January 22, 2017

Renewed Hope of a Mission to Mars (Source: The Hill)
Speculation regarding potential shifts in domestic and international policy as a result of the recent election has been running rampant lately, and U.S. space exploration policy is no exception. Space professionals and policy makers alike are hypothesizing and prognosticating about what they believe the future will bring in space, but in reality, these are all, at best, just educated guesses. Click here. (1/21)

A Vehicle for Ferrying Space Tourists on Missions to the Moon (Source: Globe & Mail)
Last summer, Imaginactive released the Solar Express space train concept, which reduced travel time between Earth and Mars. Creating a space train is not a new idea. In fact, Dr. Buzz Aldrin is working on a similar concept that would help us colonize the solar system in different stages.

Our Cycler concept finds its inspiration from the Aldrin Mars Cycler project. We tried to imagine how a spacecraft like this would look if it were built with technology being developed today. Therefore the Cycler pictures technology from Bigelow Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, and SpaceX, among others.

The Cycler’s largest part would be Bigelow Aerospace’s inflatable B330 modules, which would be linked together to form a series of three space wagons. These modules would be attached together by an interface modules (IM) that would each include lateral ‘Jefferies’ tubes connectors. Each Cycler would be manned by four astronauts and would each be capable of transporting up to 12 passengers, most of whom would probably be space tourists going on the six-day trip around the moon. Click here. (1/22)

If Justin Trudeau  Wants "Moon Shots," He Should Go For It! (Source: Commercial Space Blog)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking for " Moon Shots." The Federal government's website on  Canada's Innovation Agenda, Innovation for a Better Canada, What you Told Us ," provides some context for this. It states:  "In a previous generation, the United States was inspired to put a man on the moon. That mission launched breakthroughs and inventions that went well beyond the space program and fueled decades of innovation driven by science and technology. Canadians yearn for a similar kind of vision and leadership. Many called for government to take a proactive role in sponsoring "moon shots" that would keep Canada at the forefront of science and technology." (1/20)

SpaceX May Be About to Launch One of its Final Expendable Rockets (Source: Ars Technica)
After successfully returning to flight on Jan. 14th, SpaceX will make its next launch from Cape Canaveral no earlier than Jan. 30th. With this mission from a new pad at Launch Complex 39A, SpaceX will loft the EchoStar 23 communications satellite. This is a heavy satellite, weighing 5.5 metric tons, and getting it out to about 40,000km from the surface of the Earth will require pretty much all of the lift capacity of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

This would leave almost no propellant for the Falcon 9 rocket to fire its engines to slow down, make a controlled descent through the Earth's atmosphere, and attempt a difficult landing on a drone ship. Elon Musk confirmed that the rocket will therefore indeed be expendable. "Future flights will go on Falcon Heavy or the upgraded Falcon 9," he added.

In other words, in the future such heavy payloads will either be launched on the more powerful Falcon Heavy (consisting of three Falcon 9 cores, designed for return), or a slightly more powerful variant of the Falcon 9 rocket. Although SpaceX may launch one or two more expendable rockets, Musk is saying the plan here onward is to try and launch everything on reusable boosters. (1/22)

Who Launches What, Carrying How Much From Where. (Source: SPACErePORT)
The SPACErePORT's chart of international orbital launch vehicles has been updated and now includes 58 rockets that are operational, in development, or proposed, operating from spaceports around the globe. The chart also gives payload capacities to low Earth orbit. Click here. (1/23)

NASA Installs SLS Platforms in VAB (Source: Florida Today)
Kennedy Space Center recently completed a significant milestone in its preparations to work on the Space Launch System exploration rocket. The last of 20 platforms — paired to form 10 levels — that will give workers access to the 322-foot rocket and Orion crew capsules was installed in High Bay 3 of the Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA and contractor employees signed the last platform half before hoisting it into position on the uppermost level earlier this month. The space agency is targeting a late 2018 test flight of the SLS and an unmanned Orion from launch pad 39B. (1/22)

NASA to Host Melbourne Tech Business Leaders for KSC Tour/Briefing (Source: SPACErePORT)
About 30 members of the Space Coast Tech Council, mostly representing tech companies in the community south of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, will tour Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday to learn about NASA's evolving programs and priorities. (1/23)

Proposed Georgia Spaceport is a Serious Threat to the Cumberland Island National Seashore (Source: Savannah Morning News)
If the proposed spaceport becomes a reality, launches would result in large portions (and potentially all) of the National Seashore being closed and evacuated to clear the Launch Hazard Areas established by the FAA for each launch. These closures could last for days in situations where a launch is scrubbed one or more times, which is very frequently the case. The National Park Service has expressed concern that such closures would result in citizens being denied the use and enjoyment of the National Seashore.

