November 4, 2016

The Audacious Plan to Bring Back Supersonic Flight — and Change Air Travel Forever (Source: Vox)
One of the odd aspects of modern air travel is that it’s not really getting any faster. Ever since British Airways retired its money-losing supersonic Concorde in 2003, airlines have generally stuck to top speeds of around 615 miles per hour. That’ll get you from New York to San Francisco in five or six hours, depending on the winds, but you can’t find a plane that will get you there significantly sooner.

We’ve largely learned to tolerate our slow, boring aircraft. But there’s a compelling case that we shouldn’t — that air travel should actually be much, much quicker. Right now there are a host of energetic startups and NASA engineers working on sleek new supersonic jets that could fly twice as fast as today’s commercial planes, if not faster. These jets would be major upgrades on the noisy, fuel-squandering Concordes of old, and they could be ready within the decade. Click here. (11/3)

NASA Wants Governments to Collaborate on Space Mining for Humanity's Benefit (Source: CNBC)
Space mining is a reality, so the public and private sector need to collaborate, not compete, to advance humanity, a top NASA official told CNBC on Friday. Alongside tourism, mining is a major hot-button area of research in the multi-billion dollar space industry. The hope is that asteroids near Earth can become developed into mining centers that can send refined materials, rare metals and even clean energy to Earth, Jose Cordeiro, NASA's energy advisor, told CNBC.

So much energy lies beyond Earth that it can help resolve Earthly issues, such as climate change, water and food security, he added. But with any new frontier lies the thorny issue of regulation. "We shouldn't think about countries when talking about the universe, we should be talking about planets. Thinking just about the U.S.A, Russia or China is not the way to go, we have to think about humanity and its continuation outside Earth," Cordeiro explained. (11/3)

SpaceX Could Fly Again in December (Source: Space News)
A SpaceX customer says the company has found the root cause of a Falcon 9 pad explosion. In a conference call with investors Thursday, Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said SpaceX had found the root cause of the explosion and should be able to return to flight in December. SpaceX said last week it was making progress in the investigation, narrowing down the likely cause to a ruptured helium tank, but stopped short of saying it had found the root cause. (11/3)

Juno Thruster Problem May Mirror Intelsat Thruster Incident (Source: Space News)
NASA is looking into any link between thruster problems on its Juno orbiter and a commercial spacecraft. The head of NASA's planetary science division said this week that the thruster on Juno, currently orbiting Juno, is in the "same family" as one that malfunctioned on the Intelsat 33e satellite shortly after launch in August.

NASA postponed a maneuver to lower Juno's orbit using that engine in October because of valve problems, and that maneuver has not been rescheduled yet. Juno can perform its planned science in its current orbit, but the planned maneuver would reduce its orbital period and allow it to gather more data in a given period of time. (11/3)

MUOS Satellite Reaches Orbital Slot After Months-Long Slog (Source: Space News)
A Navy communications satellite has finally reached geosynchronous orbit, months behind schedule. The U.S. Navy announced Thursday that the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) 5 satellite, launched in June, is now in an operational orbit and will begin testing.

The satellite's main propulsion system failed during orbit-raising maneuvers after launch, leaving the spacecraft in an intermediate orbit until a series of burns by other thrusters moved it into GEO. MUOS-5 is in a more inclined orbit than originally planned, but the Navy said the spacecraft will be able to carry out its mission there. (11/3)

International Cislunar Outpost Gets Closer to Reality (Source: Planetary Society)
International Space Station (ISS) project partners are inching ever closer toward an agreement to begin the development of a new human outpost in the vicinity of the Moon. If successful, the cis-lunar space station (a space station in the vicinity of the Moon) will be the largest international space project to date, influencing the direction of human space flight for decades to come.

During a closed-door meeting in Houston last week, NASA officials met their colleagues from Europe, Russia, Japan, and Canada to discuss the latest changes to the cis-lunar space station concept. The team, known as the International Spacecraft Working Group, ISCWG, is charged with brainstorming all the technical details necessary to start the development of the new deep-space exploration program after the retirement of the ISS, now expected in mid 2020s.

The team's recommendations are not binding, but will likely form the reference architecture for any future project. The current vision involves a multi-modular outpost, essentially a smaller version of the ISS, but in the vicinity of the Moon instead of in Earth’s orbit. The outpost will also use more advanced technologies than those available on the ISS, such as closed-loop life-support systems and electric propulsion. (11/3)

Lockheed Leads List Of Federal Contractors In 2016 (Source: Law360)
Federal contract spending for fiscal year 2016 will likely hit about $440 billion, the lion’s share of which stems from the U.S. Department of Defense, with Lockheed Martin far and away the largest government contractor, according to federal figures. (11/3)

DOD Floats Rule To Crack Down On R&D Funding Abuses (Source: Law360)
The U.S. Department of Defense followed through Thursday with floating a crackdown on purported abuses of independent research-and-development funding by contractors, issuing a proposed rule aimed at preventing companies from using those expenditures to undercut the competition. (11/3)

Poland Could Fly With China to Moon (Source: Space News)
Poland plans to cooperate with China on a future lunar mission. Polish government officials recently visited China, where they agreed to provide instruments for a Chinese lunar orbiter mission. The Polish government hopes to use the cooperation with China to stimulate the development of a domestic space industry. (11/3)

NASA's Antarctic Flyover Reveals Melting Continent (Source: NBC)
The scale of Mario Tama's aerial views of Antarctica is at once stunning and humbling -- humanity can seem like an insignificant development in face of these endless landscapes. The paradox, though, is that as vast and overwhelming as the Antarctic may be, humans may be instrumental in the changes affecting it.

For the past eight years, NASA's Operation IceBridge has been tracking how polar ice is responding to climate change. Scientists studying the data collected on the thickness and shape of Antarctic snow and ice believe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in irreversible decline. Click here. (11/2)

Kaine Visits Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine will stop in Melbourne on Friday as both contentious presidential campaigns enters the final weekend before the general election. Kaine is expected to appear 5:15 p.m. at the Florida Institute of Technology. (11/3)

NASA Wants Atlas for ISS Resupply Launches Amid Concerns Over Antares (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Less than three weeks after Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket resumed launching supplies to the international space station with some fanfare, NASA wants the booster to temporarily stand down, according to industry officials. The want the next flight of Orbital’s unmanned Cygnus cargo capsule to ride on top of an Atlas V, which can lift heavier loads and has a superior reliability record.

The shift, which surprised many aerospace experts and caught even senior Orbital officials flat footed, according to people familiar with the matter, underscores NASA’s desire to have greater assurance that the orbiting laboratory will have adequate supplies and material for experiments in the short term. A NASA announcement could come as quickly as the next few days, these people said.

During Orbital’s discussions with NASA, according to industry officials familiar with the matter, the company acknowledged it would have faced a hard time complying with NASA’s upcoming launch deadlines. Orbital still plans to make two launches from the Wallops Island facility in 2017. Editor's Note: This would add a high-value, high-profile mission at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, at the expense of continued growth at Virginia's spaceport at Wallops Island. (11/3)

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