February 24, 2017

Alien Horror Movie ‘Life’ Draws Upon Real-Life Biology and Space Station’s Worst-Case Scenarios (Source: GeekWire)
A real-life organism provides the inspiration for the alien monster at the center of “Life,” a horror movie that’s set on the International Space Station. But you’d never guess which one. Would you believe … slime mold? Rutherford didn’t just throw a dart at the tree of life to select slime mold. It’s a weird kind of fungus-like critter that can be considered a one-celled or multicellular organism. Studies have shown that although it doesn’t have a brain, it seems to be capable of learning and even figuring out railway routes. (2/24)

Europe's Vega Rocket Offers Flights for Multiple Microsatellites (Source: ESA)
Europe’s Vega small launcher is set to demonstrate its extended capability to deploy multiple light satellites using its new versatile Small Satellites Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser, in the second half of 2018. This demonstration provides the first of the launch opportunities under the new Light satellite, Low-cost Launch opportunity (LLLor L3) Initiative with the aim to provide low-cost and regular launch services for European Institutional light satellites.

This first proof-of-concept flight using the current Vega launch system will demonstrate and validate standard innovative services for light satellites. (2/24)

Putting Astronauts on SLS Debut Flight Sparks Safety Group's Concern (Source: Space.com)
A safety oversight panel expressed concern Thursday about an idea, currently being studied by NASA, to put astronauts aboard the first flight of the heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket. In a Feb. 23 meeting at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA's independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said the reason to put astronauts aboard the debut flight of SLS must be compelling enough to override additional costs, scheduling impacts and safety risks. (2/24)

Work on Spaceport America's Southern Access Road May Start in Summer (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has OK'd a key step toward an upgraded southern road to Spaceport America. The federal agency on Feb. 16 issued decisions on an environmental review of the proposed road improvements, which would lead to a graveled or chip-sealed road being built from the Upham Exit on Interstate 25 to the remote spaceport in southeastern Sierra County. (2/22)

How to Get Back to the Moon in 4 Years--This Time to Stay (Source: Scientific American)
Donald Trump wants to make a splash in space. And he apparently wants to make that splash by orbiting the Moon. Orbiting the Moon? Merely circling it? What a comedown from America’s past high…landing twelve humans on the lunar surface. But there is a way to outdo America’s past achievements. And to accomplish this in a shorter time with a smaller budget than the Trump team imagines.

It’s a way to get to the Moon and to stay there permanently. A way to begin this process immediately and to achieve moon landings in less than four years. How? Turn to private industry. Turn to two companies in particular—Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Robert Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace. Why? Because the approach that NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot is pushing won’t allow a Moon landing. (2/22)

Finnish Startup Breaks Crowdfunding Record for Space Travel (Source: Business Insider)
The company just broke a Finnish crowdfunding record, after raising €3,2 million from more than 500 Finnish investors. The first million was raised in just 43 minutes. The money will be used to launch a Space Nation training program in the the Fall of 2017, where candidates will compete through the app by proving their physical, intellectual and social skills. The competition's best candidates will be featured in a TV show, as they go through a bootcamp that determines the ultimate winner astronaut.(2/22)

National Tour of Exhibition Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing (Source: Air & Space)
The Apollo 11 command module Columbia—the only portion of the historic spacecraft to complete the first mission to land a man on the moon and safely return him to Earth—will leave the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum for the first time in 46 years for the traveling exhibition “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission.” Locations include Houston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. (2/22)

Russia Successfully Launches Space Freighter After Crash (Source: NDTV)
Russia on Wednesday successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft taking food and equipment to the International Space Station after the previous such ship crashed to Earth shortly after launch in December. A Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress cargo ship lifted off on schedule at 05:58 GMT from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Russian space agency Roscosmos said.

Wednesday's launch was the last ever for a particular modification of the Soyuz rocket that has been used since 1973 and has failed 22 times out of 788 launches, Roscosmos said. Russia is currently the only country executing manned space flights to the ISS, which are carried out using Soyuz rockets. (2/22)

Orbital Access Limited to Establish Operations Hub at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Satellite Today)
Orbital Access Limited and Space Florida have signed a strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see the U.K. space services operator establish a principal operating base at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Orbital Access Limited is leading the development of a small satellite launch system with support from the U.K. Space Agency to complement a portfolio of non-launch related space services to be delivered at horizontal launch spaceports, such as the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Orbital Access Limited intends to base a fleet specialist aircraft at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), which will provide non-scheduled passenger services, parabolic micro gravity flight services and specialist charters. Specialist providers in the U.S. will offer additional services, such as simulator training and spaceflight participant conditioning. Horizontal takeoff small payload launch services will be added once the development program, currently underway in the UK, is complete and operational permissions have been obtained. Orbital Access Limited is taking forward the development program, the Future UK Small Payload Launcher project, with an industrial team of aerospace and academic partners.

