October 9, 2016

China's Private Space Industry Prepares to Compete with SpaceX and Blue Origin (Source: Popular Science)
In the US, much of the recent media attention to space travel is centered on the activities of flamboyant billionaires and private companies. Left out, though, is the fact that, like in much of the rest of global business, a new generation of Chinese commercial and tourist space endeavors are looking to compete as well.

One of the more intriguing of China's emerging commercial space launch companies is Expace. Founded in February, the firm will be the lead tenant of China's first commercial space industrial park in Wuhan, China. It has already signed up over 10 launches for its solid fueled Kuaizhou Rockets. Zhang Di, Expace's chairman, is also a Deputy Director of the Fourth Academy of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), which makes the Kuaizhou rockets.

The Kuaizhou, which is derived from the launch vehicle for Chinese anti-satellite weapons and midcourse missile defense interceptors, is a solid-fueled, 2 diameter rocket; the latest KZ-11 can loft a 1.5 ton payload to low Earth orbit at a launch cost of $10,000 per kg. Expace's target market is to launch small satellites for domestic and foreign customers; the solid fuel of the KZ-11 also means that compared to liquid fueled rockets, it can be launched on demand. (10/7)

Increased Activity at North Korea Launch Site (Source: Yonhap)
Increased activity has been detected at North Korea's rocket launch site with a concerted effort under way to conceal what is taking place, a U.S. website monitoring the North said, amid concerns the regime could undertake renewed provocations to mark a key anniversary this week. Commercial satellite imagery taken on Oct. 1 of Sohae Satellite Launching Station in North Pyongan Province showed increased movement around the engine test facility, 38 North said Saturday.

It said photos showed crates next to the gantry tower on the launch pad and several large vehicles in front of the newly built fuel-oxidizer bunker. It said covers placed over many sites made it impossible to observe if a space launch vehicle or related components are located at the gantry tower or have been moved into the assembly structures. (10/9)

NASA Photos Reveal Damage at KSC (Source: Ars Technica)
At first glance, the Kennedy Space Center survived the passage of Hurricane Matthew on Friday with only minor flesh wounds. According to NASA, after an initial aerial survey on Saturday, officials determined the center received some isolated roof damage, some downed power lines, and limited water intrusion. Further inspections will take place on Sunday, before officials clear buildings to reopen. Click here. (10/8)

To Boldly Go Toward New Frontiers, We First Need to Learn From Our Colonial Past (Source: The Conversation)
How should we understand the idea of the frontier in the contemporary world, with spacecraft sailing beyond the solar system and quantum computing taking us deeper into the heart of matter? Many view human evolution as a continual expansion into new territories, from out-of-Africa to the “high frontier” of space. Frontiers, then, are associated with exploration, conquest, and struggles against hostile nature.

They can be seen as a challenge to solve with technology, going hand-in-hand with human progress. But the concept also comes with a lot of baggage. Click here. (10/7)

DARPA Places a Big Bet on a Small Rocket-Maker (Source: Motley Fool)
DARPA wants a new space shuttle. It's getting close to building one. And in fact, it just got a little bit closer. Last month, in a little-noticed press release, privately held Vector Space Systems confirmed that it has won $2.5 million worth of contracts from DARPA and NASA. Through these contracts, Vector -- which hasn't even begun operations yet, although it has begun collecting clients -- aims to play a major part in the designing of DARPA's XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane -- and potentially, in new NASA projects as well.

As Vector explains, the contracts break down as follows: First, Vector will tweak its first-stage "Vector-R" rocket for use as a second-stage rocket on DARPA's spaceplane. Second, Vector will develop a smaller "advanced prototype" Vector-R upper stage -- this time for NASA.

Success in both efforts should accelerate Vector's progress toward building "a fully functional two-stage flight test vehicle" for itself, as well as advancing DARPA's and NASA's respective objectives. Flight testing to prove is slated to begin late next year. (10/8)

Space Travel to Improve Health on Earth (Source: OUP)
The International Space Station (ISS) is pressurized, heated, and contains adequate oxygen which mitigates many factors encountered, however, the lack of gravity is still an enigma. The knowledge that has been gained in sustaining healthy human life in space has provided invaluable advances to the understanding of complex medical conditions experienced by patients on Earth.

