December 21, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Challenged Latest Prediction Tech (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The technology behind predicting tropical storms and hurricanes faced a tough test last week — and that, ironically, could delay a Space Coast company's attempts to improve forecasting. Because of operational delays at Cape Canaveral after Hurricane Matthew, the GOES-R satellite might not launch Nov. 4 as scheduled. A spokeswoman for United Launch Alliance, which will launch the satellite, said the launch "may be delayed a few days."

The satellite and its ground systems were sold to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by Melbourne-based Harris Corp. and Lockheed Martin, which has a significant presence in Central Florida. The equipment is the latest in a series that for decades has been sent into space to collect data for weather observers. Click here. (12/21)

Would New Port Canaveral Railroad Help SpaceX? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Port Canaveral officials never said the word SpaceX on Tuesday, but they hinted that the “commercial space industry” is “supportive” of a new railroad linking the port with Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center. The port wants the new rail route for many reasons, mostly for a cargo link to the Florida East Coast Railway. But SpaceX could benefit, because it has started bringing rockets into the port regularly this year, and moving those rockets on trucks via the highway is a slow process requiring escort vehicles.

Other space companies that have a growing presence in the region include Blue Origin, which is building a rocket plant near Kennedy Space Center; and OneWeb, which plans to start building satellites there too. Both of those companies will need plenty of supplies and raw materials for manufacturing, which could also come into Port Canaveral. (12/21)

Israel's Spacecom Buys New Satellite From Boeing (Source: Reuters)
Israeli satellite operator Spacecom is purchasing a new satellite from Boeing. The company announced Wednesday that it is purchasing the Amos-17 satellite from Boeing for $161 million. The satellite, scheduled for launch in 2019, is designed to provide coverage in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. Spacecom's Amos-6 satellite was lost in a Falcon 9 pad explosion in September, and its Amos-5 satellite failed in orbit in 2015. (12/21)

NASA Transition Team Getting New Blood (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The office of President-elect Trump is reportedly considering adding more people to the NASA transition team. The new personnel would focus on commercial space issues at the behest of Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who supported Trump during the campaign and is now advising the incoming president, out of concerns that the current landing team was too focused on "legacy" space projects. The Trump transition team has yet to formally announce any new members, and any additional personnel would have only a few weeks to work before the transition teams formally disband on Jan. 20. (12/20)

Avanti to Refinance (Source: Space News)
Avanti has chosen to refinance, rather than sell, the company. The London-based satellite operator said a $242 million refinancing package will be enough to keep the company operating through the launch next year of Hylas-4, which the company hopes will generate enough additional revenue to sustain the company in the long term. Avanti did receive several offers to buy the company, including from Inmarsat, but the company's board concluded those offers undervalued Avanti. (12/20)
NOAA Could Go Small to Fill Gaps in Weather Satellite Data (Source: Space News)
NOAA believes small satellites could serve as gap fillers for weather data. NOAA officials said last week they are looking at several options for using small satellites, including equipping them with microwave and infrared sounders as well as visible and infrared cameras. Those small satellites could provide data that, while not of the same quality as larger satellites, could be good enough to mitigate potential gaps in coverage caused by delays in larger satellite programs. (12/20)

Chinese Satellite May Offer Dark Matter Data (Source: GB Times)
Chinese scientists are sifting through a year's worth of data from a satellite in hopes of finding evidence of dark matter. The DArk Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) satellite, launched a year ago, has detected 1.8 billion cosmic ray events, including a million high-energy electrons. Scientists are studying whether the energy spectrum of cosmic rays may provide insights into what comprises dark matter. Initial results should be published in early 2017. (12/20)

SpaceX: Down But Not Out (Source
Right now it appears that the SpaceX on-pad explosion was due to a problem with the interaction of super cooled oxygen used as part of the rocket fuel, and carbon fiber tanks aboard the vessel. Musk indicated that the issue is very complex in part because it has never before been encountered in the history of rocketry.

