October 14, 2016

No Damage to SpaceX or ULA Launch Pads After Vandenberg Fire (Source: LA Times)
Launch pads and ground equipment used by SpaceX, ULA and other private aerospace firms at Vandenberg Air Force Base were not damaged by the recent wildfire in the area, the companies and base officials said. However, the base is currently assessing damage to electrical wiring that supports the launch range. Until that process is complete, the range will remain closed, Lt. Col. Alex Mignery, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight commander, said in a statement. (10/13)

President Obama Orders Government to Plan for 'Space Weather' Chaos (Source: NBC)
Turning his attention to the heavens — and how turbulence there could create chaos on Earth — President Obama directed the federal government Thursday to come up with a plan to deal with "space weather." Space weather, by the way, is a catch-all for disturbances in the area between the sun and Earth, such as solar flares, that wreak havoc on the electrical power grid, GPS systems, aviation equipment, satellites and other technology that have become integral to human life. (10/13)

Rocket Lab Aims to Win Cubesat-Launching Race (Source: Space.com)
Rocket Lab is dedicating itself to launching small satellites cheaply and efficiently — a capability the American company thinks the burgeoning private spaceflight industry desperately needs. Rocket Lab's business model is a bit like Henry Ford's was when he started selling Model T's: keep the machine simple, produce a lot of them and keep them affordable.

Peter Beck, the company's owner, told Space.com that he'd like to reach a point where Rocket Lab launches one of its custom-made, small-satellite rockets about once per week. And similar to Henry Ford (who didn't even want to make different colors of the Model T), Beck said that until that basic goal is met, he has no plans to diversify the company's services. (10/13)

Extraterrestrial Impact Preceded Ancient Global Warming Event (Source: Rensselaer)
A comet strike may have triggered the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a rapid warming of the Earth caused by an accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide 56 million years ago, which offers analogs to global warming today. Sorting through samples of sediment from the time period, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute discovered evidence of the strike in the form of microtektites – tiny dark glassy spheres typically formed by extraterrestrial impacts. (10/13)

Hubble Reveals 10 Times More Galaxies Than Scientists Thought Were Out There (Source: GeekWire)
It looks as if astronomers have been way, way off on their galaxy counts: A new analysis of data from the Hubble Space Telescope suggests that the observable universe holds at least 2 trillion galaxies, which is 10 times the previous estimate. How could scientists be so far off? The key is that the early universe appears to have had lots of relatively small, faint galaxies. As they merged to form larger galaxies, the population density dwindled.

It took Hubble’s deep-field surveys to register the smaller galaxies that existed far back in time, and it took painstaking analysis to count up a sampling of those galaxies. The team that did the analysis, led by the University of Nottingham’s Christopher Conselice, reports their findings in a paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. They determined that previous estimates — which put the galaxy count at around 200 billion — were at least 10 times too low. (10/13)

Distinctive Exoplanet Population Found in Kepler Data (Source: Ars Technica)
Hard as it may be to imagine, before 1988, we hadn’t discovered a single planet (or exoplanet) outside our own Solar System. We had good reason to believe they existed, but no one had ever observed one in practice. So when astrophysicists at the time created models of the formation of planets in general, they had only one data point to base these models on: the Solar System. Consequently, these models tended to predict systems that look a lot like the Solar System.

The systems we actually ended up discovering threw researchers for a loop. Many had massive gas giants orbiting extremely close to their stars, earning the name “hot Jupiters.” Things like warm Neptunes and super-Earths soon followed. It became clear that exosolar systems could have drastically different histories and formation processes.

In a new study, a team of researchers analyzed data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft to learn more about the architecture of exosolar systems. Looking at 144 of them, the researchers identified a set that have a unique architecture: only one planet, an Earth-sized body orbiting extremely close to its parent star. The researchers estimate that systems like this account for about the same fraction of exostellar systems as the hot Jupiters do. (10/13)

Why the Next President Must Invest in NASA (Source: Time)
The course of history changed dramatically when NASA opened its doors on Oct. 1, 1958. In the early years, we faced the prospects of the Soviet Union—today it’s China and our own ambivalence holding us in place. In the years that followed the Apollo and early lunar missions, NASA has become one of the most well-known and admired agencies in America, and indeed, in the world.

Whether NASA will be able to continue doing great things will be the work that is needed on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to Congress, among Democrats and Republicans. What is clear is that the American people have a strong voice in ensuring that NASA can fulfill its promise by insisting that NASA does the following five things. Click here. (10/13)

Many of NASA's Recent Successes Actually Date Back to the Bush Administration (Source: Smithsonian)
Few government agencies are more beloved by the American public than NASA, whose very name inspires excitement and scientific wonder about the great beyond. But NASA’s legacy of exploration isn’t something to be taken for granted. Just like FEMA or the Food and Drug Administration, the space agency still has to fight for resources; its funding, staffing and research goals are dependent on the federal budget, which is negotiated by Congress and the President.

