October 21, 2016

What Went Wrong with Europe’s Mars Lander? Signs Point to Parachute (Source: GeekWire)
The European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander apparently crashed after its parachute was ejected too early and its thrusters switched off too soon, according to data relayed back from its orbiting mothership. “We have data coming back that allow us to fully understand the steps that did occur, and why the soft landing did not occur,” David Parker, ESA’s director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration, said.

The orbiter received telemetry from the lander during Wednesday’s descent through the Martian atmosphere and relayed it back early today via a network of radio antennas to ESA’s operations center in Darmstadt, Germany. The relayed readings show that Schiaparelli’s “six minutes of terror” proceeded according to plan until the probe ejected its back heat shield and its parachute. The ejection apparently occurred earlier than expected, ESA said. (10/20)

Georgia Should Pursue Space As It Has Pursued Film and Television Industry (Source: Southern Political Report)
Georgia does very poorly with the space side of the aerospace industry with less than 1/10 of 1 percent market share of a huge $330 billion space industry. Some legislators compare the space industry in Georgia to the film industry. The film industry was paid little attention by Georgia until we started to ask key industry players for their business and then they were all too eager to locate here to the point where Georgia is now realizing over $2 billion of annual revenue from the film industry.

Does Georgia want to concede the space transportation industry to other states? Transportation to low earth orbit is currently being driven by the telecommunications industry, earth monitoring satellites, and national defense. In the next 10 years space tourism, zero gravity manufacturing, and mining rare minerals will fuel more demand for Space launch transportation. Any logistics manager will tell you that hundreds of support companies flock to locate near new manufacturing plants and that is where the economic multiplier effect accelerates the initial plant investment.

When spaceport Camden is licensed by the FAA (currently in Environmental Impact Study phase) it will be a crown jewel for Georgia. The Camden site has been described by at least two launch companies (after they toured it) as the best potential spaceport site in the country. The Georgia strategy is “when a customer knocks on our door we answer the door.” This is not competitive with other states like Texas, Florida and Alabama. (10/20)

Georgia Senate Committee Hears Spaceport Arguments (Source: Golden Isles News)
A state Senate study committee met Thursday in Woodbine to discuss a proposed spaceport in Camden County. Like a similar meeting in September, the public was not allowed to express their opinions, but hand-picked representatives on both sides were allowed to make presentations.

The meeting was called to help state lawmakers determine proposed legislation to protect companies launching rockets in Georgia from nuisance claims. They are expected to vote on the issue during the 2017 General Assembly session. Meanwhile, FAA officials are considering 402 questions that were posed during the public comment period. Questions include the direction of launches, cargo, tourism, relocation of residents in the launch hazard zone, impacts to wildlife and the environment, noise, traffic and lighting concerns.

Other questions about safety reviews, launch and landing licenses, economic feasibility and off-site impacts were also asked, but they are beyond the scope of the environmental impact study, he said. Montague said it’s likely the site will be approved for launches, even if only one launch trajectory is approved. “They may disallow certain trajectories,” he said. (10/20)

New Chinese Company Set Up to Develop Space Economy (Source: Global Times)
The commercialization of rocket launches will boost the industry by bringing space tourism income and attracting private investment, experts said. ChinaRocket Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the country's largest developer of ballistic missiles and carrier rockets, was established on Wednesday, marking the commercialization of China's space industry.

"Chinese commercial space enterprises are lagging behind the global market due to lack of complete production chain in the commercial space industry and experience in commercial space activities like space tourism," Li Hong, president of the academy, said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

"Commercializing rocket launches will help develop the industry as many private companies will be interested in the sector," said Jiao Weixin, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Science of Peking University. Jiao said the establishment of the company signals that State-controlled space industry is stepping into ordinary people's daily life. (10/21)

Russia Launches Soyuz Rocket with New ISS Crew (Source: KazInform)
Russia's Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft has been launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz-FG rocket to carry three new International Space Station (ISS) crew members. Russian cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko, along with US Astronaut Shane Kimbrough, are expected to dock with the ISS' Poisk module at 10:00 GMT on October 21. (10/20)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Thinks Space Can Be the New Internet (Source: The Verge)
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw Neil Armstrong step on the Moon nearly 50 years ago and the moment changed his life. Now, as the head of one of the robust online retailers in the world, Bezos says that space is the next frontier, a new internet if you will, that is desperately lacking in infrastructure to support new entrepreneurs. Bezos said the sole purpose of his rocket venture Blue Origin is to build out the same kind of infrastructure for space that Amazon enjoyed in 1995 with the early internet.

