January 19, 2017

Who Will Lead NOAA Under President Trump? (Source: Washington Post)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the parent organization of the National Weather Service, will introduce new leadership when President-elect Donald Trump assumes office. The agency is at a crossroads and faces many important challenges in the coming years. How these challenges are addressed will help define the next generation of weather and climate forecasts and observations, and also have key implications for the health of our oceans.

Three names mentioned repeatedly as candidates to head NOAA are: Scott Rayder, senior adviser for development and partnerships at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research; Barry Myers, chief executive of AccuWeather in State College, Pa.; and Jonathan White, president and chief executive of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. (1/17)

ESA Plans to Cooperate With Russia on Three Moon Exploration Projects (Source: Sputnik)
The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to work with Russia on three moon exploration projects in addition to the joint ExoMars project, Head of ESA Moscow Office Rene Pischel said. Pischel told RIA Novosti that ESA ministers agreed in principle to cooperate with Russia on Luna-Glob (Luna 25), the first Luna-Resurs and the extension of the Luna-Resurs lander mission, at its December 2016 ministerial conference. (1/18)

Another Texas Airport Considers Spaceport Status (Source: Dallas Observer)
The Texas State Technical College airport's spaceport aspirations are the latest sign of the Lone Star State's faith in the commercial space industry. This increase in interest has been lucrative for Brian Gulliver, who leads the aerospace and spaceport practice at the firm Kimley-Horn. Gulliver is a former engineer with experience designing launchpad equipment for NASA and Air Force spaceports. These days he's one of a handful of consultants with any experience who can help transform airports into spaceports, as designated by the FAA.   

His latest client: The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and Texas State Technical College (TSTC), which hired the consultant for nearly $200,000 to analyze the possibility of creating a spaceport at the school's airport. In late December, a draft of the study found the airport's infrastructure could handle the operation of airplanes that launch space rockets or some spaceplanes that can use their own onboard engines to blast into space. The runway could also handle spaceplanes that launched elsewhere and need a place to land. (1/18)

Probable Cause and Potential Prevention of Vision Deterioration in Space Found (Source: Space Daily)
Vision deterioration in astronauts who spend a long time in space is likely due to the lack of a day-night cycle in intracranial pressure. But using a vacuum device to lower pressure for part of each day might prevent the problem, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers said. Their study appears in the Journal of Physiology.

A change in vision is the No. 1 health risk for astronauts who spend extended periods of time on the International Space Station. The new research showed that intracranial pressure in zero-gravity conditions, such as exists in space, is higher than when people are standing or sitting on Earth, but lower than when people are sleeping on Earth. The researcher's finding suggests that the constancy of pressure on the back of the eye causes the vision problems astronauts experience over time. (1/18)

Reused Falcon-9 Moves Toward February Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The satellite that will be the first to launch on a reused Falcon 9 has arrived in Florida to begin launch preparations. The SES-10 satellite, shipped from its factory in Europe to Cape Canaveral over the weekend, is set to launch on a Falcon 9 in late February. That launch will use a Falcon 9 first stage that first launched a Dragon cargo spacecraft last April. SES and SpaceX announced the plan to fly SES-10 on a "flight-proven" Falcon 9 in August, shortly before a pad explosion put a halt to Falcon 9 launches. (1/17)

Nield: Don't Let Complexity Delay Start of Space Traffic Management (Source: Space News)
Government and industry shouldn't delay improved space traffic management capabilities despite a wide range of challenges facing the topic. A panel at a recent conference noted that improving the ability to monitor objects in Earth orbit and accurately predict potential collisions requires dealing with a number of issues, from data collection and analysis to regulatory issues. Nonetheless, the problem is important enough, they argued, to start work now rather than wait for a better solution later. "We need to avoid the temptation because it is a complex and challenging problem to try to get everything perfect before we start taking action," said the FAA's George Nield. (1/17)

