February 28, 2017

OneWeb and Intelsat Merger Planned (Source: Space News)
Intelsat announced a "conditional combination agreement" with OneWeb this morning. Under the agreement, the two companies would merge in a stock transaction, with Japanese technology company SoftBank investing $1.7 billion to reduce Intelsat's debt. Intelsat shares soared Monday on news the company was in talks for such a merger.

Intelsat's shares rose by 25 percent, closing at its highest level since late 2015, after reports that SoftBank was leading discussions about a merger of the two satellite operators. SoftBank led OneWeb's $1.2 billion financing round announced in December, while Intelsat is one of OneWeb's original investors. (2/28)

Sea Launch Settlement Gives Boeing Five Soyuz Seats to Sell to NASA (Source: Space News)
NASA has signed a deal with Boeing for up to five additional Soyuz seats through 2019. The deal, quietly closed last week, covers two Soyuz seats for a fourth U.S. crew member in late 2017 and early 2018, and options for three additional seats in 2019. NASA announced last month that it was considering the unsolicited Boeing proposal.

Boeing obtained the seats from RSC Energia as part of a settlement over a suit between the two companies involving Sea Launch. The total value of the contract is $373.5 million, or an average of $74.7 million a seat, about 10 percent less than what NASA is paying Roscosmos in its most recent contract for Soyuz seats. (2/28)

ESA Offers Vega Ride for Small Satellites (Source: Space News)
ESA is looking for smallsats that can fly on a Vega mission in 2018. In an announcement earlier this month, ESA and the European Commission said they were looking for satellites weighing between 1 and 400 kilograms for launch into sun-synchronous orbit in late 2018. The mission is part of ESA's Small Spacecraft Mission Service program to demonstrate that Vega can be used as a dedicated launcher for clusters of small satellites. (2/28)

Russia Laments Space Labor Productivity (Source Tass)
Russia's deputy prime minister told Russia's space industry to improve its performance. Dmitry Rogozin said that labor productivity at Russian space enterprises "lags several times behind" that of major U.S. space companies and that Russian companies are not running at full capacity. Rogozin said companies needed to increase their output or risk "possible social problems" such as layoffs. (2/28)

Asteroid Impact's Secondary Effects are Most Deadly (Source: New Scientist)
If an asteroid hits the Earth, the impact itself likely won't kill you. A new study estimates that the vast majority of casualties from an impact would come from the blast wave created by overpressure as the asteroid deposits energy into the atmosphere. An ocean impact would create a tsunami that could also cause deaths and injuries far from the impact site. Only about three percent of the people killed by such an impact would die directly due the impact itself and debris thrown up by it. (2/28)
Boeing Partnership with NanoRacks Could Triple Number of Satellites Deployed from ISS (Source: Puget Sound Business Journal)
Boeing and NanoRacks have joined forces to develop the first privately funded commercial space airlock device for outer space. The companies hope their new module will enable the United States to potentially triple the number of small satellites deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) during a single airlock cycle. (2/27)

Billionaire Philanthropists Intent on Using Satellites to Save the World (Source: Reuters)
Some of the world's most influential billionaire philanthropists plan to launch a powerful digital platform to harness the avalanche of data sent from satellites each day - and make it freely available for humanitarian and environmental causes. Bill and Melinda Gates - who are also custodians of legendary investor Warren Buffet's billions – have joined forces with Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, to fund the 'Radiant Earth' project, a repository and archive of the world's satellite, aerial and drone imagery.

The project, expected to cost "multi millions" of dollars, aims to find ways to combine and analyze Earth data and imagery and offer it free of charge in formats that do not require specific expertise to understand. Anne Hale Miglarese, Radiant CEO, said the world is now awash in data but for non specialists, finding it and creating ways to use it practically can be both difficult and expensive. (2/27)

How ‘America First’ Could Harm U.S. Aerospace (Source: Aviation Week)
“America First” is the mantra of the Trump administration, which is promising “free and fair” trade by renegotiating trade agreements (including the North American Free Trade Agreement) and imposing tariffs on imports to level the playing field and create U.S. jobs. Several of these current proposals could be very damaging to the aerospace industry, one of the undisputed bright spots in the U.S. economy. (2/28)

With its Moon Announcement, Did SpaceX Kick Off the First Public-Private Space Race? (Source: The Verge)
With SpaceX’s announcement, it seems as if another space race is brewing between the US public and private sector: to fly around the Moon rather than land on it. If so, that’s good news for the US, which will have new ways to access space. Since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the US has been forced to rely on Russian rockets to get people to the International Space Station.

But now, America is poised to have two entities — SpaceX and NASA — that can take people beyond orbit and in the vicinity of the Moon. “It is a great idea for America to have two totally different ways to send people to the Moon, and if this works, then America has multiple ways of doing that,” Jim Muncy, founder of PoliSpace, a space policy consulting agency, tells The Verge. (2/28)

Space Coast Should be Florida’s Silicon Valley (Source: Florida Politics)
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine believes Florida’s Space Coast is the state’s unique opportunity to capture 21st Century technology. He wants to see it become the Sunshine State’s Silicon Valley. Levine, a potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate, sees his vision as not unlike that already pursued by officials at Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, as well as by some within NASA.

