January 16, 2017

Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Bill Makes a Comeback (Source: Space Policy Online)
The House passed a new iteration of the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act on January 9.  H.R. 353 is the latest version of legislation that passed the Senate in the closing days of the 114th Congress, but did not clear the House.  The bill's focus is not on satellites, but several provisions would affect NOAA's satellite activities.

The legislation dates back to 2013 and went through many changes before passing the Senate on December 1, 2016 as H.R. 1561.  That was thought to be a compromise between the House and Senate, combining elements of the version of H.R. 1561 that passed the House on May 19, 2015; S. 1331, the Seasonal Weather Forecasting Act, approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on May 20, 2015; S. 1573, Weather Alerts for a Ready Nation Act, reported from the Senate Commerce Committee on October 19, 2015; and H.R. 34, the Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act, which passed the House on January 7, 2015 and the Senate (amended) on October 6, 2015. (1/15)

Gogo Now Offers Satellite Wi-Fi Coverage Over Chinese Airspace (Source: Concourse)
Earlier this year, we made an announcement that we had regulatory approval to provide service on aircraft flying in Chinese air space.  We are excited to announce today that, through working with China Telecom Satellite, we have begun service in China. Until recently, Gogo equipped aircraft would go offline once they flew over Chinese airspace.  In August, we announced that we had received regulatory approval and over the past couple of months, we have worked with our partner, China Telecom Satellite to get the necessary satellite infrastructure in place to launch the service. (1/15)

Back to Business(es) (Source: Space Review)
Four and a half months after a pad explosion, SpaceX returned the Falcon 9 to flight with the successful launch of a batch of Iridium satellites Saturday. Jeff Foust reports on the effort to resume Falcon 9 launches, and the other issues and upcoming milestones for SpaceX in the coming year. Click here. (1/16)
Red Zeitgeist: Popular Entertainment and the Settlement of Mars (Source: Space Review)
The success of the National Geographic Channel series about Mars exploration has been enough to warrant a second season. Dwayne Day takes another look at that series and the overall interest in the Red Planet, in both fact and fiction. Click here. (1/16)
A Human Spaceflight Program for the New Administration (Source: Space Review)
There’s no shortage of advice about what the incoming Trump administration should do about space policy. A white paper from a space advocacy group argues that it should closely tie human spaceflight to commercial efforts. Click here. (1/16)
When Robots Trespass (Source: Space Review)
US law grants rights to commercial asteroid miners for the resources they harvest, but how can that law be enforced? Thomas Simmons examines one issue with the law, dealing with the fact that such mining is likely to be done by robots, not humans. Click here. (1/16)
Is the Purpose of Deep Space Exploration Pure science or Proving Humanity’s Worth? (Source: Space Review)
Should be space exploration efforts be driven by a quest for science, or the expansion of humanity beyond Earth? Shalina Chatlani warns of the consequences of overlooking “scientific reality” in favor of realizing human visions. Click here. (1/16)

China Reveals Shortlist of Names and Logos for 2020 Mars Mission (Source: GB Times)
China has revealed a shortlist of names and logos submitted for its ambitious first mission to Mars, set to launch in 2020, with the public set to vote for the winners. The project will be China's first independent interplanetary mission and will attempt to put a probe in orbit around the Red Planet and place a lander and rover on the Martian surface at the same time.

A public call for suggestions for names and logos for the mission was hosted by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Chinese Lunar and Deep Space Exploration websites. The contest generated a large response, with the selected finalists drawing heavily on Chinese mythology. (1/16)

Would ISRO Launches Be So Cheap If Indian Labor Were Not Underpaid? (Source: The Wire)
It cost ISRO roughly $74 million to put Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) in orbit, while it cost Hollywood producers around $100 million to produce Gravity. NASA spent $671 million the very same week for its Mars mission, MAVEN. ISRO works with a fraction of the budget available to NASA. In 2016-17 it was around Rs 7,500 crore or around $1.1 billion, while the 2016 budget for NASA was $18.5 billion.