As President Obama notes in the op-ed, "Scientific discovery doesn't happen with the flip of a switch; it takes years of testing, patience and a national commitment to education." While these missions began under the Bush Administration, former President Bush had his fair share of controversial plans for NASA. Early on in his presidency, he cut funding for the ISS. He also laid plans to replace the aging space shuttle program with an Apollo-like rocket in the Constellation program. The ultimate goal, according to Bush, was to get astronauts back to the Moon by the 2020s. (10/13)

Gravitational Waves May Permanently Alter Spacetime (Source: Nova)
For decades, physicists searched in vain for evidence of gravitational waves, the stretches and squeezes in spacetime that were first predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity a century ago. Even Einstein himself was uncertain that they existed. But then, in February and June of this year, scientists detected two events that produced gravitational waves.

Now that gravitational-wave detection is likely becoming a regular occurrence—we’ll probably find evidence of many more in the next few years—physicists are again pondering an obscure detail about gravitational waves that was once also thought virtually impossible to observe—gravitational-wave memory, which involves permanent changes in the distance between two objects.

Physicists are turning again to the advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project since it might also be able to detect the permanent distortions in spacetime that such waves may leave behind as they zip across the universe. If scientists can find signs of this gravitational-wave memory, such a discovery could help support research to solve a major puzzle—whether black holes violate the laws of physics by destroying information or not. (10/12)

Become a 'Vacationaut'! New Ad Campaign Launches to Boost Florida Space Tourism (Source: Space.com)
A new advertising campaign seeks to turn Florida's vacationers into "Vacationauts" by encouraging people to incorporate rocket launches and other space adventures into their trips. Space Florida has teamed up with Paradise Advertising to launch the world's first publicly funded space advertising campaign. The agency is using multimedia to inspire people in Florida to add some space to their fun in the sun. Click here. (10/5)

USAF Bars Exclusive Teaming With Rocket Shops For New ICBM (Source: Aviation Week)
Solid rocket motor manufacturers Aerojet Rocketdyne and Orbital ATK have been barred from exclusively teaming with prime contractors Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman or Boeing Defense, Space & Security for the U.S. Air Force’s forthcoming intercontinental ballistic missile competition, and will instead compete against each other at the subcontractor level.

The air branch has not developed and fielded an operational nuclear-tipped, global-range missile since the LGM-118 Peacekeeper (MX Missile) in 1983. But it has invested about $1 billion in solid rocket motor propulsion, guidance sections, materials and command-and-control architectures under a “demonstration and validation” program since the last Peacekeeper was decommissioned in 2005 to keep the industrial base warm. (10/12)

Lawmakers Familiar with Aviation Expected to Keep Seats in November (Source: AIN)
A number of members of the US Senate and House of Representatives who are familiar with aviation issues are expected to keep their seats in the November elections. The balance of power may shift in the House and Senate, but aviation insiders say not much will change in the debate over important aviation issues. (10/12)

Imagery From India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (Source: Aviation Week)
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, officially dubbed “Mangalyaan” and affectionately known as MOM, has been circling the red planet since Sept. 24, 2014, returning a trove of data and imagery that has confirmed the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) as a member of the international planetary-science team. This gallery gives a sample of the rich contribution ISRO has made to our knowledge of Mars. Click here. (10/13)

Spacecraft Nuclear Batteries Could Get a Boost from New Materials (Source: SpaceRef)
No extension cord is long enough to reach another planet, and there's no spacecraft charging station along the way. That's why researchers are hard at work on ways to make spacecraft power systems more efficient, resilient and long-lasting.

"NASA needs reliable long-term power systems to advance exploration of the solar system," said Jean-Pierre Fleurial, supervisor for the thermal energy conversion research and advancement group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “This is particularly important for the outer planets, where the intensity of sunlight is only a few percent as strong as it is in Earth orbit."

A cutting-edge development in spacecraft power systems is a class of materials with an unfamiliar name: skutterudites (skut-ta-RU-dites). Researchers are studying the use of these advanced materials in a proposed next-generation power system called an eMMRTG, which stands for Enhanced Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator. (10/13)

Smallsat Launchers: Missing Business Fundamentals (Source: LinkedIn)
As outlined in the NSR Smallsat Launch Vehicle Markets report, the smallsat launch business is global with launch service providers, customers, and investors spanning the globe and not limited to geographic boundaries. With 42 new smallsat launch vehicles being developed by 36 launch services providers in 19 countries at various stages of development, inevitably some will fail while others succeed.

As the race currently stands, Rocket Lab is ahead of the game. Their Electron rocket, projected to become operational in 2017, has sold multiple flights for its first two years of operation. The customer demand is there. Its Rutherford engine, successfully tested earlier this year, will give Electron a lift to carry up to 150 kg into sun-synchronous orbit per launch.

Its dedicated New Zealand launch sites, recently approved by their government, gives it an edge over competitors who must compete for time at shared launch sites. Its funding, though not complete, is diversified: a $7 million contract from NASA, undisclosed launch contracts with customers, and Series A and B investments by Bessemer Venture Partners, K1W1, and Khosla Ventures. If Rocket Lab can deliver what it promises, success will likely come next. Click here. (10/13) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/smallsat-launchers-missing-business-fundamentals-laura-seward-forczyk?published=t

'Mars Party' Planned to Support Colonization (Source: IEET)
Pedro Villanueva in Chile is working toward the development of a Mars Party in the U.S. His aim is toward the creation of a Martian legal structure that promotes the colonization initiative, including public, private, educational and cultural research. Click here. (10/13)

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