March 20, 2017

Space — the Final Frontier for Investors (Source: Financial Times)
How much would you pay to have shooting stars fly across the sky on your wedding day? A fledgling “space entertainment” company is planning to offer meteors on demand from 2018 — just one example of “new space” enterprises that are attracting investor interest.

The growth of this industry has not escaped the attention of fund managers — but the nature of most new space companies is that they are small, early-stage and risky. They are usually backed by venture capital funds, and remain out of reach for all but the wealthiest private investors. However, for those willing to be creative, there are other ways to join the space race.
Click here. (3/17)

Australia Deserves a Space Agency (Source:
Australia has never had a Space Agency to represent its interests on the sector. We win only 1% of the annual US$330 Billion space business. In 1967 we used a Redstone rocket to launch a home-built satellite into orbit. We were one first countries to be involved in the space sector. Since then, the government's mantra has been that Australia is "too small a player" and will never be in the business of launching rockets to space.

Today, New Zealand is in the business of launching rockets to space and has an active space agency. Australia is the only one of the economically developed countries that does not have a space agency. Our university aerospace graduates have to go overseas to find work and space development is set to do this too. Australia is falling behind the rest of the world in supporting its space industry and the  benefits of new technology and products. (3/20)

European Scientists Plan First Private Moon Landing in 2018 (Source: The Telegraph)
The first private Moon landing could be made by a group of European scientists next year. A group of rocket engineers called PTScientists (Part-time Scientists), has built a landing module and two rovers, which are expected to launch in 2018 on board Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The landing module will be programmed to touch down in the Taurus-Littrow valley, around two miles from the site of the final Apollo 17 mission.

It will deploy two rovers with the aim of tracking down Nasa’s moon buggy which was left behind by Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon. The team is keen to find out how well the buggy has survived on the lunar surface for more than four decades and, if successful, it will mark 46 years since humans drove on another world. (3/19)

China Selects 80 Proposals for Future Space Science Missions (Source: GB Times)
China's National Space Science Centre (NSSC) has selected 80 proposals for future innovative space science missions after assessing a broad array of submissions from across the country. The proposals cover a range of areas, including space-based astronomy, astrophysics, solar physics, planetary science, microgravity science, life sciences and others.

The selected mission proposals come from 39 organizations, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and its various institutes and research centers, universities and a handful from industry. The 80 were selected after evaluation by 30 academicians, which was followed by review by a panel of 15 experts headed by Ouyang Ziyuan. (3/20)

Part of San Fernando Valley’s Storied Space Race History Vanishes (Source: LA Daily News)
Heavy machinery has just about leveled the old Rocketdyne office and rocket engine manufacturing complex. A big F-1 rocket engine, like those that powered Apollo missions to the moon, once greeted visitors at the complex. It was moved to the De Soto Avenue facility several years ago before the 40-plus acre site was prepared for new development.

For decades, some of the world’s brightest rocket scientists, engineers and factory workers turned out complex machines at the site that would power spacecraft into orbit around Earth, to the moon and to other planets. They played vital roles in helping the United States win the space race. (3/20)

Spaceport, New Mexico (Source: Dorado)
A wildly ambitious hub for commercial space travel has risen in the desert of southern New Mexico. Despite much progress and impressive competition, the final frontier still waits. Spaceport America, the only facility in the world built exclusively for commercial space travel, sits ready to make astronauts out of paying customers. Not surprisingly, building spaceships involves secrets, which makes the Jornada a good place to do business.

“The commercial aspect of the Spaceport is a very sensitive, very proprietary market,” says Dan Hicks, who took over as CEO of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority last fall. “One advantage we have that makes us incredibly lucrative to the industry is our remote location. You don’t have a lot of encroachment from cities or demographics where it would be difficult to keep public eyes off what you’re doing.”