Should he run for governor, Levine may be the first statewide candidate to explicitly focus on the region anchored by Kennedy Space Center as a primary place for Florida technology innovation. “With the right state government, we could turn NASA into the most exciting innovation zone, and it could become Florida’s Silicon Valley,” Levine said. “Every company involved in space should have a presence there. And every university in the state of Florida should be attracted to NASA. We need to own that space,” Levine said. (2/27)

If You Think NASA is Frustrated with SpaceX, You’re Probably Right (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA has been a great partner to SpaceX and its goal of reducing the cost of access to space. NASA essentially saved the launch company with a $1.6 billion contract in 2008 to provide cargo delivery to the ISS. The agency is also in the midst of providing the company more than $3 billion to develop and begin flying crewed missions to the station.

These funds have allowed SpaceX to design and develop its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket and two variants of the Dragon spacecraft, including the Dragon 2 capsule the company proposed to send two humans around the Moon in next year.

After SpaceX's dramatic announcement Monday about its lunar tourism plans, NASA issued what at the outset appears to be a supportive statement: "NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher." However, reading a bit deeper into the statement, there is something of a rebuke, suggesting the agency's patience with SpaceX is wearing a bit thin. It is not clear where this important relationship is now headed. Click here. (2/28)

Astronaut Hopes Business Won't Compromize Safety for SpaceX (Source: ABC7)
Former astronaut Jose Hernandez says the two paying customers are in for a wild ride. He's all in favor of putting private citizens in space but hopes profits won't compromise safety. "When you have private enterprise in the mix they look at the bottom line," said Hernandez. "And I'm hoping steps don't get skipped." (2/28)

Space: Where India’s Frugal Efficiency and China’s Ambitious Vision are Set to Clash (Source: Quartz)
Chinese space officials gathered to discuss the Indian achievement and analysed what China must do to make its own space missions commercially viable. They saw this Indian success as a clear signal that it will beat China in the space launch business. In other words, China viewed India as an arch rival in space tech.

Having said that, the Indian side isn’t bereft of this competitive spirit either. Officials at the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) publicly maintain that China is never viewed as a rival. ISRO would even like to collaborate with the CNSA, they say. Significantly, the December 2016 Chinese white paper even mentions a few projects in which India is involved. In private conversations, though, at least some Indian officials declare that China must be beaten. (2/27)

The Best Space Documentaries on Netflix (Source: Inverse)
Very few humans have had the privilege to leave Earth and live within the infinite vacuum of space. But most humans have access to a little thing called Netflix — and it’s key to letting the rest of us lame Earthbound folk get a glimpse of what space is really like. Click here. (2/27)

NASA Wants to Collect Solar Power Directly From Space (Source:Futurism)
Space-based solar power has had a slow start, but the technology may finally take off in the next few decades. Since its inception, solar power has had a severe limitation as a renewable energy: it only works when the Sun is shining. This has restricted the areas where solar panels can be effectively used to sunnier, drier regions, such as California and Arizona. And even on cloudless days, the atmosphere itself absorbs some of the energy emitted by the Sun, cutting back the efficiency of solar energy.

And let’s not forget that, even in the best of circumstances, Earth-bound solar panels are pointed away from the Sun half of the time, during the night. So, for over half a decade, researchers from NASA and the Pentagon have dreamed of ways for solar panels to rise above these difficulties, and have come up with some plausible solutions.
There have been several proposals for making extra-atmospheric solar panels a reality, many of which call for a spacecraft equipped with an array of mirrors to reflect sunlight into a power-conversion device. The collected energy could be beamed to Earth via a laser or microwave emitter. There are even ways to modulate the waves’ energy to protect any birds or planes that might wander into the beam’s path. Click here. (2/24)

Harris Hosts Expo, Including NewSpace Focus (Source: Harris)
Representatives from government, business, think tanks and academia are participating in the week-long Harris Corporation 2017 Tech Expo. The invitation-only event is being held at the new Harris Global Innovation Center and features high-tech exhibits, interactive demonstrations and industry-specific summits and break-out sessions. One is focused on the NewSpace market, featuring space-based imaging and optics, advanced space antennas, small satellite (smallsat) technologies, reconfigurable multi-mission satellite payloads

Harris also will host two industry-specific collaboration summits. The Critical Communications Symposium will address public safety technology solutions, and the Fly Florida UAS Conference will introduce new ways to support the FAA’s goal of establishing a nationwide unmanned aircraft system. Harris also is showcasing a drone flight demonstration highlighting the most advanced integrated UAS and manned flight air traffic management technology. Click here. (2/27)

Hybrids in Space - Crafting a Safer, Cheaper Rocket Fuel (Source: Newsweek)
On his way to a top altitude of more than 62 miles, test pilot Mike Melvill heard what he described as a “tremendous bang” from the engine of SpaceShipOne. Thankfully, things ended well on that June day in 2004, with Melvill landing safely in the Mojave Desert, and entering the history books as the first private sector astronaut to reach outer space.

