March 29, 2017

NASA Prepares the ISS for its Second Space Taxi Dock (Source: Engadget)
NASA has begun preparing the ISS' second space taxi dock for Boeing's CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon. Flight controllers at NASA Johnson Space Center have taken control of the station's robotic arm, the Canadarm 2, to relocate one of its Space Shuttle-era docking modules. To prepare for the move on March 26th, two crew members conducted a spacewalk to detach the power and data cables connecting the module to its old location. Now, it's placed right next to the first dock astronauts installed last year.

The 2,600-pound module called Pressurized Mating Adapter 3 (PMA-3) was flown to the ISS on October 2000. While it worked on its own for NASA's space shuttles, the agency has to install an adapter on top of it for the companies' space taxis that use a more modern docking system. It employs low-impact technology and can be used for both piloted and autonomous dockings. (3/28)

NASA Uses AI to Detect and Snap Images of Volcanic Eruptions (Source: Live Science)
When a volcano in Ethiopia erupted in January, volcanologists hoped a NASA satellite would be able to train its eyes on the explosive event and capture photos. It turned out that a satellite was already a few steps ahead and had already begun observing the volcano, thanks to an artificial intelligence program on board.

The Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE) is an artificial intelligence (AI) software that has guided the activities of NASA's Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft for more than 12 years, according to NASA. The EO-1 satellite was launched in 2000 as an experimental Earth-science satellite, and was outfitted with the AI guide in 2003. With the assistance of the ASE, the satellite can detect changes of scientific interest on Earth (i.e. volcanic eruptions, wildfires and flooding), alert researchers and autonomously take photos of the events.

This month, NASA will be retiring the EO-1 satellite, and agency researchers said the recent volcanic activity in Ethiopia was a fitting end to the satellite's mission. (3/27)

Bezos Shares ‘Sneak Peek’ of Blue Origin Crew Capsule (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos on Wednesday released a set of images depicting the capsule his company is developing to launch passengers on its New Shepard suborbital spacecraft. “Our New Shepard flight test program is focused on demonstrating the performance and robustness of the system,” Bezos wrote in an email sent to followers Wednesday morning. “In parallel, we’ve been designing the capsule interior with an eye toward precision engineering, safety, and comfort.” Click here. (3/29)

Vector Space will Launch Microsatellite Rocket from Florida (Sources:
yeing a projected boom in demand for microsatellites, startup Vector Space Systems on March 25 unveiled plans to fly its small launch vehicle from a Florida-owned launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. "We need precisely what that one has," Vector co-founder and chief executive Jim Cantrell told Which, in terms of infrastructure, is not much. In the late 1990s, Space Florida, a state-backed economic development agency, took over Launch Complex 46 from the Air Force with plans to turn it into a multiuser pad for small launch vehicles. (3/27)

Vector to Conduct Flight Test This Summer at Georgia Spaceport (Source: Vector Space)
Vector, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced an agreement with Spaceport Camden to conduct a sub-orbital flight test of Vector's full-scale launch vehicle, the Vector-R, as early as this summer. This near-term flight test in Camden County, Georgia, is part of a series of incremental launches which will enable Vector to validate technology, mature launch vehicle design and operations, and evaluate candidate launch sites for the future.

"Building on years of research, Vector is continuing to work towards the next technical milestone in our development plan," said John Garvey, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Vector. "Spaceport Camden's support of Vector's flight test will not only validate the engineering and technology behind our mission, but also propel Vector closer to an orbital capacity." (3/28)

UK Industry Praises Spaceflight Bill, but Calls 2020 Launch Goal Unrealistic (Source: Space News)
The United Kingdom’s would-be launch service providers — a mix of British startups and international primes — told Parliament this week the country’s goal of seeing a first launch from within its borders by 2020 is at this point most likely wishful thinking. That outlook stands in contrast to that of U.K. Space Agency Interim Chief Executive Katherine Courtney, who said late last month that she was “confident that 2020 will see the first launches from British soil.” (3/29)

Decommissioned Earth Science Satellite to Remain in Orbit for Decades (Source: Space News)
A NASA Earth science satellite whose mission is ending this week will remain in orbit through the middle of the century, far longer than the limit set by orbital debris mitigation guidelines. NASA announced earlier this month that it was shutting down the Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft on March 30. NASA launched the spacecraft in November 2000 as part of its New Millennium technology demonstration program, originally for a one-year mission.

