January 5, 2017

The Most Vulnerable NASA Missions Under Trump (Source: The Atlantic)
About a week before the presidential election, NASA invited reporters to its facility in Greenbelt, Maryland to look at the observatory it hopes to launch in two years, to a point far beyond Hubble’s orbit, where it will continue that telescope’s search for distant stars and galaxies. Charlie Bolden, the head of the space agency, took questions, including one from a reporter for The Guardian, who asked Bolden whether the program was safe, regardless of the election’s outcome.

Bolden cracked up immediately, and the rest of the room followed. He explained that most of the billions of dollars in funding the James Webb Space Telescope received was spent early on in its years-long development. He wasn’t worried now, “but I think anybody would be crazy to tell you that anything survives over a transition." Bolden, along with many in the room, believed back then what the polls and the pundits did: Donald Trump wasn’t going to be elected president. Click here. (1/3)

Beyond Ka: Supporting Future Telecommunications (Source: Via Satellite)
The satellite industry is developing at a rapid rate. New applications are emerging all the time. Due to the fact that satellite can be used for so many applications, such as broadcasting, mapping, meteorology, Earth observation and much more, the rapid increase in use over recent years has resulted in a serious shortage of bandwidth availability in the lower frequency bands.

The industry has been talking about this congestion for quite some time now. We have seen the industry move into new bands, from C to Ku and from Ku to Ka. The move to Ka band is expected to relieve the pressure on available bandwidth as there will be much more available. However, with demand growing for higher throughput, and the advent of Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) constellations, the industry is considering the future. Now, the time has come to assess the potential that lies in other bands that can help support the growing demand for applications that require high throughput today and in the future. Click here. (1/3)

NASA Selects SwRI Mission To Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids (Source: Colorado Space News)
NASA has selected a Southwest Research Institute mission to study primitive asteroids orbiting near Jupiter that could give insights into the origins of the solar system. The mission, known as Lucy, will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in October 2021.

Lucy, a robotic spacecraft, is slated to arrive at its first destination, a main belt asteroid, in 2025. From 2027 to 2033, Lucy will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids. These asteroids are trapped by Jupiter’s gravity in two swarms that share the planet’s orbit, one leading and one trailing Jupiter in its 12-year circuit around the sun. The Trojans are thought to be relics of a much earlier era in the history of the solar system, and may have formed far beyond Jupiter’s current orbit. (1/4)

NASA Drives Vision of Air Traffic Management for Drones (Source AIN)
Quite apart from the drone the neighborhood kid sails over the hedgerow, the FAA and industry observers expect that hundreds of thousands of small, commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will eventually seek access to the nation’s airspace. For some four years now, the NASA-led UAS Traffic Management (UTM) research effort has worked to shape the rules and capabilities of this coming low-altitude ecosystem.

Spearheaded by NASA senior engineer for air transportation systems Parimal Kopardekar—better known as “P.K.”—the UTM concept of a low-altitude airspace management system for drones dates to 2012. The space agency provided seed money for the effort initially, then established it as a program with $15.6 million in funding in Fiscal Year 2015. Some 120 UAS manufacturers, software system developers, communications companies and other entities answered a NASA solicitation to collaborate on the system development; a number have formalized their participation through Space Act Agreements. NASA listed 65 “UTM Partners” as of September.

The space agency and the FAA have formed a joint research transition team, and plans call for transferring UTM technology to the FAA by 2019. (12/22)

The Martian RV (Source: Air & Space)
Just as the fictional Mark Watney depended on his habitat module to survive the extreme Martian environment, future Mars astronauts will need a shelter that not only protects them from unpredictable weather but also offers some of the psychological comfort of home.

Students in the Human Factors Psychology program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Florida, campus have just the solution: a refurbished 1976 Airstream trailer. Led by faculty advisor Jason Kring, the students have transformed their Airstream—the same kind of vehicle used by NASA decades ago to quarantine returning Apollo astronauts—into the Mobile Extreme Environment Research Station, or MEERS.

