March 14, 2017

How Do NASA's Apollo Computers Stack Up to an iPhone? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Yes, the modern smartphone is more powerful than the computer used by NASA during the Apollo mission, but that overlooks how impressive the Apollo computers actually were. For starters, there wasn't just one computer, there were four. NASA's computers, specifically the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) were at least ten years ahead of their time from a commercial tech perspective, its strength unmatched until a decade later with the advent of computers like the Apple II.

While an iPhone does have more computing power than all of NASA had during the Apollo days, the AGC, designed at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, had one crucial advantage: it was crash-proof. Operating system that we're familiar with today, like Apple iOS and Android, control the computer and dole out energy and attention to various programs. In the AGC, the programs controlled the computer in a hierarchical structure, a program's specific importance would dictate how much attention it got. In the case of an emergency, this would allow for a quicker focus on crucial systems. (3/13)

Maritime Launch Services Selects Nova Scotia for Spaceport Over 13 Other Locations (Source: SpaceQ)
Maritime Launch Services (MLS) has selected a site in Nova Scotia over 13 other prospective locations for its new spaceport and expects to break ground on construction within a year. MLS is pursuing the medium class launch market. They are offering two launch options to begin with. Option 1 is a Sun-synchronous orbit launch between 600-800 km, a much desired service at this time for smaller satellites, with a payload up to 3350 kg for $45 million. Option 2 is a Low Earth Orbit launch, below 600 km in altitude, that will allow a payload up to 5000 kg also for $45 million.

MLS declined go into details on its funding but did say, and as we had previously reported, that United Paradyne Corporation (UPC) had provided initial funding for the venture, and that Joe Hasay, UPC’s CEO, is one of the principals in this new venture. Hasay said that UPC had been looking to expand into commercial space launch operations and this program is just what they had been looking for.

Yuzhnoye Design Office along with Yuzhmash of the Ukraine will be supplying MLS with a new variant of the Cyclone rocket, the 4M, and CEO John Isella had previously told SpaceQ of the new design, “the Cyclone 4 upper stage and fairing remain unchanged and the first stage is now derived from the Zenit family of vehicles using an existing Lox-RP engine that is produced in Ukraine. So a 2 stage vehicle, Lox-RP first stage.” (3/14)

The Untapped Value of In-Space Manufacturing (Source: Space Angels Network)
Anyone who doubts the value of in-space manufacturing need only imagine the day-to-day inconveniences of life in low-Earth orbit. The International Space Station’s resupply missions carry very tightly-controlled payloads, which may be scheduled twelve months in advance of launch.2 Given this rigid framework, the everyday unexpected challenges of life in space can’t be addressed by terrestrial segments. This is where in-space manufacturing comes into play. A readily-available source of supplies—from wrenches and other tools, to medical supplies3—would prove invaluable when the next resupply mission is three weeks from arrival.

In-space manufacturing is projected to free up space on resupply missions. Consider the fact that SpaceX’s ISS resupply missions can cost NASA upwards of $20,000 per pound of cargo.4 The ability to simply print objects in-orbit could significantly reduce the amount of cargo that’s launched to the ISS. It also frees up space for the little necessities humans need to thrive—like musical instruments or other small luxuries.

In-space manufacturing also has major benefits in the event of emergencies. If there were to be a components breakdown, or system malfunction, repairs must be carried out with equipment aboard the space station. But what if tools are misplaced, or broken? Given the limited storage space aboard the ISS,5 there’s no room for multiple sets of backup equipment. With a capable 3D printer, ISS crew members can create whatever component they may need in both seen and unforeseen situations. This potentially life-saving technology is worth major money to NASA, who has offered significant financial incentives for small businesses to develop innovative solutions to the problem. Click here. (3/14)

NASA Technology Fights Flight Delays (Source: Scientific American)
As planes line up for landing today, pilots maintain steady communication with air traffic controllers to ensure that all planes maintain safe distances from one another. The time spent relaying information means pilots can adjust speed only as quickly as they hear from the tower. This wait creates the need to leave an extra safety buffer of space between each arriving aircraft, limiting the number that can land within a given time.

