March 19, 2017

Integrated Space Plan Shows the Paths Forward (Source: ISA)
Integrated Space Analytics is expanding the venerable Integrated Space Plan (ISP), a detailed roadmap/forecast showing the technology and programmatic prerequisites for various space exploration scenarios. The group is sponsoring a new kickstarter initiative to allow you to back the project's 100 year forecast update. Click here. (3/19)

Japan Launches Radar Remote Sensing Satellite (Source: Kyodo)
Japan launched a radar imaging satellite Thursday night. The H-2A rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 9:20 p.m. Eastern and placed the Information Gathering Satellite Radar 5 into orbit. The radar imaging satellite is intended to replace a similar satellite that is reaching the end of its life, although the Japanese government has plans to increase the constellation's number of radar and optical reconnaissance satellites. The launch was scheduled for earlier in the week but postponed by poor weather. (3/18)

Racing Commentators Call A $424 Million Military Satellite Launch And It's Incredible (Source: Jalopnik)
Florida’s big endurance races are known for plenty of fireworks on and off-track, but they’re usually not from military satellites. Today, the United Launch Alliance is sending the $424 million Delta IV WGS-9 satellite into orbit from nearby Cape Canaveral, Florida, visible from the classic endurance race.

Fortunately, the launch happened while the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s 12 Hours of Sebring was under its fifth full-course yellow flag of the day from the No. 27 Dream Racing Lamborghini Hurac├ín GT3 stopping on course. The television crews had ample time to cut away from the recovery effort and the cars circulating on track to feature the solid rocket boosters falling off above. Click here. (3/19)

Bill Would Have Cloaked Spaceport in Secrecy (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The failing spaceport got a local state senator to introduce Senate Bill 429, the Spaceport Confidential Records Act, which would cloak Spaceport America in secrecy, supposedly to attract customers. New Mexico law already protects companies’ trade secrets. This bill would protect the spaceport’s own “secrets” from its owners — you and me. The second excuse for it is to protect “cyberinfrastructure information” from potential terrorists.

(Would some terrorist bomb the spaceport just to kill a few rabbits?) If this bill has any legitimate objective, it’s unfortunate that someone drafted it using a meat-cleaver, rather than exercising actual thought. Knowing how essential governmental transparency is to our democracy, I worry about bills like this; and knowing that many citizens feel the spaceport is an irredeemable failure, I wonder about management’s motives. (3/18)

No Suspects Yet in Roscosmos top Manager’s Death in Jail Cell (Source: Tass)
Law enforcement agencies have not yet named any possible suspects in the death of Vladimir Yevdokimov, a senior official in charge of quality and reliability control of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, in a cell of a Moscow pre-trial center, a source with law enforcement agencies told TASS. "No suspects have been named as of yet. His cellmates and officials of the detention facility are being questioned. Personal cases of the people who shared the cell with Yevdokimov are being studied as well," he said.

The main line of inquiry into Yevdokimov’s suspicious death is a murder, but a suicide cannot be ruled out either, he said. Yevdokimov’s body with three knife wounds - two in the heart and one in the neck - was found in his jail cell. Yevdokimov was arrested last December on charges of embezzlement of 200 million rubles (approximately $3.495 mln) from the MIG Russian Aircraft Corporation. Later, Moscow’s Basmanny Court extended the arrest of Yevdokimov and his alleged accomplice until April 30. The officials denied any wrongdoing. (3/19)

Russian Aerospace Forces to Launch Over 20 Spacecraft Into Space (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Aerospace Forces in 2017 are planning to launch 15 carrier rockets into space, during which over 20 spacecraft will be placed into orbit," the forces' commander, Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, said. Additionally, three radar stations of missile warning system will start operating, he added. "In order to increase the orbital grouping of spacecraft, 15 space launches of carrier rockets have been planned in order to place more than 20 spacecraft into orbit," Col. Gen. Bondarev said. (3/17)

Dragon Capsule Departs ISS to Return Cargo/Experiments to Earth (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA and SpaceX have released Dragon from the ISS with more than 5,400 pounds of cargo for the return trip to Earth. The items include euthanized mice specimens, stem cell samples, and three disused experiment packages tagged for disposal inside the spacecraft's trunk, which will burn up on re-entry. More than 5,400 pounds of cargo, vehicle hardware and experiment samples are packed inside the Dragon capsule's pressurized cabin and the ship's disposable trunk. (3/19)

Trump’s Biggest Budget Cuts to NASA: Ranked (Source: The Verge)
Packed within NASA’s small budget decrease are some pretty sizable cuts. A few major upcoming missions are canceled, and NASA’s entire education program, which is responsible for outreach and grants, is eliminated. The budget request also proposes wasting technologies already in space.

