December 29, 2016

Chinese Satellites Put in Wrong Orbit After Apparent Launcher Problem (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Two Chinese remote sensing satellites launched Tuesday night are in the wrong orbit. Tracking data from the U.S. Air Force show that the two SuperView satellites launched on a Long March 2D are in elliptical orbits ranging from 214 to 524 kilometers, rather than the planned circular sun-synchronous orbits, apparently because of a problem with the launch vehicle.

Neither the Chinese government nor Siwei Star Co. Ltd., the company that owns the two satellites, have formally commented on the incident. The satellites have onboard propulsion that may allow them to raise their orbits, but at some cost to their lifetime. The Long March also carried a student-built smallsat deposited into the improper orbit; that spacecraft does not have any propulsion. (12/29)

ILS: New Proton Launch Delay Unrelated to Earlier Engine Malfunction (Source: Space News)
The latest delay in the Proton launch of EchoStar 21 is not related to an earlier problem with the rocket. International Launch Services confirmed Wednesday that the launch, planned for this week, has been delayed, but offered no information on the reason for the delay or when the launch would be rescheduled. ILS did state that the cause of this delay is not related to an engine malfunction during the previous Proton launch in June. (12/28)

After Dec. 1 Failure, Russia Plans Next Progress Launch on Feb. 2 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia has tentatively scheduled the next Progress launch for early February, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation. The Progress MS-04 spacecraft was lost during a Dec. 1 launch to the International Space Station when the spacecraft prematurely separated from the Soyuz rocket's upper stage. Russian industry sources say the next Progress mission, Progress MS-05, is currently scheduled for Feb. 2, provided an investigation into the failure is completed by the end of the month. (12/28)

Trump Claims Credit for Already Planned Space, Telecomm Jobs (Sources: CNBC, Mother Jones)
Japan's SoftBank pledged to Trump earlier this month to invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 jobs. In an interview, Trump told Bloomberg: "He said because of me they're doing 5,000 jobs in this country." Trump cited satellite broadband company OneWeb's plans to hire 3,000 people, enabled by a $1.2 billion funding round from SoftBank. Trump also pointed to 5,000 jobs Sprint is creating in the U.S.

Sprint (owned 80% by SoftBank) announced these jobs back in April. Here's the Kansas City Star: "Sprint Corp. is launching a nationwide service [that will] will lead to the hiring of about 5,000 mostly full-time employees as it spreads nationwide." And OneWeb executives said last week that discussions with SoftBank started months ago, prior to both the election and SoftBank's later pledge to Trump. (12/29)

Europe and Russia looking at Space Tug Project (Source: Space Daily)
Europe's largest aerospace group Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus DS) plans to help the Russian Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia in the practical implementation of a project to create a space tug, head of Airbus DS in Russia Vladimir Terekhov said.

According to him, the prospective space tug can be used in commercial aeronautics, and its creation could change scheme of launching, in particular, of communications satellites - the tug will take the unit to the desired point on the geostationary orbit. It can also serve as a space tanker and space garbage collector. (12/29)

China Launches Two Remote-Sensing Satellites (Source: Tass)
Two high-resolution remote-sensing satellites were successfully launched Wednesday from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in the northern Shanxi Province. The satellites, able to provide commercial images at 0.5-meter resolution, will be used for scientific purposes and on a commercial basis. Two more satellites of the SuperView-1 satellite grouping are expected to be launched next year. (12/28)

Russian Space Agency to Double Launch Program in 2017 (Source: Tass)
The launch program of Russia’s space corporation Roscosmos for 2017 will be doubled, its chief Igor Komarov has said. "The launch program for next year envisages a major increase," he said adding that it was evidence of the ambitious tasks facing the industry. (12/28)

India to Launch Record 83 Satellites in One Go in January (Source: Deccan Herald)
India will launch a record 83 satellites in one go using its workhorse PSLV-C37 by January-end. “We are working for a January launch. It will be toward the end of January. The date has to be fixed,” Isro Chairman A S Kiran Kumar told reporters in Bengaluru on Tuesday. Of the 83 satellites, 80 belong to Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the US. They weigh about 500 kg. The three Indian satellites are Cartosat-2 series, weighing 730 kg as primary payload, and INS-IA and INS-1B, weighing 30 kg. (12/28)

Four Things SpaceX Can Do in 2017 to Get its Groove Back (Source: Ars Technica)
The company remains a disruptive force that has radically remade the global launch industry over the last five years, threatening major aerospace companies and government launch services from the USA to France to Russia. And with the possibility of a major bounce-back year in 2017, here are four ways SpaceX can come roaring back to the top: 1) return to flight in January; 2) re-fly a first stage in early 2017; 3) fly the Falcon Heavy (in mid-2017); and 4) fly a Commercial Crew mission in late 2017. Click here. (12/27)

SpaceX just Teased a Photo of its Highly Anticipated Falcon Heavy Rocket (Source: Ars Technica)
But could the long-delayed rocket actually be close to flying? A photo of real hardware offers a positive sign that the rocket may indeed be getting closer to the launch pad. And the fact that the Falcon Heavy's pad at Launch Complex 39A in Florida is now almost ready for use also lends credence to the fact that the long-promised booster may soon fly.