NASA's flight deck interval management (FIM) system cuts down on the banter: it combines satellite-based location tracking and automated computer commands to keep track of planes' positions and constantly updates pilots on safe flight speeds for landing. This eliminates the padding between aircraft—which could save on fuel costs, reduce emissions and bump up the number of flights that arrive on time. “More aircraft landing per hour at airports means less delay for passengers,” says William Johnson, former project manager for Air Traffic Management Technology Demonstration-1 at the NASA Langley Research Center. (3/14)

Spaceflight is a Pre-Existing Condition (Source: Mashable)
NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria flew to space four times for the space agency between 1995 and 2007. While in space, his eyesight deteriorated, a well-documented medical issue NASA's known about for years, and one that many astronauts have experienced first-hand. For many astronauts, their eyesight readjusts once they get back to Earth.

That wasn’t the case for Lopez-Alegria, though. His eyesight got significantly worse during his time in orbit, and NASA isn't paying for his contacts or doctor visits today, years after his retirement from the agency. However, he still travels to Houston, Texas once per year to allow the agency to gather data about his health, without any expectation that NASA will offer treatment for any conditions that may have developed because of his time in space.

While lawmakers continue to argue over how they will repeal and replace Obamacare, both houses of Congress quietly passed the To Research, Evaluate, Assess, and Treat Astronauts Act, also known as the TREAT Astronauts Act, as part of a larger NASA authorization bill outlining the space agency's future. The act – once signed by President Donald Trump – will allow NASA to treat former astronauts for any medical issues they have as a result of their flights to space. Click here. (3/13)

Private Space Stations Could Orbit the Moon by 2020, Robert Bigelow Says (Source:
Giant space-station refueling depots could be orbiting the moon by 2020, but only if the Trump administration makes the funding and national drive needed for it to happen a priority, according to aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow. Bigelow, whose company, Bigelow Aerospace, has launched three private space-habitat prototypes into orbit — including the first inflatable space-station module, said that a commercial station in lunar orbit would be a vital destination for moon exploration. (3/10)

Could a Magnetic Shield Be the Answer to Creating a Suitable Atmosphere on Mars? (Source: TrendinTech)
Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA, says that one way that may help Mars become habitable is by launching a magnetic shield into the sky. Green recently talked about one particular idea that’s part of the workshop in a discussion entitled, “A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration.” During it he talked about how launching a magnetic shield between the sun and Mars could potentially save the planet from damage caused by high-energy solar particles.

The way in which the shield would work is through the use of a very powerful closed electrical circuit, called a dipole. In using the dipole to create an artificial magnetic field Mars will become relatively protected by it, which would give the planet a chance to restore its uninhabitable atmosphere. Due to previous damage caused by solar particles around 90 percent of the Red Planet’s atmosphere was destroyed. Up until around 3.5 billion years ago, the planet was thought to have been temperate and with surface water too.

Various models have demonstrated how this shield could help Mars significantly by lowering the atmospheric pressure on the planet. Warmth would hit the plant and Mars’s polar ice caps would begin to melt, flooding the world with liquid water. Green commented, “Perhaps one-seventh of the ancient ocean could return to Mars.” So, maybe this really will be the next big step towards setting up for civilization on Mars, but for now, we will just have to wait and see what happens. (3/12)

Blue Origin and Washington: Powering the Future of Space Transportation (Source: Lift WA)
Based in Kent, WA, we are driven to invent technologies that will improve the state of space transportation and operations. Fueled by our company motto, Gradatim Ferociter (or “step by step, ferociously”), we have followed an incremental development process in our mission to develop reusable space vehicles and the engines that power them. In 2003, we employed 10 professionals. Today, that number has grown to more than 900 scientists, engineers, and builders—all passionate about human spaceflight.