Although the source of that distressingly loud noise was not determined, there was speculation within the aerospace industry that rocket fuel had become jammed in the engine. “For a second or two, the astronaut didn’t know whether the hunk of fuel was going to go out the nozzle or whether the combustion chamber was going to explode,” says Sid Gutierrez, a former test pilot and astronaut. “It wound up going out the nozzle, so life was good for him that day.”

All of that is to say: Rocket fuel can be dangerous. Gutierrez’s Florida-based startup, Rocket Crafters, is hoping to reduce those risks with its newly patented rocket fuel, made in part with 3-D printers. Unlike most rocket fuel, which is either solid or liquid (NASA’s current standard), Rocket Crafters’s is a hybrid: part solid, part liquid. Click here. (2/27)

Baby Boom: A Concorde for the 21st Century? (Source: Air & Space)
Inside a hangar at Denver’s Centennial Airport last November, Blake Scholl, chief executive of Boom Technology, told a crowd he was going to bring back supersonic air travel. He pulled back a curtain to reveal a full-scale model of the Boom XB-1 supersonic demonstrator—the “Baby Boom.” At 68 feet long and with a tiny 17-foot wingspan, the two-seat, three-engine aircraft looks like a jet fighter that’s been cartoonishly stretched.

Once the real demonstrator is built and undergoing tests later this year, Scholl says it will be the fastest civilian airplane ever flown, and the technologies it will test will lead to a fleet of Boom supersonic airliners operating as early as 2023. Click here. (2/27)

LIGO Ushered In a New Era of Space Science, and We're Already Getting Results (Source: Mashable)
Billions of years ago, two black holes merged in a violent explosion that rippled the fabric of our universe. Those cosmic ripples — known as gravitational waves — produced by this collision spread far and wide in all directions, carrying with them information about the black holes that brought them into being.

Until now, scientists studying the cosmos were limited to just staring at our universe using different wavelengths of light. While this type of investigation has completely transformed our understanding of how stars, galaxies, planets and other objects work, it also has left us in the dark when trying to understand the inner lives of black holes and other exotic objects. All of that is changing now, however.

In the not too distant future, scientists should be able to peer into the hearts of exploding stars, figure out how matter is changed within the hot, high-pressure center of a neutron star, and better characterize what a black hole really is — all thanks to barely-detectable waves sent out to the far ends of the observable universe. (2/27)

Flight Tests of NASA Air Traffic Tool Complete (Source: NASA)
Members of a NASA-led research team pose in front of a trio of aircraft, which on February 22 concluded racking up enough air miles to circle the planet four times, all in the name of testing a new cockpit-based air traffic management tool.

The prototype hardware and software is designed to automatically provide pilots with more precise spacing information on approach into a busy airport so that more planes can safely land in a given time. The technology is intended to help airplanes spend less time in the air, save money on fuel, and reduce engine emissions – all while improving schedule efficiency to help passengers arrive on time. (2/24)

NASA Wind Tunnel Tests Lockheed Martin’s X-Plane Design for a Quieter Supersonic Jet (Source: NASA)
Supersonic passenger airplanes are another step closer to reality as NASA and Lockheed Martin begin the first high-speed wind tunnel tests for the Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) X-plane preliminary design at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The agency is testing a nine percent scale model of Lockheed Martin’s X-plane design in Glenn’s 8’ x 6’ Supersonic Wind Tunnel. During the next eight weeks, engineers will expose the model to wind speeds ranging from Mach 0.3 to Mach 1.6 (approximately 150 to 950 mph) to understand the aerodynamics of the X-plane design as well as aspects of the propulsion system. NASA expects the QueSST X-plane to pave the way for supersonic flight over land in the not too distant future. (2/24)

MDA/DigitalGlobe Linkup Could Include New Constellation (Source: Space News)
MDA's deal to acquire DigitalGlobe sets the stage for development of a new imaging satellite constellation. As part of the $2.4 billion deal, MDA-owned Space Systems Loral will build satellite for a new constellation called WorldView Legion that will revisit areas of the globe up to dozens of times a day. MDA will make initial investments this year in the constellation, with the first satellites planned for launch in 2020. WorldView Legion will ultimately replace DigitalGlobe's existing WorldView-1 and -2 satellites. (2/27)

OneWeb Satellite Factory Could Get Much Busier (Source: Space News)
OneWeb is considering adding nearly 2,000 more satellites to its broadband constellation. Company founder Greg Wyler said last week that based on interest in the current system of about 650 satellites under development, coupled with an oversubscibed financing round, the company is considering exercising "priority rights" for an additional 1,972 satellites. Wyler said a decision on increasing the size of the constellation will be made by the end of this year. (2/27)

SpaceX to Send Privately Crewed Dragon Around the Moon (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission. Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.

Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results. Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission. In addition, this will make use of the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed with internal SpaceX funding. (2/27)

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