March 30, 2017

Blue Origin Working Toward Making the Cape its Orbital Launch Site (Source:
A newly acquired environmental impact report has provided fascinating insights into Blue Origin’s plans to become a major player on the Space Coast. With a massive facility under construction at KSC’s Exploration Park, the company plans to utilize two Cape Canaveral launch complex’s to test rocket engines, integrate launch vehicles, and conduct up to 12 launches per year of its heavy-lift class orbital vehicles.

While LC-36 will be the site of New Glenn launches, a lengthy Environmental Assessment report shows Blue Origin will create another facility at the adjacent LC-11. The USAF operated LC-11 from 1958 through 1964 as a launch complex for the Atlas family of rockets. It was constructed alongside launch complexes 12, 13, and 14 on what is known as “missile row.” (3/29)

NASA Looking at Spaceport in Lunar Orbit as Deep Space Gateway (Source: USA Today)
NASA hasn’t officially scrapped its mission to use an asteroid as a stepping stone to Mars but it’s taking steps to chart a new approach that instead would rely on a spaceport circling the moon.

Under a program dubbed Deep Space Gateway, agency officials Tuesday said they still plan to use the lunar orbit as a staging platform to build and test the infrastructure and the systems needed to send astronauts to Mars. But instead of breaking off a chunk of asteroid and dragging it to the moon, NASA's new plan calls for building an orbiting spaceport that could have even more uses.

The space port, a mini space station in essence, would serve as a gateway for missions both to deep space and the lunar surface. Though not designed for a permanent crew, the spaceport would be equipped with a small habitat for astronauts, docking capability, an airlock, and would be serviced by logistics modules to enable research, according to NASA. (3/29)

Camden Welcomes Vector to County (Source: Yahoo! Finance)
The Camden County Board of Commissioners and County Administrator Steve Howard welcomed Vector to the future site of Spaceport Camden to conduct an initial set of ground operations on its full-scale Mechanical Engineering Unit (MEU) of the Vector-R rocket and the associated Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL).  The visit was an opportunity to showcase the Vector-R launch system and concept of operations (CONOPS) to key members of the spaceport community, stimulate discussions regarding future launch operations and familiarize Vector personnel with Spaceport Camden. (3/29)

Embry-Riddle Engineering Students Launch Forward in NASA Competition (Source: Avion)
st semester, multiple teams from the Introduction to Engineering (EGR-101) Honors sections submitted proposals to the NASA Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition. The purpose of this competition is to allow students to propose innovative solutions to problems that NASA is currently facing in various areas, enabling them to apply their coursework to real-world engineering problems.

One of the submitting teams from ERAU was selected to move on to the next stage of the competition, in the area of creating a Lightweight Exercise Suite. The team consisted of students Jack Grant, Cheyenne Reed, John Lacey, and Jesus Ferrand, and was advised by Professor Claudia Ehringer-Lucas. The team’s concept included a combination bicycle/treadmill unit, a rowing machine, and a modified Oyo Fitness DoubleFlex, all arranged to fit within the very restrictive space and weight constraints set by NASA. (3/28)

Arizona State University Launches New Space Exploration Lessons Fueled by NASA Content (Source: ASU)
Arizona State University has unveiled a new series of open, digital lessons and simulations designed to teach science through the exploration of space. Powered by NASA content and Smart Sparrow's pioneering adaptive learning technology, Infiniscope is now available for free to educators, museum and science programs administrators, parents and students, and curious learners. (3/27)

The Quest to Kill the Superbug That Can Survive in Outer Space (Source: The Atlantic)
Highbay 1 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is one of the most sterile cleanrooms on Earth. Not long from now, NASA’s next big Mars mission, the life-hunting Mars 2020 rover will have its parts attached here and so will the first probe sent to Europa. As long as un-crewed missions keep going to space, their Frankenstein bodies will be attached piece-by-piece in this room.

To sterilize the robots, the hardware is either baked, bathed in hydrogen peroxide steam, or wiped down with the same pure isopropyl alcohol used to clean open wounds. However, there’s one bacteria that has managed to survive in this extreme environment. SAFR-032 is a radiation-resistant bacterial spore found only in spacecraft cleanrooms. Indeed, it takes its very name from its peculiar habitat: SAFR stands for: Spacecraft Assembly Facility, (the R is for the medium in which it’s cultured.)

SAFR-032 has been found in all of NASA’s cleanrooms, from California all the way to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Its spores have evolved a unique survival tactic where they can build up layers of cells to use as shields that in turn protect their DNA. Not unlike the way we slather ourselves with sunscreen before going outside to protect ourselves from U.V. radiation, endospores create a type of biological fortress until they’re able to find a safer situation and can reactivate their metabolism. Click here. (3/28)

NASA Projects Advance Technology for Additive Manufacturing in Space (Source: Design News)
While manufacturing companies and parts suppliers are embracing additive manufacturing (AM) for a variety of applications, the technology is particularly relevant in operations in remote locations that are difficult to supply such as oil platforms or remote mining operations. There is perhaps no location more remote and difficult to supply than space.

In 2014, NASA launched the first 3D printer to the International Space Station (ISS). The hardware for the mission, a fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer designed to manufacture parts made of ABS plastic, was built and operated by Mountain View, California-based Made in Space, Inc. The goal of the project was to demonstrate the feasibility of AM in the space environment.
The first phase of the operation consisted of the creation of mechanical test coupons to assess the performance of the printer and match the quality to that of identical items printed by the same printer on Earth.  One of the files for printing (a ratchet) was uplinked from the ground to the printer on ISS, demonstrating an important capability of AM on long-duration space missions. The second phase took place in mid-2016 to provide additional mechanical test coupons to compare with the phase one specimens and answer questions related to differences in manufacturing process settings between the ground and flight prints for phase one. (3/29)

Midland Becomes a Hotbed of Small Aerospace Startups (Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram)
“Midland Development Corp. is there to pour concrete, build buildings and attract companies. ...It’s the little companies that grow up in the environment that really make an area a major facility. XCOR was started by four people who got a little bit of help getting into a hangar and were just about selling T-shirts and lemonade to keep the doors open when they were starting up.

