February 23, 2017

Energia Prepping Conical Space Capsule (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Energia rocket and space corporation is getting ready for the production of the Federatsiya spacecraft. Russia's Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia is developing two modifications of the Federatsiya spacecraft, which could carry four or six cosmonauts respectively, the corporation's general director told Sputnik.

"We speak about the two versions of one spacecraft. We are developing a modification able to carry six people because it would make it possible to evacuate two extra crew members from the International Space Station in case of a serious emergency," Vladimir Solntsev said. He added that at the moment the corporation had finished the engineering design phase. The corporation is currently preparing design documentation and getting ready for the production of the spacecraft. (2/22)

Boeing Plans to Build 3D-Printed Modular Satellites (Source: Engadget)
Boeing is known for building huge, high-end satellites that cost roughly $150 million each, but that could change in the future. The aerospace corporation plans to adopt new production practices that involve the use of modular 3D-printed parts and far fewer workers than it's used to. Its current procedures that require customized manual assembly cost too much and take far too long -- apparently, you can count the number of satellites it builds in a year on two hands. Boeing's satellite business chief Paul Rusnock told the WSJ that the company can't continue what it's been doing and remain competitive.

Companies that maker smaller, cheaper satellites are already using modular components to save costs and pump out as many as possible. Airbus and a startup called OneWeb (a venture founded by Richard Branson's Virgin and Qualcomm), for instance, are in the midst of building an automated assembly line in Florida. It'll be capable of cranking out hundreds of small satellites a year that cost roughly $500,000 each. (2/22)

NASA Preps for Space-Based Laser Communications (Source: GCN)
Communications engineers have learned over the last several decades how to squeeze the maximum amount of bandwidth out of radio waves. But soaring data volumes and crowded spectrum are creating logjams that have prompted new efforts ranging from spectrum sharing technologies to laser communications. NASA is preparing its next steps in its effort to demonstrate the feasibility of using high-capacity laser communications in space.

The  Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), scheduled to launch in 2019, will beam laser signals almost 25,000 miles from a ground station in California to a satellite in geostationary orbit, then relay that signal to another ground station.

Meanwhile, the Deep Space Optical Communications project is scheduled to launch in 2023 as part of an upcoming NASA Discovery mission. That mission will fly to a metallic asteroid, testing laser communications from a much greater distance than LCRD, program officials said. (2/21)

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 Engine Sets U.S. Record (Source: SpaceRef)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has demonstrated the highest chamber pressure of any U.S. produced liquid oxygen and kerosene main combustion system. This milestone occurred during test firings of the AR1’s staged combustion system at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. Aerojet Rocketdyne combined the engine’s preburner with the main injector in order to validate injector design parameters and performance. (2/22)

Space Florida Invites Proposals for Spaceport Infrastructure Projects (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida invites proposals to continue the development of space transportation infrastructure that supports Space Florida's legislative intent and Florida's spaceport territory master plans (Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Cecil Field Spaceport). Each year, Space Florida issues this Call for Projects to allow the aerospace industry the opportunity to submit projects for consideration into the subsequent year's Work Program and Spaceport Improvement Program.

This year, Space Florida will be accepting Space Transportation Infrastructure Matching Fund applications for fiscal years 2019 to 2023. Applications for FY19-23 and updates to previously submitted FY18 projects are due Monday, April 17, 2017. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis for future fiscal years. Applications and additional information can be found at http://www.spaceflorida.gov/STIMF/.

Blue Origin Plans for Big Seattle-Area Expansion for Engine Production (Source: GeekWire)
Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, has out-of-this-world ambitions – with expansion plans to match. Permit filings at the city of Kent, Wash., reveal plans for a 236,000-square-foot warehouse complex and 102,900 square feet of office space, southwest of Blue Origin’s current 300,000-square-foot headquarters and rocket production facility in an industrial area of the city.

Last year, Blue Origin purchased a 120,000-square-foot warehouse building across the street from its headquarters to support the production of the company’s BE-3 and BE-4 rocket engines, as well as its New Shepard suborbital boosters and crew capsules. Blue Origin’s workforce is growing along with its expansion plans. Last March, the company said it had 600 employees, but the number has since risen closer to 1,000. More than 100 job openings are listed on its website. (2/22)

Astronaut Firepower Headed to Tallahassee for Space Day (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Florida’s space industry has some astronaut firepower heading to Tallahassee. Chris Ferguson, pilot for the space shuttle Atlantis’ final mission in 2011, and Samuel Durrance, who logged more than 25 days in space, will head to the capital city for Florida Space Day on March 8. Durrance is professor of physics and space science at Florida Institute of Technology. Ferguson, a retired U.S. Navy captain, has served as director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems for Boeing’s commercial crew program. (2/22)

SpaceX Carries the Future of Satellite Maintenance to ISS (Source: Popular Mechanics)
SpaceX has launched an important piece of satellite maintenance technology for testing on the Space Station. The Raven module will be used to test techniques to achieve autonomous rendezvous in space, a critical step toward sending a repair bot up to maintain the hundreds of satellites we have orbiting our planet.

The Raven module includes three optical instruments, which has lead the team that built it to start calling it the three-eyed Raven, a nod to Game of Thrones that is all the more apt because the Raven will be riding on a Dragon spacecraft. Data acquired by the three-eyed Raven will be crucial to the operations of the future Restore-L satellite—a robotic spacecraft that will service and repair other satellites in orbit. (2/17)

Mystery Surrounds Return of Pentagon's Secretive X-37B Spaceplane (Source: Space Daily)
After nearly two years in space, one of the US Air Force's biggest mysteries may be returning to Earth. The Air Force has denied that rumors that its X-37B spaceplane, whose mission is classified, will be landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center in the near future.

The experimental X-37B spaceplane was scheduled to return to Earth, according to space news outlet NASA Spaceflight. Despite its name, NASA Spaceflight is not affiliated with the US space agency but they are seen as a reputable source for independent news on the subject.

The Air Force claimed that there was no landing planned, merely a test. "The X-37 is still on-orbit. The program is conducting a regularly scheduled exercise this week," the Air Force wrote in an email to the press. Previous X-37Bs have landed in California, not Florida. (2/21)

Mae Jemison Works To Prime Future Scientists (Source: NPR)
At the Oscars this weekend, one spotlight will shine on African-American women in the space race, thanks to the movie Hidden Figures, which is nominated for three academy awards, including best picture. Dr. Mae Jemison made history in this field as the first African-American woman in space, as part of the crew on the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992. Click here. (2/22)

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