November 29, 2016

GAO Pushes FAA To Look At 'Space Support Vehicle' Regs (Source: Law360)
The Government Accountability Office urged the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday to take a look at the market for potential “space support vehicles” such as high-performance jets and consider whether the still highly nascent area requires dedicated new regulation. FAA statutory or regulatory change would be needed to allow Space Support Vehicle operations. Here is a summary of the GAO report.

"To respond to changes in the aviation and commercial space-transportation industries, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to fully examine and document whether the current regulatory framework is appropriate for aircraft that could be considered space support vehicles, and if not, suggest legislation or develop regulatory changes, or both, as applicable." (11/28)

Russia Falls Behind In Annual Space Launches For First Time Ever (Source: Moscow Times)
This year, for the first time in history, Russia has fallen behind the United States and China as the world's leading launcher of space rockets. Russia will finish 2016 with just 18 launches, according to open source data, compared to China's 19 and America's 20 launches.

Alexander Ivanov, deputy chief of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, said on Nov. 29 that the launch rate has decreased because Moscow's space strategy has changed. Currently, it's top priority is reviving existing and aging satellite groupings. With the Russian economy in crisis, space budgets have plummeted. Funding for the next decade of Russian space activity stands at just 1.4 trillion rubles ($21.5 billion), a figure that was only finalized after three rounds of cuts to proposed funding, which began at 3.4 trillion rubles ($52.3 billion). The U.S. space agency, NASA, received a budget of $19.3 billion in 2016 alone.

But there are other reasons Russia's launch rate may be falling behind. Russian rockets are becoming uncharacteristically undependable. Historically reliable vehicles like the Proton rocket have seen a slew of catastrophic and embarrassing launch failures over the past few years. Quality control issues now plague Russian space production lines. (11/29)

US Launch Leadership Over Russia Should Widen (Source: Ars Technica)
The gap should only widen in the coming years. Before its accident in September, SpaceX was moving toward a schedule of one or more launches per month, matching or possibly exceeding the cadence of its US-based competitor United Launch Alliance. Blue Origin, too, could join their ranks as early as 2019, potentially fulfilling the promise of capitalism—that private sector rocketry can offer a cheaper, better alternative to a government-led launch model. (11/29)

The Proper Role of the Federal Government in Space Exploration (Source: The Hill)
I am a big fan of space exploration and I think that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is a visionary company that is trying to conduct meaningful space exploration. Yet, Congress might want to take a hard look at the ticket price for Musk’s latest endeavor before spending $10 billion to populate Mars. Men like Elon Musk are visionaries who may not be very good at politics, yet they are great at building billion dollar companies that break new ground.

I am a limited government conservative, yet I fully support government funded space travel. But it must be smart and it can’t fund risky adventures.  The one concern I have about SpaceX’s plan to travel to Mars is that, on its face, the plan seems more like a for-profit enterprise than true space exploration. I would support pure exploration of Mars and a project that has a stated goal of forwarding humanity. Musk’s idea seems like he is more in it for profit than science. (11/29)

Ex-Astronaut's Plans to Take Tourists to Outer Atmosphere (Source: BBC)
Retired Nasa astronaut Ron Garan spoke at the summit about space company World View's plans to take tourists 30km (20 miles) above the Earth. Mr Garan believes travel above the Earth can bring a new perspective to our lives on the ground. Gigantic high altitude balloons blown up to the size of a professional football pitch will be attached to a pressurised gondola-like craft holding two crew and six passengers.
The first trip is planned before the end of 2018. Here's a video. (11/29)

Boeing, SpaceX, OneWeb Vie for Right to Deploy LEO Satellite Constellations (Source: Radio)
Boeing has found that it needs to defend its proposal to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites (LEOS) in order to offer broadband services to “all Americans.” In its latest filing with the FCC, Boeing addresses concerns brought up by Straight Path Communications, a small company that holds hundreds of 39 GHz licenses, including those it acquired from Winstar. Boeing’s proposal specifies 2,956 satellites, with an initial deployment of a constellation of 1,396 LEO satellites operating at a 1,200 kilometers altitude.

SpaceX has proposed a similar system, operating at altitudes ranging from 1,110 kilometers to 1,325 kilometers. Boeing filed its application with the FCC in June and SpaceX submitted its application to the FCC on Nov. 15.

