December 20, 2016

The Future of War in Space is Defensive (Source: Space Review)
Concerns about growing anti-satellite capabilities of countries like China and Russia have led some to suggest the US step up its offensive space capabilities. Edward Ferguson and John Klein make the case that a more defensive stance to those threats will be more effective in the long run. Click here. (12/19) 
Dagger of the Mind (Source: Space Review)
In the 1960s, President Johnson received intelligence briefings about the development of what would be known as the N-1 rocket, but what did he actually see? Charles Vick and Dwayne Day discuss declassified images of the N-1 as presented in those briefings. Click here. (12/19)
The Possibilities and Challenges Facing Commercial Space Stations (Source: Space Review)
In the conclusion of an examination of the future of America’s presence in low Earth orbit, Cody Knipfer explores some of the initiatives NASA has underway to potentially add commercial modules to the ISS, and the need for a plan to transition from the ISS to commercial space stations. Click here. (12/19)
Will 2017 Finally be the Year of the Small Launcher? (Source: Space Review)
Several companies continue to make progress on small launch vehicles even as other suffer setbacks. Jeff Foust examines whether the next year will see some of those efforts finally take flight, and whether smallsat developers are interested in using them. Click here. (12/19)
Are Lunar Fuel Depots Needed for Mars Missions? (Source: Space Review)
The incoming administration may be interested in redirecting NASA back to the Moon, arguably to develop infrastructure needed for future Mars missions. Chris Carberry and Rick Zucker argue that such an approach would only delay, not support, the goal of sending humans to Mars. Click here. (12/19)

Japan's Epsilon Launches Science Satellite (Source:
Japan's Epsilon rocket launched a space science mission this morning. The Epsilon lifted off from the Uchinoura Space Center on schedule at 6:00 am. Eastern and placed the Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) satellite into an elliptical Earth orbit. The 350-kilogram ERG will study the Van Allen Belts and solar storms. The launch was the second for the solid-fueled Epsilon rocket, after a 2013 launch. (12/20)

OneWeb's Impressive Financing Exceeds Expectations (Source: Space News)
The $1.2 billion OneWeb raised this week was the equivalent of two financing rounds in one. Greg Wyler, founder and chairman of OneWeb, said in an interview Monday that the company had previously planned to raise two $500 million rounds one year apart, but was quickly oversubscribed on the first of those two rounds thanks to interest from SoftBank. Wyler said that OneWeb, which has now raised $1.7 billion, will finance the rest of the system, whose total cost is estimated to be $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion, with debt rather than equity. (12/20)

'Anomalous Readings' During JWST Test Concern NASA (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA is investigating "anomalous readings" during a vibration test of the James Webb Space Telescope. The spacecraft's optical system, including its mirrors and instruments, were undergoing a vibration test at the Goddard Space Flight Center earlier this month to simulate launch conditions when the anomaly was detected. Officials did not provide additional details about the problem, but noted that an inspection of the telescope did not find any evidence of damage. (12/20)

Controversial Pit Bull Tourism Promo Deal Could Increase Space Florida Scrutiny (Source: News Service of Florida)
A controversy involving another state agency and a hip-hop star may require Space Florida to be more open about its deals. At a recent meeting of Space Florida's board, one member warned that the agency must be prepared to explain in detail the return the state will get on the financing Space Florida offers to space companies.

That concern comes after controversy involving Visit Florida, the state's tourism agency, and its $1 million contract with Pitbull, the hip-hop artist; that and other questionable deals led to the recent ouster of the Visit Florida's CEO. The warning came as Space Florida agreed to extend a line of credit for a venture known as only "Project Ice" that plans to produce fiber optic cables in space. (12/19)

Lance Bass Still Wants to Visit Space (Source: Business Insider)
Lance Bass still wants to go to space. Bass, a former member of the boy band NSYNC, trained to fly on a Soyuz mission to the ISS in 2002, but was grounded when the funding for the trip fell through. "There’s no specific date, but there are plans for me to go," he said in a recent interview, although it wasn't clear if those plans involved another attempt to go to the space station or, instead, a suborbital flight. "Eventually in the next five to 10 years I would say that once we’re really flying to space a lot more that I’ll be able to take that mission." (12/19)

NASA Cubesat Mission to Test Deorbiting Tech (Source:
A NASA cubesat to be deployed from the space station early next year will test a new deorbiting technology. The TechEdSat-5 spacecraft, delivered to the ISS on the Japanese HTV-6 cargo vehicle earlier this month, will demonstrate a parachute-like technology called Exo-Brake that will increase the satellite's drag but also guide the spacecraft. That technology could eventually be used to guide capsules for reentry without the need for thrusters. (12/19)

Russia, China Making Progress in Synchronization of GLONASS, BeiDou Systems (Source: Space Daily)
Russia and China have achieved a significant progress in the synchronization of GLONASS and BeiDou navigation systems, Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said. "We have achieved a considerable progress in the field of cooperation... on the harmonization and synchronization of GLONASS and BeiDou systems. All contracts have been signed, and the work is proceeding. (12/20)

Momentum Builds For International Moon Base (Source: Aviation Week)
Technical and political developments have given Jan Woerner’s “lunar village” a boost this year, to the point that the ambitious European Space Agency (ESA) chief sees its development already underway. The member-states’ science ministers endorsed Woerner’s “Space 4.0” concept this month to underpin the idea; three teams in the $30 million Google Lunar X-Prize competition secured launch contracts to keep the robotic space race alive, and Donald Trump’s election raises the chances that NASA will refocus its relatively deep pockets on Earth’s natural satellite. (12/14)

"Small Satellites" Explode in Popularity -- and Size (Source: Motley Fool)
Small satellites are turning into big business. Since the Soviet Union opened the Space Age with its launch of Sputnik in 1957, the population of satellites in Earth orbit has swelled to more than 4,250.  Of these, fully 291 -- or 7% -- are so-called small satellites. But how big is a small satellite, anyway? It depends on what the meaning of "small" is.

According to Denver-based "space law" firm Sherman & Howard, there's actually no single definition for what constitutes a small satellite, or "smallsat." Rather, the International Academy of Astronautics lays out a continuum ranging from "minisats" massing under 1,000 kg to "microsatellites" under 100 kg, "nanosatellites" smaller than 10 kg, and "picosats" below 1 kg. Click here. (12/18)

Japanese Google Lunar XPRIZE Team HAKUTO Confirms Rideshare with Team Indus (Source: Hakuto)
Team HAKUTO, the only Japanese team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, announced today that XPRIZE has officially verified Team HAKUTO’s launch agreement and it has signed a rideshare partnership with the India-based competitor, TeamIndus, to carry its 4-wheeled rover to the Moon.

Both HAKUTO and TeamIndus are competing for the US$30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, an international lunar robotic competition that challenges privately funded teams to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the competition, a team must successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon’s surface, travel at least 500 meters and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth, before the end of 2017. (12/20)

Peter Thiel Now Leading the Fight for Commercial Space in Trump’s NASA (Source: Ars Technica)
The future of NASA and human spaceflight has led to a civil war of sorts within the upper echelons of the incoming Trump administration. As Ars reported last month, there are essentially two pathways forward for NASA in the Trump administration—one favors the status quo, while the other favors increased commercialization. For a time, the forces for status quo and continuation of the Space Launch System rocket had the upper hand. But now advocates for the increasing commercialization of NASA have struck back, led by Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.

About two weeks ago, the first formal member was named to NASA's "landing team:" Chris Shank, a longtime confidant of former NASA administrator Mike Griffin and his director of strategic communications. With Shank as their leader, several other members of the initial landing team also had connections to Griffin, who favors a model in which NASA develops and builds its own rocket and spacecraft, rather than handing over the reins to commercial companies such as SpaceX or Blue Origin.

Then, last week, some of the technology industry's titans convened for a much-publicized meeting with Trump, vice-president-elect Mike Pence, and others to discuss policy issues during the Trump administration. SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk was among a handful of executives who remained behind for an extended meeting with key Trump officials. Musk's views, along with others such as Jeff Bezos, convinced Trump adviser Peter Thiel to intervene with Pence, who leads the transition efforts for the Trump administration. Thiel's voice, in concert with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, prompted a new course for the NASA transition team. Click here. (12/20)

Big Year Ahead for Planned Swiss 64-Satellite Constellation (Source: Satellite Today)
Swiss start-up ELSE has raised more than $4 million in funding, putting the company on track to launch two demonstration nanosatellites in the fourth quarter of 2017, the first in its 64-nanosatellite Machine-to-Machine (M2M) constellation, Astrocast.

The company is still looking to raise the last $1 million in its seed funding round in order to take it to launch, as well as another $6 million in Series A funding in 2017. Still, ELSE has already seen hefty investment from the European Space Agency (ESA), the Swiss government, and private investors, as it looks to introduce the constellation dedicated to the Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M that the company says it can design, build, launch and operate for under $50 million. (12/16)

Time to End Washington’s Bad Habit of Changing NASA’s Goals in Midstream (Source: Scientific American)
As a newly minted president, Barack Obama told NASA to steer away from the moon—a destination set by his predecessor George W. Bush—and head for Mars instead. Richard Nixon encouraged NASA to cancel its final Apollo missions to divert funds to the space shuttle program. Unfortunately, President-elect Donald Trump seems set to follow this precedent. “After taking office, we will have a comprehensive review of our plans for space and will work with Congress to set both priorities and mission,” he said a month before the election.

These repeated relaunches come at great cost. Space exploration is a long-term proposition: changing our minds every four or eight years means wasting effort, time and money. Another reshuffle could prove disastrous. NASA has finally regained momentum after its last change of plans in 2010 and says it is on track with its giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, intended to target the Red Planet. “This is not a time that we can start over,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in October 2015. Our space program needs stability, and several groups have proposed changes that could help.

One is that NASA administrators should serve terms longer than four years. Currently, when each president takes office, he or she can nominate a new administrator, to be confirmed by the Senate. The nonprofit Space Foundation suggested in a 2012 report titled Pioneering that NASA administrators should serve renewable terms of five years to prevent an overhaul every time someone new moves into the White House. Click here. (12/20)

Trump Vows Lifetime Industry Ban For F-35 Officials (Source: Law360)
President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, said Thursday he would pursue lifetime bans for officials working on the project in the defense industry. Trump had said earlier last week that the costs for the fifth-generation F-35 fighter were out of control. (12/19)

ESA Preparing for Air Traffic Control Via Satellite (Source: ESA)
ESA recently completed its first flight trials using satellites to help bring Europe closer to its goal of modernising air traffic control. The trials are part of the public–private partnership between ESA and UK satellite operator Inmarsat to deliver high-capacity secure digital data links via satellite for air–ground communications for cockpit crews over European airspace under ESA’s Iris Precursor programme.

By 2019, Iris Precursor will provide air–ground communications for initial ‘4D’ flight path control, pinpointing an aircraft in four dimensions: latitude, longitude, altitude and time. This will enable precise tracking of flights and more efficient management of traffic. (12/20)

UK's Goonhilly Moves Closer To Space Exploration (Source: Pirate FM)
The prospect of Cornwall's Goonhilly Earth Station becoming a global player in the future of space exploration has moved a step closer. It follows a meeting in Westminster, where west Cornwall MP Derek Thomas introduced Goonhilly's chief scientist, Matt Cosby, to the Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson. They discussed plans to upgrade the station's largest antenna so that it is suitable for deep space communications.

Mr Cosby says that a proposed £8.4 million upgrade, which would be funded by Growth Deal money through Cornwall's Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), would enable the antenna to support human flights around the Moon. (12/19)

NASA Has a New Way to Fly (Source: TIME)
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t remember the last time the U.S. stopped flying people to space. But it was in July 1975 that the last Apollo flew, 1981 when the first shuttle took its place, and today America is on track to beat that flightless streak. No astronauts have taken off from Cape Canaveral or anywhere else on U.S. soil since the shuttles were retired in the summer of 2011.

In the coming years, however, the launchpads will roar again, with two new crew-rated ships–made not by NASA but by independent companies. Both are reminiscent of the old Apollo model–a conical spacecraft atop an upright rocket–but in nearly all other respects, the spacecraft represent a complete rethinking of how NASA does business. Click here. (12/19)

NASA GIFs Are A Cosmic Gift To The Internet (Source: Forbes)
Part of NASA’s mission is to explore the limitless opportunities beyond our planet. Another part is to educate the public. The space agency is working to do that with looping videos and graphics for everyone to see and share. NASA recently announced that it will post GIFs on its Pinterest and GIPHY accounts in a concerted appeal to millennials. The posts include animated graphics, outer-space footage and overly excited agency employees. (12/19)

Molten 'Jet Stream' Discovered Deep Inside Earth (Source:
A band of molten iron is churning slowly deep inside Earth, much in the same way as a jet stream, a new study finds. Scientists discovered the so-called molten jet stream while analyzing data from a trio of European satellites, called Swarm. The satellites launched in 2013 with the goal of studying Earth's magnetic field. In this case, Swarm's observations helped create a view akin to an X-ray of the planet, the researchers said. (12/19)

Orbital ATK Takes NASA's Scientific Balloon Program to Record New Heights (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK announced a record total of five successful scientific balloon flight launches at this year’s NASA Antarctica Long Duration Balloon Flight Campaign. The launches occurred in Antarctica from November 28 through December 12. All five balloons remained airborne for six days through December 18 marking a new flight record for NASA’s scientific balloon team.

The program is administered by the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia and operated from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF) in Palestine, Texas. Orbital ATK manages NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and provides mission planning, engineering services, and field operations under NASA’s Balloon Operations Contract. The Columbia team has launched more than 1,700 scientific balloons from seven countries in the past 35 years. (12/19)

For $75K, This (Beautiful) Balloon Will Take You Into Space (Source: Fast Company)
Something inside you fundamentally changes when you glimpse the Earth from outer space. Not many people have had this privilege. In the history of mankind, only 558 human beings have seen our planet from this vantage point. But those who have say that seeing the Earth as nothing more than a tiny blue speck hovering in the ether is life-altering. Take it from Ron Garan, who logged more than 178 days 71 million miles above the Earth as a crew member on the International Space Station. Click here. (12/20)

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