December 23, 2016

Military Looks To Make Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ A Reality By 2021 (Source: Daily Caller)
The U.S. military thinks that the future of defending against incoming nuclear missiles could be giant lasers floating in space. The military is developing sensors that could combat incredibly fast nuclear missiles and target them with lasers when they’re most vulnerable, but that can only work from space. The technology to zap missiles with space lasers could be online as soon as 2021.

“It’s so important that we make this broader shift from a terrestrial-based system to a system that primarily plays from space in the next couple of years,” Richard Matlock, executive for advanced technology at the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said. (12/22)

Proxima Centauri's Origins Could Mean Its Exoplanet Really Is Habitable (Source: Seeker)
Astronomers have strong evidence that suggests the nearby star likely formed with Alpha Centauri, a possibility that could have serious implications for the habitability of Proxima b, the star's famous Earth-sized exoplanet. Click here. (12/23)

KSC Space Lettuce on ISS Menu Again (Source: Florida Today)
Space-grown produce has evolved from lab experiment to menu item aboard the International Space Station. Two years ago, heads of lettuce grown by the Kennedy Space Center-led project called “Veggie” were sealed, frozen and shipped home for analysis to ensure it was safe to eat. Last year, astronauts sampled red romaine leaves for the first time. (12/23)

New Glenn and the Importance of Planetary Science (Source: Space Angels Network)
It is in planetary science, combined with the knowledge of the government space sector and ambition of the new commercial space industry, that the next exciting chapter in space lies. “Planetary science is a driver for humans to explore and build a multi-planetary species” says Alan Stern. The ultimate goal is of course human boots on Mars. Achieving this will likely combine both government and private industry.

And the planetary science being developed will help drive forward this new private space era. “It is critical to commercial space exploration. You need to have an idea of what is out there and what resources could be utilized before sending missions. Given the costs involved to send anything into space, you want as much prior information about your target as possible.” Adds Holt.

But the legacy of our first footsteps into space, and those who paved the way, will remain with those future explorers of Mars. From the passionate speeches of ‘cycling orbits’ and ‘getting your ass to Mars’ made by Buzz Aldrin. To the fact that among those private companies looking to Mars is Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, with its New Glenn rocket, something which has the potential to take humans beyond Earth once again and onwards to Mars. Meaning New Glenn, just like its namesake, could help not just America, but the world, in a new era of exploration. (12/22)

NASA Readies for Major Orion Milestones in 2017 (Source: Space Daily)
From the beginning of assembly work on the Orion crew module at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to testing a range of the spacecraft systems, engineers made headway in 2016 in advance of the spacecraft's 2018 mission beyond the moon. A look at the important milestones that lie ahead in the next year give a glimpse into how NASA is pressing ahead to develop, build, test and fly the spacecraft that will enable human missions far into deep space. Click here. (12/23)

Environmental Impact of Space-Based ADS-B (Source: Space Daily)
A new report, based on research from Purdue University's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, analyzes the potential impact of space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) technology on global aviation carbon emissions in remote and oceanic airspace.

Authored by Dr. Karen Marais, the report titled Environmental Benefits of Space-based ADS-B, indicates that the implementation of this technology can offer benefits preventing approximately 14.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the atmosphere between 2020 and 2030. This is equivalent to removing more than 300,000 cars from U.S. roads each of those years, while making no changes to aircraft design or fuel.

While procedural airspace helps manage safety-risk, it can also be inefficient. Marais found that space-based ADS-B offers a near-term solution for the aviation industry to limit fuel emissions by improving operations and efficiencies in remote and oceanic airspace. It accomplishes this by using more precise locating capabilities and enabling optimum altitudes, speeds and routes. (12/23)

Virgin Galactic Ends 2016 with Second SpaceShipTwo Glide Flight (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane performed its second free flight Dec. 22 as the company prepares to enter a critical year in the vehicle’s long-delayed development. The suborbital VSS Unity took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft. SpaceShipTwo was released from WhiteKnightTwo about 40 minutes later, gliding back to a runway landing in Mojave. (12/23)

In African Desert, Telescope Project Seeks Clear Skies in Cruel Terrain (Source: Globe and Mail)
The Square Kilometer Array will be the world’s most powerful radio telescope, opening new frontiers in our understanding of the universe. But the builders have to contend with an unforgiving climate and other formidable challenges first.

The full telescope, to be completed by 2024, will be physically divided between South Africa and Australia. But eight other countries, including Canada, will be key partners in the consortium that supports the $2-billion (U.S.) project.

