February 3, 2017

NASA Astronaut Returns from Space Younger Than His Twin (Source: The Times)
When the American astronaut Scott Kelly landed in Kazakhstan last year after 340 days in space he was a changed man. He came back 2in taller, 15lb lighter and with a burning urge to jump into a swimming pool. All of these alterations were predictable and temporary. Now, however, scientists have found the first signs of a change that no one expected and which could have serious implications for the future of space travel.

During his year on board the International Space Station Mr Kelly’s body had, in a partial but important way, become younger — and this is decidedly not good news. He and his identical twin Mark, also a retired astronaut, may be the most exhaustively studied siblings in the history of science. (2/3)

SpaceX Needs to Redesign its Engine to Ensure it is Safe for Human Spaceflight (Source: Quartz)
Government investigators are set to warn of a flaw in SpaceX’s rocket engines, which could delay the company’s plans to fly astronauts for NASA in 2018. In a statement, SpaceX described the issue as a routine engineering problem and says it is already in hand. Currently, the engines are intended to function even if there are some cracks in the turbine, and no problem has been connected to them before.

“We have qualified our engines to be robust to turbine wheel cracks,” SpaceX said in a statement sent to Quartz. “However, we are modifying the design to avoid them altogether. This will be part of the final design iteration on Falcon 9. SpaceX has established a plan in partnership with NASA to qualify engines for manned spaceflight.” (2/3)

Jim Bridenstine for NASA Administrator (Source: The Hill)
It’s rare that someone actively seeks to be NASA administrator. But Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) has informed the Trump transition team that he would like the job. One reason he is campaigning to head an agency that is at once popular with the American people and held in some disrespect by the political class is that he harbors ambitions for the space agency that go beyond business as usual.

Currently in his third and last term, as he has term-limited himself, Bridenstine is the author of the American Space Renaissance Act, which contains a wide-ranging number of proposals to reform military space, commercial space, and NASA. More recently he posted in his Congressional blog an explanation of “Why the Moon Matters.” He provides a cogent, economic reason why Americans should return to the moon, the sooner the better. (2/3)

Avoiding Future Disasters and NASA's Memory Problem (Source: Spectrum)
Last week, NASA held many commemorations for the anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire. But a forward-looking event at the astronaut base at the Johnson Space Center in Houston stands out as particularly apposite. In particular, a panel of emeritus experts discussed what space workers must stop forgetting about what the Apollo 1 fire—and the subsequent 1986 Challenger and 2003 Columbia space shuttle disasters—has to teach.

The veteran program workers discussed their insights in front of a packed house, and the emcee—a freshly minted astronaut from the class of 2012—drove the need for such reminders home with a simple request. After asking those in the audience who had worked on Apollo to rise (about 5 percent did, to applause) she asked for those who had come to work after 2003 (and so hadn’t been present for any of the disasters) to rise next.  Almost half of the gathering did so. (2/2)

Change in Astronaut's Gut Bacteria Attributed to Spaceflight (Source: Northwestern U.)
Northwestern University researchers studying the gut bacteria of Scott and Mark Kelly, NASA astronauts and identical twin brothers, as part of a unique human study have found that changes to certain gut "bugs" occur in space. The Northwestern team is one of 10 NASA-funded research groups studying the Kelly twins to learn how living in space for a long period of time -- such as a mission to Mars -- affects the human body. While Scott spent nearly a year in space, his brother, Mark, remained on Earth, as a ground-based control.

There was a shift in the balance between the two dominant groups of bacteria (Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes) in Scott Kelly's GI tract when he was in space. The balance returned to pre-flight levels when Scott Kelly returned to Earth. Fluctuations in the same bacterial groups were seen in Mark Kelly, the control on Earth, but the fluctuations were not as great as those seen in Scott Kelly in space. Differences in the viral, bacterial and fungal populations between Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly were pronounced at all time points; however, this was expected when comparing different individuals, even identical twins. (2/2)

Spaceflight Changes the Shape of Astronauts' Brains (Source: Space Daily)
When astronauts come back from a stint aboard the International Space Station, their brains are not as they were when they left Earth. Scientists at the University of Michigan compared brain scans of 27 astronauts before and after spaceflight. Of the 27, twelve spent two weeks on shuttle flight missions and 14 spent six months on the space station. Researchers obtained the MRI scans from the NASA Lifetime Surveillance of Astronaut Health program.