As part of the decommissioning process, the spacecraft will drain its energy sources to avoid exploding, one of the standard practices adopted by U.S. government agencies to mitigate the creation of orbital debris. EO-1, however, will not comply with another standard practice that calls for spacecraft in low Earth orbit to reenter within 25 years of the end of its mission. NASA, in a statement earlier this month about the decommissioning of EO-1, estimates the spacecraft will reenter in 2056, 39 years from now. (3/28)

Cygnus Mission Delayed to Mid-April (Source: Space News)
A Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station delayed because of booster problems will not fly until at least the middle of April, a NASA official said March 28. In a presentation to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee here, Robyn Gatens, deputy director of the ISS division at NASA Headquarters, said the delay will also push back a spacewalk planned to take place on the station next week. (3/29)

The Orbital ATK Cygnus, on a mission designated OA-7, was scheduled to launch in mid-March on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5, but was delayed several days, first by a hydraulics issue with the rocket’s first stage and later by a problem with ground support equipment. ULA announced March 22 that the launch would be postponed again, this time because of “a different issue with a booster hydraulic line,” according to a company statement. No new launch date was announced. (3/29)

White House Seeks Near-Term Cuts to NASA and NOAA Programs (Source: Space News)
The Trump administration is asking Congressional appropriators to cut $90 million from NOAA weather satellite programs and $50 million from NASA science programs in any fiscal year 2017 spending bills they approve in the next month. The requested cuts are part of a broader package of nearly $18 billion of cuts in non-defense discretionary spending the White House is seeking in spending bills that Congress must pass by April 28 or risk a government shutdown. (3/29)

A Gateway to Mars, or the Moon? (Source: Space Review)
As the new administration weighs its options for NASA’s human space exploration program, NASA is moving ahead with plans to develop an outpost in cislunar space to support its current Journey to Mars. Jeff Foust reports on recent developments, and how a return to the Moon might affect those plans. Click here. (3/27) 
Legal Aspects of Space Resources Utilization (Source: Space Review)
The legal subcommittee of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is meeting this week, with space resources one of the issues on the agenda. Anne-Sophie Martin examines the current state of efforts to establish space resource legal regimes at national and international levels. Click here. (3/27)
Time Lords of California’s Central Coast: Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex Ten (Source: Space Review)
One launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California has been preserved, turning it into a time capsule from the early days of the Space Age. Joseph T. Page II pays a visit to Space Launch Complex Ten. Click here. (3/27)
How Space Settlement Can Challenge Consumerism (Source: Space Review)
If settlements are to survive and thrive beyond Earth, they will have to operate very differently from terrestrial cities. Babak Shakouri Hassanabadi argues that the consumerism found in modern-day society is inconsistent with the philosophy required for future settlements. Click here. (3/27)

NASA Gets New External Communications Leadership From Trump Transition Team (Source: NASA)
A member of the new administration's "beachhead" team at NASA has taken a permanent position at the agency. NASA announced Monday that Jen Rae Wang will be the new associate administrator for the office of communications, directing internal and external communications for the agency. Wang was part of the so-called "beachhead" team of advisers assigned to NASA by the Trump administration after inauguration. She previously worked as deputy chief of staff for Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) (3/27)

Juno Makes Fifth Perigee in Jupiter Orbit (Source: NASA)
NASA's Juno spacecraft completed its fifth close approach to Jupiter Monday. The spacecraft made its closest approach to the planet in its elliptical orbit shortly before 5 a.m. Eastern Monday, and project officials confirmed later in the day that the spacecraft was working well and collected data during the close approach. The spacecraft arrived at Jupiter last July and has remained in its initial 53-day orbit after mission managers concluded last month that problems with the spacecraft's propulsion system precluded lowering the spacecraft into a 14-day orbit as originally intended. (3/27)

DeVos and Ivanka Talk Space and STEM (Source: US Dept. of Education)
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump will hold an event today at the National Air and Space Museum. DeVos and Trump, appearing with museum officials and NASA astronaut Kay Hire, will discuss science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education opportunities for visiting students, and introduce a screening of the movie Hidden Figures. The purpose of the event, according to the Education Department, is to "highlight the importance of education in STEM fields and related opportunities for young women." (3/27)

Static Could Explain Titan Dunes (Source: New Scientist)
Scientists are charged up about unusual sand patterns seen on Saturn's moon Titan. A new study suggests that static electricity could explain the formation of a set of dunes seen on the moon's surface that formed in the direction opposite the prevailing winds. Lab tests showed that hydrocarbon molecules can maintain an electric charge for extended periods, allowing them to clump together and form dunes. (3/27)

Dial-Up Space Communications System Gets 'High-Speed' Upgrade (Source:
NASA is making strides toward launching its laser-based space communications system, which officials say could become the "high-speed internet of the sky." The system, called the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), will use a beam of light to send data to Earth from space and back up to 100 times faster than current radio-frequency (RF) communications systems can. This technology is also much smaller, meaning future spacecraft communications systems could possibly weigh less and require less power — critical factors in planning long-duration space flights to Mars and beyond, NASA officials said. (3/28)

DOD's Goal of Vibrant Launch Market Will Take Years (Source: Space News)
The Defense Department is still struggling with how to access a competitive commercial market for launches, according to William LaPlante, former Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition. "We want competition, we want off the Russian [RD-180] engines, and we want an ability to tap into the commercial market," he said noting that reaching these goals will take years. (3/28)

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