This team made history in November 2015, becoming the first organization to launch a rocket booster to space and land it vertically back on the Earth. We then successfully flew that same rocket four more times. But, we don’t just build rockets—-we’ve built a unique culture around methodical innovation and exploration that allows us to steadily advance and grow. We’re honored to have our headquarters in Washington and we take great pride in our contributions to the state’s economy.

We’ve created hundreds of lucrative, high-tech manufacturing jobs—aerospace engineers, software engineers, propulsion designers, robotic laser operators, simulation engineers, machinists, avionics engineers, welders, program managers and so many more. Our employees and their families spend their off hours contributing to our local and state economies through recreational activities, dining, shopping and medical care, to name a few. Click here. (3/12)

Sunshine Will Help Spaceport America Succeed (Source: NM Politics)
Unfortunately, there are forces trying to hide information about Spaceport America from the public. They say secrecy is necessary to compete with other space facilities. I first became aware of their efforts last month. Two spaceport officials called me out of the blue. They said they wanted to answer any questions I had. I asked how much tenants are paying in rent at the spaceport. Tammara Anderton, VP for business development, asked me why I wanted to know that. Cue the red flag.

I explained that taxpayers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the project and legislators understandably want to know, as does the public, about the return on their investment. I got nothing. Bill Gutman, VP of spaceport operations, explained that it would be damaging to release the spaceport’s “rate card.” I asked who the tenants were. Anderton said there were five. I asked her to email me information about them. She sent me the names of the tenants and shared whether they launch vertically – using rockets – or horizontally from the spaceport’s runway. That’s it.

They also told me the spaceport had a twenty-fold return on the state’s investment in terms of economic impact in Fiscal Year 2016 — $20.8 million back from the state’s spending of $944,000. I asked in an email for documents that showed “the actual data” to support that claim. I wrote that I wanted “the analysis that shows in more detail where those incoming dollars came from.” I didn’t get that either. (3/12)

Legislature Should Keep Sun Shining on Spaceport America Records (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Interestingly, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched Sunshine Sunday in 2002 in response to efforts by some Florida legislators to create scores of new exemptions to that state’s public records law. The following year, the idea of a national Sunshine Sunday was raised at an American Society of News Editors Freedom of Information summit, but it was decided that the initiative needed to be more than a single day, and Sunshine Week was born.

In New Mexico, Senate Bill 429 would make a wide range of Spaceport America records secret, ostensibly to make it competitive with other spaceports. It would exempt from public disclosure of prospective and current client information including identities, correspondence, agreements, client names, payments, activities, visitor logs, policies and security protocols.

Editor's Note: Space Florida's enabling legislation (Chapter 331, Part Two) allows the agency to keep trade secret information out of the public eye. The information must be declared "trade secret" by the company seeking the privacy...not unilaterally by Space Florida. (3/13)

ULA Won't Say if Alabama Layoffs Coming (Source: Decatur Daily)
United Launch Alliance isn't saying whether a planned round of layoffs this year will impact its 800-employee plant in Decatur. Asked if the layoffs could impact the Decatur plant, ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye did not specify the number of planned layoffs or where they might occur.

“United Launch Alliance continues to transform our company to provide cost-effective solutions for our customers while we maintain focus on mission success,” she said. “As we announced last year, ULA would have two reductions in force, one in 2016, which was completed, and one in 2017 to accomplish our business goals." ULA eliminated up to 55 jobs at the Decatur plant last year, when the Colorado-based company eliminated a total of 375 jobs from its five locations nationwide, approximately 10 percent of its total workforce.