Editor's Note: This seems a lot like the plans by Swiss Space Systems (now inactive) to conduct launch operations from Florida, preceded by parabolic flights for space tourism and training. (2/23)

Infrastructure Grant Seen as Giving Boost to Houston Spaceport (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The Houston Spaceport is receiving a $1 million grant to help build roadways and utilities needed to attract aerospace companies and, ultimately, pave the way for space flights from Ellington Airport. The grant won't cover all infrastructure expenses, but officials said it signals support from the federal government. The U.S. Dept. of Commerce's Economic Development Administration is providing the grant.

"The momentum behind Houston Spaceport continues to build," Mario Diaz, director of the Houston Airport System, said in a statement. "There is limitless potential for aerospace activity at Ellington Airport and that fact is now being recognized on a broad scale, both by our partners within the U.S. government and representatives from the private sector." (2/23)

Florida Awards Grants for Military Base Support (Source: Gov. Rick Scott)
$765,000 has been awarded through the Florida Defense Support Task Force Grant Program to three projects that serve to protect military installations across the state. This year, awards were given to the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, South Florida Progress Foundation of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, and the Clay County Development Authority. Florida’s military installations contribute more than $79.8 billion in economic impact, and the defense industry supports more than 774,000 jobs in Florida. (2/22)

Federal Grant will Boost Houston Spaceport Effort (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The Houston Spaceport is receiving a $1 million grant to help build roadways and utilities needed to attract aerospace companies and, ultimately, pave the way for space flights from Ellington Airport.

Lockheed Martin Plans to Consolidate Trident Missile Work From California to Florida and Colorado (Source: Yahoo)
Lockheed Martin today plans to relocate the Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) program within its Space Systems business area to co-locate employees in facilities with common skills and resource requirements. These moves, which are enabled by government approval, are expected to deliver substantial cost savings while centralizing mission expertise in key locations.

Over the next eight years, the company plans to move approximately 650 positions from its Space Systems facility in Sunnyvale, California, to other Lockheed Martin locations in the U.S. Sites in Florida and Colorado, which have complementary facilities and employee skill sets, are under consideration to receive the positions. Most employees will be offered the opportunity to retain their current positions and relocate to the receiving facility.

Editor's Note: This was made possible with incentives and infrastructure support provided by Space Florida and other state and local development agencies. (2/23)

Aerojet to Boost Launch Industry Portfolio with Acquisition of Orlando-Based Coleman Aerospace (Source: Defense News)
Aerojet Rocketdyne announced the acquisition of Coleman Aerospace, a subsidiary of L-3, in a move executives believe will position the rocket motor company to grow into the commercial launch and, perhaps, offensive-weapons market. The acquisition was for $15 million in cash. Aerojet does not plan any major changes to Coleman in the near term, including job cuts. Coleman’s main business has been producing targets – essentially, small vehicles which look and act like enemy weapons -- that can be used by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

One area that Aerojet wants to grow through Coleman is commercial launch capabilities for small and medium-sized satellites. Coleman’s targets use many of the same technologies as launch vehicles, and in theory Aerojet could combine that with their rocket engines to create a system capable of getting lightweight systems into space. Another potential avenue, though one Evans clarified as more “hypothetical” than anything, is the potential to transform Coleman’s air-launch test vehicles into offensive weapons. Those systems are capable of being launched from a C-17. (2/22)

Air Force's New Push to Brace for War in Space (Source: Defense News)
As the military service responsible for leadership of space, the Air Force is focused intensely on making sure that if and when conflict comes, the United States is prepared to protect our interests and, in a larger sense, our way of life. The extent to which space technologies enable our military to operate around the world, and our economy to run efficiently at home, is not always clearly understood.

From buying gasoline at the pump, to driving your car and ordering products online, to efficient delivery of goods and medical services, the global economy relies on satellite technologies first brought online by the military. For the past 25 years the Air Force has led the integration of real-time, global information from space into the way we conduct military operations. When the US military goes to fight, we do so backed by key space technologies. (2/22)

Column: Tucson Shouldn't Appeal Courts World View Incentive Decision (Source: Arizona Daily Wildcat)
Not only did the scientific community find interest in the Tucson spaceport, it also caught the attention of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, who saw the spaceport as a potential economic and touristic boon. The board pushed World View to locate their spaceport in Tucson, which meant giving the company a good deal to settle here.

But in the 2015 bond election, Pima County voters overwhelmingly denied all six measures to fund economic development and tourism. In January of 2016, four of the five members on the board still voted to sell 15 million dollars worth of bonds to build World View’s facilities, a move that some claimed went behind the backs of voters. This got the board in legal trouble; the Goldwater Institute sued the board for violating state law and the state constitution, and won in the Superior Court on all counts.

This month, the board voted to appeal the ruling. While the spaceport would likely benefit Tucson and the county, the people and the courts have spoken on this issue. Pima County is wrong in appealing the Arizona Superior Court’s ruling. (2/22)

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