January 10, 2017

Feds Revise Export Controls On Spacecraft (Source: Law360)
The U.S. departments of State and Commerce on Monday issued final rules adjusting export controls on satellites and other similar spacecraft and related equipment, loosening restrictions on exports of certain remote imaging devices, among other changes. (1/9)

Alphabet May Sell Terra Bella (Source: Bloomberg)
Google's parent company, Alphabet, is in talks to sell its satellite imaging unit, Terra Bella. Google acquired what was then known as Skybox Imaging in 2014 for an estimated $500 million but now appears interested in selling the company as it seeks to cut costs. A leading contender to acquire Terra Bella is Planet, the San Francisco-based company that operates a constellation of Earth imaging cubesats. A deal to sell Terra Bella to Planet would likely include Google taking an equity stake in Planet. Terra Bella has been developing a fleet of smallsats that take higher resolution images than Planet's cubesats, but less frequently. Terra Bella has seven satellites in orbit, including four launched on a Vega in September. (1/9)

Spain's PLD Rocket Maker Gets Investor (Source: Space News)
Satellite ground systems company GMV is investing in a Spanish suborbital rocket startup. PLD Space said Monday GMV led a $7.1 million round in the company, with GMV taking a seat on PLD Space's board. PLD Space said the investment will allow the company to continue development of Arion 1, a reusable sounding rocket designed to carry a 200-kilogram to an altitude of 250 kilometers. That vehicle will serve suborbital research markets and also serve as a technology pathfinder for Arion 2, a smallsat launcher. GMV, while primarily involved in satellite ground systems, has been involved in some launch vehicle programs in the past. (1/9)

Japan's Tiny Orbital Rocket Ready for Cubesat Launch (Source: Jiji)
Japan is set to launch one of the world's smallest orbital rockets tonight. The SS-520-4 rocket, a converted sounding rocket, is scheduled to lift off from the Uchinoura Space Center at 6:48 p.m. Eastern and place Tricom-1, a three-kilogram cubesat, into orbit. The rocket, 9.5 meters tall and half a meter in diameter, is intended to help promote Japan's space industry by demonstrating a low-cost way to launch small satellites. (1/9)

Russia to Replace Failed EgyptSat (Source: Tass)
Russia will build a replacement for the failed EgyptSat-2 imaging satellite. EgyptSat-A, slated for launch in 2019, will also be a remote sensing satellite, but with improved technology. Energia is building the satellite for the Egyptian government using insurance proceeds, with an estimated cost of $100 million. EgyptSat-2, also built by Energia, launched in 2014 but failed in orbit a year later. (1/9)

France, India Agree to Space Tech Collaboration (Source: PTI)
The French and Indian space agencies have signed a technology partnership agreement. The deal between the French space agency CNES and Indian space agency ISRO covers work on launch technology, including how to streamline mission costs. A separate deal between CNES and TeamIndus, a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, will equip the Indian team's lunar rover with cameras provided by CNES and French company 3DPlus. (1/9)

Scotland Spaceport Plan May Be Dropped (Source: Courier)
A Scottish airport may be dropping plans to pursue a spaceport. A former Royal Air Force base in Leuchars had been identified as one of a handful of locations in the United Kingdom that could host a commercial spaceport. However, a change in government plans from selecting a single site to adopting a licensing system, as well as progress by another Scottish airport seeking spaceport status, Glasgow Prestwick Airport, has dealt a setback to Leuchars. Local officials said they had not found any potential investors willing to develop a spaceport at the air base. (1/9)

NASA Selects Project with UCF Scientist to Explore Asteroid (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A University of Central Florida physics professor is leading a science team that will help explore some of the oldest asteroids in the solar system. NASA last week formally selected the Lucy space probe mission, which is expected to launch in 2021 and by 2027 will tour six asteroids that surround Jupiter. UCF professor Dan Britt will serve on the Southwest Research Institute’s science team for the mission. (1/9)

Breakthrough Starshot to Fund Planet-Hunting Hardware for Telescope (Source: Ars Technica)
Today, the European Southern Observatory announced an agreement with Breakthrough Starshot, A group dedicated to sending hardware to return data from the nearest stars. The agreement would see Breakthrough Starshot fund the development of new hardware that would allow the ESO's Very Large Telescope to become an efficient planet hunter. The goal is presumably to confirm there's something in the Alpha Centauri system worth sending spacecraft to image.

Breakthrough Starshot's audacious plan involves using ground-based lasers and light sails to accelerate tiny craft to a significant fraction of the speed of light. This would allow the craft to visit the stars of the Alpha Centauri system within decades. The company's goal is to get data back to Earth while many of the people alive today are still around.

Getting meaningful data requires a detailed understanding of the Alpha Centauri system, which is where the new telescope hardware will come in. Last year, scientists confirmed the existence of an exoplanet orbiting the closest star of the three-star system, Proxima Centauri. But we'll want to know significantly more about the exoplanet, its orbit, and whether there are signs of any other planets in the system before we send spacecraft. The other two stars of Alpha Centauri are also worth a closer look. (1/9)

Kuaizhou Rocket Lifts Off on First Commercial Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A solid-fueled Chinese Kuaizhou launcher positioned to compete for worldwide business took off Monday on its first commercial mission with three small satellites to collect high-definition video and test communications technologies. The Kuaizhou 1A booster launched from the Jiuquan space center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert. Developed as a low-cost, quick-response launch option, the Kuaizhou rocket flew on orbital missions two times before Monday’s launch, both times with secretive Chinese government payloads. The Kuaizhou 1A version debuted with the latest launch features upgrades to support the launch of multiple spacecraft on the same rocket, with the ability to deploy the satellites once in orbit. (1/9)

US Presidential Transition and Space: Experts Forecast Changes to Come (Source: Space.com)
A new presidential administration always brings changes for the U.S. space science and spaceflight communities. So what does the current transition period reveal about how the new administration will handle science and space? A panel of space policy experts gathered to discuss the possibilities. Click here. (1/9)

Russian Lunar Mission May Finally Put End to Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory (Source: Sputnik)
A group of Russian engineers and space enthusiast aim to develop and launch a satellite to check the "lunar conspiracy" theory: the satellite will take pictures of footprints and the lunar rovers, American Apollos and Soviet Lunokhods ("Moonwalkers") left on the Moon. (1/9)

Our Moon May Have Eaten Many Smaller Moons (Source: Seeker)
Over four billion years ago, when Earth was an asteroid-pummeled mess, it's believed that another planetary body the size of Mars — a small hypothetical world called "Theia" — careened into our baby planet, causing the mother of all impacts. From this collision, molten rock was ejected into space and some of the mixed-up Earth-Theia debris solidified to create the moon that we know and love today.

But Earth was rapidly gaining mass from countless asteroid impacts during this tumultuous time, massive impacts were common. These multiple impacts may have created many moons, which eventually coalesced to create The Moon. Therefore, a massive Earth-Theia impact event probably isn't required.

This alternative scenario assumes that during our planet's formation, it experienced many massive impacts, each kicking debris into orbit that went on to collect under mutual gravity, forming mini-moons or "moonlets." As each new moonlet formed, it settled into orbit and slowly migrated outward. Then, another impact would kick up new debris into orbit, forming another moonlet. These newer moonlets would have a gravitational influence on the older moonlets orbiting further away. (1/9)

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