It’s important that SpaceX be able to move past this issue both for the future of the company and for the future of mankind. Until SpaceX came along to shake things up, the space industry had been largely government dominated with a few prime contractors acting as suppliers to governments around the world. Musk’s SpaceX along with a handful of competitors such as Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin has completely shaken up that status quo.

The space industry had mostly stayed stagnant for 40 years after the U.S. moon landing – credit is due to Musk and his peers for changing the conversation. Today there are multiple companies talking about space tourism, mining asteroids, and evening taking private citizens to Mars to colonize the planet. That’s important because space exploration is arguably the biggest single potential boost to the global economy that’s on the horizon right now. (12/20)

Report: Russia Tested Anti-Satellite Weapon (Source: Daily Beast)
Russia is believed to have tested an anti-satellite weapon, sources told CNN early Wednesday. U.S. officials, who tracked it, said they believe it did not destroy anything because it did not create debris. They also believe Russia sent kamikaze satellites, known in Russia as “Kosmos 2499,” which have the power to cripple or destroy U.S. satellites. “We have very good surveillance and intelligence capabilities, so we can see the threats that are being built. So we’re developing capabilities to defend ourselves,” Gen. John Hyten of U.S. Strategic Command said. (12/21)

Largest Digital Survey of the Sky Mapped Billions of Stars (Source: Engadget)
An international team of astronomers have released two petabytes of data from the Pan-STARRS project that's also known as the "world's largest digital sky survey." Two petabytes of data, according to the team, is equivalent to any of the following: a billion selfies, one hundred Wikipedias or 40 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with single-spaced text.

The scientists spent four years observing three-fourths of the night sky through their 1.8 meter telescope at Haleakala Observatories on Maui, Hawaii, scanning three billion objects in the Milky Way 12 times in five different filters. Those objects included stars, galaxies, asteroids and other celestial bodies. (12/20)

Astrobotic Drops Out of Google Competition to Land on Moon (Source: Trib Live)
Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh-based space delivery company in the running for Google's Lunar XPrize, has pulled out of the competition. The company did not secure a launch contract for next year — one of the requirements of the $20 million competition — and the firm's technology and customers won't be ready for a 2017 voyage, said John Thornton, Astrobotic's CEO. (12/20)

Two Ways This Japanese Satellite Could Improve Space Travel (Source: CSM)
Japan’s space agency has launched a new satellite designed to study the computer-busting radiation of the Van Allen belts. The Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace satellite (ERG) successfully entered orbit on Tuesday, according to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) officials. The spacecraft is expected to settle into a highly elliptical orbit, moving outward and drawing near as it travels around the planet. Click here. (12/20)

Avalanche Statistics Suggest Tabby’s Star is Near a Continuous Phase Transition (Source: Physics Illinois)
In its search for extrasolar planets, the Kepler space telescope looks for stars whose light flux periodically dims, signaling the passing of an orbiting planet in front of the star. But the timing and duration of diminished light flux episodes Kepler detected coming from KIC 846852, known as Tabby’s star, are a mystery. These dimming events vary in magnitude and don’t occur at regular intervals, making an orbiting planet an unlikely explanation.

The source of these unusual dimming events is the subject of intense speculation. Suggestions from astronomers, astrophysicists, and amateur stargazers have ranged from asteroid belts to alien activity. 
Now a team of scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—physics graduate student Mohammed Sheikh, working with Professors Karin Dahmen and Richard Weaver—proffer an entirely novel solution to the Tabby’s star puzzle. They suggest the luminosity variations may be intrinsic to the star itself. (12/20)

Bizarre Antimatter Emits Same Light As Regular Matter (Source:
For the first time, physicists have shown that atoms of antimatter appear to give off the same kind of light that atoms of regular matter do when illuminated with lasers, a new study finds. More precise measurements of this emitted light could unearth clues that might finally help solve the mystery of why there is so much less antimatter than normal matter in the universe, researchers say.

For every particle of normal matter, there is an antimatter counterpart with the same mass but the opposite electrical charge. The antiparticles of the electron and proton, for instance, are the positron and antiproton, respectively. (12/20)

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