November 22, 2016

Musk's Satellite Internet Plan May Face Big Threat: China (Source: Business Insider)
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and a Mars colonization evangelist, may face a big snag in his dream to bathe the globe in high-speed internet: the Chinese military. On November 15, SpaceX asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch 4,425 internet-providing satellites. That is hundreds more satellites than currently orbit Earth, including the dead ones.

But as far back as January 2015, when Musk first debuted his global internet project at a new SpaceX satellite factory in Seattle, he noted how China could pose a significant hurdle for his plans. "Obviously, any given country can say it's illegal to have a ground link. [...] And from our standpoint we could conceivably continue to broadcast," Musk said during the event. "I mean, I'm hopeful that we can structure agreements with various countries to allow communication with their citizens, but it is on a country-by-country basis."

The Chinese government would have to agree to let SpaceX build antenna dishes, or ground links, to send and receive data to and from the company's spacecraft. But that nation routes internet access for its 1.37 billion inhabitants through "the Great Firewall," a censorship technology that blocks foreign news, mentions of citizen uprisings (like the Tiananmen Square Massacre), or anything else Chinese officials don't like on the web. (11/22)

Under Trump, GOP to Give Space Weapons Close Look (Source: Roll Call)
Missile defense and military space programs are likely to get a substantial funding boost under the incoming Republican-dominated government, lawmakers and analysts say. Coming soon are a greater number of more capable anti-missile interceptors and radars deployed around the globe — on land, at sea and possibly in space, say these legislators and experts, several of whom have consulted with President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers.

More government money will be directed at protecting U.S. satellites from attack — potentially including systems that can ram into or otherwise disable another country’s satellites. And senior Republicans who oversee Pentagon spending said in interviews this week that they support considering all such systems. (11/21)

Two Years to Go For James Webb (Source: Space Review)
In two years, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope should launch on a mission that could revolutionize astronomy. Jeff Foust reports that, after a near-death experience five years ago, work on the telescope remains on track to keep that launch on schedule. Click here. (11/21)
Zero-G or Why Not? (Source: Space Review)
The importance of artificial gravity research has generated some discussion of late, particularly after NASA officials downplayed its importance. Steve Hoeser why dismissing artificial gravity could be done at our peril. Click here. (11/21)
Now vs. Later: Conflicting Views of the Path to Mars (Source: Space Review)
In the early 1960s, John F. Kennedy helped lead America to the Moon by the end of the decade. Bryant Mishima-Baker argues that, instead of seeking support today for a long-term Mars initiative, we should attempt to accelerate the timetable as was done in the 1960s. Click here. (11/21)

China Gets Serious About its Space Farming Experiments (Source: Inverse)
China just wrapped up its longest crewed space mission and brought back a pair of the countrys astronauts after a month-long stint aboard the recently launched Tiangong-2 space station. The mission was a way to test out the stations equipment and mechanisms, but also set up the first part of a slew of different scientific experiments. This payload included germinated seeds of thale cress — a flowering plant used extensively in space-based botanical research that could help usher in a whole new world of space-based agriculture. (11/21)

Rockets on the Move, SpaceX Still Aiming for 2016 Return to Flight (Source: Ars Technica)
Nearly three months have passed since SpaceX experienced a catastrophic failure on Sept. 1, when an accident occurred as helium was loaded onto its Falcon 9 rocket. As the company has now identified the cause of the accident, it is pressing ahead to try to return to flight before the end of 2016.

It is apparently making progress. On Sunday reddit user codercotton posted images and a short video of a Falcon 9 first-stage booster on Interstate 10 in Arizona, bound for Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California from the company's test facilities in McGregor, Texas. This is the booster for the launch of 10 satellites owned by Iridium, a Virginia-based satellite communications company. Later, Iridium's chief executive, Matt Desch, tweeted, "Stage 1 arriving in California for our launch. Soon, very soon." (11/21)

Extraterrestrial Gold Rush: What's Next for the Space Mining Industry? (Source:
If humans eventually want to become a space-faring species, we'll need to be able to collect basic resources, like water, straight from the space environment; it's too expensive and risky to send everything up from Earth, most experts agree.