OneWeb is planning the launches of at least 700 satellites as the basis for its LEO constellation, which would orbit at an altitude of 1,200 kilometers. OneWeb proposes the use of for low-cost Ku-band user terminals, and a small number of globally distributed Ka-band gateway antennas. OneWeb submitted its license application with U.S. regulators back in April, and has the backing of backing of Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs and Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson. (11/28)

Blue Origin President to Speak at Embry-Riddle Daytona Beach Fall Commencement Ceremony (Source: ERAU)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Campus will welcome guest speaker Rob Meyerson, President of Blue Origin, as part of a weekend-long honoring of graduates at its Fall 2016 Commencement, Master’s Hooding and ROTC Commissioning ceremonies to be held Dec. 16-19.

As the university celebrates the culmination of its 90th anniversary, the Dec. 19 Commencement ceremony will also feature another milestone with 10 Ph.D. degrees scheduled to be awarded – the largest number in the school’s history. (11/28)

Jacobs Supports Evolution of Thermal Protection Capability at KSC (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Thermal Protection System Facility, or “TPSF”, is one of the many capabilities at KSC that has had to redefine itself in the post-shuttle era. Fortunately, as NASA works to repurpose Kennedy Space Center and convert it into a multi-user spaceport, the buildings’ unique capabilities are continuing to serve the agency as it focuses on sending crews to asteroids, Mars, and other potential deep space destinations.

The Thermal Protection System Facility (TPSF) Annex at KSC is used to manufacture the advanced heat-resistant materials needed to protect vehicles such as the Space Shuttle and now Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser vehicle. The TPSF works in concert with the Arc Jet Complex at Ames Research Center (ARC), which provides a high-intensity plasma jet for simulating the heat of re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. (11/28)

Russia's Super-Heavy Rocket Project Estimated at $23 Billion (Source: Tass)
The project for creating Russia’s super-heavy space rocket and launch pad for it will cost approximately 1.5 trillion rubles (roughly $23 billion at the current official rate of exchange), the first deputy CEO of the state-run corporation Roscosmos, Aleksandr Ivanov, said on Tuesday. (11/29)

Why NASA's First Good Look at Mars Almost Ended Its Exploration (Source: National Geographic)
November 28 is also Red Planet Day, which commemorates the 1964 launch of the Mariner 4 spacecraft to Mars. The images sent back to Earth as the probe flew by Mars eight months later provided our first detailed glimpse of the surface of an alien planet. And the data collected by Mariner 4 provided key information about how to safely deliver future missions to the Martian surface.

But, in the short-term, Mariner 4 was a PR disaster for NASA. The grainy, black-and-white images revealed a barren planet pockmarked with craters. It looked no different than the moon. Nobody had seriously expected images of lush vegetation growing along the banks of water-filled canals. But Mars had captivated the public imagination for centuries. The bleak Mariner 4 images could only disappoint.

“Mars, it now appears, is a desolate world,” declared a July 30, New York Times editorial titled “Dead Planet.” “Its surface bathed in deadly radiation from outer space, it has very little atmosphere and has probably never had large bodies of water such as those in which life developed on this planet.” (11/28)

The U.S. and China Are Fighting Over Mars, but Japan May Win the Space Race (Source: Bloomberg)
The U.S. and China are spending billions of headline-grabbing dollars in a tacit race to put humans on Mars. Japan prefers lower-key missions in the opposite direction, sending mechanical explorers toward Venus and Mercury for a fraction of the price. A $290 million probe orbiting Venus is collecting information about the scorching atmosphere that may foretell Earth’s future. A collaborative mission with Europe will measure Mercury’s magnetic field and electromagnetic waves. Another craft is gliding toward an asteroid to search for water.

With a budget less than a 10th the size of NASA’s, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, is more about scientific endeavors with earthly applications than spectacular travels. JAXA-launched satellites track movements in the Earth’s crust that can portend volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, and its astronauts are helping a Tokyo drug developer pursue a cure for cancer.

“There’s definitely a ‘Space Race’ going on: Who can get to Mars first?” said agency President Naoki Okumura, who’s led JAXA for three years. “There are lots of debates, but we’re focusing on small-scale experiments and tools that are useful for daily life.” (11/29)

Orbital ATK to Develop Critical Technology for In-Orbit Assembly with NASA (Source: SpaceRef)
Orbital ATK announced that it has begun a public-private partnership with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) to establish a Commercial Infrastructure for Robotic Assembly and Services (CIRAS) in space. The CIRAS program will advance key technologies for in-orbit manufacturing and assembly of large space structures that will help the agency meet its goals for robotic and human exploration of the solar system. (11/29)

Georgia Spaceport Opponents Question Suitability of Site (Source: Ars Technica)
The site of a planned commercial spaceport in southeastern Georgia is a safety and environmental threat, opponents of the project argued Monday. Rockets launched from the proposed Spaceport Camden would fly over about 2,000 acres of private property and more than 60 homes on Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island, as well as portions of the environmentally fragile Cumberland Island National Seashore, Dick Parker, a Little Cumberland Island property owner, told members of a state Senate study committee.

