October 25, 2016

Closing In on a Giant Ghost Planet (Source: Scientific American)
Far beyond the eight planets of the solar system, beyond even Pluto and the diminutive dwarf planets, may lurk a major new world called “Planet Nine.” Few if any discoveries can be as sensational as finding another planet orbiting our sun, making the feat a Holy Grail for astronomers, who have managed to pull it off only a few times over the centuries.

No one yet knows exactly where this ephemeral world might be—or even if it really exists at all. But in the race to find it researchers are now narrowing down its location through its influence on the rest of the solar system, roughly halving the amount of space they thought they had to search only a few months ago. Click here. (10/25)

Why Doesn’t Air Force Use Cheap, Reusable Rockets? (Source: DOD Buzz)
The Pentagon is more focused on the supremacy of U.S. satellite technology than how the spacecraft are vaulted into space, at least for now, an official said. That’s one of the reasons military hasn’t yet bought into reusable rocket technology that some experts say could save the department significant cash. Click here. (10/24)

GAO Denies Protest Over Navy Satellite Facility In Italy (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office rejected a bid dispute from an Italian company that missed out on a $7.7 million U.S. Navy contract to design and build a new satellite communications facility, according to an opinion released by the GAO on Friday. (10/24)

Ex-SpaceX Welder Details Sex Harassment In California Trial (Source: Law360)
A woman who worked for SpaceX as a welder took the stand Monday in the Los Angeles trial on her claims that the company turned a blind eye to sexual harassment, testifying that a male welder made graphic sexual comments and gestures toward her. (10/24)

COMSTAC Supports the Kick Off Commercial Spaceflight Consensus Standards Effort (Source: SPACErePORT)
Oscar Garcia of Miami-based InterFlight Global Corporation chairs the Standards Committee of the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), which advises the Secretary of Transportation on spaceflight policy issues. On Monday, Garcia supported ASTM International in setting up a new Commercial Spaceflight Committee, to develop voluntary standards for the commercial spaceflight industry. Over 20 participants are involved, representing companies like Boeing, Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Starfighters Aerospace, Space Florida, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and many other stakeholders.

The effort will result in the road mapping and development of industry-adopted consensus standards, established at a time when the FAA has been prohibited by Congress from developing new regulations aimed at occupant safety within the emerging commercial spaceflight industry. ASTM International is the entity selected by industry to support the effort. (10/24)

There’s No ‘Mars Curse’ – It’s Just Very Hard to Land There (Source: The Conversation)
This was ESA’s first attempt to land on Mars, and its failure has perhaps predictably prompted fresh references to the supposed “Mars curse”.

Over the decades we’ve been exploring the Red Planet, several missions have gone astray, starting with the very first landing attempt by the Soviet Mars 2 mission in 1971. More recently, NASA’s Climate Orbiter missed its orbit insertion in 1998, and the UK’s plucky Beagle 2 lander failed to send back a signal to Earth on Christmas day 2003. Click here. (10/25)

Space Firm Aims for Satellite Base in US as Profits Rocket (Source: Herald Scotland)
Clyde Space has seen pre-tax profits grow by 120 percent to £450,000 as it increases its focus on the US and eyes funding from President Obama’s office of science and technology. The Glasgow-based developer of mini-satellites doubled revenue to £5.6m in the year to April 30 thanks in part to contract wins with US broadcast company Outernet and a UK Government-backed demonstration initiative with the International Space Station.

Founder and chief executive Craig Clark revealed the company was currently looking at sites on the east and west coasts of the US, where he plans to spend up to 40 per cent of his time. A sales office is being established in Northern California, while a manufacturing center will open on the east coast, to complement the six satellites a month being delivered from its 85-strong team in Glasgow. Editor's Note: "Manufacuring center...on the east coast" may man another opportunity for Florida. (10/24)

Chinese Satellite to Improve Weather Forecasts (Source: China Daily)
China will launch its latest independently developed weather satellite at the end of this year, which is said to be technically comparable to similar satellites being built in Europe and the United States. The FY 4 satellite, the country's second generation of weather satellites and also the newest member of its Fengyun series, will be launched into geostationary orbit 36,000 km above Earth. (10/25)

Another U.S. Air Force Weather Satellite Just Broke Up in Orbit (Source: Space News)
A third U.S. Air Force weather satellite that launched more than 20 years ago has broken up in orbit. Air Force officials confirmed the breakup of the long-retired Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 12 satellite (DMSP F-12) after the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, detected an additional object orbiting alongside the 22-year-old satellite.