Still, the public is watching. The state of New Mexico has so far spent about $220 million on the facility since its groundbreaking in 2007. At that time, the optimistic prediction for commercial space travel was that private companies — most notably Virgin Galactic, which signed a 20-year lease as an anchor tenant at the Spaceport — would be ferrying people to zero gravity by 2015 or so. That hasn’t happened. (3/14)

The Highest Jump (Source: Air & Space)
Alan Eustace, a 60-year-old retired Google executive, holds the current record for the highest skydive—-a milestone he achieved in 2014 by ascending via balloon to 135,899 feet and returning safely with little more than a spacesuit and a parachute. This is a story of his low-key approach to the achievement, and his vision for skydiving from space.

Eustace imagines something akin to the small, disposable reentry vehicles that NASA and the European Space Agency have proposed as a means to get experiment payloads down from orbit. These inflatable structures—which have gotten as far as preliminary testing—would become hard as rock once filled with gas, and can be coated in ablative material that dissipates heat as it burns off. The idea, says Eustace, is that “you just essentially pump up your reentry vehicle,” climb on, and fire a small retrorocket to point yourself home. Click here. (3/16)

SpaceX Studying Landing Sites for Mars Missions (Source: Space News)
SpaceX has been working with NASA to identify potential landing sites on Mars for both its Red Dragon spacecraft and future human missions. The company, working with scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and elsewhere, had identified several potential landing sites, including one that looks particularly promising. Site selection is based on several criteria. One is access to large quantities of ice near the surface that could, ultimately, support human settlements.

Another is to be close to the Equator and at a low elevation for solar power and better thermal conditions. “It’s probably hard to find that along with ice,” he acknowledged, so the focus has been on four locations at latitudes no more than about 40 degrees from the Equator. Paul Wooster said the study identified four regions in the northern hemisphere of Mars that met those basic criteria. (3/20)

Most Successful American Rocket Launches—For One of the Last Times (Source: Ars Technica)
After Saturday night's successful delivery of an Air Force communications satellite to orbit, the medium variant of the Delta IV rocket has now launched 26 times. All of the Delta IV medium launches, which primarily have served the US armed forces, have ended in mission success. Other US-based rockets have launched more, but no modern rocket with all-American components, from the engines and solid-rocket motors to the upper stage, can boast of such a record of success as the Delta IV Medium.

And yet now the rocket's parent company, United Launch Alliance, desperately wants to retire the booster. Why? The answer is cost; it's about twice as expensive as competitors. “Great rocket,” ULA's Tory Bruno said in 2015 of the Delta IV. “But it’s more expensive than the equivalent Atlas rocket." The only problem with the Atlas V, which has launched about twice as many times as the Delta V, is that it uses Russian RD-180 engines rather than American-made ones. (3/20)

Air Force Won’t Stop ULA Divestment Of Delta IV Heavy (Sources: Ars Technica, Defense Daily)
US Representatives Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX) told the Air Force that the Delta IV should continue to fly, and asked for a report on how it could make the Delta IV "a more cost-effective and modern launch system" for the US government. In response, Air Force officials say they won’t stop ULA from divesting its Delta IV Heavy rocket.

The political subtext here seems pretty clear—some congressmen don't seem to like (or trust) new space companies such as SpaceX or Blue Origin. Parochially, they also seem to like the fact that ULA does a lot of business in Alabama with its Delta IV rocket.

In any case, the medium variant of the Delta IV rocket will continue to fly a few more times. There are currently three more flights of the vehicle planned, with the final launch possibly occurring in late 2018 with another Air Force communications satellite, Wideband Global SATCOM, similar to the one that launched Saturday night. (3/20)

More Russian Intrigue with Death of Vladimir Evdokimov? (Source: Moscow Times)
Vladimir Evdokimov, former director at the state-owned Roscosmos space corporation, may have been the victim of a contract killing. He was accused of taking part in a $3 million fraud scheme. Evdokimov was arrested in December on charges of embezzlement. He is by no means the only space industry official to have been locked up for fraud, and in fact, over the past several years, the Russian space program as a whole has been hit by scandal after scandal: Rockets have been doomed by shoddy work and efforts to build a new launch site in the Far East have been plagued by corruption.

