November 1, 2016

Bacteria Get Dangerously Weird in Space (Source: The Record)
In 2006, Cheryl Nickerson sent a culture of salmonella bacteria for a ride on the space shuttle Atlantis. Eleven days later, she watched anxiously from the Kennedy Space Center in the dead of night as her bacteria returned safely. Nickerson, a microbiologist at Arizona State University, and her team then infected hundreds of mice with the salmonella grown in space. At the same time, they infected hundreds of other mice with salmonella simultaneously grown on the ground.

They had to work quickly before the bacteria lost the effects of space; it took them about three hours from the time the shuttle landed. After a few days, more of the mice with space-grown salmonella were getting sick. Normally, salmonella can kill a mouse in about seven days. The mice given the space salmonella started to die two days earlier, and at lower doses than normal. It was the first time someone had definitively showed that bacteria became more dangerous after space flight. Click here. (10/25)

Why Space Elevators Could Be the Future of Space Travel (Source: Futurism)
Getting into space with rockets is ridiculously expensive. A NASA Inspector General report says the agency will pay Russia $491.2 million to send six astronauts into space in 2018. That’s almost $82 million a seat. And depending on what company you launch a satellite with, it costs between $10 to $30 million for every metric ton you send into space, The Motley Fool reported this year. But there’s a vastly more affordable answer to rockets — space elevators.

Futurists have flirted with the idea of space elevators since 1895 when the Eiffel Tower inspired Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Tsiolkovksy reasoned if a tower was built 35,800 kilometers (22,236 miles) high, it would reach geostationary orbit and could carry payloads to outer space. His concept isn’t too far off from current thinking.

A 2002 NASA study by Dr. Brad Edwards re-invigorated the scientific community with what’s considered today’s modern day space elevator. According to the study, a flexible and durable cable with a space station counterweight could serve as a viable space elevator. Click here. (10/23)

Humanity's Corner of the Milky Way May Be Larger Than Expected (Source: Engadget)
If you accept conventional views of the Milky Way, humans live in a sort of cosmic cul-de-sac: our star is in the Orion Arm (aka Local Arm), a small spur sitting in between the much larger Sagittarius and Perseus arms. A team of international researchers might just shake up that sense of place, however. They've published a study indicating that our arm is much, much larger than once thought.

Instead, it incorporates a large arm that extends almost all the way to the Perseus Arm, and another long spur that branches between the Orion and Sagittarius arms. It's now believed to be about 25,000 light years long, or several times longer than expected. (10/30)

Moon Express Offers Funding for NASA-Selected Lunar Payloads (Source: SpaceRef)
Moon Express has announced a new program that will provide $1.5M in private funding for NASA-selected payloads to fly to the Moon. The announcement was made today at the annual meeting of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), in response to NASA’s call for lunar instrument concepts that would be flown to the Moon utilizing commercial mission services.

Under its Lunar Scout Program, Moon Express will provide up to $500,000 in funding for each instrument selected by NASA to fly aboard the company’s first three commercial lunar missions of opportunity, beginning next year in 2017. (11/1)

Boom Aerospace to Provide Update on December 9 (Source: SPACErePORT)
Boom Aerospace, a startup planning to build the next generation of supersonic passenger aircraft, will provide an update on their plans and market during the December 9 quarterly teleconference of the FastForward Working Group. The FastForward group includes companies and advocates working to advance programs for hypersonic transport and point-to-point suborbital flight. Click here. (11/1)

Harris Selling CapRock Satellite Communications Business (Source: Space News)
SpeedCast is buying Harris CapRock for $425 million. Hong Kong-based SpeedCast said Tuesday the all-cash transaction will be a "transformational opportunity" for the company, allowing the satellite communications network service provider to consolidate its position in the maritime and energy markets. A decline in oil prices, and thus a demand for communications services by energy companies, had led Harris to put CapRock on the market earlier this year, six years after buying it for $525 million. The deal is expected to close by spring 2017. (11/1)

Launch Delays Push Iridium to Seek Relaxed Loan Requirements (Source: Space News)
Iridium is working out deals with lenders and its satellite manufacturer to address delays in the launch of its next-generation satellite system. Company officials said they're working on relaxing loan covenants that require it maintain a specific minimum cash reserve, as well as stretching out payments to its satellite manufacturer. Those efforts are prompted by delays in the launch of its satellites by SpaceX because of the Falcon 9 pad explosion in September. Iridium, which previously planned to have its full next-generation system completed by the end of 2017, now expects that be pushed back into 2018. (11/1)

How Many Planets Can Fit Inside a Star's Habitable Zone? (Source:
How many planets can fit into the habitable zone around a star? A group of scientists saw this question posed by a non-scientist on Reddit and decided to answer it. The answer they came up with is five rocky planets the mass of Earth around a small, dim star (called a red dwarf).

They focused on K and M type stars, also known as red dwarfs. These stars are small, cold and about one-fifth the sun's mass and up to 50 times fainter. Red dwarfs constitute up to 70 percent of the stars in the universe, and NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered that at least half of these stars host rocky planets that are one-half to four times the mass of Earth.

Red dwarf planets are potentially key places to search for life, not just because there are so many of them, but also because of their incredible longevity. Unlike the sun, which will die in a few billion years, red dwarfs will take trillions of years to burn through their fuel, significantly longer than the age of the universe, which is about 13.8 billion years old. This longevity may give life ample time to develop on the planets that orbit these stars. (10/31)

Air Force Awards Commercial Space-Surveillance Contract (Source: Space News)
The Air Force awarded a contract Oct. 19 to Applied Defense Solutions, Inc., to provide space situational awareness services (SSA), part of the Pentagon’s growing interest in private capabilities that could augment the military’s own SSA. Tom Kubancik, Applied Defense Solutions’ vice president of advanced programs, said the company will work with teammates Lockheed Martin, Pacific Defense Solutions  of Hawaii, and Kratos RT Logic of Colorado Springs.

The companies will bring commercially sourced space situational awareness data into the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs to support experiments, exercises and contingency operations. (10/31)

Launchspace Teases New Orbital Debris Removal Capability (Source: LaunchSpace)
Launchspace Technologies Corp. (LTC) is focused on supporting commercial, civil and military activities in creating innovative new technologies and systems in order to strengthen and advance the exploitation of space for human advancement. LTC has discovered a new and cost effective approach to removing and controlling low Earth orbital (LEO) debris. Although the details of this new approach are not ready for public release, stay tuned over the next year for LTC announcements.

This concept may well replace all other proposed remediation ideas. Implementation will start with a feasibility study supported by one of the established space organizations. A demonstration flight will follow feasibility confirmation. Initial operations will reduce damaging debris objects to a level that assures the safe operations of active satellites in the 600 to 1200 km altitude range. The Operational Remediation System (ORS) will sustain a controlled level of debris that is compatible with safe LEO operations. (10/31)

Consulting Co. Says NASA Stole Data Reporting System IP (Source: Law360)
NASA stole the proprietary intellectual property of an Arizona data system company and cost the business more than $30 million, according to a Court of Federal Claims suit filed Thursday. Efficient Enterprise Engineering, which refers to itself as Ex3, blasted NASA for the alleged theft. EX3 in 2008 was awarded the NASA Glenn Research Center 2008 Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year Award. (10/31)

NASA Keeping Nuclear-Thermal Option Open for Mars (Source: Aviation Week)
Safer fuel and a new concept for ground testing have nudged NASA another tiny step in the direction of using hydrogen heated by a small fission reactor to hasten humans on their way to Mars.

Nuclear-thermal propulsion (NTP) has been studied since the Apollo era because of the high specific impulse it offers for deep-space missions, but radiation fears and technical difficulties ultimately have blocked it. Now, with low-enriched nuclear fuel instead of bomb-grade material, and what may be a safer way to capture radiation in ground-test plumes, the technology is getting another look.

Engineers here at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are working with the commercial nuclear-power industry and academia to raise the technology readiness level of space-rated reactors with low-enriched uranium fuel. And at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, propulsion-test experts may be able to reconfigure ground equipment originally designed to simulate high-altitude chemical-rocket engine starts to capture and decontaminate a nuclear-thermal rocket plume. (10/27)

China's Secret Weapon in Space (Source: CPI)
An American analyst first translated the Chinese word shashoujian as meaning “Assassin’s Mace” in 1999, though linguists ascribe it multiple, often innocuous, meanings. By 2004, the Pentagon and security analysts speculating on China’s weapons development ambitions and strategies had fully and singularly adopted the “Assassin’s Mace” translation. Not surprisingly, conjecture on what such an “Assassin’s Mace” might look like followed, often related to a game-changing space capability. Click here. (10/31)

A NEMESIS in the Sky: PAN, MENTOR 4, and Close Encounters of the SIGINT Kind (Source: Space Review)
Satellite observers have been puzzled for years by the motions of one particular classified US satellite. Marco Langbroek explains how recently published revelations about the purpose of that satellite help explain its movements, and those of other classified spacecraft. Click here. (10/31) 
The Weak Pull of Artificial Gravity (Source: Space Review)
Concerns about the effect of weightlessness on astronauts flying extended missions could conceivably be mitigated simply with some form of artificial gravity. Yet, Jeff Foust reports that for a variety of reasons, neither NASA or space companies seem interested in developing spacecraft that provide at least partial gravity. Click here. (10/31)
Was GPS Invented at “Lonely Halls”? (Source: Space Review)
A passage in a recent book about the development of GPS mentions an early 1970s meeting over a holiday weekend at the Pentagon known as “Lonely Halls.” Richard Easton examines historical documents to study just how relevant that meeting was to what became GPS. Click here. (10/31)
ISRO’s Commitment to India’s National Security (Source: Space Review)
India recently revealed for the first time that it used intelligence from its satellites to carry out a “surgical strike” against an alleged terrorist camp. Vidya Sagar Reddy discusses how India’s views towards the military use of satellites has evolved over the history of its space program. Click here. (10/31)
Orbiter 2016 and Other Space Flight Simulators (Source: Space Review)
A long-running flight simulator for space missions recently got another update. Bruce Irving reviews the changes to Orbiter and how it stacks up against other options, like Kerbal Space Program. Click here. (10/31)
Iridium Expects to Renegotiate Loan Agreement by Year’s End (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications expects to complete negotiations with its lenders and its satellite manufacturer by the end of the year on loosening payment obligations to ride out the delay in the launch of its second-generation constellation.

As it awaits word on when launch-service provider SpaceX will return to flight after a Sept. 1 explosion during a test procedure, Iridium is contending with multiple challenges. Many of them are at least partly the result of the fact that the company’s seven SpaceX launches, each carrying 10 Iridium Next satellites, likely will not be completed as planned by late 2017. (10/31)

Space Zen: This Space Station Fly-Through is Supremely Serene (Source:
Down here on Earth, the weather can always turn nasty. In addition, there's traffic and bills and gravity and a bitter election season drawing to a close. If the stresses of life are starting to fry your nerves, might we recommend the soothing balm of a video fly-though of the International Space Station, set to an ultra-smooth saxophone solo and deep, meditative bass tones. Click here. (10/31)

State of Florida Awards Harris $700 Million Communications Network Services Contract (Source: Harris)
Harris Corporation has entered into a $700 million contract with the State of Florida to provide a statewide communications network that will connect public safety, law enforcement, public schools and other state and local government agencies. The contract has a seven-year base and seven one-year options.

MyFloridaNet-2 (MFN-2) will link more than 4,000 sites and provide approximately 4,700 connections via a secure state-wide communications infrastructure using the Harris Trusted Enterprise Network, a dedicated, private core backbone managed and operated by Harris from its primary network operations center in Melbourne, Florida.

The Harris network is a secure, highly available/highly reliable infrastructure supporting voice, data and video connectivity for the state’s government agencies, including county and city municipalities. It will also support other telecommunications services including Internet access, email, and web hosting for K-12 public schools and libraries. (10/31)

Pence Promises to Reinvigorate Space Program (Source: Florida Today)
Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton are running nearly even in the race to claim Florida’s critical 29 electoral votes. Pence urged rally attendees to vote. Pence’s pledge of support for the space program, which has barely been discussed during the campaign, played well on the Space Coast, briefly prompting a chant of “Space! Space!”

“Our space program needs new leadership and a new vision,” said Pence. “We cannot afford to fall further behind in space exploration or technology.” He said a Trump-Pence administration would focus NASA missions on deep space exploration, implying, as advisers have said, that NASA spends too much on Earth-focused science such as investigating climate change.