DMSP F-12, which the Air Force retired from service in 2008, had the same battery assembly that was implicated in the February 2015 breakup of DMSP F-13. While both satellites were built by Lockheed Martin and launched less than a year apart, DMSP F-13 was still in service when it suffered its breakup, producing nearly 150 pieces of debris. (10/24)

Space Foundation CEO Resigns Amid Criticism (Source: Space News)
Elliot Pulham, the longtime chief executive of the Space Foundation, has resigned effective immediately, the organization announced Oct. 24. In a brief statement, the Space Foundation said that Pulham was stepping down and that a search for a permanent replacement was underway. The statement gave no reason for his resignation, and Space Foundation spokeswoman Carol Hively said the organization was not disclosing additional details. (10/24)

Dark Energy May Not Exist, New Supernova Analysis Says (Source: Cosmos)
One of the most baffling results in modern physics was the discovery that the universe is tearing itself apart. In the late 1990s, astronomers realised the universe was expanding at an ever accelerating rate. This led to the idea that the universe is dominated by mysterious “dark energy”, making up 68% of the universe.

Now, new research says that this idea, which has become a pillar of modern physics, may be built on shaky foundations. An analysis of 740 exploding stars has concluded the expansion of the universe may be constant after all. (10/25)

NASA Wants to Fold Airplane Wings ... While They're Flying (Source: New Atlas)
When a hawk folds its wings, it plummets to the earth in a controlled high-speed dive. Not exactly the kind of scenario we'd imagine being ideal for modern aircraft. But in flight wing folding can have advantages and NASA wants to make it happen.

The idea here isn't to create controlled dives, of course, but to increase the efficiency and capabilities of aircraft. The space agency calls this the Spanwise Adaptive Wing (SAW). So far, articulating wings on airplanes have largely been for parking purposes, to allow planes to take up less space on an aircraft carrier's decks or fit into smaller hangars. A few very large aircraft have articulating wings to allow them to taxi between infrastructure at an airport. What NASA is working on is very different from all of this. (10/22)

NASA Awards $30,000 to Top 5 Teams in Third Round of Cube Quest Challenge (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded $30,000 to each of the five top-scoring teams in Ground Tournament-3 of the agency’s small satellite Cube Quest Challenge. Cube Quest consists of a series of four Ground Tournaments, the in-space Lunar Derby and the Deep Space Derby.  The Ground Tournaments serve as progress checks leading to an opportunity to be selected as one of three allocated slots on NASA's Orion capsule's first unmanned lunar flyby, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), planned for launch in 2018.

Editor's Note: Among the winners is Tampa-based Team Miles – Fluid & Reason. The team placed first in GT-1 and fifth in GT-2. Click here. (10/15)

Spaceport America Relay Race Planned (Source: Spaceport America)
Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport located in southern New Mexico in the USA, today announced that, in collaboration with relay racing specialists MH Enterprises LLC, the Spaceport America Crew will host and support a two-day, 200 mile, relay race event. (10/24)

Bezos Explains Blue Origin’s Motto, Logo … and the Boots (Source: GeekWire)
You can’t buy stuff from billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture on Amazon just yet, but just wait: Sixteen years after its founding, Blue Origin offers enough symbols, mottos and mascots to keep the folks who make caps, shirts, coffee mugs – and yes, even cowboy boots – busy for years. The symbolism adds a sense of tradition to Blue Origin’s 21st-century mission of getting millions of people living and working in space. Click here. (10/24)

Why ESA’s Schiaparelli Mars Can Still be Considered an Overall Success (Source: Space Review)
Last week, ESA’s Schiaparelli spacecraft attempted to land on the surface of Mars and, based on the available evidence, crashed. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that, despite the failure of the landing itself, the overall mission can still be considered a success in preparing for future Mars missions. Click here. (10/24)

Rosetta and Philae: It’s All About the Feels! (Source: Space Review)
One reason that ESA’s recently-concluded Rosetta comet mission got so much public attention was a carefully crafted outreach effort. Chris Petty examines how ESA used cartoons and social media to explain a complex comet mission. Click here. (10/24)