The brains of all 27 astronauts showed increases and decreases of gray matter volume in different parts of the brain as a result of their time in space. The longer astronauts were in space, the more prounced the changes. "We found large regions of gray matter volume decreases, which could be related to redistribution of cerebrospinal fluid in space," lead researcher Rachael Seidler, a professor of kinesiology and psychology at Michigan, said. (2/1)

Finnish Company Raising Funds for Astronaut Training Competition (Source: Space News)
Cohu Experience, a Finnish startup aimed at encouraging public participation in the burgeoning commercial space industry, launched a crowdfunding campaign Feb. 2 for the Space Nation Astronaut Training Program, a competition to be waged on smartphones for anyone who dreams of becoming an astronaut. The group already has raised 1.7 million euros ($1.8 million) from investors in Finland, Estonia, Germany and the U.S., said Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola, Cohu Experience co-founder and chief executive.

Instead of spending years earning advanced degrees in science or engineering, people who download the Space Nation Astronaut Program app that Cohu Experience plans to roll out this fall can test their skill with a variety of mental, social and physical challenges. The top 100 competitors, in addition to 30 people selected by corporate partners and sponsors, will be invited to a two-week astronaut training boot camp in early 2018.

The boot camp is designed to whittle down the field from 130 people to 12, who then qualify for 12 weeks of intensive astronaut training. At the end of that training, one citizen astronaut will win a commercial suborbital flight in 2018. In later years, the company plans to select multiple astronauts and to send them to low Earth orbit and beyond, Vähä-Jaakkola said. (2/2)

Boeing, Air Force, Pen Agreement to Oversee GPS 2 for Next Five Years (Source: Space News)
As the U.S. Air Force works to develop its next generation of Global Positioning System satellites, the service and Boeing signed an agreement to continue support of the existing constellation. Boeing will continue to support the Boeing-built GPS 2A and 2F satellites currently in orbit for the next five years under the agreement announced Thursday.

“This agreement continues Boeing’s strong legacy of GPS innovation and mission support,” said Dan Hart, vice president of Government Satellite Systems, in the release. “We are focused on delivering reliable, affordable and resilient GPS capability now and for generations to come.” The Block 2A satellites are not currently in service, but some are kept as back-ups should there be a problem with more modern additions to the constellation. (2/2)

Panasonic Avionics Subject of Federal Corruption Probe (Source: Space News)
Global in-flight connectivity provider Panasonic Avionics of California is the subject of a U.S. corruption and securities probe. The probe comes as many airlines are making long-term decisions on in-flight connectivity providers. Panasonic disclosed the probe the same day the company announced the immediate departures of Panasonic Avionics CEO Paul Margis and Chief Financial Officer Paul Bottiaux. Panasonic said the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Panasonic Avionics under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other securities related laws. (2/2)

Race to Provide Commercial Weather Data Heats Up (Source: Nature)
A controversial push to expand the US government’s use of commercial Earth-observing satellites is about to kick into high gear. Early next month, aerospace start-up Spire Global of Glasgow, UK, will send a mini-satellite into space aboard an Indian government rocket. This ‘cubesat’ will join 16 others that are beaming a new type of atmospheric data back to Earth — and some scientists worry that such efforts are siphoning funding away from efforts to push forward the science of weather forecasting. Spire will begin providing observations to the US government on 30 April.

The probes track delays in radio signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites as they pass through the atmosphere — a technique known as radio occultation. Researchers can use the data to create precise temperature profiles of the atmosphere to feed into weather-forecasting models — and eventually, perhaps, climate models.

Spire and its competitor GeoOptics of Pasadena, California, are participating in a pilot project announced in September by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is under pressure from the US Congress to determine whether it can cut costs by using commercial weather data. (2/1)

Cosmic Test Backs 'Quantum Spookiness' (Source: Nature)
A version of an iconic experiment to confirm quantum theory has for the first time used the light of distant stars to bolster the case for a phenomenon that Albert Einstein referred to as “spooky action at a distance”. Einstein disliked the notion that objects can share a mysterious connection across any distance of space, and scientists have spent the past 50 years trying to make sure that their results showing this quantum effect could not have been caused by more intuitive explanations.

The latest effort to explore the phenomenon, to be published1 in Physical Review Letters on 7 February, uses light emitted by stars around 600 years ago to select which measurements to make in a quantum experiment known as a Bell test. In doing so, they narrow down the point in history when, if they exist, hidden variables could have influenced the experiment.

“It’s a beautiful experiment,” says Krister Shalm, a quantum physicist at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Although few expected it to disprove quantum mechanics, such experiments “keep pushing alternative theories to be more and more contrived and ridiculous”, he says. Similar techniques could, in the future, help to protect against hackers who try to crack quantum-cryptography systems, he adds. (2/2)

Leaked GAO Audit Raises Concerns About SpaceX Rocket Flaw (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Government Accountability Office’s preliminary findings reveal a pattern of problems with turbine blades that pump fuel into rocket engines, these officials said. The final GAO report, scheduled to be released in coming weeks, is slated to be the first public identification of one of the most serious defects affecting Falcon 9 rockets.

The crack-prone parts are considered a potentially major threat to rocket safety, the industry officials said, and may require redesign of what are commonly called the Falcon 9’s turbopumps. NASA, they said, has warned SpaceX that such cracks pose an unacceptable risk for manned flights. (2/2)

Intrigue Surrounds GAO Audit Leak (Source: SpaceKSC)
With the exception of the Space Shuttle, little data exist on turbine blade failures because most rockets are expendable. For all we know, it may be a common phenomenon on other engines too, just never fully observed. Turbine blades cracked on the Space Shuttle Main Engines as well. We only know that because the orbiter returned from flight. With the change in administrations, President Trump's transition team is reviewing agency operations. It's possible someone on that team reviewed the draft report and leaked it.

Chris Shank, a protégé former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, headed the transition “landing team.” Several other members of the initial landing team also had connections to Griffin, who favors a model in which NASA develops and builds its own rocket and spacecraft, rather than handing over the reins to commercial companies such as SpaceX or Blue Origin. (2/2)

NASA Spacecraft to Hunt for Earth's Asteroid 'Ghosts' (Source: Seeker)
This month, NASA's asteroid-sampling Osiris-Rex mission will search for possible Trojan asteroids that could be traveling along with Earth around the sun. A robotic spacecraft launched in September to return samples from an asteroid will spend about 10 days this month on a side job hunting for asteroids that may be accompanying Earth as it orbits the sun.

So far, scientists know of only one so-called Earth Trojan asteroid, which was discovered in 2010 by NASA's infrared WISE telescope. The 1,000-foot object, known as 2010 TK-7, orbits roughly 60 degrees ahead of Earth. Osiris-Rex will pick up the hunt on Feb. 9, searching 60 degrees ahead and 60 degrees behind Earth's present position. (2/2)

Global Positioning System Sparks New Data Revolution (Source: EOS)
In 1996 a portion of the signals from the US military’s space-based Global Positioning System (GPS) became freely available, revolutionizing civil precision location, navigation and timing.  Shortly thereafter scientists began taking advantage of these free and globally-available radio signals to remotely sense water vapor in the lower atmosphere and the ionized content of the upper atmosphere. 

In turn, these observations gave rise to a new era of weather forecasting, environmental monitoring, and real time assessment of solar activity in Earth’s geospace. Today another GPS data revolution is in the making, but this time in the realm of energetic particles in Earth’s radiation belts. There, the subatomic particles of the Van Allen radiation belts relentlessly pummel every satellite. For decades, many (and now most) of the spacecraft host particle detectors that provide constellation operators with a direct view of the environment affecting the health and status of the system.

As part of the US National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan, and following the 2016 Executive Order 13744, the Department of Defense (DoD) is now opening a more than 15-year record of GPS particle data to scientific scrutiny. Accounting for the number of spacecraft with particle detectors onboard, this means a release of over 160 satellite-years of data! (1/30)

MoonWatcher Will Launch on Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne Bringing the Moon Closer to You (Source: SpaceRef)
Imagine seeing the Moon as only astronauts have seen it before. Now with MoonWatcher, the FIRST private satellite mounted with a state of the art camera, you will have this amazing opportunity. Spectacular images of the Moon will stream LIVE to the Internet with accompanying information and featuring the latest lunar news. To accelerate the path to orbit, today MoonWatcher announced a crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign to raise $150K.

MoonWatcher will be putting these Kickstarter pledges towards their first satellite, which will be carried by Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in 2018. (2/2)

UAE May Study Viability of Sending Astronauts to Space (Source: Gulf News)
The UAE may soon study the viability of sending astronauts to space, a top official said in the capital on Tuesday. “While it has not been studied yet, sending an astronaut into space would fall within the bounds of our national space policy,” Khalid Al Hashemi, director of space missions at the UAE Space Agency, said. This would be a further incentive to attract young Emirati minds towards studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), one of the main goals of the UAE’s space exploration and investment initiatives, he added. (1/31)

Newquay Spaceport Chief Confident Over Bid (Source: Newquay Voice)
The head of Newquay’s spaceport bid believes the scheme is still set for lift-off despite concerns the space program has stalled following Brexit. Miles Carden, the Enterprise Zone manager, is confident legislation will be in place to enable Cornwall Airport Newquay to accommodate the facility and meet the growing interest in satellite deployment, commercial space flights and conducting space experiments.