Technically, the rocket is complex. The Falcon Heavy has a first stage composed of three Falcon 9 cores, which have a combined 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff from 27 Merlin engines. Some critics of the rocket have said they do not expect it to ever fly because of this complexity, and have suggested that any booster relying on 27 engines to work in concert will be too unwieldy to rely upon for consistent launches. (12/28)

SpaceX: Revolutionizing Spaceflight One Dollar at a Time (Source: Paste)
The key to SpaceX’s success (besides the charismatic leadership of Elon Musk, which shouldn’t be discounted) is in its goal: to make spaceflight cheaper. Right now, if you wanted to launch something into space aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, it costs about $2,500 per pound. On the Falcon Heavy (a new rocket under development that would have much larger capacity—second only to the Saturn V that took us to the moon), Musk estimates that it will cost just $1,000 per pound. Click here. (12/27)

Where to Land on Mars: NASA Makes Progress in Quest for 2020 Rover Site (Source:
While it's always difficult to choose just one best landing site on Mars, NASA officials say they have made progress on picking a location for the Mars 2020 rover. In August 2015, NASA reduced the next Red Planet rover's landing zone from an initial list of 54 locations to eight high-priority sites, said Michael Meyer. Another workshop will take place in February, and as with other Mars landing site workshops.

Once the potential mission landing sites for Mars 2020 are narrowed further, NASA will use high-resolution imagery from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to do some scouting of the potential landing sites. This is being done today for potential human missions to Mars, even though that will be decades away. (12/27)

Space Florida Doesn't Dole Out Incentives - It Lassos Top Guns (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Unlike Enterprise Florida, Space Florida doesn't dole out tax incentives. As a one-stop resource for space-related companies looking to set up shop in Florida, it may help steer them to other sources of incentives. It may also assist in providing financing for infrastructure and other investments — again, with the expectation that it will be repaid. And Space Florida's $17.5 million in state funding this year is fraction of the $78 million for Visit Florida. Space Florida also draws income from leases on facilities it owns.

Space Florida has been guiding the space industry in the state through the challenging transition from largely depending on business from NASA and the Air Force to now succeeding in a freer marketplace led by private players. In the past couple of years, Space Florida has spearheaded fruitful efforts to persuade some of the world's top space companies — including Blue Origin and SpaceX — to locate or expand their operations on the Space Coast. Agency leaders say more are on the way. And space jobs, unlike most tourism jobs, pay higher-than-average wages.

Space Florida isn't perfect. We've been critical of its executive pay and bonuses. Like all state agencies, it has an obligation to operate as transparently as possible. If it spends money irresponsibly, it needs to be held accountable. But it's worth noting than an independent audit conducted earlier this year gave Space Florida high marks. It would be foolish and self-defeating to punish Space Florida for the excesses and missteps of different economic development agencies. It may be open season in Tallahassee on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, but Space Florida is a different animal. Click here. (12/27)

Amid Fears for its Climate Funding, NASA Announces Another Climate Research Mission (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A new satellite mission, just announced by NASA this month, could finally illuminate one of the mysteries surrounding the global carbon cycle -- and provide important insights on tackling climate change in the process. The Geostationary Carbon Cycle Observatory, or GeoCARB, will provide detailed daily observations of the Americas, including measurements of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the health of vegetation on the land below. This monitoring is intended to help scientists better understand the way forests in North and South America influence the exchange of carbon dioxide and other gases between earth and atmosphere.

The announcement comes as concern grows over the future of NASA's climate research. At the end of November, senior Trump campaign adviser Bob Walker shocked the climate science community when he suggested curtailing NASA's earth science research, citing its "politicized" nature. The proposal was met with dismay and outrage by climate scientists around the world, who emphasized the critical role NASA's satellite missions have played in the advancement of global climate research. (12/20)

Boca Raton Company Seeks to Boost Plant Life on Earth and Enable it in Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A Boca Raton biotechnology company is determined to save Earth from food shortages and even make Mars habitable for human life. Lofty goals for Zero Gravity Solutions, a startup which acquired technology shown in independent studies to make crops more robust. The company also has been working with NASA, which has a goal of a Mars Mission in the 2030s, to solve the problem of food availability for astronauts visiting another planet.

Harvey Kaye, chairman of Zero Gravity Solutions, conceded in a recent panel discussion at the World Stem Cell Summit in West Palm Beach that the initial idea for the company seemed far-flung even to his wife. Kaye, 76, recalled his spouse greeted the proposition with considerable incredulity. "You're doing what in space? How old are you and when is it going to happen?" (12/16)

Pioneering Astronomer Vera Rubin Dies at 88 (Source: Science)
Astronomer Vera Rubin once told Science’s Rob Irion that “I became an astronomer because of looking at the sky” from the window of her childhood bedroom in Washington, D.C. Rubin, who died Sunday at the age of 88, went on to have a long and distinguished career, including being awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993. (12/27)

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