In addition to the impact of park closures, there is substantial risk of damage and destruction to the National Seashore from an exploding rocket. Unlike other vertical launch spaceports around the United States, the site for the proposed spaceport in Camden County is not yards from the coastline. The site for the proposed spaceport is approximately 6 miles inland, and rockets launched from the proposed spaceport would have to travel over the National Seashore on their way “up and out.” (1/21)

NASA Absent From Inaugural Parade (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
When President Barack Obama had his first Inaugural Parade on Jan. 20, 2009, NASA was placed dead last in the procession (even behind the “World Famous” Lawn Rangers). However, for the Inaugural Parade of Donald J. Trump, held on Jan. 20 of this year (2017), NASA was not represented at all. When he was re-elected in 2012, Obama’s second Inaugural Parade saw the U.S. Space Agency jumped to the first half of the parade, featuring the agency’s Orion crew vehicle and Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity. (1/21)

Another Earth Just 14 Light Years Away? Maybe Not, Says New Study (Source: CSM)
In December 2015, a research team at Australia’s University of New South Wales announced the discovery of three rocky planets orbiting the star Wolf 1061. One of these planets, dubbed Wolf 1061c, fell within the circumstellar habitable zone. Discoveries of these “Earth-like” worlds have stirred hopes of discovering life beyond our solar system. But after taking a closer look at Wolf 1061c, Stephen Kane has his doubts about whether we’ll find it there. “It’s close enough to Wolf 1061 where it’s looking suspiciously like a runaway greenhouse,” said Professor Kane. (1/21)

Scientists Enter Hawaii Dome in Eight-Month Mars Space Mission Study (Source: Reuters)
Six scientists have entered a dome perched atop a remote volcano in Hawaii where they will spend the next eight months in isolation to simulate life for astronauts traveling to Mars, the University of Hawaii said. The study is designed to help NASA better understand human behavior and performance during long space missions as the U.S. space agency explores plans for a manned mission to the Red Planet.

The crew will perform geological field work and basic daily tasks in the 1,200-square-foot (365 m) dome, located in an abandoned quarry 8,000 feet (2.5 km) above sea level on the Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. There is little vegetation and the scientists will have no contact with the outside world, said the university, which operates the dome. Communications with a mission control team will be time-delayed to match the 20-minute travel time of radio waves passing between Earth and Mars. (1/20)

Did a British Trident Missile Launched Off Cape Canaveral Veer Toward the U.S.? (Source: Independent)
The wayward Trident missile was reportedly unarmed at the time of the malfunction, which occurred shortly after it was launched by the submarine HMS Vengeance off the coast of Florida last June. The Commons voted to renew the nuclear deterrent in July. It was intended to be fired 5,600 miles to a sea target off the west coast of Africa but may have veered off towards America instead. A source told the Sunday Times: "There was a major panic at the highest level of government and the military after the first test of our nuclear deterrent in four years ended in disastrous failure." Click here. (1/22)

ULA Sends SBIRS Satellite to Space From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Atlas V rocket successfully lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 7:42 p.m. The rescheduled rocket launch sent a satellite into space for the U.S. Air Force, marking the return to launches for Cape Canaveral. The payload, a Space-Based Infrared System satellite, will improve capabilities in four military-defense arenas. (1/20)

SpaceX's Next Big Hurdle: Reusing a Rocket (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Reusing a rocket that has already delivered a payload into space is the next big thing for commercial space pioneer SpaceX. There's little doubt the company can do it; the technology exists. But many observers in the industry and at research institutions are waiting to see just how much reusability will cost. On one hand, reusing rockets could dramatically cut launch costs. That would be great for the commercial space industry, space exploration and Florida's Space Coast.

But skeptics say retooling costs — not to mention possible added risk — may cancel out any benefits. The proof will come as SpaceX gets closer to reusing seven Falcon 9 boosters that have successfully landed after delivering a payload into orbit. The company plans to relaunch a rocket for the first time near the end of February, from Florida. (1/20)

SpaceX Leads Space Exploration Renaissance, and Jobs, in South Texas (Source: San Antonio Express-News)
It’s hard to imagine that the pile of sand and earth being compacted near the southernmost tip of Texas will soon launch Elon Musk’s dreams one rocket at a time into space. That is where SpaceX is building the company’s first [fully] commercial launch pad — the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site — near Boca Chica Beach just a few miles north of the Mexican border in the Rio Grande Valley.

