November 19, 2016

It Works: NASA's Peer-Reviewed EM Drive Paper Finally Published (Source: Science Alert)
After months of speculation and leaked documents, NASA's long-awaited EM Drive paper has finally been peer-reviewed and published. And it shows that the 'impossible' propulsion system really does appear to work. The NASA Eagleworks Laboratory team even put forward a hypothesis for how the EM Drive could produce thrust – something that seems impossible according to our current understanding of the laws of physics.

Instead of using heavy, inefficient rocket fuel, it bounces microwaves back and forth inside a cone-shaped metal cavity to generate thrust. According to Shawyer's calculations, the EM Drive could be so efficient that it could power us to Mars in just 70 days. But, there's a not-small problem with the system. It defies Newton's third law, which states that everything must have an equal and opposite reaction.

Yet in test after test it continues to work. Last year, NASA's Eagleworks Laboratory team got their hands on an EM Drive to try to figure out once and for all what was going on. "Thrust data... suggested that the system was consistently performing at 1.2 ± 0.1 mN/kW, which was very close to the average impulsive performance measured in air." To put that into perspective, the super-powerful Hall thruster generates force of 60 millinewtons per kilowatt, an order of magnitude more than the EM Drive. (11/18)

Georgia County Commits $750K to Spaceport Development (Source: Golden Isles News)
The Camden County Joint Development Authority unanimously voted Friday to provide $750,000 to help establish a spaceport in Camden County. Before the vote, authority chairman Charlie Smith told members they had an obligation to approve the funding request from the Camden County Commission. “Refusal would be a slap in the face of the people who are funding us,” Smith said. “It would be a tragedy for us not to abide by the county commission’s request.”

Authority members voted to take the money designated for incentives and land acquisition from several money market accounts held in different banks in the county. Authority members were trying to build up the account to $2 million for incentives that could be offered to prospective employers. Commissioners agreed to help the authority make up the difference between when they have in accounts and the $2 million if they need to offer incentives to lure a new employer to the county. (11/18)

NASA is Looking for Ideas That Could Make its Mars Vehicles More Affordable (Source: The Verge)
NASA is asking the private space industry how to make its future Mars vehicles more affordable. The agency released a Request for Information Thursday afternoon, looking for ideas that could maximize the “long term efficiency and sustainability” of its Exploration Systems Development (ESD) programs. Those include NASA’s next big rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and the Orion crew capsule — the vehicle that’s supposed to take astronauts into deep space and on to the Red Planet someday. (11/18)

Space Tourism: When Will the Rest of us Reach Orbit? (Source: CNET)
"Once these companies are launching people, I think it's really going to change everything," Massimino said. Despite already getting his shot at collecting space firsts, he may be right at the front of the queue. "I'm no longer with NASA, but I want to go back," he said. To hear the astronauts talk about the view of Earth from space, it's easy to see why they can't stay away. "I can't imagine anything more beautiful than our planet," Massimino said. (11/18)

Big Change on the Horizon for NASA Under Trump (Source: The Hill)
Throughout the presidential campaign, I commented to several people that I didn’t think the election outcome would make a big difference for NASA. I had many other reasons I was supporting Hillary Clinton, but I knew space advisers in both campaigns, and we had similar views on several major aspects of what needed to be done to support a more effective and sustainable space program.

However, given the outcome of the congressional election and learning more specifically who is (and isn’t) involved as space advisers, I anticipate a larger appetite for a change agenda and a better than expected potential to get at least some of their agenda accomplished. Click here. (11/18)

Let Newt Gingrich Fix NASA (Source: National Review)
Everyone is putting in his two cents on who he thinks ought to get which jobs in the new Trump administration — and everyone was surprised this week when Newt Gingrich pulled himself out of the job fair, saying he was “100 percent sure” he didn’t want a position in the new White House. He said he would be happy to be “chief planner” but that he didn’t want anything formal.