Some of these cuts could have a positive impact on NASA, while others could deprive students and the science community of the space agency’s expertise. Here are the biggest cuts to NASA ranked from “This is good actually” to “What the hell are you doing?” Click here. (3/17)

China Studying Reusable Rockets Similar to SpaceX (Source: Space News)
China is studying recovering the first stage of future rockets. A concept being developed would use parachutes to slow down first stages after separation, then deploy an airbag to cushion the stage’s landing on dry land. Chinese researchers said they looked into making a powered landing of the first stage, as SpaceX does with the Falcon 9, but concluded it was “extremely difficult” and inefficient. A final decision on whether to incorporate reusability in future rockets is expected by 2020. (3/17)

ULA Launches WGS Military Satellite at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance on Saturday successfully launched a Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) 9 satellite. The Delta-4 launch had been delayed from earlier in the month because of a booster problem. WGS-9 was funded by five international partners, who gain access to the overall WGS constellation. (3/19)

Students Set Record at Spaceport America with Amateur Rocket Launch (Source: USC)
A student group set a new rocketry record earlier this month. A rocket built by the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory launched from Spaceport America in New Mexico March 4, reaching a peak altitude of 43.9 kilometers. The Fathom 2 rocket is believed to set the record for the highest altitude achieved by a rocket designed and manufactured entirely by students. The group’s ultimate goal is to launch a rocket past the Karman Line of 100 kilometers, the widely-observed boundary of space. (3/18)

"Islands" on Titan Explained (Source: Space.com)
So-called “magic islands” seen on Titan maybe be nitrogen bubbles. Radar images of the surface of Titan taken by the Cassini spacecraft have detected features that look like islands in its hydrocarbon seas. Those islands appear to change shape over time. Lab experiments suggest that the islands could be giant nitrogen bubbles created as methane-rich and ethane-rich liquids mix. (3/18)

Indian Beer on the Moon? (Source: Quartz)
India’s parliament discussed a heady question this week: is the country planning to brew beer on the moon? Sisir Adhikari, a member of the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, asked the question of the Department of Space, also seeking details of the research plan if such brewing plans were in development. Jitendra Singh, the minister of state in the prime minister’s office, responded Wednesday that India’s space agency has no such plans, although Team Indus, the Indian venture planning a private lunar lander mission, was considering flying such an experiment from a student group. (3/18)

Commercial Remote Sensing Companies Seek Streamlined Regulations (Source: Space News)
A regulatory system crafted a quarter-century ago is failing to keep up with an evolving commercial remote sensing industry, which companies say is slowing down their efforts to develop new satellite systems and capabilities. At a remote sensing policy event organized by the Satellite Industry Association, panelists argued for changes regarding what is regulated and how to better handle an increasing number of companies proposing novel satellite systems and large constellations of spacecraft.

Regulations for the industry, enabled by a 1992 law, have not kept pace with recent changes in the industry that focus less on resolution improvements and more on increasing the frequency of imagery and other data collected by such spacecraft.

“What that has transitioned this industry into is a digital information services industry,” he said, “something that is essentially an entirely different industry that is regulated now as compared to the industry that was created by the framework for regulating this industry back in the 1990s.” (3/17)

Turkey’s Parliament Deliberates on Space Agency Law (Source: Space News)
The Turkish parliament is deliberating on a draft bill to create a space agency  to boost the country’s space industry and facilitate Ankara’s expansion within the global space industry. The draft was recently debated by the parliament’s Committee on Industry, Trade, Energy, Natural Resources, Information and Technology. (3/17)

Extinction or Survival: The Ethics of Colonizing Other Planets (Source: The Conversation)
The notion of a mass exodus and transplanting a planet is, on the surface, an attractive concept. But we rarely, if ever, critically ask why we ought to do such a thing in the first place. Have we truly earned the right to colonise other planets, especially after the way we’ve behaved on this one? Many films and books have turned their attention to these ethical questions. Click here. (3/13)

Apollo Astronaut's US Flag Secretly Carried on the Moon Heads to Auction (Source: CollectSpace)
When Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott became the seventh person to walk on the moon in 1971, he wore a spacesuit adorned with American flags on both his left shoulder and atop his life support backpack. But as an upcoming auction has now surprisingly revealed, those were not the only two U.S. flags he had on him. Unbeknownst to even Scott until after he returned to Earth, hidden behind the stars and stripes decorating his Portable Life Support System's Oxygen Purge System (OPS) was a pouch holding smaller U.S. flags in a secret stash. (3/17)

ULA Layoffs Could Impact Decatur (Source: Decatur Daily)
Planned layoffs for United Launch Alliance could affect the company's Decatur plant, an official said this week. "As with last year's reduction, they are across the company," spokeswoman Jessica Rye said in a statement. "We are not specifically addressing the number of employees to protect competitively sensitive information." Last year, ULA laid off about 55 workers in Decatur as the company looked to lower launch costs by cutting about 10 percent of its workforce nationally. (3/17)

Arizona's World View Tourism Flight Plans Fluid (Source: Sonora News)
By late 2018 Tucson-based World View Enterprises plans to fulfill the dreams of many by sending people into space.
World View Enterprises, a private company, is the only near-space exploration company in Arizona. For $75,000 customers will be taken to an altitude of roughly 100,000 feet, and stay up there for hours before gently coming back down.

Andrew Antonio, director of marketing and communications for World View Enterprises, made it clear that the timeline to get people into space is fluid. “It’s hard to commit to a specific date for obvious reasons – safety is our No. 1 priority and we’re doing something that’s never been done before, which requires a lot of great research and development and learning along the way,” Antonio said. Initial plans from World View had the company sending customers up by 2017. “We won’t rush the necessary process just to hit a specific date,” Antonio said. (3/17)

Aliens May Be Using Giant Radio Beams To Travel The Cosmos (Source: Huffington Post)
Two Harvard University scientists are suggesting that mysterious fast radio bursts, detected in faraway galaxies, may be evidence of aliens traveling through the cosmos. FRBs are extremely bright flashes of radio waves that last for only a thousandth of a second and are detected by earthbound telescopes. Since the first one was observed 10 years ago, 17 have actually been reported, although scientists think there are thousands of them a day.

At first, Abraham “Avi” Loeb said, he took a conservative approach to explaining them. “It looked like the simplest explanation would be flares from stars in the Milky Way galaxy,” said Loeb, a theoretical astrophysicist and chair of Harvard’s astronomy department. But then “one of the FRBs was localized to reside in a small galaxy at a distance of about a billion light-years away,” Loeb told The Huffington Post. (One light-year is about 6 trillion miles.) (3/17)

Legislators Ask for Spaceport Study (Source: Golden Isles News)
Four state representatives have filed a resolution asking for a careful study to the determine the impacts of a proposed spaceport in Camden County. State Rep. Jason Spencer, sponsor of a bill to protect the space industry from lawsuits by injured employees, said the resolution, if passed, will send “conflicting messages” to the space industry. The resolution calls for careful study and consideration a commercial spaceport in Camden County would have on Georgia ports, commercial fishing and shrimping, tourism and recreation and property rights. (3/18)

Trump Low-Orbit Space Budget Clips High Expectations (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
When President Trump unveiled the outline of his first federal budget proposal this past week, many analysts described it as a mixed bag for America’s space program. We’d call it a missed opportunity. There’s bad news and good news for space. While Trump proposed cutting $200 million, or about 1 percent, from NASA’s $19.3 billion budget this year, the space agency would fare much better than other non-defense agencies; the EPA, for example, is the target of a proposed 31 percent cut.

The president called for canceling NASA’s mission to send astronauts to an asteroid, but preserving funding to develop the agency’s next rocket and crew vehicle. He advocated a deep cut in NASA’s Earth science programs, but maintained support for a robotic mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. However, the president’s plan falls short of revitalizing and redirecting the manned space program after years of sluggishness and drift under President Obama. It fails to meet the high expectations Trump created last month in his first speech to Congress, when he declared, “American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.” (3/16)

Working for Arianespace in Kourou: The Perfect Job? (Source: DW)
Life is very relaxed here. For people who like to be outside, people who like the sun, the rain, and the beach, it is very peaceful. The rhythm of life is quite slow, so we're not as stressed as you'd be in Paris or in Toulouse, where I went to study. So it's quite nice. But work is completely different. Because I work in customer support, I am on call. I have to work Monday to Saturday, and I can be called in at 8pm … so that's very different. But fortunately we have this [indicates the sunny environment]. Otherwise it would be very difficult if both professional and private life were stressful. Click here. (3/17)

Scheduling, Costs Still a Challenge for Japan's H-IIA Rockets (Source: Nikkei)
Japan successfully fired the H-IIA rocket for the 27th consecutive time from the Tanegashima Space Center on Friday, but a long wait time between launches and high costs still stand in the way of full-fledged commercialization. "Short intervals between launches help build confidence," said Naoki Okumura, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. The last H-IIA launch was on Jan. 24.

The agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries cut the interval by a day from their past record to just 52 days by using a small crane for the previously manual cleanup process, as well as other operational changes. Mitsubishi Heavy and JAXA were committed to slashing the gap this time around. After 27 consecutive successes, H-IIA's success rate has now reached about 97%.

At the current pace of just four launches a year, most H-IIAs end up being used by public Japanese institutions. The rocket fired on Friday, like others, was loaded with a government satellite. Only four so far have served foreign private-sector clients, the first of which carried a Canadian satellite two years ago. France-based Arianespace, on the other hand, can put 10 or more satellites into orbit each year. (3/17)

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