One such example is in cardiovascular research. The lack of gravity encountered by astronauts on long duration space missions alters the normal distribution of fluid in the body. There is a shift of fluid from the lower body to the upper body. Click here. (10/8)

KSC Suffers Limited Damage After Hurricane (Source: The Verge)
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida seems to have been spared the worst of Hurricane Matthew, after models predicted the area would receive a direct hit from the storm. Instead, the center of the hurricane passed about 26 miles away from KSC’s home at Cape Canaveral, and the storm surge looks like it won't be as bad as previously thought. Apart from a few power outages, there hasn’t been any significant damage reported at KSC so far, according to NASA. (10/7)

Orion's Good Vibrations Being Felt at NASA Plum Brook (Source: Sandusky Register)
NASA officials are feeling nothing but good vibrations after a significant spacecraft article aced another aspect of testing. The latest experiments for Orion, a mission aiming to carry astronauts into deep space and possibly Mars, recently ended with overwhelming success. Vibratory-related tests occurred inside the NASA Plum Brook Station’s Mechanical Vibration Facility. (10/8)

NASA: Bigger Spacecraft Planned for Long Mars Trip (Source: Canberra Times)
The spacecraft which will take people to Mars will have a massively increased living space as mission lengths shift to years rather than weeks, one of NASA's directors said. And the goal to land humans on Mars in the 2030s can occur without any notable boost to the famous space agency's budget.

The planned habitats, or space ships, could be 300 to 400 cubic meters in size, in contrast to the Apollo capsule living spaces of about 15 cubic metres, he said. The space will make life easier for an astronaut who has to commit anywhere between one to three years for a return trip to Mars. (10/8)

What Happens When a Space Observatory Goes Rogue (Source: WIRED)
When the National Science Foundation first laid out its plans to divest from Green Bank, I was working for the center’s education division. After the funding-bomb announcement—at an all-hands meeting in the auditorium—chattering in the hallway stopped. Cafeteria tables went quiet. People did what work they were supposed to and not much more.

Green Bank employees scrambled to find a way to move forward. “Really, the only path out was to do something never done before,” says Karen O’Neil, the site director. So they petitioned to retain a fraction of NSF funding and make up the difference with private contracts—a model then unheard of. Eventually, the NSF agreed to fund about 60 percent of Green Bank’s operations in 2017, tapering to 30 percent in 2018.

To add cash flow to that federal tributary, Green Bankers had to nail down private contracts. The 140-foot telescope, home to the biggest ball bearing in the world, will download data from the Russian Space Agency’s on-orbit radio telescope, RadioAstron, which will also hook up with the newer telescope to form a high-resolution array. (10/7)

Alien Life Could Feed on Cosmic Rays (Source: Science)
A bizarre microbe found deep in a gold mine in South Africa could provide a model for how life might survive in seemingly uninhabitable environments through the cosmos. Known as Desulforudis audaxviator, the rod-shaped bacterium thrives 2.8 kilometers underground in a habitat devoid of the things that power the vast majority of life on Earth—light, oxygen, and carbon.

Instead, this “gold mine bug” gets energy from radioactive uranium in the depths of the mine. Now, scientists predict that life elsewhere in the universe might also feed off of radiation, especially radiation raining down from space.

Atri thinks an extraterrestrial life form could easily make use of a similar system. The radiation might not come from radioactive materials on the planet itself, but rather from galactic cosmic rays (GCRs)—high-energy particles that careen through the universe after being flung out of a supernova. They’re everywhere, even on Earth, but our planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere shields us from most GCRs. (10/7)

ESO Finds Gender Bias in Awarding Telescope Time (Source: Science)
Astronomers wanting time on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO's) telescopes are less likely to get it if they’re women, an internal ESO study has found. Male-led proposals were selected 22.2% of the time, whereas female principal investigators won time only 16% of the time, according to the study, which was published on the preprint server arXiv this week.

