsars to triangulate its position relative to the sun. Such a technique, proposed years ago but yet to be tested, could improve deep space navigation for future spacecraft. (10/10)

Project Blue Seeks $50M for Earth-Like Planet Search (Source: Ars Technica)
A group of nonprofit organizations is looking to raise money for a space telescope that would look for Earth-like worlds around the nearest star system. Project Blue is seeking to raise up to $50 million to develop a small space telescope that would attempt to image any Earth-like planets orbiting Alpha Centauri. The project hopes to raise the money and launch the telescope by around the end of the decade. (10/10)

Arctic Slope Files Protest Over Air Force Contract for Spaceport Services (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Air Force was hit Thursday with a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Claims Court alleging it improperly awarded noncompetitive contracts for launch operations and infrastructure support at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Maryland-based Arctic Slope claims the Air Force abruptly canceled the solicitation. (10/7)

Boeing Delays CST-100, Still Targets 2018 ISS Mission (Source: Aviation Week)
Following supplier holdups, a key production problem on the second CST-100 spacecraft and other issues, Boeing has opted to slide its entire NASA commercial crew test and development program six months. Despite the setback, which includes an added month of additional margin, the company still hopes to fly the first NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in December 2018.

News of the delay confirms the prognosis of a Sep. 1 report by NASA’s Office of Inspector General, which found issues that impeded development of commercial crew vehicles at both Boeing and competing NASA contractor SpaceX. The report said it was unlikely either would be certified to carry NASA astronauts before late 2018, and noted this will be more than three years after the space agency’s original 2015 goal. (10/10)

Is There a Business Case for Mars? (Source: Space Review)
SpaceX is the latest venture to propose sending humans to Mars as some kind of private effort. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker explore if there is, in fact, a commercial case for human Mars missions. Click here. (10/10)
Mars Lodging and Ground Transportation (Source: Space Review)
One key element missing from Elon Musk’s announcement of his Mars settlement plans is how people will live once they get to the planet. Sam Dinkin looks at some options for those considering buying a ticket to the Red Planet. Click here. (10/10)
Mega-Constellations and Mega-Debris (Source: Space Review)
Companies are proposing the deploy networks of hundreds or even thousands of satellites in the next several years. Jeff Foust reports that these systems pose new concerns about the growing orbital debris environment in low Earth orbit. Click here. (10/10)
Blockchains and the Emerging Space Economy (Source: Space Review)
A technology called the blockchain promises to revolutionize electronic commerce on Earth. Vidvuds Beldavs describes how the blockchain and related technologies can advance the development of a true space economy. Click here. (10/10)

Air Force's X-37B Space Plane Mystery Mission Wings by 500 Days in Orbit (Source: Space.com)
The latest secretive mission of the United States Air Force's X-37B space plane has cruised beyond 500 days in Earth orbit since its launch last year. The U.S. military launched the robotic X-37B space plane on May 20, 2015, marking the fourth flight for the Air Force program. (10/10)

Is El Paso the Next Aerospace Hub? (Source: El Paso Inc.)
On Wednesday morning, at a private test site less than two hours east of El Paso, a rocket owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos began a dramatic test flight. At least nine El Pasoans work at the launch facility operated by Blue Origin, the secretive space company that intends to take tourists to the edge of space in 2018. Most are graduates of the University of Texas at El Paso, which has been quietly elbowing its way into the commercial space industry, building relationships with companies like Blue Origin.

“Maybe for the first time ever, these engineering grads are graduating with exciting job prospects in the region,” said El Pasoan Eddie Seyffert, 25, a test engineer at Blue Origin. Blue Origin has been perfecting its rockets near Van Horn for a few years, but even as the company edges closer to space, it continues to fly under the radar.

The desert surrounding El Paso is valuable to space companies because it, and the skies above, are empty. For that reason, the U.S. Defense Department has tested rockets and operated labs in southern New Mexico and West Texas since at least World War II. But more recently the wide-open spaces have attracted private space companies. Entrepreneur Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic intends to take tourists to suborbital space from Spaceport America, located 100 miles north of El Paso, near Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. (10/10)

Barack Obama: America Will tTake the Giant Leap to Mars (Source: CNN)
One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandfather's shoulders, waving a flag as our astronauts returned to Hawaii. This was years before we'd set foot on the moon. Decades before we'd land a rover on Mars. A generation before photos from the International Space Station would show up in our social media feeds.

I still have the same sense of wonder about our space program that I did as a child. It represents an essential part of our character -- curiosity and exploration, innovation and ingenuity, pushing the boundaries of what's possible and doing it before anybody else. The space race we won not only contributed immeasurably important technological and medical advances, but it also inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers with the right stuff to keep America on the cutting edge.

That's one of the reasons why, in my first address as President to the American people, I vowed to return science to its rightful place. In our first few months, my administration made the largest single investment in basic research in our history, and I went to the Kennedy Space Center to call for reimagining and reinvigorating our space program to explore more of our solar system and look deeper into the universe than ever. Click here. (10/11)

Making Human Settlement of Space a Reality (Source: White House OSTP)
Today, President Obama outlined a vision to CNN for the future of space exploration.  Echoing what he said in the 2015 State of the Union address, the President wrote, “We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time.”

Later this week, many of the Nation’s top innovators will come together in Pittsburgh at the White House Frontiers Conference, where they will further explore, among other things, how American investments in science and technology will help us settle “the final frontier” – space.   But today, we’re excited to announce two new NASA initiatives that build on the President’s vision and utilize public-private partnerships to enable humans to live and work in space in a sustainable way.

In April 2010, the President challenged the country – and NASA – to send American astronauts on a Journey to Mars in the 2030s.  By reaching out further into the solar system and expanding the frontiers of exploration, the President outlined a vision for pushing the bounds of human discovery, while also revitalizing the space industry and creating jobs here at home. Click here. (10/11)

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