The company remains on track to open for commercial rocket launching as early as next year. Musk’s new launch pad, along with other companies in the race to commercialize space, are feeding a growing workforce and research hub exploring the universe that’s emerging in the Rio Grande Valley. United Launch Alliance — Musk’s main competitor — has about 160 employees tucked inside a nondescript hangar at Harlingen’s Valley International Airport about 47 miles northwest of the SpaceX launch site where ULA quietly has been assembling nose cones for Atlas V rockets over the past 30 years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that in May 2015, people working in the Brownsville-Harlingen metropolitan area made a mean hourly wage of $16.21 an hour — or a little more than $33,000 a year. Residents also talked about reversing the “brain drain” that occurs on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Alma Guerrero-Miller of UT Rio Grande Valley, said that states on both sides complain that “their most talented people … will not stay on the border.” “Our best people were leaving,” she said. "... Now there is something to pursue down here, there is something I can see.”  (1/20)

Incentives Helped Bring SpaceX to South Texas (Source: San Antonio Express-News)
The launch pad was brought to Boca Chica about two years ago with at least $13 million in incentives from the Texas Spaceport Trust Fund to the Cameron County Spaceport Development Corp. to build the infrastructure, according to Sam Taylor, deputy press secretary for the Texas governor’s office.

Another $2.3 million was provided through a grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund. SpaceX has committed to eventually hire 300 employees in the local area, and expects the Boca Chica launch site to be finished in 2017 for launches in 2018, said SpaceX spokesman John Taylor. (1/20)

Why Hasn't a Female Astronaut Been to the Moon? (Source: Newsweek)
By the standards used in the rest of the industry, the entire program was a test program. Certainly, every flight up the the landing was. And that meant NASA needed test pilots. Not just any test pilots, but the very best of those seasoned by America’s military jet and rocket aircraft, and those with exemplary backgrounds in engineering.

This was just good sense, but it also precluded women. There were very few female engineers in 1961, and none were high-performance test pilots. Women were never considered, and at that time and under those circumstances, should not have been considered. It’s a sad commentary on our society, however, that no female candidates were available.  (1/21)

Winners and Potential Losers of the Obama and Trump Administrations (Source: Room)
As President Obama steps down today and gives way to the new political powerhouse of the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, what did Obama see as success in regards to space-related activities and what is on the agenda for Trump’s new Administration?

In the weeks leading up to todays inauguration President Obama directed all of his Cabinet-level appointees to prepare "exit memos" on progress made during his Administration and what needs to come next. NASA was not able to prepare one directly as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is not a cabinet-level agency, however the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did prepare a list of accomplishments that NASA and other government science and technology organizations have achieved.  Click here. (1/20)

Trump Vows to "Unlock the Mysteries of Space," Whatever That Means (Source: Inverse)
Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President. His speech, not unexpectedly, was slim on specifics about for what he envisioned to do over the next four, possibly eight years. Even less expected was any talk about space, but Trump managed to make a quick, vague reference to U.S. investigations regarding space exploration: “We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow."

The few actions one could reasonably expect are: 1) Vice President Mike Pence will probably be directing space policy for the administration; 2) The new administration may be looking into an extensive push to strengthen military assets in space and create a concerted push to further militarize Earth’s orbit; 3) NASA’s budget might be downsized in an effort to boost to allow the commercial sector to take over low Earth orbit operations and research; 4) NASA’s Earth science programs — essential for studying climate change — will probably be shred to pieces. Click here. (1/20)

Japan's Space Industry Gets Some New Life (Source: Nikkei)
Japan's space industry is set to take off in 2017, thanks to a growing number of private enterprises moving toward the launch pad. The state-run Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, as well as heavy machinery makers Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and IHI have so far been key engines of Japan's aerospace industry. Now other companies aspire to break in.

