November 2, 2016

COMSTAC Likes SSVs as Trainers for Spaceflight (Source: SPACErePORT)
A committee advising the FAA on commercial spaceflight policy believes that commercial "Space Support Vehicles" can reduce commercial spaceflight safety risks. The Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC), during their meeting in Washington DC last week, discussed SSVs as a tool for training and gathering health/safety data on candidate spaceflight crew and participants, with routine operations at FAA-licensed spaceports.

The SSVs (like Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft) operate in a regulatory gray area, not certified as space vehicles and unable to operate for hire to train spaceflight participants. COMSTAC stopped short of issuing a binding recommendation (requiring an explicit response from the FAA Administrator) to establish a new licensing approach to accommodate SSV operations. They chose instead to await the planned release later this month of a Congressionally mandated study and recommendations on the SSV issue by the Government Accountability Office. (11/2)

How NASA Astronauts Vote From Space (Source: Mashable)
While tens of millions of people around the United States head to polling places to cast their votes in Tuesday's presidential election, the only American in space filled out his ballot long ago. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough — the sole American on the International Space Station right now — filled out his absentee ballot before ever leaving the U.S. for his space launch from Kazakhstan on Oct. 19, according to the space agency.

While Kimbrough didn't vote from his post on orbit, astronauts do have ways of voting if they are physically in space. NASA's Kate Rubins — who just flew back to Earth over the weekend — said that she used a somewhat complicated, but convenient sounding electronic method to send her completed ballot back to Earth before leaving the station. The very much absentee ballot address was marked "low-Earth orbit," the location of the Space Station, Rubins said. (11/1)

Opinion: Commercial Crew – It Was Never About Saving Money (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The last time NASA had to pay for astronauts to hitch a ride to the International Space Station (ISS) with the Russians on their venerable Soyuz spacecraft, they paid – on average – nearly $82 million per seat, for a total of six seats. That’s $490 million to transport six astronauts to and from the ISS.

Think about that for a moment: NASA has paid Russia almost half a billion dollars to ferry six people to the ISS. It appears that the former communists have learned capitalism in a fairly short time – Soyuz seats have increased 384 percent in 10 years. Having no competition allows Russia to increase prices with relative impunity.

To be fair, that amount does cover more than just taxi service to the orbiting outpost – launch services and flight training are also included in that “low, low” price. However, that’s still a lot of money to be sending to a government that may be actively operating against U.S. institutions. Moreover, Russia’s military actions in Syria and Crimea has raised troubling questions. Click here. (11/1)

NASA Signals Interest in Extending Commercial Spaceflight to the Moon (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA on Tuesday took a tentative step toward contracting with private companies to send scientific payloads to the surface of the Moon, beginning as early as next year. The space agency hasn't committed to funding these projects yet, but this may be a signal the agency is interested in a wider program to explore the Moon.

The agency released a request for information (RFI) for a "Small Lunar Surface Payload" program that recognizes the ability of several US companies to develop robots to land on the Moon. The timing coincides with the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which requires entrants to land a small spacecraft on the surface of the Moon by the end of 2017.

"NASA is asking for information about small instruments that could be placed on small lunar landers, and our interest is that we want to address our strategic knowledge gaps," said John Guidi, deputy director of the advanced exploration systems division within NASA's human spaceflight division. (11/1)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Posts 3Q Loss (Source: AP)
Aerojet Rocketdyne reported a loss of $11.1 million in its third quarter. The California-based company posted revenue of $463.8 million in the period. Aerojet Rocketdyne shares have climbed 12 percent since the beginning of the year. (11/1)

Experts Concerned by SpaceX Plan to Fuel Rockets with People Aboard (Source: Reuters)
A proposal by Elon Musk's SpaceX to fuel its rockets while astronauts are aboard poses safety risks, a group of space industry experts that advises NASA has told the U.S. space agency. "This is a hazardous operation," Space Station Advisory Committee Chairman Thomas Stafford, a former NASA astronaut and retired Air Force general, said during a conference call on Monday.

Stafford said the group's concerns were heightened after an explosion of an unmanned SpaceX rocket while it was being fueled on Sept. 1. Causes of that explosion remain under investigation. Members of the eight-member group, including veterans of NASA's Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs, noted that all previous rockets carrying people into space were fueled before astronauts got to the launch pad.