"Two kids in their dorm room can reinvent an industry," Bezos said, referring to the strengths of the modern internet. "Two kids in their dorm room cannot do anything interesting in space." Bezos says rocket reusability needs to be improved, and both Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are working toward the goal of vastly reducing the cost of sending payloads to space. Bezos said there's also a number of restraints right now that prevent the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that helped create Amazon do the same for a next-generation space venture. "We need to be able to put big things in space at low cost." (10/20)

Mars Lander Lost Signal One Minute Before Landing (Source: Guardian)
It travelled half a billion kilometres across the solar system, deployed its parachute flawlessly and survived a scorching descent through the Martian atmosphere, but the European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed that its ExoMars lander was lost just one minute before it touched down on the surface of the red planet.

The Schiaparelli Mars lander showed the first signs of a glitch as it released its parachute 1km from the surface and the signal went dead soon afterwards, ESA scientists said on Thursday, leaving them unsure of where the probe is and whether it crash-landed. (10/20)

SpaceX's Shotwell Defends Rocket Maker In Sex Harassment Trial (Source: Law360)
The president of SpaceX told a Los Angeles jury Wednesday that the company took complaints of sexual harassment seriously in an appearance on the stand to defend against claims the aerospace company ignored an employee's sexual harassment of a female welder and later retaliated against her. (10/19)

Juno Enters Safe Mode After Anomaly (Source: Space News)
NASA's Juno spacecraft went into safe mode early Wednesday hours before it made a close approach to Jupiter. Project officials said Wednesday afternoon they were still trying to determine what caused Juno to go into safe more than 13 hours before reaching the closest point in its elliptical orbit around Jupiter. The safe mode interrupted science observations planned during the flyby.

The safe mode comes days after a problem with the spacecraft's main engine postponed a maneuver originally scheduled for the flyby that would have reduce the spacecraft's orbit from 53 to 14 days. Juno could still carry out its mission to study the planet's interior in its current orbit, but would require more time to collect the data. (10/19)

Boeing Orders Space Qualified Lithium-Ion Batteries (Source: GYLP)
GS Yuasa Lithium Power, a US subsidiary of GS Yuasa Corporation, has received an order from Boeing for the procurement of LSE190 lithium-ion cells to be used in GEO satellite applications. This award follows on the recently announced Long Term Supply Agreement between Boeing and GYLP. The LSE190 cells will be used to power ViaSat's first two ViaSat-3 geostationary communications satellites. (10/18)

Virgin Galactic Files Trade Secrets Claims Against Firefly (Source: Crowell Moring)
Virgin Galactic filed suit last week against competing space flight company Firefly Systems and two of its officers, alleging that Firefly misappropriated its trade secrets and confidential information. The lawsuit is the latest salvo in an on-going battle between Galactic and the CEO of Firefly, Thomas Markusic, a former employee of Galactic who started the rival company in late 2013.

While the Company has pending claims in arbitration against Markusic, this new suit attacks both Firefly and Markusic’s business partners for knowingly using and benefitting from the alleged misappropriation. The arbitration has been marred by discovery disputes, allegations of spoliation, and a recent attempt (after 2 years of arbitration) by Markusic to challenge the arbitrability of the dispute.

According to the new Complaint, Galactic hired Markusic in 2011 as its VP of Propulsion. Markusic’s role gave him intimate knowledge of the Company’s research into liquid rocket propulsion, space vehicle architecture, “aerospike” technology, and other confidential projects. While still employed at Galactic, Markusic allegedly solicited business partners and founded Firefly based on concepts and data he obtained in the course of his work. (10/20)

Here's What It'll Be Like to Take a Ride on Blue Origin's Rocket (Source: Mashable)
According to newly updated information published on Blue Origin's website, a flight aboard the company's New Shepard space system will be quite the rocket ride. At launch from the company's site in Texas, people aboard the capsule will experience three times the force of gravity (3Gs) for about 2.5 minutes as the booster accelerates up to space. Click here for a video. (10/21)

Leonardo Finmeccanica to Double Stake in Avio to 28 Percent (Source: Reuters)
Italian defence group Leonardo Finmeccania said on Thursday it would double its stake in aerospace company Avio to 28 percent, paying a total price of 43 million euros ($47 million). The transaction, which will strengthen the core business of the state-controlled group in the space sector, envisages the exit of private equity firm Cinven from Avio and its merger with special purpose acquisition company Space2. (10/20)

China Wants the Moon. But First, It Has to Spend a Month in Space (Source: WIRED)
China's Tiangong-2 is like a baby International Space Station. Sure, it doesn’t have the ISS’s scale, technological sophistication, or multi-national backing. But it’s the technical testing ground for the grown up space station China plans to launch in the next couple of years. Which will more permanent, and about the size of Mir.

Like everything China does, people consistently underestimate the nation’s space program. Common snubs include: It’s miles behind the curve; their gear is all Russian knockoffs; their launch schedules are hopelessly slapdash. Yeah, those have all been true at one point, but not an honest assessment of the program as it currently stands.