In November 2016, Japan's parliament enacted two important bills, making it easier for private companies to go to space. One of them, the space activity law, specifically allows companies to launch artificial satellites if they meet certain criteria. Among the new market entrants are Interstellar Technologies, Astroscale, PD Aerospace and Canon Electronics. Click here. (1/21)

The Jokes About This Rocket Leaving Trump's America Write Themselves (Source: Mashable)
The day Donald Trump was sworn in as president, this rocket was busy ditching Earth. The rose gold-hued Atlas V lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida on Friday. The rocket's payload — the Air Force's Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO Flight 3 satellite — is designed to help detect missile launches worldwide. While the ULA launch and the presidential inauguration weren't related, it didn't stop people (including this reporter) from making jokes about the timing of the two events.  (1/21)

What’s Next for Science and Tech? Key Posts are in Limbo as Trump Takes Charge (Source: GeekWire)
Although President Donald Trump says he’s ready to delve into the mysteries of space, he still has to make key appointments at NASA and other agencies dealing with science and technology policy. And some of the picks he’s already made pose challenges. For example, his nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency has in the past filed lawsuits against the EPA. And his nominee for energy secretary, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, once sought to have that Cabinet department eliminated. Click here. (1/21)

Would You Give Up Perfect Vision for a Trip to Space? (Source: Atlantic)
The experience of weightlessness is confusing for human bodies. The eyes tell you you're gently bobbing up and down, while your inner ear screams that you're tumbling about, making you nauseous. The fluids in your body, freed from gravity, float upward, causing head congestion. Bones, suddenly useless in holding you up and moving you around, start thinning out. And something strange can happen to your eyeballs: They get squashed, blurring your vision.

About two-thirds of astronauts on the International Space Station report changes in their vision after they come back. Scans show that the backs of their eyeballs somehow get flattened, their retinas wrinkle, and their optic nerves swell after spending a prolonged period of time in microgravity, causing farsightedness. The leading explanation suggests that when bodily fluids rise and pool in astronauts' torsos and heads, they put pressure on the brain and the back of the eye, causing changes in its shape. (1/21)

Trump Names Former Climate Scientist to NASA Advisory Role (Source: WIRED)
Greg Autry and Erik Noble have been named as presidential liaisons at NASA. Both have backgrounds in the field, and Noble has even done some climate science. Trump named Autry his White House liaison and Noble his White House senior advisor at NASA. They’ll probably work together to maintain open lines of communication between the space agency and the Oval Office.

Autry, in addition to serving on Trump’s NASA-specific transition team, has been a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business focusing on commercial spaceflight. He’s also the coauthor of Death by China, an alarmist look at Sino-American trade relations. That suggests pro-Elon, anti-taikonaut views.

Noble is a veteran of the Trump campaign, in which he served as a data analyst. Before that, he was an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Center, doing climate and weather prediction modeling. Such a background would not seem to square with Trump’s climate change denialism and clear disdain for government-funded climate research. “Having someone in this position with such a strong background in atmospheric science is a good thing,” says Marco Tedesco. (1/21)

Rumous Swirl About Trump's Science Adviser Pick (Source: Nature)
President Donald Trump has met with two rumoured front-runners for the role of White House science adviser. Trump met with David Gelernter — a computer scientist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and a critic of liberal academia — on 16 January. And on 13 January, Trump met with William Happer, a physicist at Princeton University who rejects the notion that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities will cause dangerous levels of global warming. Several media reports have identified the two men as contenders for the science-adviser job. (1/20)

Elon Musk's Surprising Secret Weapon: Trump? (Source: CNN)
Just days before Donald Trump won the election, Elon Musk expressed a common sentiment in Silicon Valley: "He is not the right guy." But it turns out Trump may be the right guy for Musk and his businesses. In recent weeks, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has been named to Trump's team of business advisers and visited Trump Tower twice. The first time he was part of a big meeting with tech CEOs; the second came earlier this month for a private meeting with Trump's top aides.

That Musk could profit more under Trump than President Obama may come as a shock to most. At first blush, Musk and Trump couldn't seem more at odds in their priorities. One has taken an adversarial stance on immigration and climate change; the other came to the U.S. from South Africa (by way of Canada) and built a roughly $40 billion business to help the environment.

"They're both grandmaster-level salespeople and these very much larger-than-life figures," said Peter Thiel, who cofounded PayPal with Musk and serves on Trump's transition team. Some take issue with the comparison, however. "At his core, Trump is a consummate salesman working in real estate, which is very, very different than what Elon is: a visionary engineer who is reinventing manufacturing, transportation and space travel," says Calacanis. (1/20)

These Threats From Outer Space Could End Life on Earth (Source: Newsweek)
If you ask yourself what the biggest threat to human existence is you’d probably think of nuclear war, global warming or a large-scale pandemic disease. But assuming we can overcome such challenges, are we really safe? Living on our blue little planet seems safe until you are aware of what lurks in space. The following cosmic disasters are just a few ways humanity could be severely endangered or even wiped out. Happy reading! Click here. (1/20)

No comments: