December 30, 2016

NASA Has A Whole Lot Of Science Planned For 2017 (Source: Huffington Post)
NASA has a whole lot of research planned for 2017, including continued work to transport humans to Mars and efforts to track our home planet’s changing climate, despite an incoming administration that’s proved to be highly antagonistic to science in general. The U.S. space agency released a video Wednesday of next year’s planned ventures, which include interplanetary missions involving the red planet, Saturn and Jupiter; new programs to develop environmentally friendly aviation; and ongoing exploration of the known and unknown universe. Click here. (12/30)

The People and Policy Shaping NASA’s Future Under Trump (Source: Space News)
This presidential transition has been, in many respects, unlike any other in recent history. President-elect Donald Trump has eschewed the traditional post-election news conferences, relying more on Twitter to broadcast updates on his plans. Political reporters have been reduced to staking out the lobby of Trump Tower, keeping tabs on visitors to determine who might be in the running for various jobs in the next administration.

The same people-watching, on a smaller scale, is taking place when it comes to NASA. The space community waited for weeks for the transition to name its “landing team” for the agency while rosters for the teams handling other departments filled up. It wasn’t until three weeks after the election that the transition named its first NASA landing team member, Chris Shank. Click here. (12/29)

Astronauts With People Skills Will Colonize Mars (Source: Inverse)
In order to create a functional base on Mars, NASA and its private competitors will need to design the physical and digital technology needed to transport humans and what keeps them alive between a 33.9 million miles journey and a safe landing. But the mission won’t end there. Astronauts will need to work effectively together to make the whole project both sustainable and worthwhile. Given the extremity of the conditions, that’s no small ask. Click here. (12/28)

RSCC Orders Two Satellites (Source: Space News)
Russian satellite operator RSCC has made its first payments for two new communications satellites. The company said this week it made payments to ISS-Reshetnev and Thales Alenia Space for work on the Express-80 and Express-103 communications satellites, scheduled for launch in 2019. ISS-Reshetnev is building the satellite bus for each spacecraft, while the Italian division of Thales Alenia Space is providing multi-band communications payloads. (12/29)

Is Relaunching Space Council a Good Idea? (Source:
Reestablishing the National Space Council (planned under VP Mike Pence) may not be such a great idea, experts warn. The space policy issued by the Trump campaign prior to the election called for recreating the council, last in place in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, and advisers have reiterated plans to do so since the election. However, the National Space Council has had a mixed history at best, historians and policy experts note, with both NASA and the Defense Department often perceiving it as another layer of bureaucracy between those agencies and the president. (12/29)

You Won’t Believe What NASA Hid From Us This Year (Source: Ars Technica)
As the federal agency at the forefront of exploring outer space, NASA winds up being the front door for all manner of alien conspiracies. And so every year, to find out what the miscreants at the space agency have been keeping from the good, honest people of America, we like to google the phrase "NASA hiding." 2016 did not disappoint. Click here. (12/29)

Texas' New Midland Spaceport Aims to Make Space Travel Accessible to All (Source: Texas Standard)
Drive down a windy, muddy road, hidden on the backside of Midland airport’s southernmost tarmac, and you’ll find a shiny new hangar and office building: XCOR Aerospace’s Texas headquarters. Most people associate the Permian Basin with oil and gas. But some Midlanders are hoping to make the region synonymous with space travel. Two years ago, Midland’s airport became the first commercial airport also licensed for flights into space. Today, it’s called Midland International Air and Spaceport.

Midland Native and City Councilman J. Ross Lacy, president of the Spaceport Development Corporation, says this is just the beginning of a new era for the city. “We are the only commercially operated air and spaceport in the world,” Lacy says. “We are the only one where you can fly in on Southwest but then also take off on a horizontal take off of a spacecraft. No other place in the world can say that.” (12/28)

Could We Use Magnets To Clear Up Our Space Junk? (Source: Forbes)
The great thing about solutions to space debris is that pretty much every off-the-wall idea has been suggested with some degree of seriousness. Many of these suggestions never make it off the ground, but the suggestions are there. Space debris is a problem with no clear solution - the nature of the debris itself is so varied that no single approach is likely to solve it. However, any solution is better than no solution, and we’re still in a phase of learning what methods are likely to best help clean up after ourselves. Click here. (12/28)

Chinese Satellites Raising Orbits After Launch Anomaly (Source: Space News)
Two Chinese remote sensing satellites placed into a low orbit after an apparent problem with their launch vehicle are gradually raising their orbits and may still be able to carry out their missions.

The two SuperView-1 satellites launched at 10:23 p.m. Eastern Dec. 27 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on a Long March 2D rocket. Chinese media declared the launch a success, but satellite observers noted the two spacecraft were placed in elliptical orbits ranging from 214 to 524 kilometers rather than the planned circular sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 530 kilometers.

Since the launch, the two satellites have been gradually raising their orbits. Orbital data provided by the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Center indicated that as of early Dec. 30 one spacecraft, designated SuperView-1 01, is in an orbit of 352 by 526 kilometers. The other, SuperView-1 02, is in an orbit of 369 by 526 kilometers. (12/30)

Google Lunar X Prize Teams Await Word of Their Fate (Source: Space News)
Teams competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, facing an end-of-the-year deadline to obtain a verified launch contract, may not know until some time in January if they will be able to continue in their race to the moon. The competition, which offers a $20 million grand prize to the first private team to land a spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters, and transmit video and other data, requires the 16 remaining teams to submit a launch contract to be verified by the X Prize Foundation, which runs the competition, by Dec. 31.

Teams that fail to do so will be dropped from contention, while those who continue will have until the end of 2017 to launch their missions. To date, four teams have verified launch contracts: Moon Express, which will launch on an Electron rocket from Rocket Lab; SpaceIL, which will launch its spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon 9; Synergy Moon, which will use a Neptune rocket being developed by Interorbital Systems; and TeamIndus, which will launch on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Indian space agency ISRO. A fifth team, Hakuto, announced Dec. 20 it had a verified agreement to fly its rover on the TeamIndus lander. (12/30)

New Head Appointed to Kazakh Space Company (Source: Trend)
Ergazy Nurgaliyev was appointed as the president of Kazakh national space company Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary, the Defense and Aerospace Industry Ministry reported Dec. 29. From August 2014, until this appointment, Nurgaliyev served as deputy chairman of the Aerospace Committee. The previous head of Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary, Marat Nurguzhin was earlier appointed as the vice-minister of defense and aerospace industry. (12/29)

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