“I’m just really fascinated by how you could get six people on a roundtrip to Mars, how you would design the vehicle, how you would train them, how you select the crew,” explains Kring, an associate professor of Human Factors. “That’s where the MEERS project came from. It’s a way to have our students have a test bed to look at some of these issues.” Click here. (12/29)

Gotcha: Fast Radio Burst's Home Nabbed (Source: Science News)
A mysterious, recurring blast of cosmic radio waves finally has a home address. For the first time, astronomers have definitively traced a fast radio burst back to its source: a faint galaxy about 2.5 billion light-years away. The finding confirms a decade-long suspicion that these outbursts originate well outside our galaxy, although the mystery as to what’s causing them remains unsolved.

“Now with the first proven distance, we can see how remote and how bright the source must be,” Sarah Burke-Spolaor, an astrophysicist at West Virginia University, said January 4 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. For roughly five milliseconds, the burst outshined all the stars in its own galaxy and rivaled the luminosity of blazing disks of gas that swirl around supermassive black holes, said Burke-Spolaor, one of the researchers involved with the project. (1/4)

Mars Should Have Loads More Water – So Where Has it All Gone? (Source: New Scientist)
Mars has a real water shortage. It seems we have either misunderstood what its early years were like – or vast amounts of water are hiding beneath its surface. A lot of evidence points towards Mars being warm and wet early in its history; features that look like rivers, lakes and outflows have been spotted both from orbit and by rovers on the surface, and a lot of the planet’s minerals contain water.

So where did all this water go? The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft was sent to find the answer. Since its arrival at Mars in 2014, it has been measuring how much atmosphere Mars is losing to space. From that, we can figure out how much it had in the past. Click here. (1/4)

NASA Sets Sights on Asteroid Exploration (Source: Nature)
NASA will send two spacecraft to explore asteroids in the hopes of revealing new information about the Solar System's origins. Psyche will journey to the metallic heart of a failed planet and Lucy will investigate the Trojan asteroids around Jupiter.

The missions, announced 4 January, are part of NASA's Discovery programme for planetary exploration. They were shortlisted by NASA in September 2015 and survived a final cut that eliminated two proposed missions to Venus — which has not seen a US planetary mission since Magellan launched in 1989. (1/4)

Arianespace Sees Busy 2017 (Source: Aviation Week)
Arianespace is planning on 12 launches this year with its Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega rockets and, admitting a downward trend in the geostationary satellite market, is expecting connectivity to be the next growth sector. (1/4)

Don't Take Aim at Space Florida (Source: Sun Sentinel)
Taking a page from the president-elect's playbook, new Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran is shaking up the status quo in state government. That includes threatening to defund two economic development agencies, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, because they don't match his vision for limited government. Corcoran's crusade has also raised questions about the future of Space Florida, another economic development agency. But the speaker's gripes with the other two agencies don't apply to Space Florida. Click here. (1/3)

Man Sues NASA for Alleged Mistreatment (Source: KTRK)
Lealum Mulugeta has always had a passion for space flight. "I arrived at NASA with the hopes of pursuing my dream," he said. When he got a job working for NASA through contractor Universities Space Research Association, he was over the moon. That soon changed.

"There were certain things said to me that were not proper. One of the civil servants I worked under told me I was practically his slave and he could abuse me all he wants," he said. Mulugeta, a native Ethiopian who emigrated to Canada as a child before coming to the United States to work for NASA, said at first he didn't want to think it was discrimination. (1/3)

Case for a Philippine Space Agency: Space Tech Needed for Life in the Islands (Source: The Standard)
Senator Loren Legarda proposed the creation of a Philippine Space Agency not to send hungry Filipino astronauts to space but to focus on applications and technologies that will enhance national security and help Filipinos in their daily lives. In filing Senate Bill No. 1259, Legarda proposed the creation of the PSA and a National Space Development and Utilization Policy which will serve as the country’s primary strategic roadmap for space development.

She said this will also embody the country’s goal of becoming a space-capable and space-faring nation within the next decade. “It is unfortunate that due to lack of local support to this field, many of our globally-competitive Filipino space scientists have instead opted to serve in space agencies abroad,” said Legarda. She also said space programs and development are not limited to sending astronauts to space and engineering space crafts and technologies. (1/3)

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