November 15, 2016

Spaceflight Industries Unveils BlackSky Satellite’s First Pictures of Our Planet (Source: GeekWire)
Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries is sharing some of the first pictures of Earth ever taken by its low-cost, high-resolution BlackSky Pathfinder-1 satellite – and they’re spectacular. The roughly 100-pound (50-kilogram) Pathfinder-1 spacecraft was launched from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sept. 26 as a ride-share payload on a PSLV-C35 rocket. Click here. (11/14)

Chinese Astronauts to Return to Earth (Source: GB Times)
Two Chinese astronauts are expected to return home late this week. Chinese officials have not officially announced when Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong will return to Earth in their Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, but previous statements about the mission's duration and the spacecraft's orbit suggest a landing either Friday or Saturday morning, Beijing time. Shenzhou-11 launched Oct. 17 and docked with the Tiangong-1 module two days later for what the Chinese government said would be a 30-day mission. (11/15)

Energia Chief: Russian Boots on the Moon in 15 Years (Source: Tass)
The head of Russian space company Energia believes the first Russian will set foot on the moon in 15 years. Vladimir Solntsev said Tuesday that a 2031 human lunar landing would come after several years of uncrewed flights to the moon to test spacecraft that will later carry people. He also said that Russia is asking Europe and the United States to cooperate on the development of a lunar lander spacecraft. (11/15)

European Scientists Hope for Asteroid Mission (Source: SpaceRef)
Scientists in Europe are lobbying to win support for an asteroid mission. More than 100 scientists have signed a letter calling for development of the Asteroid Impact Mission, under consideration by ESA. AIM would work in conjunction with NASA's proposed DART mission, which would collide with a small asteroid; AIM would measure the change in the asteroid's orbit to validate models for deflecting asteroids that pose an impact risk to the Earth. Funding for AIM may be considered by ESA at next month's ministerial meeting. (11/15)

Aldrin & Collins Want Lawmakers to Mint Apollo 11 Commemorative Coin (Source: CollectSpace)
The two surviving Apollo 11 astronauts are asking Congress to pass a bill this year to mint commemorative coins. Letters from Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins ask members of Congress to pass the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act before Congress adjourns at the end of the year. The bill has nearly 300 co-sponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate, but neither body has passed the bill yet. Supporters say the bill has to be passed this year in order for the coins to be ready for the 2019 anniversary. (11/15)

More Than Meets the Eye (Source: Trajectory)
For decades, the information returned by remote sensing platforms was restricted to literal images in black and white or color. The invention of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) in 1951, however, commenced a new era in sensor innovation. Along with electro-optical cameras and SAR—which can acquire imagery at night and penetrate clouds and fog—modern remote sensing platforms are bedazzled with a litany of sensors that exploit increasingly diverse phenomenology capable of seeing and sensing things never before possible. Click here. (11/14)

NASA Awaits Trump Transition Team, Budget Details (Source: Space News)
Nearly a week after Donald Trump was elected president, his campaign has yet to send a team to NASA to prepare for the upcoming transition in administrations. Speaking at a meeting of a NASA advisory committee, Greg Williams, deputy associate administrator for policy and plans in the human exploration and operations mission directorate, said the agency had not yet been informed by the Trump campaign’s transition team who the individuals are that will deal with NASA. (11/15)

NASA Finds Unusual Origins of High-Energy Electrons (Source: NASA)
Earth’s magnetic field constantly deflects incoming supersonic particles from the sun. These particles are disturbed in regions just outside of Earth’s magnetic field – and some are reflected into a turbulent region called the foreshock. New observations from NASA’s THEMIS – short for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms – mission show that this turbulent region can accelerate electrons up to speeds approaching the speed of light.

Such extremely fast particles have been observed in near-Earth space and many other places in the universe, but the mechanisms that accelerate them have not yet been concretely understood. The new results provide the first steps towards an answer, while opening up more questions. The research finds electrons can be accelerated to extremely high speeds in a near-Earth region farther from Earth than previously thought possible – leading to new inquiries about what causes the acceleration. These findings may change the accepted theories on how electrons can be accelerated not only in shocks near Earth, but also throughout the universe. (11/14)

World View Plans to Take Passengers to the Edge of Space - by Balloon (Source: The Age)
A former NASA astronaut who spent six months on the International Space Station plans to pilot the first commercial journey to the edge of space in a high-altitude balloon. Ron Garan was so transformed by his experience viewing Earth from orbit he wants as many people as possible to experience a vision of the world from space. Click here. (11/15)

Supersonic Jet Faster Than Concorde Gets Public Debut (Source: Denver Post)
Boom Technology has spent two years designing a supersonic passenger plane with the financial economics the defunct Concorde could never achieve. A full-size mockup of a smaller test plane will be unveiled publicly on Tuesday. If all goes well in flight tests next year, the company will move ahead and build a full-size 45-seat aircraft that can travel 2.2 times faster than the speed of sound at a price on par with business-class tickets: $5,000 round trip for a 3 hour and 15 minute flight from New York to London.

“This isn’t a private jet,” said Boom CEO Blake Scholl,  who co-founded the company in 2014 with chief engineer Joe Wilding and chief technology officer Josh Krall. “We want to build something that we can see our friends and family flying on. We’re starting with business-class prices because that’s what we have technology for. But our line of sight is we want to make the fastest ticket the cheapest ticket.”

Editor's Note: Mr. Scholl will present details of this project during a Dec. 9 teleconference of the FastForward Group, a collaboration of companies and individuals supporting the development of supersonic air travel and point-to-point spaceflight. Click here. (11/15)

Opinion: How Trump Should Restart U.S. Space Momentum (Source: Aviation Week)
China recently launched its second space laboratory, a man-tended module that currently houses two astronauts, and the nation is working toward a full space station of roughly 60 metric tons by 2022, actively courting international participation. Some in the U.S. debate whether or not to cooperate with China, but the Chinese frankly don’t care. They’re seeking other partners. In space, as in so many other areas of international leadership, the Obama administration’s decisions have resulted in a diminished role for the U.S.

America remains a formidable space power, second to none. But the U.S. is also more dependent on space, economically and militarily, than any other country. A strange inversion of space policy leadership has occurred in the last seven years: The White House has become less relevant, while the role of Congress has increased. Space policy is one of the few issues that is usually bipartisan. There were a few exceptions, such as the fictitious missile gap in the 1960 election or debates in the 1980s over the Strategic Defense Initiative. Most recently, however, the most serious clashes have been between Congress and the White House, not Republicans and Democrats. (11/11)

Gov. Scott: Running Against Sen. Nelson is ‘an Option’ in 2018 (Source: Politico)
In the clearest sign he’s gunning for Florida Democrats’ last statewide office holder, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday openly acknowledged that he’s considering a run against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018 once term limits force him from the governor’s mansion. “It's an option,” Scott told reporters in Orlando during the annual conference of the Republican Governor's Association. (11/15)

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