February 17, 2017

Luxembourg Wants Europe to Fund Asteroid Mission (Source: Space News)
The government of Luxembourg will seek to restore funding for a European asteroid mission. Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s deputy prime minister and minister of the economy, said at a press conference this week for the upcoming "Asteroid Day" event that he will lobby German and other officials about the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which ESA did not fund at its December ministerial meeting.

The industry team working on AIM has been refining the mission concept to address concerns about reliability and schedule raised by ESA members. AIM would travel to the near Earth asteroid Didymos and study the asteroid and its moon, and also observe the impact of a separate NASA spacecraft with the moon as a demonstration of planetary defense technologies. (2/16)

Rocket Lab Plans Test Launches Soon (Source: New Zealand Herald)
Rocket Lab's first Electron launch vehicle has arrived at its New Zealand launch site in preparation for a test launch. The rocket will undergo tests at the launch site, on Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand's North Island, prior to a test flight "in the coming months." Rocket Lab, a U.S.-headquartered company with its operations primarily in New Zealand, has been developing the Electron for several years to provide dedicated launches for small satellites. (2/16)

Poland Aims for Satellite Manufacturing (Source: Space News)
Poland plans to get into the satellite manufacturing business. Polish company SatRevolution S.A. has announced plans to establish a satellite manufacturing plant in the country to build smallsats. SatRevolution plans to establish the factory near the city of Wroclaw, and is in talks with investors to raise the estimated $50 million needed to complete the facility. (2/15)

Scientists Say Mars Valley Was Flooded with Water Not Long Ago (Source: Space Daily)
Researchers have discovered the signature of periodic groundwater flooding in a Martian valley -- further evidence that water flowed on Mars in the not-so-distant past. Researchers from Trinity College Dublin suggest the patch of land on the Red Planet would be an ideal spot to search for signs of life. (2/15)

Curiosity Drill Problem Impacts Science (Source: Seeker)
A continuing problem with a drill on the Curiosity Mars rover is keeping scientists from looking for evidence of organic compounds on the planet. The rover's drill has been out of action since December as engineers diagnose a problem with the tool. The problem came as scientists were preparing to use a "wet chemistry" instrument on the rover for the first time that would given them a new opportunity to look for organic materials. Scientists remain hopeful engineers will either fix the drill problem or find an alternative method to use the drill to allow those tests to be carried out. (2/15)

There Are Organic Molecules on the Dwarf Planet Ceres (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Scientists have just found organic molecules on the Ceres, the dwarf planet hidden in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The find is particularly exciting because this is the very first, unambiguous detection of organic molecules on an asteroid.

This new discovery was just announced by team of planetary scientists led by Maria Cristina De Sanctis, an astrophysicist at the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome. The scientists used data from NASA's Dawn space probe, which was launched in 2007 and is currently in orbit around Ceres. The discovery was announced today in the journal Science. (2/16)

Congress Told, Again, That NASA's Exploration Plans Aren't Sustainable (Source: Ars Technica)
Congress loves to set grand goals for NASA. During a full committee hearing Thursday, one member of the House Science Committee said the agency should send humans to Mars in 2033. Another member upped the ante and said 2032. And another member later said he hoped to hear that NASA could even do it during the 2020s.

It was almost as if none of these US representatives had been listening to the expert panel called to testify on NASA's past, present, and future exploration plans. While the panel, including two former Apollo astronauts, generally agreed that NASA was on the right track with its Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, the majority felt like the agency simply didn't have enough resources to complete a compelling exploration plan.

That is, NASA might have some of the right tools to launch and fly to destinations in deep space, but it doesn't have the resources to actually land on the Moon, to build a base there, or to fly humans to the surface of Mars for a brief visit. One of the panel members, Tom Young, a past director of Goddard Spaceflight Center, said the space agency's budget is "clearly inadequate for a credible human exploration program." He said hard choices would have to be made within NASA's existing budget to actually get things done. (2/16)

Aerospace and Defense Sets Another Export Record in 2016, Kansas Total Slips (Source: Wichita Business Journal)
The aerospace and defense industry as a whole in the U.S. set a record for exports in 2016, though Kansas’ contribution to that total slipped from previous years. According to a new report from the Aerospace Industries Association, the industry shipped $146 billion of exports last year to mark the fifth consecutive record year on that metric.

