October 13, 2016

DigitalGlobe Buying Radiant Group for Imagery Processing (Source: Space News)
DigitalGlobe is buying The Radiant Group, a geospatial information company. The deal, valued at $140 million, will give DigitalGlobe access to developers and tools to help get information out of satellite imagery. The acquisition comes as customers of satellite imagery, including government agencies, become less interested in purchasing raw images versus analysis of the images, coupled with other data sets, to provide specific information. (10/11)

Private Space Colonizers Take Dramatically Different Stances (Source: Aviation Week)
In the past few weeks, two U.S. billionaires have presented their latest visions of extending human civilization into the Solar System. It is an old idea, but on the surface Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk appear to have the ambition, funds and sheer chutzpah to at least get the ball rolling. Both have space vehicles flying, skilled engineering staffs and businesses unrelated to spaceflight that can subsidize their lofty enthusiasms. But the ways they are tackling the problem could not be more different. Click here. (10/11)

Masten Tests New Fuel (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Working with, Masten Space Systems demonstrated a safer & easier to handle hypergolic alternative to NTO/MMH, called MXP-351. MXP-351 can get within 90 - 95% of the theoretical Isp of a traditional NTO/MMH bipropellant. Masten plans to use it for their small moon landers. (10/11)

Moon’s Surface Features Younger Than Previously Thought (Source: Colorado Space News)
The moon’s surface is being “gardened” — churned by small impacts — more than 100 times faster than scientists previously thought. This means that surface features believed to be young are perhaps even younger than assumed. It also means that any structures placed on the moon as part of human expeditions will need better protection.

This new discovery comes from more than seven years of high-resolution lunar images studied by a team of scientists from Arizona State University and Cornell University. The team is led by ASU’s Emerson Speyerer, who is also the lead author of the scientific paper published October 13 in Nature.

Before the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in 2009, we thought that it took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to change the lunar surface layer significantly,” Speyerer said. “But we’ve discovered that the moon’s uppermost surface materials are completely turned over in something like 80,000 years.” (10/12)

Mars Society Announces High School Mars Rover Competition (Source: Mars Society)
At its international convention in Washington, D.C. on September 24th, the Mars Society announced that it will conduct an annual high school Mars rover competition. The contest, known as the American Mars Exploration Rover Challenge (AMERC), builds on the organization’s highly successful Mars rover competitions for university teams, including the University Rover Challenge (URC), held in Utah at the Mars Desert Research Station, and the European Rover Challenge (ERC), conducted on simulated desert terrain (“Mars yard”) at a science museum in Poland. (10/12)

Florida Governor's Economic Development Incentives Plan Threatened for Next 4-6 Years (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
Gov. Rick Scott's cherished job incentive program is not only dead this year, but will likely be so for years to come, incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Wednesday. Corcoran, a Republican, acknowledged he was a big reason Scott's proposal for $250 million last year for Enterprise Florida never passed the Legislature and predicted Scott's $85 million request for next year will face a tough fight.

Corcoran said the Florida House has a series of conservative leaders in place over the next six years that will not look favorably on future job incentive programs that hand out tax dollars to certain private businesses in exchange for them creating jobs. Corcoran called the incentive programs "corporate welfare" that reward some businesses over others. He called the concept of job incentives "de facto socialism" because it takes money from the masses and gives it to a select group. (10/12)

Private SETI Effort Plans Use of Huge Chinese Radio Telescope (Source: Breakthrough Initiatives)
A private SETI effort is collaborating with China to use a new giant radio telescope there. Breakthrough Listen, a private effort to search for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations, said it will collaborate with the National Astronomical Observatories of China to coordinate SETI efforts. That will include the use of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, which officially opened last month. (10/13)

Vector Space Plans Arizona Rocket Factory, Without Controversial Incentives Provided to World View (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Small launch vehicle developer Vector Space Systems will announce an agreement today to build a rocket manufacturing plant in Tucson, Arizona. The facility will be used to build the company's Vector series of small launch vehicles, and will create 200 jobs. The plant will be located in a county aerospace business park south of Tucson's airport and near the new headquarters and manufacturing facility for high-altitude balloon company World View.

Unlike the World View deal, the county does not currently intend to build any facilities on behalf of the company and recoup the costs over the course of a lease arrangement, Huckelberry said. Rather, Vector is interested in a “market rate” ground lease of the county-owned land, he said, a point echoed by Cantrell. Such a lease would need the approval of the Board of Supervisors.

Huckelberry did say the county “will explore” the possibility of building on behalf of the company, but added that “they’re not even asking for that for now.” Additionally, if such a deal were struck, the company would pay back the county’s development costs through “straight-line amortization” instead of the steadily increasing payments that are a part of the World View deal, he said. (10/13)

Asgardia: a Virtual Nation in Space (Source: Guardian)
A group announced plans Wednesday to create a virtual nation in space. The Asgardia project will launch a small satellite as soon as next year that will be the nation's only territory. People can register to become "citizens" of Asgardia, despite living in terrestrial nations on Earth, and the project hopes to sign up at least 100,000 people so they can petition the UN for recognition. Asgardia raises a number of legal issues, such as conflicts with elements of the Outer Space Treaty. (10/13)

ILS Signs First Customer for New Proton Medium (Source: ILS)
International Launch Services has signed up the first customer for the new medium variant of the Proton. Eutelsat will fly an unidentified spacecraft on the Proton Medium in 2019 or 2020 from Baikonur, ILS announced Wednesday. The Proton Medium, which ILS unveiled last month, is a two-stage version of the three-stage Proton M intended for smaller GEO satellites. (10/13)

Axiom, Bigelow Planning Commercial ISS Modules (Source: Space News)
Two companies say they're pressing ahead with plans to develop commercial ISS modules, a day after a NASA announcement. Representatives of Axiom Space and Bigelow Aerospace said they're making progress on the development of modules that could be ready to be installed on the ISS by 2020. NASA announced Tuesday that it will move ahead with an initiative to add a commercial module to one ISS docking port, based on responses to a recent RFI, but the agency said it's still studying the RFI responses to determine what its next steps should be. (10/13)

Russia Considers Flying Another ISS Space Tourist in 2017 (Source: Tass)
Russia is considering flying a space tourist to the ISS next September. An unnamed individual is in discussions with Roscosmos about a 10-day trip to the ISS, Russian officials said, including the possibility of taking a spacewalk while on the station. The trip wold take advantage of an open seat created by Russia's plans to temporarily decrease the size of its crew from three to two. Russian officials previously said they were not considering flying a tourist despite the open seat. (10/13)

How Obama Brought Capitalism to Outer Space (Source: Washington Post)
“Just five years ago, U.S. companies were shut out of the global commercial launch market,” Obama wrote. “Today, thanks to groundwork laid by the men and women of NASA, they own more than a third of it. More than 1,000 companies across nearly all 50 states are working on private space initiatives.”

“It will become one of the great ironies in the history of exploration into space that someone many politicians called a socialist was a champion for the possibilities of capitalism in space,” said James Muncy, a space policy analyst at PoliSpace, a consulting firm. Obama “stepped in and said we're going to try public private partnerships, and it is working.”

While the high-profile billionaires get the most attention, there are many companies pushing the frontiers. Sierra Nevada Corp., another of NASA’s beneficiaries, just announced that it had signed a deal with the United Nations to fly its first-ever space mission. Earlier this year, Moon Express, which is vying for the $20 million Google Lunar XPrize, received permission to send a robotic lander on the moon, the first commercial company to get such permission from the U.S. government. (10/11)

Arecibo Observatory Hit With Discrimination Lawsuit (Source: Nature)
Two former researchers at the troubled Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have filed a lawsuit claiming that illegal discrimination and retaliation led to their dismissal. James Richardson and Elizabeth Sternke are suing the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), which oversees radio astronomy and planetary science at Arecibo, and the observatory’s deputy director, Joan Schmelz — a prominent advocate for women in astronomy.

Richardson and Sternke, a married couple in their mid-50s, allege that Schmelz discriminated against them because of their age and because Richardson is legally blind. Soon after Sternke revealed in November 2015 that she planned to file a complaint with the US Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigates workplace bias, USRA announced that her contract job with Arecibo’s education programme would end early. Richardson filed his own EEOC complaint, and in April 2016, USRA terminated his employment as a staff scientist.

The EEOC ultimately found evidence of discrimination and that Sternke and Richardson were terminated in retaliation for their complaints, according to documents provided by the researchers' lawyer. In their lawsuit, filed on 4 October in the US District Court in Puerto Rico, Richardson and Sternke are seeking more than US$20 million in back pay and damages. (10/13)

Outer Space is ‘Wild West’ When It Comes to Traffic Control (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Outer space needs a traffic cop. When it comes to understanding and managing traffic congestion, space remains the “Wild West,” said Moriba Jah, director of the University of Arizona’s Space Object Behavioral Sciences program.

“There aren’t a whole lot of rules and regulations on orbit,” Jah said. “People are after this bonanza. Angel investors want to get on orbit. Most of these people don’t realize the perils of operating in space.” As space becomes increasingly clogged, the FAA could play the lead role in managing traffic beyond earth, said George Nield, associate administrator of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation unit. (10/12)

ULA Unveils New Atlas 5 Configuration for Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Crew Capsule (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance and Boeing unveiled an updated aerodynamic configuration of the Atlas V that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule for NASA after encountering unique challenges with aerodynamic stability and loads. This new configuration incorporates an aeroskirt aft of the spacecraft, extending the Starliner Service Module cylindrical surface to improve the aerodynamic characteristics of the integrated launch configuration and bring loads margins back to acceptable flight levels. (10/13)

No comments: