March 15, 2017

SpaceX Wins its Second GPS 3 Launch Contract (Source: Space News)
SpaceX beat United Launch Alliance to win a $96.5 million contract to launch a GPS 3 navigation satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2019, the U.S. Air Force announced March 14. The award is SpaceX’s second Air Force launch contract for a GPS 3 satellite but the first for which it faced a competing bid. ULA elected not to bid on a launch contract the Air Force awarded to SpaceX last April for a 2018 launch of a GPS 3  satellite. That contract was for $82.7 million, about half of what ULA normally charges for an Atlas 5 launch. (3/14)

Is Russia Helping China Build Hypersonic Weapons? (Source: RBTH)
The race to build the world’s fastest nuclear delivery system – the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) – has gained steam. While the United States is clearly in the lead, Russia and China aren’t too far behind, with reports suggesting that Moscow – in a reprise of the friendly 1950s – is influencing Beijing’s HGV program. In a new study titled ‘Factoring Russia into the US-Chinese Equation on Hypersonic Glide Vehicles’, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says Russia is a factor that is shaping Chinese hypersonic research. (3/14)

UrtheCast Receives C$17.6 Million of Funding from Canada (Source: UrtheCast)
UrtheCast Corp. will receive approximately $17.6 million in funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's Industrial Technologies Office as part of its Strategic Aerospace & Defense Initiative (SADI) program. This funding will provide significant financial support for the ongoing development of UrtheCast's planned constellation of Earth Observation satellites, known as the OptiSARTM Constellation.

UrtheCast believes its OptiSARTM Constellation program is leading a wave of disruptive geospatial and geoanalytics products and services that will ensure Canada remains a world leader in radar technologies, supported by thriving aerospace, space, defense and security (A&D) industries. The planned 16-satellite OptiSAR Constellation is expected to consist of eight X- and L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites and eight high-resolution optical satellites. (3/14)

How Virtual Reality and Social Media Are Helping Buzz Aldrin and NASA Educate the Masses (Source: AdWeek)
Space travel may have been at its buzziest in the late 1960s, when Buzz Aldrin—right behind colleague Neil Armstrong—became the second person to walk on the moon. Yet intergalactic topics seem to be making a notable comeback thanks in part to a few tech-minded developments, specifically NASA’s social media game and Aldrin’s leveraging of virtual reality. In terms of the latter, Aldrin is set to take stage today at South by Southwest, where the 87-year-old will showcase his devotion to humans colonizing the universe.

He’s expected to explain, among other subjects, that there’s enough ice on the moon that it can be mined and turned into the amount of rocket fuel needed to send humans someday on a six-month journey to Mars. And he’ll be armed with virtual-reality content to illustrate his potentially revolutionary master plan. Starting at 11 a.m. local time, showgoers at the Austin Convention Center will be able to put on VR goggles and be immersed in a 10-minute, 3-D video called “Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways to Mars.” (3/14)

Bill Nye Gives Donald Trump 5 Tips for How to Run NASA (Source: Inverse)
It’s still unclear what President Trump has in store for NASA and America’s space program. He’s been enthusiastic about the potential growth of the private sector, and there’s been talk of sending humans back to the moon among White House personnel. On the flip side, Trump may slash NASA’s budget in order to free up these goals. NASA itself has some exciting plans to explore the cosmos coming up, particularly by sending humans to Mars by 2033 — and there are a ton of people eager to see the agency fulfill that goal.

On Tuesday, celebrity scientist Bill Nye, who also resides as the CEO of the non-partisan Planetary Society, posted a video message to Trump on YouTube on how the new administration should best support NASA. “You have the opportunity to provide clear direction to our nation’s space program,” Nye said. “The advances and discoveries made on your watch could be historic.” Click here. (3/14)

Space is Bigger Than NASA (Source: The Hill)
Over the past decade, space policy decision-making has been fragmented and left to lower-level staff rather than accountable leadership. This has resulted in declining budgets and slower innovation. NASA's $19.3 billion budget in 2016 was 0.5 percent of federal government spending. If NASA had the same spending power as in 1992, around the end of the Cold War, its budget would be over $24 billion today.
We spend 20 percent less on NASA than we did 25 years ago, while the importance of space is greater than ever. We are lagging behind China in cutting-edge hypersonic research while innovative U.S. commercial remote-sensing companies are tangled in regulatory limbo. U.S. economic and security interests are in peril unless there is a new burst of innovation and regulatory relief in our aerospace industries.

When speaking about civil space programs, Trump said, "A cornerstone of my policy is we will substantially expand public private partnerships to maximize the amount of investment and funding that is available for space exploration and development." Exactly the same logic applies to meeting national security space needs. Click here. (3/14)

How Urine Could Help Astronauts Grow Food in Space (Source:
If you want to be one of the first human beings to visit Mars, you better have a strong stomach. Scientists in Germany are testing ways in which urine and sweat could help astronauts grow food on the Red Planet. Most food for missions to the International Space Station are brought as cargo from Earth. However, longer-duration space missions, such as those to Mars, will need a self-sustaining food supply, scientists have said.

Using both synthetic and human urine, Hauslage is conducting lab experiments to re-create this cycle in a way that could be useful for space fliers, the BBC reported. For example, the scientists filled columns of urine with pumice stones, the hole-covered stones that form when lava mixes with water. Within the pumice stones' holes are colonies of bacteria that feed on the urine, converting the ammonia in the urine into nitrites and nitrate salts (a fertilizer). (3/14)

Russia's Private Space Travel Company Plans to Create Launch Pad at Baikonur (Source: Tass)
Russia’s private company CosmoCourse, having ambitious plans for space tourism in Russia, is in talks with Russia’s space corporation Roscosmos and the center responsible for operating ground space infrastructures over plans for creating its own launch pad at the Baikonur space site in Kazakhstan, CosmoCourse chief Pavel Pushkin said.

"We have been offered to use several older launch pads, mothballed a while ago, or to build new infrastructures. There was also a proposal for using the Vostochny spaceport, but we need unpopulated desert areas to make landings," Pushkin said. Previously, some proposed using the Kapustin Yar proving ground in the Astrakhan Region. (3/14)

Should Commercial Space Activities be Permissionless? (Source: Space Policy Online)
Witnesses at a House subcommittee hearing last week debated how – and whether – the U.S. government should regulate commercial space activities to ensure compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty while not stifling innovation. No consensus emerged other than if there is governmental regulation, it should have a light touch.

Today, the only commercial space activities that are regulated are launch and reentry (FAA), use of the electromagnetic spectrum (FCC), and remote sensing satellites (NOAA). With the emergence of ideas for private sector activities ranging from satellite servicing to mining asteroids, the issue of the government’s role in overseeing what companies do in space has taken on new urgency. Click here. (3/14)

Budweiser Totally Serious About Bringing Beer to Mars (Source: Fast Company)
In space, no one can hear you crack open a cold one. Astronauts have lamented this for years, but it's just basic science: carbonated beverages don't work so well in a zero-gravity environment. The pressure inside the container is different than the pressure outside the container, and things get messy. Without gravity, the bubbles in the drink aren't buoyant, so they don't float to the top. NASA experimented with soda back in the '80s (hey, man, who didn't?), but so far, no one has made it possible to drink anything in microgravity that doesn't come in a bag with a straw, like a Capri Sun.

On Saturday evening at SXSW, though, Budweiser announced plans to change all of that. At an official panel the brand hosted in downtown Austin, they recruited retired astronaut Clay Anderson, Anheuser-Busch vice president of innovation Valerie Toothman, and Center for the Advancement of Science in Space marketing & communications manager Patrick O'Neill (whose organization manages the U.S. lab at the International Space Station).

They laid out the challenges mankind will face as it begins to develop beer for the humans who will eventually be visiting the Red Planet: In addition to the whole gravity thing, the lack of water will make brewing difficult, the lack of direct sunlight will make it difficult to grow hops, the carbonation causing a yucky-sounding problem known as "wet burps," and the fact that you can taste less food in space because your tongue swells. These are the challenges Budweiser announced that it's committed to solving. (3/14)

Satellite Manufacturers See Pause In Purchasing (Source: Aviation Week)
Wild enthusiasm for the predicted revolution in satellite-enabled broadband communications has not yet translated into sales of communication satellites, manufacturers say. Satellite makers in open markets sold an anemic 14 spacecraft in 2016, down from 19 the year before and the lowest number since 2004. The holy grail is making money in an environment in which the dollars per gigabit that service providers can charge is plummeting. (3/14)

Here's How You Can Profit From the Race to Mars (Source: Yahoo Finance)
While Musk and Bezos are in a race to be the first to colonize the Red Planet, the US government would like to see NASA win that race. This month, Congress approved a bill that authorizes $19.5 billion in spending for the government agency in 2017. That’s a $208 million increase from 2016. The bill asks for a human mission “near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s” and that the space agency position the US as “a thriving space economy in the 21st century.” Now it’s up to President Donald Trump to sign the bill into law.

For investors, Petranek calls space exploration “the new frontier.” He believes the best opportunities won’t be in space tourism, but rather in the smaller companies that are building satellites and providing support to the industry. He says companies, including Orbitel ATK, Ball Aerospace, Loral Space & Communications as well as Canada-based MDA, are well positioned to benefit as the race to space heats up. (3/14)

Here’s Why NASA is Sending a Florida School’s Satellite Into Space (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach Gardens students put their sweat and smarts into building a satellite that will soon launch into space. Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees NASA, came to The Weiss School Saturday afternoon to give students good news. Theirs is one of 34 satellites NASA will launch into space. The WeissSat-1 will be launched on a mission in 2018, 2019 or 2020, according to Nelson’s office.

After it’s launched, WeissSat-1 will study bacteria that has thawed after being trapped in ice, according to Nelson’s office. Fifth through eighth grade students at the school for gifted students spent years designing, building and testing small satellites. This is only the second time NASA has chosen a satellite built by elementary and middle school students to go to space, according to Nelson’s office. (3/13)

US Astronaut’s Spaceflight to be Financed by Russian Corporation as Sea Launch Debt Settlement (Source: Tass)
U.S. astronaut Joseph M. Acaba will fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) as a third crew member of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship. His flight will be financed by Russia’s Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as debt repayment to US’ Boeing under the joint project Sea Launch, a source in the Russian space industry said.

"Joseph Acaba has been appointed as a member of the main crew of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship due to be launched to the International Space Station on September 13. Shannon Walker has been appointed as a member of backup crew. Most likely, she will be subsequently chosen as a main crew member of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft due to fly to the ISS in March 2018," the source said. Editor's Note: Before joining NASA, Acaba taught science at Melbourne High School and math & science at Dunnellon Middle School in Florida. (3/13)

FAA Mandating Higher Insurance Coverage for SpaceX Rockets (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The SpaceX rocket scheduled to lift a commercial satellite into orbit from Florida this week carried five times as much liability coverage for prelaunch operations as launches in previous years. The Falcon 9 rocket carried $63 million in prelaunch liability coverage. The higher limit, mandated by federal officials, reflects heightened U.S. concerns about the potential extent of damage to nearby government property in the event of an accident before blastoff.

The company previously only had to carry $13 million in coverage for launches from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral. Insurance requirements for the company's launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base have not changed. The company has carried far higher insurance amounts to cover liability for Falcon 9 first stage landings at its Cape Canaveral pad. (3/14)

To the Moon! The Musk-Bezos Billionaire Space Rivalry Just Reached New Heights (Source:
Musk congratulated Bezos on the accomplishment but also stressed that landing a rocket during orbital liftoffs — as SpaceX was trying to do with the first stage of its Falcon 9 launcher — is much tougher to do. In response, Bezos said the Falcon 9 first stage doesn't actually make it to orbit before coming down to Earth, then pointed out that the SpaceX rocket performs a deceleration burn to make its "re-entry environment more benign.

"So if anything, the Blue Origin booster that we just flew and demonstrated may be the one that flies through the harsher re-entry environment," Bezos said in a news conference in November 2015. "And then finally, the hardest part of vertical landing and reusability is probably the final landing segment, which is the same for both boosters."

SpaceX nailed its first Falcon 9 landing a month later, bringing a first stage back safely during the Dec. 21, 2015, launch of 11 satellites for the communications company Orbcomm. Bezos congratulated Musk's company with a tweet that some people interpreted as a being bit snarky: "Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon's suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!" Click here. (3/14)

Satellite Company Seeks Launch Cost Refund From Kosmotras (Source: Space News)
Hisdesat is demanding a refund from the operator of the Dnepr rocket because of a delayed launch. The Spanish satellite operator has filed with the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, reportedly seeking $16 million from Kosmotras for payments it made for a Dnepr launch originally scheduled for 2013 but which has yet to take place. Hisdesat has since signed a contract with SpaceX for the launch of its PAZ radar satellite. (3/13)

Colorado Company Plans R&D Center on Florida's Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
An unnamed Colorado company wants to turn a Space Coast town into the "Silicon Valley of Space 2.0." The Denver-based company is working with economic development officials to open a research and development center in a historic building in downtown Titusville, Florida, converting the upper floors of the buildings into apartments. The 65-person company, whose identify is being kept confidential by local officials for competitive reasons, would use the facility "to develop new technologies for the aerospace industry." (3/14)

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