The Department for Transport was due to publish early in the New Year the Modern Transport Bill, which will set regulations to allow UK aerodromes to access space and for driverless cars. But the Government states there is currently no timetable for the introduction of the bill as Parliamentary time has been limited by events such as Brexit and the discussions over triggering Article 50. (2/1)

Blue Origin Plant Under Construction at Kennedy Space Center (Source: WESH)
Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to put $17 million into Brevard County to help a private rocket firm is getting cheers on the Space Coast. The Blue Origin rocket factory, just outside the Kennedy Space Center, is quickly taking shape. The New Glenn rockets to be assembled there are designed to carry satellites, astronauts and space tourists.

And now the governor is revealing Florida’s proposed investment in the project: an investment that shows what it took to get company founder and Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos to build in the Sunshine State. Florida’s money would go toward the renovation of Launch Pad 36 at the Cape, not used since 2005. (2/1)

Space Florida Links with FedEx for Space Cargo Transport to Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: FedEx)
Space Florida today announced that it has named FedEx as its preferred provider of logistics, transportation and cargo related services. Space Florida maintains and operates the historic launch and landing strip—15,000 feet long and 300 feet wide—at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

“Identifying FedEx as the preferred logistics provider supports Space Florida’s transition and development of the historic Shuttle Landing Facility to a commercially operated horizontal launch and landing facility,” said Frank DiBello. “We are confident that having FedEx onsite will enhance the logistical support to launch operators, payload providers, satellite and rocket manufacturers and their supply chains as launch activity increases and Florida’s Space industry continues to grow and diversify.” (2/1)

NASA to Launch Space Debris Sensor This Year (Source: WRAL)
NASA's Space Debris Sensor has completed its functional testing phase and will launch via SpaceX later this year. It will attach to the Columbus module of the International Space Station and gather data on debris impacts. The SDS is a one square meter impact sensor designed to detect and characterize impacts by small debris objects. The sensor combines multiple technologies to measure the time, speed, direction, size, and density of objects down to 50 µm in size, less than the width of a human hair. (2/1)

FAA Updates Status of Georgia Spaceport Study (Source: Golden Isles News)
has been seeking the answers to hundreds of questions posed about the proposed Spaceport Camden during a public hearing in December 2015. After an extended public comment period ended six weeks later, the team assigned to write the draft Environmental Impact Statement began the task of answering the questions that will determine the fate of the proposed spaceport.

During an update of the ongoing study released this week, Stacey Zee, an FAA environmental specialist explained the status of the ongoing work. A survey has been conducted to determine if there are any jurisdictional wetlands on the site for the proposed spaceport. The Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked with reviewing and verifying the information, she said. The team will also begin consultations with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to discuss endangered species and potential impacts from rocket launches from the site.

A timeline for the release of the environmental statement should be announced within two months and another public meeting will be held in Camden County after the draft statement is released. Specific details about the upcoming meeting will be determine closer to the release of the study. (2/2)

Spaceport Bill Clears Georgia Senate Panel (Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle)
Legislation offering the liability protections sought by proponents of a planned commercial spaceport in southeastern Georgia passed a state Senate committee Thursday. Senate Bill 46, which cleared the Senate's Science and Technology Committee unanimously, would set a stricter legal standard for a plaintiff injured while riding a spacecraft to collect damages.

Other states seeking to get in on the growing commercial space industry have adopted legislation requiring plaintiffs to prove "gross negligence" in order to collect damages, a tougher standard than "ordinary negligence," and Georgia should do the same in order to compete for space business, said Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, the bill's chief sponsor. (2/2)

SpaceWorks Releases 2017 Nano/Microsatellite Market Assessment (Source: SpaceWorks)
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) announced today the annual update to its nanosatellite and microsatellite market forecast. The report details the latest observations and trends in the nano/microsatellite market. Projections indicate more than 450 nano/micro satellites will need launches annually in the year 2023 and beyond. The summary is available in presentation form as a free download on the website, http://www.spaceworksforecast.com. (2/1)

Canada Picks 72 Astronaut Finalists (Source: Global News)
The Canadian Space Agency has picked 72 finalists for its next astronaut selection round. The 72 came from an initial pool of 3,772 people who submitted applications last year to join CSA's two current astronauts. The agency expects to select two people later this year. (2/1)

Europe Advances Reusable Rocket Engine Effort (Source: Space News)
A French effort to develop a reusable engine now has European Space Agency support. The Prometheus engine project will receive $91 million from ESA's Future Launchers Preparatory Program to support its development, leading to a test firing in 2020. Airbus Safran Launchers and the French space agency CNES supported initial work on Prometheus, which uses liquid oxygen and methane propellants and is designed to be one-tenth the cost of the Vulcain 2.1 engine to be used on the Ariane 6. Prometheus could become part of a future reusable launch vehicle program. (2/2)

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