New Approaches for Managing Space Traffic (Source: Space Review)
While the US Air Force has long shouldered the role of issuing warnings of potential satellite collisions in orbit, there are efforts to hand over at least some of that work to the FAA. Jeff Foust reports on those efforts and the issues they raise, including what exactly “space traffic management” should mean. Click here. (10/24)

Financing the Purchase of a New Interplanetary Spaceship (Source: Space Review)
Elon Musk announced last month an Interplanetary Spaceship that he aims to produce for $200 million each in the 2040s. Sam Dinkin considers what the financing options are. Click here. (10/24)

In Space, International Cooperation Counts (Source: Aviation Week)
Missions tend to fare better when countries share information and technology. That certainly appeared to be the case during this busy week in space—from Russia's Soyuz launch to the International Space Station, to China's Shenzou mission, Antares's return to flight and the European Space Agency's rocky landing on Mars. Click here. (10/21)

China Plans Lunar Sample Return Mission (Source: Xinhua)
A Chinese official says the country is ready to fly its first lunar sample return mission next year. Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's lunar exploration program, said China is "well prepared" to fly the Chang'e-5 mission in 2017 to collect lunar samples and return them to Earth. He also said the Chang'e-4 mission, originally built as a back up to the Chang'e-3 lander, will fly in 2018 to attempt the first landing on the far side of the moon. (10/24)

Why Florida is So Perfect for Space Launches (Source: Seeker)
For about 60 years, the U.S. has launched its rockets into space from Cape Canaveral. What makes Florida so perfect for space launches? The site of the launch facility on Cape Canaveral wasn't chosen lightly, and it turns out that Florida has a number of geographical benefits for flinging things off the planet. Issues including weather and even specific latitude coordinates come into play, as well. Click here. (10/24)

Forget Schiaparelli. 2020 Is the Real Mars Party (Source: Inverse)
ExoMars was supposed to be for Mars what Lewis and Clark were to the exploration of the wild American western frontier: a mission to understand the biological mysteries of the Red Planet. The mission — a joint collaboration by the European Space Agency and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos — was set to make its first major splash on Wednesday when the Schiaparelli lander was supposed to barrel through the Martian atmosphere and land on the planet.

But that ExoMars rover mission is just one of three Martian rover missions taking place next year, arguably making 2020 a banner year for an explosion of Martian knowledge. NASA is revving up preparations to launch an ExoMars-like mission called Mars 2020, the successor to the Curiosity rover. Its primary scientific objective is, like ExoMars, to search for evidence of extant or current Martian organisms, and to assess the historical and present potential for habitability on the Red Planet.

Mars 2020 will be very, very similar to the Curiosity rover and use a very similar entry-descent-landing system — it’s a tried-and-true method that’s worked for NASA in the past, so why mess with a good thing? The biggest difference between those two little buggers, however, is that Mars 2020 will be specifically fitted with instruments relevant to astrobiology. (10/23)

The Army's 1st Space Battalion Activates New Company (Source: Army Times)
The Army's 1st Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade added another company to its stable of active duty and reserve units in an Oct. 16 ceremony, according to an Army release. Newly minted commander Maj. Jack Bierce, a veteran of the company's parent Space and Missile Defense Command, received the 8th Space Company's new guidon, then passed it to the company's first sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Wade Parker, the release said.

"This is a historic moment that highlights the growth of space in the Army," battalion commander Lt. Col. Bryan Shrank said. "We knew over a year ago who the command team needed to be for this organization." The 1st Space Battalion first stood up in 1999, and since has steadily added active duty and reserve companies to its ranks. The organization is spread out at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, and within the 76th Operational Response Command in Salt Lake City, Utah. (10/21)

CST-100 Starliner Manufacturing at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NASA)
The work is being performed inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STA is built to endure harsh tests mimicking conditions of spaceflight to prove the design and its manufacturing techniques will work for space-bound Starliners.

The Starliner is one of two spacecraft in development in partnership with NASA's Commercial Crew Program that will enable astronauts to fly to the International Space Station on a new generation of spacecraft made in America and launching from Florida's Space Coast. (10/24)

Donald Trump’s “Peace Through Strength” Space Doctrine (Source: Space News)
Trump policy advisers Robert Walker and Peter Navarro return with a second op-ed detailing the approach a Trump administration would take on national-security space matters... "America’s space program is suffering from significant under-investment — both the weak Obama-Clinton economy and a lack of strategic vision are major causes. Meanwhile, China and Russia continue to move briskly forward with military-focused space initiatives." Click here. (10/24)

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