January 1, 2017

USA, China Led World in Launches in 2016 (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The United States and China led the world in orbital launch attempts in 2016 with 22 apiece. The combined 44 launches made up more than half of the 85 flights conducted around the world. Normally the leader in launches, Russia fell to third place in 2016 with 19 launches as the nation continued to struggle with quality control problems with its satellite boosters. The Russians conducted 27 launches in 2015.

The Europeans launched nine times followed by India with seven launches and Japan with four. Israel and North Korea launched one time apiece. The U.S. went 22-for-22 in launch attempts in a year that saw United Launch Alliance (ULA) celebrate its 10th anniversary, SpaceX land multiple Falcon 9 first stages for reuse and destroy a booster on the launch pad, and Orbital ATK return its upgraded Antares booster to flight after a two-year stand down. (12/31)

Beijing's Space Program Soars in 2016 (Source: Space Daily)
In 2016, the Chinese government launched a whole array of major space-related projects which proved to be successful, Russian military expert Vasily Kashin said. In 2016, China started tests of its first heavy-lift Long March-5 rocket. The successful completion of the launch vehicle will pave the way for the construction of a Chinese space station, Kashin told Sputnik China. He also cited tests of the country's solid-propellant rockets.

Earlier this year, China was the first to launch a quantum communication satellite into orbit, as well as a satellite for conducting EmDrive engine tests, according to Kashin. 2016 also saw a manned mission on board the Chinese orbital module Tiangong-2, where a cold atom interferometer was installed for possible scientific purposes, including those related to detecting submarines.

This year, China ranked second after Russia in terms of its number of successful space launches, while the number of Chinese satellites in orbit outstripped Russia in 2014. Since then, it has been strengthening its positon, Kashin said. In 2016, it was confirmed that China had created its first experimental missile early warning satellite, according to him. (01/01)

Bridenstine Seen as Top Choice for NASA Chief (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, an Oklahoma Republican with a record supporting both commercial space ventures and traditional manned exploration programs, appears to be the leading candidate to become the next NASA administrator, according to people familiar with the matter. The lawmaker’s name emerged early during the Trump administration transition process, and he has been interviewed by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, these people said. (12/31)

How 2016 Heralded a New Kind of Race Into the Final Frontier (Source: The Wire)
This time, it’s not one country against another as much as one enterprise against another, trying to capture the commercial value that space exploration brings along. The year 2016 has been one of mixed feelings for the space community. It brought a breakthrough to new entrants, heartbreaks with unfortunate incidents to others – and at the same time a ray of new hope with more money being poured into investments into NewSpace than ever before. Click here. (12/31)

Seven Science Stories we Can't Wait to Follow in 2017 (Source: LA Times)
Science never ceases to surprise us. In a year jampacked with discoveries, some of the biggest revelations of 2016 seemed to come from out of the blue. Just a few weeks in, the astronomer responsible for demoting Pluto to a dwarf planet said there is a ninth planet in the solar system after all — an object about 10 times as massive as Earth that takes up to 20,000 years to orbit the sun. Click here. (12/31)

Four Out-Of-This-World Predictions For The Space Industry In 2017 (Source: Fast Company)
There was a time when NASA was singlehandedly driving America's dream of exploring outer space. But that has changed over the last 15 years. A slew of private space companies have entered the market with ambitious plans to build rockets and colonize new planets. SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin—each led by well-known entrepreneurs—have become household names.

But over the last seven years, hundreds of smaller startups have also popped up, each trying to accomplish something different in the new space race. Astrobotic, for instance, has launched a lunar delivery service, charging $1.2 million per kilo to take anything you want to the moon. World View is developing enormous balloons that can take passengers or equipment to the very outer reaches of our atmosphere.  Saber Aeronautics is using video game technology to help people create missions and operate satellites with little training. Click here. (1/1)

Mankind Eyes Mars as Next ‘Giant Leap’ (Source: Japan Times)
Humankind has cast an eye toward another “giant leap” forward nearly half a century after the United States’ Apollo 11 spacecraft delivered humans to the moon for the first time. NASA is planning to put a manned spacecraft into orbit around Mars in the 2030s, before sending humans to explore the red planet. Similar in size to Earth, and relatively close, Mars is widely considered as the most promising and realistic candidate planet for manned space exploration. Click here. (1/1)

In the Deep, a Drive to Find Dark Matter (Source: Quanta)
In a lab buried under the Apennine Mountains of Italy, Elena Aprile, a professor of physics at Columbia University, is racing to unearth what would be one of the biggest discoveries in physics. She has not yet succeeded, even after more than a decade of work. Then again, nobody else has, either.

Aprile leads the XENON dark matter experiment, one of several competing efforts to detect a particle responsible for the astrophysical peculiarities that are collectively attributed to dark matter. These include stars that rotate around the cores of galaxies as if pulled by invisible mass, excessive warping of space around large galaxy clusters, and the leopard-print pattern of hot and cold spots in the early universe.

For decades, the most popular explanation for such phenomena was that dark matter is made of as-yet undiscovered weakly interacting massive particles, known as WIMPs. These WIMPs would only rarely leave an imprint on the more familiar everyday matter. That paradigm has recently been under fire. The Large Hadron Collider located at the CERN laboratory near Geneva has not yet found anything to support the existence of WIMPs. (12/20)

Will Scientists Ever Prove the Existence of Dark Matter? (Source: Guardian)
eep underground, in a defunct gold mine in South Dakota, scientists are assembling an array of odd devices: a chamber for holding tonnes of xenon gas; hundreds of light detectors, each capable of pinpointing a single photon; and a vast tank that will be filled with hundreds of gallons of ultra-pure water. The project, the LZ experiment, has a straightforward aim: it is designed to detect particles of an invisible form of matter – called dark matter – as they drift through space.

It is thought there is five times more dark matter than normal matter in the universe, although it has yet to be detected directly. Finding it would solve one of science’s most baffling mysteries and explain why galaxies are not ripped apart by stars flying off into deep space.

However, many scientists believe time is running out for the hunt, which has lasted 30 years, cost millions of pounds and produced no positive results. The LZ project – which is halfway through construction – should be science’s last throw of the dice, they say. “This generation of detectors should be the last,” said astronomer Stacy McGaugh. (12/31)

SpaceX Is Finally Preparing to Start Launching Rockets Again (Source: Fortune)
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is now loaded with 10 satellites as the company led by Elon Musk prepares for its first launch since an explosion in September. Iridium Communications, a mobile voice and data satellite communications company, tweeted Friday that 10 of its next-generation satellites were now "stacked and encapsulated" in the fairing of the Falcon 9. Musk later retweeted the update.

Iridium announced early this month plans to launch its next-generation satellite, Iridium NEXT, on SpaceX's Falcon 9. The launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was scheduled for December 16. However, the flight is contingent on the FAA's approval of SpaceX's return to flight following an anomaly explosion that occurred on September 1 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (12/30)

Sex in Space Is Gonna Suck (Source: Inverse)
What makes confirming how space travel will affect our sex lives especially difficult is the fact that NASA keeps its lips zipped on the subject. While NASA has studied gender and biology in space, it’s coy about discussing sex in space, and we’re not exactly sure how much — if anything at all — NASA knows about how sex works in space. That doesn’t mean we don’t know a few things about sex in space. For one, while we might think of sex in microgravity as adventurous, it’s not, according to NASA bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe. Click here. (12/30)

County Marks Completion of World View HQ, Spaceport (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Pima County and World View Enterprises on Thursday marked the completion of Spaceport Tucson and the headquarters and manufacturing plant the company will lease from the county. The county entered into an economic development agreement with World View in January to keep the company in Tucson.

World View plans to use its space to manufacture its new, high-altitude balloon flight vehicles, known as Stratollites, and offer unmanned flights to the stratosphere for commercial and research purposes. The balloon vehicles can loiter over an area as a low-cost alternative to geostationary satellites for applications including communications, remote sensing, weather, and research. Eventually, the company hopes to offer people the chance to ride to the edge of space for a fee.

The county completed the building and spaceport under the $15 million budget. As part of an incentive agreement, World View also will manage and operate the adjacent county-owned Spaceport Tucson, a 700-foot diameter concrete launchpad the company and others will use to launch its high-altitude balloons. A 2015 economic-impact study by a Phoenix firm found World View’s planned operation could have a $3.5 billion direct and indirect impact on the local economy over the next 20 years. (12/30)

Success, Setbacks and Silence: 2016 in Review (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The past 12 months, for good or ill, have redefined space exploration. In 2016, efforts to expand the space frontier both resumed and retracted, visionaries made bold claims, while legends fell silent forever. Click here. (12/31)

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