Negotiations among the consortium members, now under way, will set up a council to determine the size of the financial and technological investments by Canada and the other partners. Canada has some of the world’s leading expertise in the supercomputers and correlators that will be crucial to the telescope project. (12/23)

Future Mars Residents May Live in a Home Made of Ice (Source: Inverse)
Want to Live on Mars? We have the ice house for you. NASA is crowd-sourcing ideas for future Martian habitats and the leading design is essentially a modified igloo. That’s right, the first humans to inhabit Mars, may reside in homes made of ice.

Last month, a research team from the University of Texas announced that Mars is hiding a secret supply of water just below its surface. They reported that a region on Mars known as Utopia Planitia is harboring as much water as Lake Superior here on Earth — only difference is the Martian reserves are frozen solid. Click here. (12/22)

5 Reasons Trump Should Commit To A Crewed Lunar Return (Source: Forbes)
President Trump’s best opening gambit at January’s congressional state of the union address would be to throw down the space gauntlet and fully commit NASA to a crewed lunar return. The new President offers space aficionados the best chance of seeing humans on the face of the moon anytime soon. Here are five reasons why a Trump Administration should make the Moon a near-term priority. (12/22)

U.S., Europe to Work on Enhanced Satellite Navigation for Aircraft (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Aviation authorities are moving to improve the accuracy and reliability of satellite navigation by enabling aircraft in the future to simultaneously rely on separate orbiting systems run by the U.S. and Europe. Such proposed changes, recently endorsed by the FAA’s top outside technical advisers, set the stage for major shifts in how pilots will use space systems for precise position data and flight routes. Click here. (12/22)

After 16 Years of Lawmaking, Science Ally Mike Honda Departs (Source: Science)
Republicans retained control of both houses of Congress in last month’s election. But that doesn’t mean the 115th Congress that convenes on 3 January 2017 is identical to its predecessor. Fifty-six new members of the House of Representatives will take their seats (42 Republicans and 14 Democrats) along with four new Senators (three Democrats and one Republican). Although none has a science Ph.D., a few have significant ties to the research community.

Representative Mike Honda has sat through more than a thousand hearings in his 16 years as a member of Congress representing a northern California district in the heart of Silicon Valley. At each one, says the 75-year-old Democrat, he listened impatiently as his colleagues put pet projects and petty grievances ahead of the chance to hear experts summoned to share their knowledge on a pressing issue.

It’s not a problem the former high school science teacher will have to endure any longer: Next month, after having failed to win a ninth term, Honda will be leaving Congress. And in a recent exit interview, Honda reflected on things he had learned as well as things he’d like to see changed. Click here. (12/23)

US Military Test-Fires SM-6 Weapons in Missile Defense Test (Source:
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy have launched their latest missile defense test in the Pacific Ocean in a successful demonstration that hurled two interceptors at an incoming medium-range ballistic missile.

The test occurred Dec. 14 and launched two Raytheon-built Standard Missile-6 Dual 1 (SM-6) missiles from the Navy destroyer USS John Paul Jones from just off the coast of Hawaii, MDA officials said in a statement. The two SM-6 projectiles were launched against a medium-range ballistic missile target as part of the MDA's Sea-Based Terminal Program, using Navy ships equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. (12/22)

SAIC Recommends Civil Agency for Orbital Traffic Management, But Not Which One (Source: Space Policy Online)
In a report for NASA required by the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA), SAIC is recommending that a civil government agency take responsibility for orbital traffic management, but it does not specify which agency that should be. The FAA and its parent, the Department of Transportation (DOT), are often the center of attention in orbital -- or space -- traffic management discussions, but SAIC explained that the terms of reference for its study did not ask for such a recommendation.

Section 109 of CSLCA makes a sense of Congress statement that an "improved framework" may be needed for "space traffic management" of U.S. government and private sector assets in outer space and orbital debris mitigation.  It then directs that NASA, in consultation with DOT, DOD, the FCC, and the Department of Commerce, contract with an independent systems engineering and technical assistance organization to "study alternate frameworks for the management of space traffic and orbital activities." 

It goes on to specify what the study should consider and asks for recommendations on "the appropriate framework for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the public and economic vitality of the space industry." SAIC was selected to conduct the study.  Its final report was submitted to NASA on November 21.  It begins by noting that definitions of terms like "space traffic management" vary and consequently creates its own definitions for the purpose of the study. It chooses to use "orbital traffic management" rather than "space traffic management" because it believes the latter "implies a specific approach." (12/22)

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