“We’ve got people here and a national seashore that would be put at risk by rockets literally flying over their heads,” he said.

The study committee was formed this year after the General Assembly balked at legislation aimed at shielding the spaceport from lawsuits resulting from injuries or deaths suffered by passengers on commercial space flights. The bill is considered vital to allow Georgia to compete for commercial spaceflight business with states that provide such liability protection to spaceport operators. Click here. (11/28)

EchoStar Expects Early January Launch with SpaceX (Source: Space News)
EchoStar expects to launch a communications satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in early January. The company said it is planning the launch of the EchoStar 23 satellite on a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral on Jan. 8 or 9. That mission will likely come after the Falcon 9 return-to-flight mission, carrying 10 Iridium satellites, tentatively scheduled for mid-December. EchoStar 23 is designed to serve the Brazilian market, and the company is facing a mid-2017 deadline from that country's regulators for bringing the satellite into service. The company is also planning the launch of the EchoStar 21 satellite on a Proton Dec. 22. (11/28)

NASA Plans More Extended Stays on ISS (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA is planning several more one-year missions on the ISS. NASA officials say they would like to do five more one-year missions, modeled after the one flown by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko that concluded early this year. The earliest the next one would begin is September 2018, and some of the one-year missions could overlap with each other. The additional extended missions would make it more likely scientists can get statistically significant data on the effects of long-duration zero-g spaceflight. (11/28)

Love and a Red Planet: Popular Entertainment and the Settlement of Mars (Source: Space Review)
A new wave of movies and television shows depicts humans exploring, and settling, Mars. In the first of a two-part essay, Dwayne Day examines one upcoming movie that mixes teen romance with Mars settlement. Click here. (11/28)
 
Recommendations to the Next Administration Regarding Commercial Space (Source: Space Review)
Prior to the election, the National Space Society convened a group of experts to discuss what the next administration should do in space. That group provides here a set of five recommendations about how the government can bolster commercial space initiatives. Click here. (11/28)
 
Commercial Space in the Next Administration (Source: Space Review)
Since the election, much of the attention space policy has received has focused on the future of NASA programs and the agency’s leadership. Jeff Foust reports there are commercial space issues for the incoming administration to contend with as well. Click here. (11/28)
 
A New Approach to Selling Human Mars Exploration (Source: Space Review)
A long-running challenge for advocates of human Mars exploration is building up and sustaining public interest in such missions. Joseph Smith argues that the best way to do that might be to go all-in on robotic Mars missions. Click here. (11/28)

Space Florida Welcomes Trump Administration's Space Focus (Source: Space Florida)
“On behalf of Space Florida, I welcome President-Elect Trump’s incoming administration and look forward to continuing our positive relationship with NASA. I have been encouraged by what I have heard of President-Elect Donald Trump’s plans for our national space program. As the incoming administration develops policies and priorities for the upcoming term, Space Florida encourages President-Elect Trump’s incoming administration to sustain the balance of programs of record, including NASA’s Commercial Cargo and Crew programs, Space Launch System (SLS), Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion), and affiliated Ground Systems Development and Operations.

Collectively, these programs sustain the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida, this nation’s premier gateway to a great future in space." (11/28)

Courtney Stadd Offers Advice for Space Transition Team (Source: Space News)
When you come to NASA, you and your team will be assigned a location at NASA Headquarters, which will become your transition office for processing agency materials and meeting with your team and select agency officials. I recommend you choose to meet officials in their offices and treat the transition office as a hide-away for the team to collect its thoughts and lay out future plans.

Bureaucracies relish process and paperwork, so prepare yourself to be offered a lovely set of tabbed notebooks (in physical or electronic form). These will include background on all the major programs, position descriptions of all senior officials at HQ and the field centers, budget history and out-year projections. It is worth poring through, but don’t forget  the notebooks represent what the bureaucracy and the outgoing administration want you and the new administration to see. Click here. (11/21)

US Military Prepares for the Next Frontier: Space War (Source: CNN)
Since man first explored space, it has been a largely peaceful environment. But now US adversaries are deploying weapons beyond Earth's atmosphere, leading the US military to prepare for the frightening prospect of war in space. Click here. (11/29)

Astronaut Vision Issues Understood: Fluid That Cushions Brain Floods Eye Cavities in Microgravity (Source: Ars Technica)
When Scott Kelly returned from his one-year space mission last March, he admitted that he, like many of his colleagues, came back with vision troubles. In fact, nearly two-thirds of astronauts who have gone on long-duration space missions inexplicably returned with blurry vision, flattened eyeballs, and inflamed optic nerves—and now researchers have a new hypothesis as to why.