ULA Name Change Planned? (Source: Decatur Daily)
A recent report in a trade publication cited a "credible inside source" that ULA, a partnership between Lockheed-Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., was considering a name change. “As with most companies, ULA continually evaluates its branding strategy and adjusts according to the market,” Jessica Rye said, when asked about the report. Jeremy Nails, president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, said he has heard rumors of a name change, but nothing has been confirmed. (3/13)

RUAG Locating Fairing Operation to Alabama (Source: Decatur Daily)
RUAG Aerospace is moving its operation, which provides carbon fiber payload fairings for ULA rockets, from Switzerland to ULA’s plant in Alabama. By 2020, RUAG is expected to employ 150 workers in Decatur with an average annual salary of $100,000. (3/12)

Strength Built by Diversity and Inclusion Key to NASA Mission and Huntsville's Success (Source: Huntsville Times)
It's no coincidence that we live and work in a vibrant, growing community. Huntsville became the "Rocket City" because visionary leaders and residents throughout the Tennessee Valley recognized we must attract and retain the best and brightest to journey beyond Earth's orbit. Engineers and scientists come to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center from everywhere, with diverse skills and backgrounds, but united in purpose.

Now, Marshall is excited to be part of an opportunity with the community to further advance our history of innovation and mission success through even greater diversity and inclusion. Together, Marshall and the region are successful because, as we accept daunting new challenges, we embrace new ideas and explore new paths for solutions. (3/13)

Aireon Surveillance Payloads See First ADS-B Traffic (Source: Aviation Week)
Aireon has powered and self-tested all 10 of its hosted payloads onboard 10 Iridium NEXT satellites, detecting 1090-MHz automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) surveillance transmissions from a large number of airliners, general aviation aircraft and helicopters “in oceanic and remote airspace that have never before had real-time surveillance,” states CEO Don Thoma in a March 2 program update. Space Coast-based Harris Corp. developed the Aireon payloads. (3/13) 

Japan's 'Mother Astronaut' and Why Women are Suited to Space Travel (Source: SCMP)
It was the 1970s, a time when space exploration captured the global imagination. Star Trek and Star Wars had burst onto screens. Nasa had launched Voyager-1 to explore the outer solar system. In Japan’s Chiba prefecture, not far from the capital of Tokyo, a little girl, Naoko Yamazaki, sat on her living room couch transfixed at science fiction anime and dreamt about visiting space for herself.

More than three decades later, on April 5, 2010, Yamazaki, 39, donned a bright orange spacesuit and boarded the space shuttle Discovery at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Eight and a half minutes after lift-off she breached the “final frontier” – her childhood dream a reality. (3/12)

Zero 2 Infinity Launches Rocket From The Edge Of Space (Source: SpaceRef)
Zero 2 Infinity, a company specialized in Space transportation systems, successfully launched its first rocket from the Edge of Space on March 1. Part of the Zero 2 Infinity team sailed a few miles off the Spanish coast to launch the balloon carrying the rocket. After soaring to 25 km (more than twice the cruising altitude of commercial airplanes), the other part of the launch team gave the order of the controlled ignition of the first Bloostar prototype.

This mission is part of the development of Bloostar, the first small satellite launcher to use a stratospheric balloon as a first stage. By initiating the rocket ignition from above airspace, the targeted orbit can be reached with expediency and efficiency.

This patented technique is less risky than any systems used until now. The rocket-powered phase starts already from above 95% of the mass of the atmosphere, getting there with no polluting emissions. Besides the environmental angle, this new method lets Zero 2 Infinity launch satellites with more flexibility (2 weeks notice), at a drastically lower cost and more often than ever before. (3/13)

The Zambian 'Afronaut' Who Wanted to Join the Space Race (Source: The New Yorker)
Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, a grade-school science teacher and the director of Zambia’s National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy, who claimed the goings-on interfered with his space program to beat the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the moon. Already Nkoloso is training twelve Zambian astronauts, including a curvaceous 16-year-old girl, by spinning them around a tree in an oil drum and teaching them to walk on their hands, “the only way humans can walk on the moon.” Click here. (3/11)

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