The difference now is that before Evdokimov, no one caught up in the industry’s rampant corruption problem has died. Initial reports suggested that authorities were investigating the case as a possible suicide. But then Russia’s investigative committee opened a murder investigation on March 18. By March 20, the working theory among investigators was that Evdokimov was murdered for cooperating.

There has been speculation in the Russian press that he was familiar with other fraud schemes. According to the Kommersant newspaper, he was expected to cooperate with an investigation into fraud in the aerospace industry. “One of the basic working theories is that he was murdered by someone who feared he would act as a witness against them on a number of different instances [of fraud],” a source close to the investigation told the Interfax news agency. (3/20)

USAF 'Plug Fest' Seeks GPS Application Add-Ons (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is looking for ideas to improve the GPS system. The open-source project, called a "Plug Fest," is designed to build applications that can easily be plugged into an open GPS architecture to improve the system or enhance its resiliency, according to Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the military deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. That is part of a broader effort to accelerate and "normalize" space acquisition. (3/20)

SpaceX Prepares for First Re-Used Falcon Launch This Month (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The satellite that will be flying on SpaceX's next mission is being prepared for launch. The SES-10 satellite was fueled late last week and was scheduled to be encapsulated inside its payload fairing over the weekend. The satellite is scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 from Kennedy Space Center as soon as March 27, although no official launch date has been announced. The launch will be the first mission to use a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage, in this case one first launched on a Dragon cargo mission to the ISS last April. (3/20)

Indian Start-Up Devas Launches U.S. Division (Source: Financial Express)
In spite of being embroiled in a multi-billion dollar dispute with the government over cancelation of a 2005 deal with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to launch satellites to deliver digital video broadcasting services for mobile phones, India's Devas has ventured into the US to start a similar company. Devas bought an unused satellite in 2001 and through Omnispace LLC is proposing to use the S-band satellite spectrum to provide 3G telecom and data services on mobile divices.

Omnispace has received several rounds of funding. In an application to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for signal testing, the firm has claimed ownership of the F2 satellite, which lay unused after it was launched in 2001 by a private satellite firm ICO Global Communications. (3/19)

Sierra Nevada to Resume Dream Chaser Flight Tests (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
An atmospheric test model of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser space plane is being readied for tow and landing tests at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California this spring. The partially-assembled test craft arrived at the California test site, located on Edwards Air Force Base, on Jan. 25. Technicians are adding the ship’s V-shaped tail fins and other equipment before kicking off ground and flight tests in the coming months, according to Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada’s space systems division. (3/6)

A Japanese Start-Up's Plan to Make Millions Collecting Junk in Space (Source: CNBC)
The $335.3 billion space industry will face increased risks from debris orbiting at speeds of up to 42,000 mph. Aiming to maintain order and connectivity, Japan's Astroscale switched from its grand plans for interstellar garbage collection to developing technology for sending "dead" satellites to fiery graves.

The start-up brought in some $7.7 million Series A funding before it secured almost $30 million in Series B investment in March 2016. While yet to launch, the venture has already connected a major Japanese company to the space industry and also holds a contract to put a sports drink on the moon. But there is much more to done; the first mission is to monitor untrackable specks of junk.

"Instead of focusing on existing debris, we've decided to focus on future debris, which comes from the dying satellites," said Astroscale CEO Nobu Okada. "For constellation players with satellite networks, they have to keep their orbit clean. Once their orbit is contaminated, they cannot do business." Demand for this targeted space service promises to grow exponentially as more companies launch satellite networks. (3/17)

We Once Had a Vision — Though it was a Conflicted One — and Now We Don't (Source: Star Tribune)
Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and other giants of classic science fiction are spinning in their graves. The moon? Are you kidding me? NASA once planned to land a human on Mars by 1986. Bradbury had us there in ’99. I felt the same spike of sadness and nostalgia I experienced when Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, died in 2012.

“The Martian Chronicles,” a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury, was first published in 1950, seven years before the Sputnik launch. In one tale, the fourth human expedition to Mars, set in June 2001, safely lands. Click here. (3/18)

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