"Everybody there, and particularly the people who had experience over the years, said nobody is ever near the pad when they fuel a booster," Stafford said, referring to an earlier briefing the group had about SpaceX's proposed fueling procedure. SpaceX needs NASA approval of its launch system before it can put astronauts into space. (11/2)

Monster Chinese Telescope to Join Tabby's Star Alien Hunt (Source:
The world's largest single-dish radio telescope will join the hunt for intelligent aliens that could be building a "megastructure" around the star KIC 8462852 — otherwise known as "Tabby's Star." The recently completed Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope, or "FAST," is almost 200 meters wider than the famous Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. And now FAST will join the Breakthrough Listen SETI project to "listen in" on the strange star. (10/31)

We've Found 15,000 Near-Earth Space Rocks (Source: Seeker)
News reports of incoming asteroids are a dime a dozen. Most headlines shout about these incoming marauding space rocks, but buried in the text is the big reveal that those asteroids will fly safely by, missing Earth by a large margin. Though the tabloid press may dull our fears of these scary interplanetary vagabonds, our planet getting hit by an asteroid is a credible threat. We've been hit before, and we will get hit again.

To prepare ourselves for a possible future impact, there are several astronomical campaigns (based in space and on the ground) specifically designed to find and track asteroids that come too close to Earth for comfort. These types of asteroids are known as "Near-Earth Asteroids," or NEAs, and NASA has announced that 15,000 of these space rocks have been identified and cataloged. (11/1)

Space Walk of Fame Retitles Florida facility 'American Space Museum' (Source: CollectSpace)
A Florida museum led and supported by spaceflight pioneers, community leaders and former space program workers now has a new name to better reflect its mission. The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Museum, founded in 2001, has been renamed the American Space Museum.

"The name change was a logical next step in our evolution as it gives visitors a better idea of what they'll experience at our facility," said Tara Dixon Engel, the American Space Museum's executive director, in a statement.

The 6,100-sq.foot (570-sq.m) museum, which moved into its current Titusville building in 2014, displays artifacts and collectibles donated by astronauts and space workers who were involved in U.S. program since its start in the 1950s. The museum's exhibition hall devotes galleries to NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, as well as the more recently-retired space shuttle program. (11/1)

China And Japan Vie To Shape Asia's Approach To Outer Space (Source: Forbes)
The increasing militarization of outer space involving all major space powers, in and out of Asia, presents huge challenges to the existing global legal and policy regimes. How might the top Asian space powers, China and Japan, attempt to shape institutional outcomes amid such realities? A book I edited out from Cornell University Press this October, entitled “Asian Designs: Governance in the Contemporary World Order,” takes up this issue.

“Asian Designs” gives us a new way to think about how Asian powers aim to plant their flags in matters of global governance. Under a novel conceptual rubric, the book uncovers and scrutinizes thousands of formal and informal institutions, processes and practices they are deploying in shaping governance patterns across a number of cases. Here, I’ll focus on space. Click here. (11/1)

Subsidizing Elon Musk’s Dream (Source: Daily Caller)
The idea of traveling to Mars is all the talk among space enthusiasts. The red planet is just sitting there, waiting, almost daring humans to walk on it, even colonize it. While the idea is intriguing, it won’t be cheap. And at least one of the “pioneers” hoping to send people to Mars, billionaire Elon Musk, is mapping his path right through your wallet.

In an attempt to have his own “Kennedy moment,” President Barack Obama this month declared his desire to make visiting Mars a reality. “We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,” the President wrote in an op-ed for CNN.

That’s an ambitious goal, and a bold declaration from the man who ended NASA’s ability to travel into space. But Americans do love the idea. The nation still takes great pride in being the first to land a man on the moon, as it should. However, the idea of traveling to Mars is not being billed as a return of America’s dominance in in space. It’s more of a private enterprise, with public funding. (11/1)

Making America Great Again in Space (Source: Washington Times)
President John F. Kennedy challenged our great nation to go to the moon “in this decade,” and just eight years later, we heard Neil Armstrong’s legendary words spoken from the moon: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Our space program helped America become the undisputed leader for generations in high technology, created countless jobs and prosperity, and our national pride and international respect soared to high levels.

We have not returned to the moon in 44 years, but just when we were getting on track for bold missions to the moon and then Mars, President Obama dealt American space exploration an almost fatal blow, which handed China and other nations a decade’s head start.

Hillary Clinton may give us more of Mr. Obama’s anti-space policies, and divert even more space exploration funding to global warming theory advocacy. America cannot afford to lose another four years while other nations race for the moon and Mars and reap all the rewards. (11/31)

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