October 3, 2016

Firefly Furloughs Staff After Investor Backs Out (Source: Space News)
Firefly Space Systems, a Texas company developing a small launch vehicle, has furloughed its entire staff after an investor backed out, forcing the firm to consider alternative vehicle concepts or even a sale of the company. Company co-founder and chief executive Thomas Markusic said the announcement came after a setback in fundraising. Firefly was in the middle of a Series A funding round, and had already signed up one of two planned major investors in the round.

“The second large investor, which we had been working with for a year and had everything finalized, dropped out at really absolutely the last minute,” he said. “Suddenly we were left with half of our Series A funding unaccounted for.” He did not disclose the amount that the investor planned to put into Firefly. In June, the company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had raised nearly $19.1 million of a planned round of $38.2 million. (10/2)

Airbus Signs Up First Customer for External Space Station Platform (Source: Space News)
An Australian company that is developing an electric thruster is the first customer for an external research platform Airbus Defence and Space plans to install on the International Space Station by the end of 2018. At a ceremony at the International Astronautical Congress here Sept. 28, Airbus signed an agreement with Neumann Space to host a payload on Airbus’ Bartolomeo platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. (9/30)

Russia to Invest $900 Million on New Crewed Spacecraft (Source: Tass)
Russia expects to spend $900 million developing a next-generation crewed spacecraft. The Federation spacecraft, slated for an uncrewed test flight in 2021 and a crewed mission in 2023, will ultimately replace the Soyuz spacecraft. The $900 million cost cited by Roscosmos last week would cover development of the vehicle through the first crewed flight. (10/2)

David Webb Passes Away in Florida Home (Source: Space News)
Space consultant and educator Dr. David C. Webb passed away Oct. 1 at his home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He was 87. Webb is best known for his work as a member of President Ronald Reagan's National Commission on Space (1985-86) and for founding and chairing the Department of Space Studies at the University of North Dakota (1986-88).

He also was instrumental in the establishment of the International Space University and taught space policy classes at the University of Central Florida and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Throughout his consulting and teaching career, he freely gave his time to mentor young space advocates. (10/2)

China Plans World’s Biggest Spaceplane to Carry 20 Tourists (Source: New Scientist)
Even China can’t resist the lure of space tourism. A state-backed firm is developing a gigantic spaceplane, New Scientist can reveal. The plane may one day fly up to 20 passengers to the edge of space – significantly more people than any other commercial spaceflight firm has pledged to fly to date. The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing has designed a simple, one-piece spaceplane whose design can be scaled up to carry more people, academy rocket scientist Lui Haiquang said. (10/3)

Space Wars Will Be Fought With Hacks, Not Missiles (Source: Motherboard)
Today, the use of space tech for military ends is pretty much a given: they guide US predator missiles, coordinate drone strikes, and allow officers to remotely surveil an area from dozens of miles up. For an idea of just how reliant the military has become on space tech, the US army has about 250,000 GPS-dependent systems in total.

The only difference is that the US is no longer the sole power leveraging space for military ends—other spacefaring nations have also seen the strategic value of space systems. This threat to the United States’ total dominance in space has led to talk about an impending space war among the military elite. The thinking is that if you can achieve dominance in orbit, you will always have dominance on terrestrial battlefields.

According to Paikowsky, the form this space war is likely to take won’t involve the exploding satellites imagined by Reagan. Instead, the space wars of the future will be waged in cyberspace, which will be used to exploit and compromise internet connected space technology. The reason, she said, is simple: kinetic warfare (using Anti-Satellite Missiles to blow stuff up in orbit) generates a ton of debris and makes space unusable for everybody—including the aggressor. (10/2)

China Hot on America's Heels in the Space Race (Source: PJ Media)
The U.S. appears poised to maintain its historic leading role in the international space race for the near future, but China is showing signs of significantly upping the competition, according to a leading expert in relations between the two countries. Dennis C. Shea, chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told members of the House Subcommittee on Space that China is projected to take major steps in its manned spaceflight and space exploration programs over the next few years.

While China’s investment grows, Shea said that for the foreseeable future, at least, the U.S. is positioned to retain scientific and commercial leadership in the space domain. “However, China’s more deliberate and comprehensive approach will open up opportunities for Beijing to derive important economic, political and diplomatic benefits from its space program in the near term,” Shea said. (10/3)

India Gets Space Startup Spaceflight Industries Into Orbit (Source: GeekTime)
Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries showed the industry that the Earth does not revolve around SpaceX last week by getting its BlackSky Pathfinder-1 satellite into orbit thanks to the Indian-made Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The launch is the first of several planned to get the company’s constellation of imaging satellites in orbit and online. The company says it confirmed successful signal acquisition with their satellite, calling their achievement on this project thus far “the dawn of a new era in global insight and understanding.” (10/3)

Mini Blobs of Ancient Dark Matter may Throw Light on Big Bang (Source: Cosmos)
Through the light of ancient galaxies astronomers can watch the evolution of the universe like a movie, but one that’s missing its opening scene – the Big Bang itself. One of the great challenges in cosmology is to try to piece together what happened in that dramatic opener, by studying any of its original participants left behind.

Now physicists have found a new way to test for one of the central theories of how the universe was born – the idea of inflation – by looking for mini clumps of dark matter which could still be dotted between galaxies. According to the new work led by Grigor Aslanyan at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, blobs of primordial dark matter (small on a cosmological scale – much smaller than galaxies) could have been created in great numbers in the first split-second of the universe. (10/3)

Researchers Reveal First Mars Rover Made in Mexico (Source: Xinhua)
The first prototype of a Mars explorer robot designed in Mexico by a team of 10 university students has gained the recognition of NASA and the International Astronautical Federation. "It is a completely Mexican design," said Bryan Perez, one of the members of the team. The development team consists of nine engineering students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and one from the National Polytechnic Institute.

"We are convinced that Mexico has the knowledge, the drive and the power to innovate in aerospace, which is just beginning here," said Perez. The robot is equipped with two stereoscopic cameras to chart terrain and a third camera, below its body, to monitor samples collected by a pincer. The robot also includes artificial vision, terrain mapping and route selection abilities. It is capable of searching, collecting and storing samples from the surface of Mars. The development team has been awarded at the Sample Return Robot Challenge in 2015 and 2016, a competition organized by NASA for universities and companies to develop Mars rovers, said Perez. (10/3)

No comments: