October 15, 2016

White House Puts $50M in Small Satellites, Signs Order to Mitigate Space-Weather Events (Source: Tech Crunch)
The Obama Administration is kicking off the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh this week, and as part of that it’s announcing a number of new initiatives in civic technology. These investments and programs include space, as well as America’s terrestrial concerns. It’s announcing over $50 million in new Federal investments in small satellite tech, which includes CubeSats and other low-cost space-based sensor and communication devices.

Of that $50 million the White House has committed to smallsat tech, $30 million is earmarked for public-private cooperation in creating “constellations of small craft” that can form an observation network for the purposes of Earth Science, and $20 million is going to startup Planet for the purchase of imagery from its network of smallsats for use by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Last October, the White House detailed a national preparedness plan commitment related to space weather events, which basically means that it’s looking to prevent damage on Earth from events like solar flares, and mass ejections of plasma material from the Sun (basically the Sun causes all these problems) that can do things like knock out communication and electronics on Earth. Today, the White House announces a new Executive Order to help further that mission. (10/14)

Updated Chart of Orbital Launchers (Source: SPACErePORT)
The SPACErePORT's chart of international orbital launch vehicles includes operational and proposed rockets from around the world, and now features the very large rockets being developed by SpaceX and Blue Origin, and other smaller rockets. Click here. (10/14)

DoD Decision Breathes New Life into Critical OCX Satellite Program (Source: DOD)
An Air Force program that will provide a vital new command system for the global positioning system satellite constellation in the shortest time possible will continue despite cost growth, Defense Department officials confirmed today.

The next-generation operational control system, known as OCX, reached what is called a Nunn-McCurdy breach, June 30, 2016. The Nunn-McCurdy provision applies to weapons programs and requires the military services to notify Congress if a program’s cost per unit increases 25 percent or more over the current baseline estimate.

But well before June 30, defense acquisition experts began working with Raytheon, the contractor for OCX, to resolve program issues. In December 2015, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall directed in-depth quarterly reviews, including a series of “deep dives” overseen by him. Certification activities began in July 2016, and culminated with Kendall certifying the program to Congress yesterday, thus allowing the program to continue. (10/14)

These Are the 3 Companies Getting Closer to Taking You Into Space (Source: Observer)
Space tourism has captured the public’s imagination in recent years, thanks to the exploits of mavericks like Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. While some commercial spaceflight companies like SpaceX have partnered with NASA to resupply the International Space Station, others are concerned solely with spaceflight as a leisure activity. They include Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and World View. Click here. (10/14)

Blue Origin Plans Space Human Spaceflight Next Year (Source: Inverse)
Following a picture perfect in-flight escape system test last week, Blue Origin announced it’s on track to launch paying customers in 2018. In a speech delivered during the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces, NM, CEO Rob Meyerson confirmed the company was about a year away from launching people. (10/14)

Teensy-Tiny Satellites Are Going to Democratize Space (Source: Inverse)
Teensy-tiny satellites — maybe built by students or start-ups — are going to be democratize space. That was the message during the “interplanetary segment” of the White House Frontiers Conference on Thursday, as a few of the nation’s great space brains shared ideas on how to make space available to the masses.

Just like with the computer and the cellular telephone, satellite technology is rapidly changing (and shrinking). As satellites become smaller, the cost of materials goes down, making them more affordable to more people to construct and launch. These tiny satellites may not seem like much, but are crucial to our future. With their help, we could truly connect the globe by using them to providing ubiquitous, high-speed internet to everyone. (10/14)

A Lunch With the Moon Landing Conspiracy Theorists of Los Angeles (Source: Inverse)
I’d never questioned the moon landing before last week. But after seeing the Sundance hit mockumentary Operation Avalanche, a fictionalized doc that plays as a satirical fantasy for those who believe that Apollo 11’s infamous 1969 moon landing was an elaborate hoax, my interest was piqued, and I sought out some of some of these non-believers.

The good news, at least for this experiment, was that they weren’t very hard to find. At the turn of the century, a Gallup poll indicated that about six percent of Americans said they thought the whole moon landing was faked, and another five percent said they were on the fence about the whole “one small step for man” business. That’s a lot of people, and a lot of theories. Click here. (10/4)

SpaceX Attempt to Shift Blame for Exploding Rockets is a Joke (Source: Townhall)
A government contractor repetedly fails to launch rockets into space with expensive cargo, then tries to shift blame from the contractor to competitors.  The recent case of the failing aerospace manufacturer SpaceX trying to hang on to billions in government contracts is embarrassing and will cost taxpayers billions in waste, substandard service and damage if it continues.

This is a classic case of government contracting that would never happen in the private sector --- and you the taxpayer are going to foot the bill for government incompenent contracting. With visions of space travel in our heads, Elon Musk seemingly gets a pass as to the reality of what is going on at SpaceX. We may someday travel to other planets, but for now, Musk and company is firmly rooted on Earth and they are not doing America any favors.

Call it incompetence or a rocket engineering learning curve. A design flaw is the likely cause of the ongoing explosion saga plaguing SpaceX. That is a huge problem when you are trying to get people to put their cargo on your rockets, let alone people hitching a ride to our new colony on Mars. Trying to blame a shadowy figure on a roof top may be a way to shift blame from the fact that the Falcon 9 rocket blows up more than it launches. However, it only adds to the idea that maybe Musk is a little more tinfoil hat than science. (10/15)

SpaceX to Reuse Dragon Capsules on Cargo Missions (Source: Space News)
SpaceX plans to reuse a Dragon cargo spacecraft for the first time next year, allowing the company to focus on production of the next generation of that spacecraft for crew and cargo missions. Benjamin Reed, director of commercial crew mission management at SpaceX, said the company was planning to fly a used Dragon spacecraft on its eleventh Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) cargo mission to the station in early 2017. (10/14)

U.S. Air Force, Allies Eye Joint Testing of New Space Capabilities (Source: Space News)
Representatives of the U.S. Air Force and international allies plan to meet in Norway next month to iron out the details of an effort to bolster cooperative research, development, testing and evaluation of space technologies critical to joint military operations.