This discrepancy can be explained partly by the abundance of men at more senior career levels in astronomy, says study author Ferdinando Patat, an astronomer and head of ESO’s observing programs in Garching, Germany. Professional astronomers tended to be more successful in getting time than postdoctoral fellows and students, and men outnumbered women among the professional astronomer applicants by about four to one. (10/7)

Former Astronaut Derides Mexico Space Agency as Lacking (Source: Xinhua)
Mexico needs to devote more resources to space science and cooperate with China and other leading space explorers, said Mexican-American astronaut Jose Hernandez. Mexico should invest more in space and work on establishing a base on the Moon, Hernandez suggested when speaking to Xinhua on the margins of a two-day technology forum that concluded Friday in the central state of Guanajuato.

Although Mexico does have a space agency, AEM, which belongs to the Ministry of Communications and Transport, its budget is small, noted the astronaut, who went into space in 2009. "What worries me is that the AEM has a symbolic budget, with which it cannot do anything. They hold international forums and workshops, but it should be about more than that. It needs to create projects and build alliances with universities and private sectors," he added. (10/8)

China May Be Only Country with Space Station in 2024 (Source: Xinhua)
China may be the only country to have space station in service in 2024, said Lei Fanpei, chairman of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC). Lei told Xinhua on Friday that China plans to launch the experimental core module of its space station around 2018 with a Long March-5 heavyload carrier rocket, and the 20 ton combination space station will be sent into orbit around 2022. (10/7)

Tethers Unlimited Strikes Deal to Demonstrate Orbital Manufacturing (Source: GeekWire)
A division of Tethers Unlimited Inc., a space technology company based in Bothell, Wash., says it has signed a contract with a big-name spacecraft provider to demonstrate how future satellites could build their own frameworks in space.

The deal calls for Tethers Unlimited’s business division, known as Firmamentum, to fly its manufacturing hardware on a telecommunications satellite as part of Space Systems Loral’s Dragonfly program. Space Systems Loral is one of the world’s leading builders of satellites and spacecraft systems.

Firmamentum is working on a technology known as the “Trusselator,” which is designed to fabricate large, lightweight truss structures out of carbon-fiber composites. Such structures could help support antennas, sensors, solar arrays and other components. (10/7)

From Nothing to Glory in Six Decades - China's Space Program (Source: Xinhua)
In China the number 60 is auspicious as it relates to a cyclic numeral system of the chronology. The past 60 years has seen China's space program develop from a concept to one success after another. Saturday is the 60th anniversary of the beginning of China's space program. Over the past six decades, China has successfully developed its own processes and has become a space science power.

Like the United States and Russia, China's space program developed from advances in ballistic missile technology during the Cold War period. On Oct. 8, 1956, the Fifth Academy of the Ministry of National Defense was established, with Qian Xuesen at the helm. A world-renowned rocket scientist and one of the co-founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Qian returned to China from the United States in 1955 and would become the "father of China's aerospace." (10/7)

Rocket Launch Delays Just a Fact of Life for Space Industry (Source: Pacific Coast Business Times)
SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance both experienced several delays while trying to launch rockets from Vandenberg Air Force Base last month, but bear with them. The delays are necessary. Launching rockets is an art that private space companies haven’t quite mastered. California's Central Coast found that out last month when a rocket explosion in Florida delayed a SpaceX rocket launch and several problems delayed a ULA rocket launch.

Now the companies and would-be space tourists are feeling the pain. On Sep. 1, a SpaceX rocket exploded at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Almost immediately, the shock waves from that explosion could be felt here on the Central Coast. SpaceX quickly suspended all launches indefinitely while the company investigated the cause of the explosion. (10/7)

Russia, China Ready to Launch New Space Station Crews (Source: Space Policy Online)
Russia has scheduled the Soyuz MS-02 launch for October 19. Delayed from Sep. 23 for technical reasons, it will take one American and two Russians to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, China is getting ready to launch a two-man crew to its new Tiangong-2 space station sometime this month. (10/7)

Sea Launch's New Owner Plans 10-12 Launches in First Five Years (Source: Tass)
S7 Group, the new owner of the Sea Launch floating spaceport, intends to carry out 10-12 launches in the first five years after the resumption of the spaceport’s work, CEO of S7 Space Transport Systems Sergei Sopov said. "About 10-12 launches, if we take the year 2017 as a starting point," he said. (10/7)

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