Despite years of research, the cause of the problems remains fuzzy. However, scientists have dubbed the astronauts’ condition “visual impairment intracranial pressure syndrome” or VIIP. The name is based on the leading theory that, in space, bodily fluids normally dragged down by gravity can freely flow into the head and increase the pressure on the brain and eyeballs. A researcher at Georgia Tech is even looking into a mechanical way to draw fluid back down to the legs to spare space-goers' eyesight. (11/29)

Got A Great Idea For Dealing With Poop In A Spacesuit? Let NASA Know (Source: NPR)
NASA is looking for some help making the solar system's most portable port-a-potty. So if you think you know the best way to poop in a spacesuit, the agency is ready to hear it ... and you might make $30,000 for your trouble.

The "Space Poop Challenge" — that's what it's called, we're not making this up — is the latest project of the NASA Tournament Lab, a program to invite members of the public to help come up with "novel ideas or solutions" for space-related problems. It's hosted on HeroX, a crowdsourcing platform. And here's the challenge: Create an "in-suit waste management system" that can handle six days' worth of bathroom needs. (11/28)

NASA X-Ray Tech Could Enable Superfast Communication in Deep Space (Source: Space.com)
New technology could use X-rays to transmit data at high rates over vast distances in outer space, as well as enable communications with hypersonic vehicles during re-entry, when radio communications are impossible, NASA scientists say.

The technology would combine multiple NASA projects currently in progress to demonstrate the feasibility of X-ray communications from outside the International Space Station. The radio waves used by mobile phones, Wi-Fi and, of course, radios, are one kind of light. Other forms of light can carry data as well; for instance, fiber-optic telecommunications rely on pulses of visible and near-infrared light. (11/28)

What Will We Do When Hubble Dies? (Source: Seeker)
t's an old telescope, unmaintained since the last space shuttle mission visited in 2009. While the observatory is in excellent health today, it's expected to stop collecting data sometime in the 2020s. What will we lose when the telescope finally dies?

NASA is quick to point out that the James Webb Space Telescope, expected to launch in 2018, will enhance Hubble's capabilities in many ways. But for the telescope's higher resolution and ability to peer back to the very early days of the universe, there is one key thing it doesn't have: ultraviolet capabilities. (It also will lack some of Hubble's fine spectral resolution, and ability to observe a special spectral line called H-alpha that is useful for nebulae and stars.)

Astronomers are being urged to submit as many UV proposals to Hubble as possible because once it dies, there are no immediate plans to launch a successor. (Astronomers could then pull from the archive as needed in future decades.) (11/28)

Russia to Develop Super-Heavy Class Rocket for Building Station on Moon (Source: Tass)
Russia is about to launch a project for building a new super-heavy space rocket that will make it possible to create a research station on the Moon someday, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin while addressing an audience at the space rocket corporation Energiya.

The project for creating a super-heavy class rocket was approved in the autumn of 2014, but in the spring of 2015 the head of the space rocket corporation Roscosmos Igor Komarov said the work on a new rocket had to be postponed. The project was absent from the federal space program for 2016-2025 adopted last spring. At the same time there are plans for creating a Feniks rocket, which is seen as the first stage of a future super-heavy rocket. (11/28)

New Russian Resupply Ship May Perform Maiden Flight After 2020 (Source: Interfax)
Russia's new resupply ship with an increased lift capacity may perform its maiden flight after 2020, Energia Corporation said. "The resupply ship with an increased lift capacity, which will give transportation and engineering support to the International Space Station (ISS), may take off for the first time after 2020," the corporation said. The conceptual design of the spaceship will be ready in December 2016, the corporation said, noting that the spaceship would not be a re-entry vehicle. (11/28)

Massive Ice Reservoir on Mars Could Keep Settlers Alive (Source: Seeker)
Beyond Earth, Mars is the most habitable planet in the solar system — but that doesn't mean we can simply move there and expect to live off the land. Though the surface of Mars is more barren (and a lot more toxic) than the most arid desert on Earth, NASA has uncovered a vast underground supply of water ice that may, someday, be an oasis for future Mars explorers.

Water isn't only a requirement for keeping astronauts alive, it's needed for fuel production and would sustain any burgeoning Martian agriculture. Put simply, unless we find Mars water and understand how to access it, our Mars colonization dreams are over. But the discovery of a vast reservoir of subsurface water ice by an orbiting NASA Mars satellite could represent a game-changer for the future of Mars colonization. (11/28)

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