Everyone was surprised because much of the Trump-job speculation has centered on Trump’s evident plan to reward his earliest and strongest supporters, the Jeff Sessions and Rudy Giulianis. Like Sessions and Giuliani, Newt is presumably in a position to ask for and receive almost any job he’d like. Maybe by this point in his life, he’s tired of doing paperwork. But instead of talking about what Newt wants to do, as if he’s a has-been in need of a favor, we should talk about what the United States can get out of him.

Newt should be the new administrator of NASA. NASA has fallen on hard times. They haven’t got a shuttle any more, or any space capsules, so they’re reduced to buying rides from the Russians. They were planning to go back to the moon, but the plan got canceled and replaced with amorphous ideas for Mars. Click here. (11/19)

Palm Beach County's 'Best Kept Secret' is Aerojet Rocketdyne (Source: WPTV)
Head west on Beeline Highway, and eventually you'll run into Aerojet Rocketdyne. Ironically in Jupiter. "We're one of Palm Beach County's best kept secrets, " says site director Jim Maus. Here they're building and testing rocket engines for space exploration. One will power the GOES-R satellite.

The future is bright for the space industry. Part of the power can be found right here in Palm Beach County. "It's the perfect co-existence of nature and technology. Where we have alligators in the parking lot and rockets firing on the test stand all at the same time," says Nord. (11/18)

Space Coast-Based IAP Wins Navy Contract (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
A major defense firm in Central Florida landed a multimillion-dollar contract from the military on Nov. 10. Cape Canaveral-based IAP Worldwide Services Inc., which has 110 locations in 27 countries, won a $61.3 million contract with the U.S. Navy. The contract, which has a completion date of November 2017, involves logistic services in support of the Take Charge and Move Out Command Post (TACAMO) aircraft and support equipment.

TACAMO is a military communications system used in nuclear war to maintain communication between the decision makers and and nuclear weapon delivery systems. The contract work will be performed around various locations in the U.S. Contracts such as these are important for the surrounding business communities and bring on economic growth because of the potential for new area jobs and partnerships with local companies for supplies. (11/11)

Space Coast-Based Harris Corp. Has Key Role in Tomorrow's NOAA Satellite Launch on Atlas V (Source: Florida Today)
Over a two-year period through 2013, a Harris Corp. facility in Melbourne became one of Brevard County’s biggest power consumers. In a lab there, engineers plugged in several hundred racks holding more than 2,000 computer servers to test equipment essential to the success of a satellite mission launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:42 p.m. Saturday.

The satellite called GOES-R is expected to revolutionize the nation’s weather forecasting capabilities, dramatically improving the quality and speed of images taken from more than 22,000 miles above the planet. Harris provided the satellite’s key camera instrument, but also led the design and delivery of ground systems that will control the spacecraft, make sense of the data it collects and distribute that information to forecasters. (11/17)

Kilmer: Congress Should Collaborate with Space Industry on Regulatory Issues (Source: Space News)
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), a member of the House Appropriations Committee and co-sponsor of space resources legislation that passed last year, said Nov. 17 he wants the government to do a better job collaborating with the space industry on making new regulations that affect the industry’s growth. (11/17)

Bigelow Calls On Trump to Sharply Increase NASA Spending (Source: Space News)
Space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow said Nov. 17 that he believes that the Trump administration should as much as double NASA’s budget in the coming years and make plans for a human return to the moon. Bigelow argued that such a dramatic, and arguably long-shot, increase in NASA funding was essential to the future of both the agency’s exploration efforts and business plans of commercial ventures, as well as affordable to the nation. (11/17)

Russian Soyuz launches Expedition 50 Crew to Station (Source:
Following quick on the heels of the Soyuz MS-02 launch on 19 October, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has launched the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft and a new three person crew for Expeditions 50/51 to the International Space Station.  The flight launched on Thursday 17 November 2016, beginning a two-day orbital rendezvous with the orbital laboratory. (11/17)

Russian Energia Corporation Preparing Deal With Boeing on Lunar Infrastructure (Source: Sputnik)
In 2015, a US court awarded Boeing a multimillion compensation from its former Sea Launch partners, including Energia, following a voluntary bankruptcy procedure when Boeing fully repaid debts to project lenders. Energia and its Ukrainian counterpart Yuzhnoe claimed that Boeing had given unwritten assurances to its Sea Launch partners that it would not seek reimbursements. A preliminary dispute settlement deal was reached in August. (11/18)

Ariane 5, in 75th Straight Success, Conducts its First Launch of Galileo Satellites (Source: Space News)
A European Ariane 5 rocket, operating in a rarely used configuration and debuting a new satellite-dispenser system, on Nov. 17 successfully placed four European Galileo positioning, navigation and timing satellites into medium-Earth orbit. It was the 75th consecutive success for Ariane 5, breaking the tie with its predecessor, the Ariane 4.

Operating from Europe’s Guiana Space Center, on the northeast coast of South America, the Ariane 5 ES version, with a storable-propellant upper stage instead of the usual cryogenic stage, separated the four 716-kilogram Galileo spacecraft two at a time about four hours after liftoff after two burns of the second stage engine. (11/17)

Casic Plans Big Solid Launcher That Competes With CASC (Source: Aviation Week)
Casic is not taking this lying down. Faced with an invasion of its solid-propellant turf by sibling state group CASC, the Chinese defense and space contractor is preparing a medium-capacity launcher that could take business from its rival. Casic is also moving into liquid-propellant technology, another domain of CASC. It is already well into development of a solid-propellant launcher that would compete closely with CASC’s Long March 6. (11/18)

‘South Park’ Visits SpaceX and Cartman Tries to Go to Mars (Source: Inverse)
SpaceX, Elon Musk, and Mars were prominently featured on South Park Wednesday night, and the episode, while entertaining, is kind of a mess. This season, like the last couple before it, features an overall story arc. But the 20th season is even more of a serial plot — every episode picks up right where the previous one left off, making it pretty difficult for any casual viewer to get into. I spent half the episode trying desperately to figure out exactly what was going on before giving up.

And despite the hype in getting to see SpaceX grace the screen, no one actually jets off into space! Still, there are some humorous bits here and there about the company. And it’s nice to see Musk has a sense of humor about the more absurd aspects of what he and his companies are doing. (11/17)

Is Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin the Future of Space Exploration? (Source: Smithsonian)
Now 52 years old, Bezos has reportedly put $500 million of his own money into Blue Origin to change that. His first operational rocket, New Shepard, which Bezos named for America’s first astronaut, Alan Shepard, was designed fresh, down to the steerable tail fins at its base. It flies into space nose-first and back to Earth tail-first, with a ring near the top of the rocket’s first stage that acts as a circular fin to stabilize the rocket as it descends at the speed of sound.

The crew capsule has the largest windows ever on a spacecraft—single, multilayered acrylic panes that are 3.5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, no minor detail when Bezos’ vision for commercializing Blue Origin, especially in the early going, is ferrying tourists to suborbital space. The engine—also developed from scratch—provides 110,000 pounds of thrust on launch, turns off, and can be restarted in the last 30 seconds of flight and throttled down to 20,000 pounds of thrust, enabling the spacecraft to settle gently on its landing gear.

Bezos thinks creating a real space age, and a real space economy, will unleash a new era of creativity and ingenuity. “I don’t want to live in a civilization of stasis,” he says. “I want to live in a civilization of invention, and growth, and incredible new things. And I’m very confident it’s the only way—you have to go to space.” Click here. Editor's Note: Blue Origin is very intriguing. Will they relocate their suborbital operations to Florida's spaceport? What is the business plan for their huge new rocket, as it seems unlikely to compete for traditional satellite launch business. (11/18)

Deep Space Industries To Probe Near-Earth Asteroid (Source: Forbes)
After years of hype about harnessing space rocks as building blocks of a next-generation space economy, at least one newspace company — Deep Space Industries (DSI) — is making good on its promise to send a probe out to an as-yet-unselected near-Earth asteroid (NEA) for a closer look. The hope is that when they do so, DSI will be able to hone its game-plan for actually mining water from one of these primordial bodies. And all at a cost of tens of millions — rather than hundreds of millions of dollars, says Daniel Faber, CEO of the Silicon Valley- and Luxembourg-based company. (11/18)

Chinese Astronauts Land Safely in Inner Mongolia (Source: CCTV)
The head of China's manned space program Zhang Youxia says the Shenzhou-11 manned space mission was a success following the safe landing of the re-entry capsule on Friday. The capsule landed in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 2:07 PM Beijing time.

The two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, are reportedly in good condition. Their 33-day mission sets a new record in China's manned space program. They've stayed in space on a single mission longer than any of the country's other astronauts. This is China's sixth manned space mission and comes 13 years after China first sent astronaut Yang Liwei into space. (11/18)

Hawaiian Groups Prepare with NASA for Mars Mission (Source: Big Island Now)
The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) is partnering with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and NASA this month in a groundbreaking research project to prepare for an eventual manned mission to Mars. The project, called BASALT (Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains), is focused on developing operation protocols for a joint human-robotic exploration of Mars in the search for extraterrestrial life.

BASALT scientists and crew members are conducting simulated missions in two locations which closely resemble the Martian landscape at different areas—Mauna Ulu at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Eastern Snake River Plain in Idaho. (11/17)

How Donald Trump’s Win Could Change the Trajectory of Commercial Space Ventures (Source: GeekWire)
President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers say they want to rely more on commercial ventures to pioneer the space frontier – but some of those ventures’ high-profile backers aren’t exactly in line with other parts of Trump’s policy agenda. For example, SpaceX’s billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, sees climate change as the biggest challenge facing humanity on Earth and has said a tax on carbon emissions is as necessary as garbage collection fees.

In contrast, Trump has said concerns about climate change are a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and has vowed to “cancel” U.S. participation in the recently established Paris climate pact. (The Chinese say they’re trying to set Trump straight on that point.) Click here. (11/18)

Hawking Just Gave Humanity a Due Date for Finding Another Planet (Source: Washington Post)
If humanity survives the rise of artificial intelligence, the ravages of climate change and the threat of nuclear terrorism in the next century, it doesn't mean we're home free, according to Stephen Hawking. The renowned theoretical physicist has gone as far as providing humanity with a deadline for finding another planet to colonize: We have 1,000 years.

Remaining on Earth any longer, Hawking believes, places humanity at great risk of encountering another mass extinction. “We must ... continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” the 74-year-old Cambridge professor said during a speech Tuesday at Oxford University Union. “I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet,” he added. (11/18)

Russia Launches Nuclear Test Missile That Can Reach America in 12 Minutes (Source: Salon)
Vladimir Putin has successfully test-launched a new supersonic missile that could breach NATO’s missile defense systems — and reach the United States in twelve minutes.

The missile, known as the Object 4202 rocket, managed to fly from Yasny Launch Base to the peninsula of Kamchatka, a distance spanning thousands of miles. Because its speed reaches 4000 mph, it would be practically impossible to intercept, rendering it impervious to being stopped by NATO’s defense systems. The missiles could reach the shores of the United Kingdom in as little as thirteen minutes. It is also invisible to US anti-missile systems and can evade radar. (11/18)

New Image of Ceres Shows What it Would Look Like if You Were There (Source: Ars Technica)
While New Horizons has gotten much of the planetary science glory this year after returning data from its spectacular Pluto flyby in 2015, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has continued to plug along in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt.

On Friday NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory released two new images of Ceres: a view of the intriguing Occator Crater that provides a new perspective on the distinctive feature and a global image of Ceres that represents how the world would appear to the naked eye were a human in orbit. (If only.) Click here. (11/18)

China to Select New Astronauts in 2017 (Source: Xinhua)
China will start a third round of astronaut selection in 2017, an official from the Astronaut Center of China said Friday. Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the astronaut system with the center, made the announcement after the Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 mission came to completion on Friday afternoon. In preparation for the manned space station program, the new selection process will pick candidates from air force pilots, space engineers and technical staff in aerospace-related fields. (11/18)

Here's How Extraterrestrial Farming Will Work on Mars (Source: Seeker)
Landing humans on Mars would be a momentous event in human history. To live beyond Earth's biosphere is a dream to many, but establishing a sustainable presence on the Red Planet will require mastering its environment. We would need to devise ways of producing food where none exists, because depending on supplies from Earth would neither be sustainable or practical. Click here. (11/18)

NASA's Plan to Give Our Moon Its Own Moon (Source: Seeker)
Good news, space junkies: NASA is planning a cosmic heist so audacious, so empirically cool, that it will make the standard orbital mission look like a trip to the corner store. The plan? NASA hopes to grab a rock off a passing asteroid, steal it, then deposit it into orbit around the moon.

The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is in very early planning stages, but if the space agency can pull it off, it will have multiple benefits for our species. It will help us learn how to deflect an asteroid, should one be spotted headed toward Earth. And it will also give us a kind of lunar gas station for planning future Mars missions. (11/18)

How to Avoid Stephen Hawking's Dark Prediction for Humanity (Source:
"While I respect Stephen Hawking enormously, speculating on how long Homo sapiens will survive before extinction is foolish," said John Sterman, director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative. "Whether we survive and thrive or descend into chaos is not something to predict or lay odds on, but a choice to be made." Click here. (11/18)

With Trump, Gingrich and GOP Calling the Shots, NASA May Go Back to the Moon (Source: Washington Post)
NASA has struggled for decades with strategic uncertainty, and there's nothing like a partisan transition in the White House to discombobulate everyone. There will surely be a new administrator, and new ambitions, and disfavored programs, with associated budget cuts (Earth Science is a likely target).

Right this minute, though, no one seems to know what's going to happen with America's civilian space agency. The chaotic Trump transition operation has yet to send a delegation to NASA headquarters. NASA's in-house transition team is standing by, and you can imagine that people are getting a bit jittery. There are deadlines to meet. Everything's in a holding pattern.

In the spirit of promiscuous speculation, we will float this notion: The moon is back! With Donald Trump as president-elect, moon-colony-loving Newt Gingrich hovering close at hand, and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, NASA may soon be told to get ready to do what it already did back in the 1960s and '70s — put people on the moon, this time to stay. (11/18)

Asteroid Impacts Could Create Niches for Life, Suggests Chicxulub Crater Study (Source: Imperial College)
Scientists studying the Chicxulub crater have shown how large asteroid impacts deform rocks in a way that may produce habitats for early life. Now, the researchers have carried out the first analysis of the core samples. They found that the impact millions of years ago deformed the peak ring rocks in such a way that it made them more porous, and less dense, than any models had previously predicted.

Porous rocks provide niches for simple organisms to take hold, and there would also be nutrients available in the pores, from circulating water that would have been heated inside the Earth’s crust. Early Earth was constantly bombarded by asteroids, and the team have inferred that this bombardment must have also created other rocks with similar physical properties. This may partly explain how life took hold on Earth. (11/17)

Vector Space Raises Additional Funds to Support 2017 First Launch (Source: Space News)
Vector Space Systems said Nov. 18 that it has raised $1.25 million in funding to support development of its small launch vehicle, with a goal of a first launch by the end of next year.

The seed investment into the Tucson, Arizona-based company is led by Space Angels Network, a group of individual angel investors that make early-stage investments in space companies. While Space Angels Network has invested in a number of space startups, including Astrobotic Technology, Planetary Resources, and World View Enterprises, this is its first investment in a launch company. (11/18)

Bezos Gets All Geeky Over Blue Origin’s Robotic Rocket Drilling Machine (Source: GeekWire)
Building a rocket ship may sound romantic, but there are a lot of nitty-gritty details behind the work – and that’s what Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is celebrating in his latest email about Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine. The BE-4 engine will be fueled by liquid natural gas, unlike the hydrogen-fueled BE-3 engine that Blue Origin is using on the suborbital New Shepard rocket ship that it’s testing in West Texas. It’s designed to produce 550,000 pounds of thrust, as opposed to 110,000 pounds of thrust for the BE-3.

That means new technologies have to be employed to build the BE-4 – and today, Bezos called attention to one of those technologies: the automated electrical discharge machining drill, or EDM. Here’s how he describes the EDM in all its geeky glory. (11/18)

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