The drum rolls and applause are well deserved. The question is, can India leverage this and other illustrative successes in frugal engineering and innovation for greater good. How does India and how do Indians benefit from the spectacular capabilities of ISRO exhibited year after year? A critical experiment underway may have some answers. Click here. (1/16)

Space-Based Aircraft Flight Tracking Comes Closer With Launch of Satellites (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Ten Iridium Communications satellites, sent into orbit Saturday, are ushering in a new chapter in air-traffic control—which the U.S. aviation industry plans to sit out for now. The U.S. may not take a lead role in undertaking the changes. For decades, controllers have used ground-based radar to direct planes over land. (1/15)

NASA Has the Asteroid Protection Plan, But Where’s the Money? (Source: Astronomy)
Asteroid impacts have the distinction of being one of the few sci-fi concepts that will definitely happen at some point. But despite the clear and present (although potentially far off) danger of getting smacked by an asteroid, we’ve devoted few resources to averting such a catastrophe.

NASA’s budget for such operations is barebones, and it’s unclear how that might change under the Trump Administration. NASA in 2015 cut funding to the Sentinel mission designed specifically to pinpoint incoming asteroids, and similar asteroid defense projects are largely dependent on private donations. In a new report, a coalition of federal agencies is making the case to increase support for detection and deflection efforts, laying out a multifaceted, long-term blueprint to defend Earth from rocky invaders. (1/16)

The Last Man on the Moon, Gene Cernan, Passes Away at 82 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Astronaut Eugene (Gene) A. Cernan died today, Jan. 16, 2017, at the age of 82. He flew into space three times – aboard Gemini IX in 1966, Apollo 10 in 1969, and as commander of Apollo 17 in 1972. Cernan was largely known by the title noted in his autobiography, “The Last Man on the Moon.” Editor's Note: I heard Cernan speak once and he preferred then to be referred to as "the most recent man on the moon." (1/16)

Gravity Waves Might Be Lighting Up Venus’ Atmosphere (Source: WIRED)
Look, Venus is just a weird planet. “With Venus and Earth, it’s like you had two chocolate cake mixes and ended up with one chocolate cake and one lemon cake,” says Ellen Stofan, NASA’s former chief scientist. Venus’ lemony nonsense includes a runaway greenhouse effect, crazy-high surface temperature and pressure, and a thick layer of clouds for icing.

To make matters weirder, the upper atmosphere’s clouds whip around Venus faster than the planet turns on its axis. That so-called super-rotation turns Venus’s atmosphere into a blur of clouds speeding by at 100 m/s—except for when some parts mysteriously stop and chill over the mountains. A Japanese instrument found an enormous, 6,000-mile bow-shaped region hanging over a mountainous region of Venus

Rikkyo University aeronomist Makoto Taguchi argues the structure could result from gravity waves rushing up through the atmosphere and slowing its gusts to a crawl. And while the bows themselves need more study, they could help scientists get a better idea of what’s going on beneath Venus’ cloudbank. “We suppose that highlands are a key to generating the stationary gravity waves, because most of the bows—and we have found more than 15 bows so far—have appeared above the highlands at their centers,” Taguchi says. (1/16)

Global Eagle’s Mystery Satellite Purchase is SES’s AMC-3 (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES disclosed Jan. 13 that it was the owner of the inclined-orbit satellite that Global Eagle purchased recently to boost its in-flight connectivity service. Global Eagle Chief Executive Dave Davis said Jan. 4 that the company had purchased all the capacity on an undisclosed satellite to support aeronautical customers, in particular Southwest Airlines, the company’s largest customer.

Global Eagle and SES formally announced the satellite deal Jan. 13 in separate press releases. The satellite, AMC-3, carries 24 Ku-band transponders and launched in September 1997 on an Atlas 2A rocket. Lockheed Martin built the satellite, which is now operating nearly five years past its design life. (1/16)

Proxima Centauri b Likely a Desert World (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Astronomers suspect the Sun’s closest stellar neighbor desiccated its potentially rocky exoplanet, destroying the planet’s chances for habitability. There’s been lots of speculation about the little world known as Proxima Centauri b since astronomers announced its discovery last August. With a minimum mass of 1.3 Earths, the exoplanet orbits its star at roughly one-tenth the distance that Mercury loops the Sun.

Yet because Proxima Centauri is a red M dwarf — the runts of the stellar litter — this total lack of personal space puts the world in the star’s putative habitable zone, the region where, given an Earth-like atmosphere and rocky composition, there’s the right amount of incoming starlight to sustain liquid surface water. But results presented earlier this month at the winter American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas, suggest that being in this sweet spot might have instead spelled Proxima Centauri b’s doom. (1/16)

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