Pence promised NASA would promote more partnerships with commercial space firms, beyond contracts already in place to fly cargo and soon astronauts to the International Space Station. The Republican nominees also want to revive a National Space Council, led by the vice president, to coordinate policies and technologies across sectors. After the rally, Pence met with a group of local aerospace industry representatives before moving on to scheduled events further west along Florida's pivotal "I-4 corridor." (10/31)

SpaceX Hopes Procedure Fix Can Allow Falcon 9 Launches to Resume (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Investigators probing the Sept. 1 explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its launch pad in Florida believe a high-pressure gas tank inside the launcher’s upper stage most likely burst due to the conditions of the helium loaded into it, a finding that could simplify fixes needed before the commercial booster can return to service.

If SpaceX is confident the problem lies in the Falcon 9’s fueling procedures, and not in the design of major components of the rocket, engineers could resolve the issue by adjusting how helium gas is loaded into the vehicle. SpaceX officials have hinted at that possible conclusion for several weeks, and the company’s statement Friday confirmed the direction of the failure investigation, adding that engineers have shown a helium tank can be breached “entirely through helium loading conditions.” (10/31)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Launch Abort Engine Tests for CST-100 (Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed a series of hot-fire tests on two Launch Abort Engines (LAE) featuring innovative new propellant valves for Boeing's Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner service module propulsion system. The tests were conducted in the Mojave Desert in California, and confirmed the ability for the new valves to modulate propellant flow and control peak LAE thrust in the event of a launch abort. (10/31)

Embattled Mega-Telescope Gets Back-Up Site in Canary Islands (Source: Nature)
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) could move to La Palma, in Spain's Canary Islands, if opposition from Native Hawaiians prevents the next-generation observatory from being built atop the Hawaiian mountain of Mauna Kea as planned.

The decision, announced on 31 October by the TMT International Observatory’s board of governors, creates an alternative path forward for the troubled mega-telescope. Its opponents blocked access to the Mauna Kea site in April 2015, halting construction, although work on the telescope's components continues at sites around the world. Native Hawaiians regard the decision to build the TMT on Mauna Kea as the continued desecration of a sacred mountaintop that hosts 13 other telescopes, some of which are being decommissioned. (10/31)

Spaceport Kansas Has Taken Flight as Premier Space History Center (Source: Columbus Dispatch)
After flying thousands and thousands of miles through the void, a surprising number of spacecraft have found their way to a retirement home in this small Kansas city. The Cosmosphere International Science Center and Space Museum began in 1962 as Kansas' first planetarium, located in the poultry building at the state fairgrounds, and grew into an internationally recognized space museum.

The museum is said to have one of the world’s largest collections of authentic spaceflight artifacts. Aerospace buffs will find several historic "must see" vehicles they can check off their bucket lists, beginning with one of the few remaining SR-71A Blackbird spy planes. (10/31)

Virgin Confident In Improved SS2 Rocket Motor (Source: Aviation Week)
Virgin Galactic plans to begin glide flights this week of the second, and significantly improved, SpaceShipTwo (SS2) suborbital vehicle after achieving almost all of test goals during the first captive-carriage flight under the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. (10/31)

NASA: We're Not Racing SpaceX to Mars (Source: Seeker)
If Elon Musk's SpaceX can get to Mars and bring samples back to Earth before the United States can get there, it would be cause for celebration not lament, said NASA's new science chief. "If Elon Musk brought the samples in the door right now I'd throw him a party out of my own money," Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's newly named associate administrator for science, told reporters Monday.

"I think that would be a huge success out of the strategies that were pursued by this administration of helping … the private industry to really grow capabilities that 10 years ago were not around," he said. During his first sit-down with journalists, Zurbuchen also said that polarizing topics, including science issues, need to be tackled with empathy for and patience with people who have opposing viewpoints. (10/31)

Violent, Vaporizing Impact May Explain Moon's Mysterious Tilt (Source:
The mysterious tilt of the moon's orbit might come from an angled, giant impact that vaporized most of the early Earth, creating the moon in the process, a new study finds. Earth and the other major planets of the solar system follow orbits around the sun that mostly lie within a thin, flat zone defined by the sun's equator. This is likely because these worlds arose from a protoplanetary disk of gas and dust encircling the sun's midriff. (10/31)

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