The notion that China is a burgeoning space superpower is harder to deny. “This is the pivot year in the Chinese space program,” McDowell says. “They’ve got lots of hardware coming through the pipeline, and are now preparing to switch over to a new generation of rockets.” A Long March 2F launched Monday’s spacecraft, but China expects to start test flying the Long March 5 in early November. (10/19)

Elon Musk's Empire (Source: The Economist)
Musk Inc has perhaps $8 billion of sales, and is set to burn $2.3 billion of cash during 2016. Its structure developed in a haphazard fashion. It includes both public and private firms, reflecting the fact that Tesla and SolarCity floated before the craze for so-called unicorns, or technology firms such as Uber that rely on private investors. Musk Inc also carries echoes of Asian and Italian business federations, which pool resources and people: SolarCity uses batteries made by Tesla, for example, and SpaceX has made loans to SolarCity.

Mr Musk dreams of populating Mars and of hyperloops that transport people in pods between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes. But his financial objectives are probably identical to those of carpet or chewing-gum tycoons: to raise cash, to get a high valuation and to keep control.

Consider the ways in which Mr Musk drums up cash, first of all. He has raised an epic $6 billion of equity from investors, staff and even from Tesla’s competitors (for a while, Toyota and Daimler owned stakes in the carmaker). Musk Inc also owes about $6 billion of debt to bond investors and banks. But what sets it apart is the $7 billion of cash and revenue that it has squeezed from unconventional sources. (10/21)

Presidential Campaigns Talk Space Policy (Source: WMFE)
The Trump and Clinton campaigns have unveiled their plans for space policy if they take the White House.
Senior advisers to the Donald Trump campaign publish an op-ed, calling for a bold combination of public missions, commercial solutions and agility when it comes to planning future space policy. Outlined in the piece, the Trump campaign called for a greater public-private partnerships when it comes to space operations. NASA should focus on deep space exploration and leave low earth operations to private companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK. Click here. (10/21)

Peace Underpins China's Space Endeavors (Source: Xinhua)
China's efforts to build the nation into a space power through its manned space program and space probe have been made in the spirit of peace. However, coverage by Western media of China's successful launch of the manned spacecraft Shenzhou-11 on Monday alluded to the project's military background.

Western media outlets were quick to comment on the mission's supposed military elements. Mentions of China's commitment to international cooperation and sharing lessons from its manned space program with other countries, especially developing countries, were absent in much of the coverage.

Driven by the principle of peaceful use of outer space, China has signed multiple cooperation agreements with over 30 countries and organizations including Russia, Kazakhstan, Germany, France, the European Space Agency and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. (10/20)

Opponents to Take Aim at Giant Telescope at Hawaii Hearing (Source: ABC)
A $1.4 billion project to build one of the world's largest telescopes is up against intense protests by Native Hawaiians and others who say building it on the Big Island's Mauna Kea mountain will desecrate sacred land. Hearings for the project's construction permit began Thursday.

By the end of the day, the first witness was still being questioned by the numerous parties involved in the case. It's the second time the project has faced the proceedings. Dozens of witnesses plan to testify in the coming weeks, including a group of Native Hawaiians who support the telescope. It's not clear when a retired judge overseeing the hearings would rule. (10/20)

NASA's MRO Views Schiaparelli Crash/Landing Site (Source: ESA)
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified new markings on the surface of the Red Planet that are believed to be related to ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli entry, descent and landing technology demonstrator module. Click here. (10/21)

Unsuccessful Attempts to Land on Mars (Source: Guardian)
The apparent failure of the European Space Agency’s Mars lander to touch down safely is just the latest of a series of setbacks for scientists eager to learn more about the red planet. Click here. (10/20)

NASA Learns More About How Mars is Losing Water (Source: Inverse)
One of the primary goals behind the MAVEN orbiter is to better characterize the atmosphere’s role in facilitating and propagating the loss of Martian water. Results from the nearly two year-long study (the length of a year on Mars) illustrates that the water escape rate peaked when Mars made its closest orbit to the sun, and was at its lowest when the planet was farthest from the sun. Loss at the maximum was 10 times higher than at the minimum.

Fluctuations of water loss were also observed over the course of the Martian year — although the leak steadily rose and declined as Mars moved closer and further from the sun, there were punctuated bursts in water loss observed. (10/21)

Smith, Babin Examine Policy Governing Indian Launch Vehicles (Source: U.S. House of Reps.)
Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-TX) yesterday sent letters to four senior officials following up on requests for information about the current U.S. policy governing the export of U.S. commercial satellites for launch on Indian launch vehicles.

On July 6 Chairmen Smith and Babin wrote Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, and U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, seeking this information. (10/21)

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