“Sharing knowledge and sharing communications, those are the top two things we need to fight together,” said Roberta Ewart, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) chief scientist. “We need to get together and test, generally on orbit, what we will be doing in space.” (10/14)

Asgardia, Proposed Space-Based Nation Accepting Citizenship Applications (Source: Space.com)
A proposed space nation called Asgardia is now accepting applications for future citizens. Leaders of the Asgardia project discussed the prospective space nation at a news conference in Paris Wednesday. The leaders aim to launch Asgardia's first satellite in 2017 and say they would like to eventually have a space station where some, but not all, of its planned 150 million (mostly Earth-dwelling) nationals would live and work.

But, not all Asgardians need to live in space, just as citizens of an Earth-bound nation may live outside that country's borders. And Asgardians could claim to be citizens of the new state for the time being, even if Asgardia is not formally recognized by the U.N., Ashurbeiyli told Space.com, through an interpreter following the Oct. 12 news conference. The team said they also want to crowdsource Asgardia's flag design and insignia. (10/14)

Uranus Might Have two Dark Moons We’ve Never Seen Before (Source: New Scientist)
Uranus may have two small moons that no one has ever seen, orbiting closer to the planet than any of its other satellites and making wavy patterns in the planet’s rings. The ice giant has 27 known moons, far fewer than the 67 and 62 of its neighbours Jupiter and Saturn, respectively. Uranus is a smaller planet, which may explain the difference.

But it might just be that we haven’t previously had a chance to look for more moons. Unlike its larger brethren, Uranus has entertained only one passing spacecraft – Voyager 2, which tripled the number of known Uranian moons in its 1986 flyby. Uranus is also yet to receive an orbiting spacecraft like Jupiter’s Galileo and Juno, or Saturn’s Cassini. (10/14)

Hurricane Matthew Trashes Iconic NASA Beach House (Source: Seeker)
It lacks the stature of the 526-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building or the utility of NASA's spacecraft processing hangars, but in some ways the modest, isolated house — known simply as "The Beach House" — cuts to the heart of the Kennedy Space Center story. It was inside this wood frame-and-concrete block house, which was badly damaged last week by Hurricane Matthew, that generations of astronauts said good-bye to their wives, husbands, lovers and best friends, not knowing if they would ever see them again.

The U.S. government bought the house in 1963 as part of the purchase of an oceanfront subdivision called Neptune Beach to accommodate the expansion of what would become Kennedy Space Center. The government paid a grand total of $31,500 for the development and its land. "I don't know who the far-thinking person was that preserved this house from destruction -- there were other houses here when this was private property -- but thank you," Mullane said.

"We have protected it from further damage," KSC director Robert Cabana wrote in an email to Seeker. "The important thing is that it's structurally sound." Costs for repairing the beach house are still being assessed, he added. (10/14)

New Data Search Method Helping NASA Save Time and Money (Source: Business Insider)
NASA is using a database technology popularized by Facebook to save millions just by making sure its engineers don't repeat the mistakes of the past. Click here. (10/14)

Obama’s Cognitive Dissonance About Mars (Source: The Atlantic)
“By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow,” President Obama said in 2010 at KSC. “And I expect to be around to see it.” This week, with only 100 days left in his final term, Obama renewed that ambition. Someday, he wrote on Tuesday, “instead of eagerly awaiting the return of our intrepid explorers, we'll know that because of the choices we make now, they've gone to space not just to visit, but to stay.”

But Mars mania doesn’t correspond with Mars money. In the last few years, Obama’s budget proposals for NASA have included cuts to the space agency’s Mars exploration projects. That’s what frustrated Casey Dreier, the director of space policy at the Planetary Society, when he read Obama’s op-ed this week. Dreier told me he was glad to hear from Obama on Mars; he believes it’s “fundamentally important that a president is excited about space.” But the Obama administration’s actions haven’t always jibed with its goals for Mars, he said.

“It’s almost like he’s talking about a different NASA,” Dreier said. In his $17.7 billion budget proposal for NASA fiscal year 2013, Obama asked Congress for about $1.2 billion for the space agency’s planetary sciences division, which builds and operates all robotic missions in the solar system, including the orbiters and landers that have gone to Mars. That represented a 20 percent cut to the division’s budget from the year before. (10/13)

New VR Project Fights Space Isolation with Super-Realistic Virtual Buzz Aldrin (Source: The Verge)
'Messages to Mars' is a set of virtual reality experiences released through Time Inc.’s Life VR program. They will include detailed renderings of astronaut Buzz Aldrin and performer Reggie Watts, with more "notable participants" coming in the future.

8i’s volumetric video system uses arrays of cameras to create detailed 3D scans of its human subjects, which are then dropped into virtual landscapes — the company shot the footage of Aldrin on a capture stage using 41 different cameras shooting simultaneously. Its work appeared at Sundance early this year, and it’s bringing a short Vive preview of Aldrin’s Messages to Mars clip to this week’s VR On the Lot event in Los Angeles. Click here. (10/13)

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