Clocks 'Failed' Onboard Europe's Navigation Satellites (Source: AFP)
Europe's beleaguered Galileo satnav has suffered another setback, with clocks failing onboard a number of satellites in space, the European Space Agency said Wednesday. Designed to render Europe independent from America's GPS, the 10 billion-euro ($11 billion) project may experience further delays as the cause of the failure is investigated, ESA director general Jan Woerner said. Eighteen orbiters have been launched for the Galileo constellation to date, a number that will ultimately be boosted to 30 operational satellites and two spares. (1/18)

Enterprise Florida Offers Grants for Florida Companies to Participate in Trade Shows (Source: EFI)
Enterprise Florida is offering eligible small and medium-sized manufacturers and professional service providers Target Sector Trade Show Grants to help Florida companies grow export sales through overseas international trade shows. Target Sector Trade Show Grants are reimbursable grants that will help offset exhibition booth expenses for trade shows that Enterprise Florida participates in, as well as other approved trade shows in one of Florida's identified target sectors. The grant covers 50% of basic turnkey booth expenses, up to $6,000. Click here. (1/18)

NASA Moves to Secure Commercial Crew as Obama Administration Exits (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA had made a couple of major moves relating to human spaceflight this month as the Obama Administration would down toward its exit at noon on Friday. On Jan. 3, the space agency announced it had awarded four additional flights apiece to Boeing and SpaceX to carry crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Each company now has six flights for their Starliner and Crew Dragon vehicles, respectively.

“The additional flights will allow the commercial partners to plan for all aspects of these missions while fulfilling space station transportation needs,” NASA said. “Awarding these missions now will provide greater stability for the future space station crew rotation schedule, as well as reduce schedule and financial uncertainty for our providers,” said Phil McAlister, director, NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Development Division. “The ability to turn on missions as needed to meet the needs of the space station program is an important aspect of the Commercial Crew Program.” (1/18)

Boeing's Starliner STA Arrives in California for Testing (Source: NASA)
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will experience a variety of tremendous internal and external forces during missions to and from the International Space Station.  When the Starliner launches in 2018, it won’t be the first time the spacecraft has encountered these forces.

That is because Boeing built a Structural Test Article that will experience the rigors of spaceflight in a test facility in an effort to prove the design of the spacecraft. The module was built inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida before it was shipped it across the country to Huntington Beach, California, for testing. (1/18)

Isavia Signs Agreement to Deploy Space-Based ADS-B (Source: SpaceRef)
On the heels of a successful launch of the first ten Iridium NEXT satellites on Saturday, January 14th, Aireon announced today that it has signed a data services agreement with Isavia, the Icelandic Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP). Isavia will deploy Aireon's space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) service throughout the Reykjavik Oceanic Control Area (OCA). In addition to providing enhanced redundancy to existing terrestrial surveillance resources in the southern part of the airspace, the Aireon service will, for the first time ever, provide real-time surveillance and tracking in the region extending from 70 degrees north to the North Pole.

With control of more than 5.4 million square kilometers of airspace, Isavia is looking to improve safety, and efficiency (through reduced separation) of operations by expanding the ADS-B service area. Continuity of service will be enhanced through use of Aireon's technology in airspace where line-of-sight surveillance is already. (1/18)

NASA's Curiosity Finds New Water Evidence in Possible Cracked Mud (Source: Engadget)
NASA's four-year-old Curiosity rover spent 2016 discovering new clues to Mars' history, including veins potentially from evaporated lakes and mineral deposits suggesting the planet once had oxygen. The craft spent the beginning of 2017 examining a newly-discovered natural formation: Rock cross-cut with ridges, which are probably mud cracks. Assuming that interpretation holds up, it will be the first mud cracks (okay, "desiccation cracks") confirmed by the rover. Regardless, the cracked surface formed 3 billion years ago and was buried by layers of sediment, which all became stratified rock. (1/18)

For Third Straight Time, Earth Sets Hottest Year Record (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Earth sizzled to a third-straight record hot year in 2016, with scientists mostly blaming man-made global warming with help from a natural El Nino that's now gone. Two U.S. agencies and international weather groups reported Wednesday that last year was the warmest on record. They measure global temperatures in slightly different ways, and came up with a range of increases, from minuscule to what top American climate scientists described as substantial. (1/18)

McCain Proposes Dramatic Spending Boost for Defense, Including Space (Source: Space Policy Online)
Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) has released a blueprint for a dramatic boost in defense spending. His plan, Restoring American Power, calls for repealing the law that created sequestration and adding $430 billion for defense spending over 5 years above the amounts proposed by President Obama. He believes space programs "must be a priority" for some of that additional funding.

McCain's plan covers defense spending at the Department of Defense as well as nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy (DOE). He casts blame widely for inadequate defense budgets and "abuse" of the off-budget Overseas Contingency Operations account. Republicans and Democrats, the White House and Congress are all at fault for the current situation in his view. (1/17)

New Ideas on Gravity Would Vanquish Dark Matter (Source: Ars Technica)
His central idea is that gravity is a consequence of information. In particular, gravity is driven by entropy, and entropy is related to available configurations of quantum states and entanglement between particles. All of these ideas were derived in the context of black hole physics. The big struggle was (and still is) to understand how a black hole dealt with quantum states. Could they cross the event horizon without destroying information?

Verlinde's insight was to see that any particular point in the Universe also has a horizon, given by the distance at which the expansion of the Universe occurs at speeds faster than light's. That means that some of the same issues that apply to black holes apply anywhere in the Universe. Which means we can use some of the same tools used to examine quantum information and black holes on the Universe as a whole.

When that's done, gravity naturally emerges. From the perspective of someone outside of this horizon, the same physics applies. The heavy lifting is to figure out how the view from outside corresponds to the internal gravity. This is exactly what Verlinde has done. The consequence, Verlinde claims, is that there is extra gravity compared to the mass. What's more, these gravitational contributions naturally occur at just the right scales to explain many phenomena that we explain with dark matter at the moment. (1/18)

Extreme Space Weather-Induced Electricity Blackouts Could Cost U.S. More Than $40 Billion Daily (Source: AGU)
The daily U.S. economic cost from solar storm-induced electricity blackouts could be in the tens of billions of dollars, with more than half the loss from indirect costs outside the blackout zone, according to a new study. Previous studies have focused on direct economic costs within the blackout zone, failing to take into account indirect domestic and international supply chain loss from extreme space weather. (1/18)

China to Launch Electromagnetic Monitoring Satellite for Earthquake Study (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch a satellite this year to gather electromagnetic data that may be used in monitoring and forecasting earthquakes. According to China's earthquake administrative agencies on Tuesday, the satellite will be launched in the latter half of this year. Movements of the Earth's crust generate electromagnetic radiation which can be observed from space.

By collecting data on the Earth's electromagnetic field, ionosphere plasma and high-energy particles, the satellite will be used in real-time monitoring of earthquakes and possible seismic precursors in China and neighboring regions. The satellite will be China's first space-based platform for earthquake monitoring, providing a new approach for research. (1/17)

China's Quantum Science Satellite Begins 'Spooky' and 'Unhackable' Experiments (Source: GB Times)
The world's first quantum science and communications satellite has been handed over to Chinese scientists for the official start of experiments to test the phenomena of quantum entanglement and 'unhackable' quantum communication. The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) satellite was launched on August 15 last year and soon after began testing its payloads and space-to-ground links.

The mission includes an unprecedented experiment to see if quantum entanglement - a phenomenon described by Albert Einstein as "spooky action at a distance" - can operate over long distances by sending entangled photons from the satellite to ground stations in China and Austria which are separated by around 1,200 kilometers.

It will use quantum key distribution (QKD) to test the possibilities for 'unhackable' communications, by generating encrypted keys through entangling particles or photons at the quantum level. The premise is that, due to the principles of quantum mechanics, any attempt by third parties to observe the transmissions will result in a collapse of the entangled state of the photons, making it impossible to eavesdrop on the message. (1/18)

Dark Energy Emerges When Energy Conservation is Violated (Source: Physics World)
The latest work proposes that the cosmological constant is instead the running total of all the non-conserved energy in the history of the universe. The "constant" in fact would vary – increasing when energy flows out of the universe and decreasing when it returns. However, the constant would appear unchanging in our current (low-density) epoch because its rate of change would be proportional to the universe's mass density. In this scheme, vacuum energy does not contribute to the cosmological constant.

The researchers had to look beyond general relativity because, like Newtonian mechanics, it requires energy to be conserved. Strictly speaking, relativity requires the conservation of a multi-component "energy-momentum tensor". That conservation is manifest in the fact that, on very small scales, space–time is flat, even though Einstein's theory tells us that mass distorts the geometry of space–time. (1/18)

Billions of NASA Contract Dollars Going to Russian Government (Source: Bloomberg)
Amid rising tensions over alleged Russian hacking in the U.S., NASA continues to pay Roscosmos, that country’s space agency, hundreds of millions of dollars to send crews to the International Space Station. NASA has spent $897 million with state-controlled Roscosmos since fiscal 2015 and $2.1 billion since the U.S. retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, Bloomberg Government data show.

Congressional budget cuts to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program forced the agency to extend its contract with Roscosmos to keep sending American astronauts to the ISS, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s August 2015 letter to Congress.

Putin consolidated the Russian space industry into Roscosmos in 2015, placing several close advisers in senior positions, according to Senator John McCain. Among them are Chairman Dmitry Rogozin and board member Sergei Chemezov, who are listed as Specially Designated Nationals on the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control SDN Sanctions List. (1/18)

You Could Soon be Traveling Across the World on Rockets, Not Planes (Source: CNBC)
People could be traveling from country to country by rockets connected by "spaceports" in the future, the chief executive of Virgin Galactic told CNBC on Wednesday. Virgin Galactic is the space travel company founded by Richard Branson with the aim of taking satellites into space, as well allowing passengers to take suborbital flights above the Earth for $250,000. But the company also is developing plans for spacecraft to transport people across the Earth.

"We have, actually, very exciting plans on the horizon in terms of high-speed point to point travel," George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, revealed in an interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "You basically jump in a spaceship and go around the planet."

Virgin Galactic's only base right now is in New Mexico and called a "spaceport." But Whitesides said that the company has been approached by some countries to open spaceports in other locations. This could lead to a network of spaceports, just like airports nowadays. "That will form a network of spaceports that we could then use as the earliest form of point-to-point transportation. … It will take time, but what you'll see is a network of high-speed transportation networks, so we don't have to spend 10 to 15 hours crossing continents as we do today." (1/18)

What Was Up With That Puke-Filled, Space-Themed Date on 'The Bachelor'? (Source: Mashable)
The Bachelor got a little spacey on Monday night. Bachelor Nick Viall and contestant Vanessa Grimaldi, a special education teacher from Montreal, took a flight aboard a plane that designed to simulate the feeling of weightlessness you get in space. All in all, it's a pretty nerdy outing for a show that once sent a contestant on a Cinderella date. Clearly The Bachelor contains multitudes.

Viall and Grimaldi seemed to take to the weightlessness of the flight better than I did, however. The two reality TV stars bounced around, flipped and twirled like pros. That is, until Grimaldi learned first-hand why NASA's plane made for parabolic flights was nicknamed the "vomit comet" by members of the press. (1/17)

Teen is Raising Money to Send Girls to See 'Hidden Figures' (Source: Mashable)
Every once in a while Hollywood produces a movie so compelling that it almost becomes necessary viewing. For 13-year-old aspiring astronaut Taylor Richardson that was the case with Hidden Figures — a film that shines the spotlight on three brilliant black women at NASA who helped launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit. After having the opportunity to attend a Hidden Figures event at The White House in December and view a special screening of the film, Richardson decided to raise money to send other young girls to see it. (1/17)

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