December 31, 2016

‘Impossible’ EmDrive Attracts Rising Attention, Even From Skeptics (Source: Economist)
For years, space geeks have been intrigued by the idea of propulsion systems that don’t need propellant – and now one of the best-known concepts, known as the EmDrive – is getting a serious once-over. The EmDrive, short for electromagnetic drive, could be revolutionary for spaceflight if it works. Spaceships could dispense with the mass of rocket fuel, and because the velocity builds up progressively, trips to Mars and beyond would be much faster and simpler.

The concept involves bouncing microwaves around a closed cavity that’s shaped like a cone. The shape supposedly funnels the microwaves to generate forward thrust. “Given the costs – low – of a ground test that should produce extraordinary evidence, it would seem very reasonable to me to pay for two or three independent experimentum cruccii at the national laboratories,” Pournelle wrote. “Yes, they have other important work to do (or should), but constructing an EmDrive is within the capabilities of any university physics department and some high schools.” (12/30)

Brazilian Satellite Manufacturer Seeks New Business (Source: Space News)
In the absence of a guaranteed order for a second geostationary satellite, Brazil’s emerging domestic satellite manufacturer Visiona Tecnologia Espacial is building up a remote sensing business and weighing a small satellite project in order to gain more experience.

Established in 2012, Visiona is a joint venture between Telebras Telecomunicações Brasileiras and Embraer Defense and Security tasked with cultivating a geostationary satellite manufacturing capability in Brazil. The company’s flagship project is the Geostationary Defense and Strategic Communications (SGDC) satellite. (12/30)

Will a President Trump Change NASA’s Mars Goals? Sen. Bill Nelson Says No (Source: Miami Herald)
Turmoil with Russia and uncertainty with how Donald Trump will “refocus” the U.S. space program is having no effect on NASA’s goal of getting humans to Mars, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is telling anyone who will listen. During a recent stop in Tallahassee, the lone statewide elected Democrat in Florida, chided reporters for not asking more about the space program and the nation’s efforts to explore Mars.

“It is my interest to see that NASA doesn’t miss a beat,” under the Trump administration, Nelson told reporters. He re-affirmed plans to get humans to Mars by 2033 and another to have a new American rocket to take U.S. astronauts to space within the next two years. “We’re well on our way,” said Nelson, who is the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee with jurisdiction over NASA. (12/29)

The Year of Milestones in Space (Source: CNBC)
Whatever you think of life on Earth in 2016, it was a year of milestones for space. Space travel companies made technical leaps, NASA reached Jupiter, and great discoveries were made. There were also high-profile failures and sad moments, as great scientists and astronauts left Earth forever. Here are a few of the highlights. (12/30)

Space Colonies Will Start Out Like the Wild West, Grow Family-Friendly (Source:
As humans explore other worlds, the colonies they develop may change over time. While the first settlements may rely on individuals, as the outposts grow more self-sustaining, families will likely become the colonists of choice, a panel of experts said.

"The socioeconomic origins of colonists are going to change over time," science fiction author Charles E. Gannon told "Trailblazers will be specialists; so will true pioneers. However, once you move to a settler model, things will change to a more normalized selection demographic," Gannon said.

Initially, space colonization may function a great deal like the American West. The first forays into the wilderness were made by travelers like Lewis and Clark, individuals who cut their way across the country to map it for those who stayed behind. The intrepid explorers had to carry their own supplies, all fabricated back home. The panel likened this sort of exploration to visits to the moon and Mars by small groups of astronaut explorers. (12/30)

Satellite Constellations Could be Poised to Challenge the Broadband Industry (Source: LA Times)
It’s been more than a decade since a handful of ambitious entrepreneurs saw their plans to provide global telecommunications service through massive satellite constellations blow up, doomed by runaway costs. Now, a new generation of satellite entrepreneurs is headed back to the launch pad. Backed by billions of dollars from deep-pocketed investors, they plan to blanket the earth in the next few years with perhaps thousands of miniature satellites beaming cheap, ubiquitous broadband service.

What’s different? Launching one of these smaller satellites can cost a fraction of the price for a larger, school-bus-sized satellite. These new satellites will largely be mass-produced.  And consumers now demand high-speed Internet connectivity pretty much everywhere, on airplanes, cruise ships and in the remotest village in Africa. Companies such as SpaceX, OneWeb and Boeing have all recently proposed networks of satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide high-speed broadband access around the globe. (12/30)

Russia Plans 29 Space Launches in 2017 (Source: Sputnik)
Deputy Prime Minister and head of Roscosmos supervisory committee Dmitry Rogozin said Wednesday 23 launches are planned in 2017. "Twenty-nine space launches are planned in 2017, there may be unscheduled [launches]," the corporation's TV station said. Roscosmos has not officially disclosed its projections. (12/30)

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