The continued improvement has led to a 52 percent increase in aerospace and defense exports in the past five years. But the latest record comes with less help from Kansas — where the industry’s foundation rests in the large aerospace cluster in Wichita — as exports from the Sunflower State declined in value year over year. According to additional AIA data provided to the WBJ, Kansas’ 2016 total of $2.07 billion was down from $2.28 billion in 2015. (2/15)

Scientists Measure African Crop Yields From Space (Source: Space Daily)
Researchers at Stanford University have developed a new method for accurately measuring crop yields using satellite images. Scientists hope their new strategy will help researchers track agricultural productivity in developing countries where farming data is limited.

"Improving agricultural productivity is going to be one of the main ways to reduce hunger and improve livelihoods in poor parts of the world," Marshall Burke, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Stanford, said in a news release. "But to improve agricultural productivity, we first have to measure it, and unfortunately this isn't done on most farms around the world." (2/13)

'Shark Tank' for Space Startups (Source: NewSpaceBPC)
The Center for Space Commerce & Finance (CSCF), in collaboration with BoomStartup and the Heinlein Prize Trust, will sponsor a “shark tank” style startup business competition, as the first in a series of regional events leading up to the 2017 NewSpace Business Plan Competition. Salt Lake City’s Business Model Canvas Competition will be a unique program, held in conjunction with local accelerator, BoomStartup.

The competition  will be held on March 8th, at Impact Hub Salt Lake, a high-tech incubator in downtown Salt Lake City. Each business will have 15 minutes to present their business model canvas and answer questions before a panel of judges. The winner of the Salt Lake City regional event will receive a $2,500 cash prize. (2/16)

3D-Printed 'Laugh' Is 1st Major Artwork to Be Made in Space (Space.com)
Art just made a giant leap into the final frontier. On Friday (Feb. 10), a 3D printer aboard the International Space Station (ISS) created a sculpture that represents human laughter, as part of a project called #Laugh. Astronauts have sketched and photographed the vistas from the orbiting lab's windows, and artwork by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and others has flown to space in the past. But the new 3D-printed piece is the first sculpture to be produced off Earth, #Laugh representatives said. (2/16)

ViaSat is Thinking Small — But on the Ground, Not in Space (Source: Space News)
ViaSat is working to reduce the size of satellite gateways to as small as closets in order to maximize the throughput of its planned ViaSat-3 broadband system. ViaSat-3 will use large satellites in geostationary orbit, an approach the company preferred over a constellation of smaller satellites in medium or low Earth orbit. (2/15)

Canadian Startup Plans Cubesat Constellation (Source: Space News)
A Canadian startup wants to launch 75 to 140 cubesats to provide connectivity for other satellites and Internet of Things devices. Kepler Communications has two satellites on order from Clyde Space with a launch planned for late 2017 or early 2018. The startup, which raised $5.5 million so far, was one of 11 to file with the FCC about plans that might use the same spectrum OneWeb desires. (2/15)

Lasers Could Give Space Research its Broadband Moment (Source: Space Daily)
Thought your Internet speeds were slow? Try being a space scientist for a day. The vast distances involved will throttle data rates to a trickle. You're lucky if a spacecraft can send more than a few megabits per second (Mbps) - a pittance even by dial-up standards. But we might be on the cusp of a change.

Just as going from dial-up to broadband revolutionized the Internet and made high-resolution photos and streaming video a given, NASA may be ready to undergo a similar "broadband" moment in coming years. The key to that data revolution will be lasers. For almost 60 years, the standard way to "talk" to spacecraft has been with radio waves, which are ideal for long distances. But optical communications, in which data is beamed over laser light, can increase that rate by as much as 10 to 100 times. (2/15)

Russia's First Private Space Tourism Craft Flight Test Set for 2020 (Source: Space Daily)
First flight tests of Russia's reusable suborbital space tourism craft are slated for 2020, the head of the company that is spearheading the effort told Sputnik. Pavel Pushkin, director of CosmoCourse company, said the spacecraft's production is funded by a private investor. It is expected to be launched from a Russian cosmodrome and conduct space tours at an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles). (2/15)

Georgia Space Flight Act Passes in the House, Closer to Bringing Jobs to Camden County (Source: WTLV)
The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill 162-5 that would define procedures for space flight in Georgia, as well as bring jobs to the state. HB1, the Georgia Space Flight Act, is sponsored by Georgia Representative Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine). It would limit a "willing participant's" ability to sue for damages relating to space flight activities, as well as require the participant to give informed consent. Proponents of the bill also say it will bring jobs to the state.

"Today's passage of HB1 sends a clear message to the commercial space industry that Georgia is serious about bringing much needed high-tech jobs to our state," said Rep. Spencer. "Georgia and Camden County are becoming well positioned as an attractive hub for the (space) industry's future business activities and operations, bringing significant economic and inspirational benefits to the citizens of Georgia." (2/16)

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