As such, multiple companies are now trying to initiate a space mining industry, which could provide those basic resources for space travelers, or for robotic space operations. In the future, asteroids or the moon could even provide humans with resources that are rare on Earth, such as precious metals. Click here. (11/21)

Space Fire! NASA Ignites Experiment on Private Cargo Spaceship (Source:
The latest set of space-fire experiments has blazed up aboard the private Cygnus cargo spacecraft. Mission controllers on the ground ignited NASA's Spacecraft Fire Experiment II (Saffire-II) today (Nov. 21), shortly after the uncrewed Cygnus departed the International Space Station (ISS) following a monthlong stay.

The three-part Saffire program is investigating how fires spread in microgravity and aims to help researchers design safer spacecraft down the road. Saffire-I burned a piece of cotton-fiberglass cloth 1.3 feet wide by 3.3 feet long (0.4 by 1 meter) on June 14 aboard a different Cygnus, in what NASA officials described as the largest fire ever intentionally set in space. (11/21)

A Dash of Hydrogen and Methane Could Have Kept Mars Warm (Source: New Scientist)
A dash of hydrogen or methane in the atmosphere could have kept Mars warm enough for water to flow. Ever since the 1970s, we’ve known that chilly Mars must have once been warm enough for rivers. But we’ve struggled to explain how a world much farther from the sun than Earth is could get so warm – especially at a time when the sun was dimmer.

Today, the thin Martian atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas, but it traps little heat. Models suggest that even a thick CO2 atmosphere would not have lifted ancient Mars’s temperature above the freezing point.

Now Robin Wordsworth of Harvard University and his colleagues have calculated that if just a few per cent of a mainly CO2 atmosphere is made up of molecules of hydrogen or methane it could make all the difference. When these gases collide with CO2 molecules, they absorb light in a key wavelength range, which allows the planet to retain enough heat that water can flow. (11/21)

New Director of New Mexico Spaceport Ready for Next Phase (Source: Denver Post)
The new chief executive of New Mexico’s quarter-billion-dollar spaceport is urging patience as the commercial space industry develops the technology needed for reusable rockets, spaceships and other transport systems that will one day launch paying passengers and cargo into orbit. Daniel Hicks has had a week now to settle into his new job at Spaceport America, headquartered in a desolate area in southern New Mexico.

With a sense of awe about how far the previous leadership brought the futuristic desert outpost, Hicks said Monday during an interview that the attention can now turn from construction and infrastructure toward a more critical phase. “We can focus even more on our tenant relationships, launch and transport operations and really the whole commercial space industry. We can really focus on where they’re at and how we can help them,” said Hicks, who recently retired after three decades working as a civilian at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range.

With the spaceport already built, Hicks said New Mexico is in a good position to offer unparalleled airspace for testing and development for the burgeoning industry and he plans to capitalize on its location for attracting new tenants and the companies that supply the industry. (11/21)

U.S. Space Vet Touts Human Venus/Mars Flyby (Source: Aviation Week)
Astronomer and former NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden is floating a proposed commercially and internationally backed near-term human flyby of Venus. Click here. (11/21)

Some Sungrazing Comets May Be Different Beasts (Source: Seeker)
he Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft is designed to look at our nearest star ind its thin atmosphere, but luckily it can also watch comets swing by. In the last 20 years, it's discovered more than 3,000 of these objects. Here's the neat thing — a minority of these sungrazers may not be comets after all. An object called 322P/SOHO 1 appears to have some properties of asteroids or space rocks, not that loose mix of ice and dust that comets are known for.

"We found it kind of looks like an asteroid and it kinds of looks like a comet," Battams told Seeker. "There's a weird hybrid thing going on. The results were indeterminate, so we're not sure if this is something that was once a comet... or maybe an asteroid that got stuck. There's no definitive conclusion there." (11/21)

Trump, Musk, Bezos, Bruno & the Future of America’s Space Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
There’s been a lot of speculation since the election on  what president-elect Donald Trump will do with the nation’s civilian and military space programs. Two Trump advisors laid out some goals before the election: more commercial partnerships, boosting defense spending, increasing hypersonics and slashing NASA Earth science. However, most details remain unclear. Click here. (11/21)

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