“You can’t expect to bring in just the large companies. A large company can come in, but they can leave just as fast. If you help the small companies in the field grow, you get an ecosystem of people who are interconnected and part of the community. They’re going to stay and grow in this area. They’re going to attract other startups.”
He gave XCOR’s 2016 layoffs as a prime example.

“XCOR came in and laid off a couple of people. The layoffs caused two more startups in Midland. If you look at what’s in Midland, (there’s) Agile, Immortal Data and XCOR. There’s Sierra Nevada coming in for some things, LeoLabs and Orbital Outfitters. Three out of those six are from one source. That’s the family tree.” (3/28)

Private Space Wins the Race (Source: National Interest)
At this moment no one really knows what President Donald Trump's space policy will be. His State of the Union speech on February 28 made only one fleeting vague comment about space, stating that "American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream." And though in the past he has expressed enthusiastic support for space exploration, and his transition team has indicated a preference for private commercial space plus a desire to return to the Moon, no specific details about their policy have been released. Click here. (3/29)

ESA Picking Landing Sites for Mars Rover (Source: BBC)
ESA has selected a second potential landing site for its ExoMars 2020 rover. The agency said Tuesday it will consider Mawrth Vallis, an area that once likely had liquid water, along with Oxia Planum, a site scientists selected in 2015 when the mission was scheduled for a 2018 launch. ESA doesn't plan to select a final landing site until a year before launch. (3/29)

Troubled French Instrument for Mars Lander Passes Tests (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
An instrument that forced a delay in the launch of NASA's Insight Mars lander has passed a major milestone. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said Tuesday that the seismic instrument being developed by the French space agency CNES had successfully completed testing. Problems with the instrument's ability to hold a vacuum forced a redesign that postponed Insight's launch from March 2016 to May 2018. (3/29)

Russia Plans Advanced Displays for New Crew Spacecraft (Source: Tass)
Russia's next-generation crew spacecraft will have advanced displays. A designer with Russian company Energia said that the Federation spacecraft will include touch-screen displays similar to those being planned for U.S. spacecraft, replacing the manual controls on the Soyuz spacecraft. Future cosmonauts, though, may better appreciate another feature: a "full-size toilet cabin, well isolated from the other compartments" on the spacecraft. (3/28)

Orbital ATK Donates SRBs to California Museum (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Orbital ATK is donating two used shuttle-era solid rocket boosters to a California museum. The boosters, featuring segments that flew on shuttle missions from 1982 to 2011, will be incorporated into a display of the shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The display, which will also include an external tank, mated to the shuttle and SRBs and mounted vertically, is scheduled to be ready in 2019. (3/29)

Canada Seeks Human Spaceflight Collaborations (Source: SpaceQ)
The Canadian Space Agency issued a new tender for Development of enabling space technologies for future international Human Spaceflight collaborations. They are interested in four technologies; 1) Deep-Space Exploration Robotics - Mechanical Interface Plate Validation 2) Deep-Space Exploration Robotics - Autonomy Software Framework 3) Surface Mobility Technology - Mobility & Environmental Rover Integrated Technology 4) Lunar Rover Prototyping - Scalable Wheels & Advanced Rover Motion. (3/30)

California Lawmakers Spotlight Aerospae Industry (Source: Signals)
The West Steps of California’s Capitol is the scene today of an exhibit celebrating the state’s aerospace industry. It’s part of California’s Aviation and Aerospace Days, sponsored by the Aerospace States Association. The association is a nonpartisan organization of elected officials, appointed delegates, and associate members from aerospace organizations and academia.

Its mission includes promoting states’ interests in federal aerospace and aviation policy development, research and design funding, and workforce training. ASA chapters in nine other states have held or will hold events this year to promote their states’ aviation and space industry. The California chapter held its annual meeting Monday and a legislative roundtable and discussion of deep space exploration yesterday. (3/30)

Orion Service Module and Michoud Damage Biggest Risks to Schedule for First SLS Mission (Source: Space News)
Delays in the development of Orion’s European-built service module, and damage to a NASA facility from a tornado, are the key schedule risks for the first Space Launch System mission, agency officials said. The schedule for the launch of Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), currently planned for late 2018, remains uncertain regardless of the technical issues as NASA studies the possibility of putting a crew on the flight, which would likely delay it by up to a year. (3/30)

Space Arms Race as Russia, China Emerge as 'Rapidly Growing Threats' to U.S. (Source: CNBC)
U.S. satellites may be vulnerable to attacks that could make our whole way of fighting war riskier, according to experts. "Every major space-faring nation that can track a satellite and launch into outer space has the means to mess up a satellite," said Michael Krepon, a space security expert and co-founder of the Stimson Center think tank in Washington, D.C.

A space arms race of sorts is underway with weapons under development or in the arsenals of China, Russia and the U.S. Space weapons include satellite jammers, lasers and high-power microwave gun systems. "My guess is that our capabilities to carry out a war in space are a lot better than the Chinese and Russians," said Krepon. According to analysts, space weapons could be used to compromise navigation, surveillance, communications and other functions in a wartime scenario or national emergency. Click here. (3/30)

A Skyscraper Strapped to an Asteroid (Source: Travel + Leisure)
The world’s tallest building may one day not even be attached to Earth’s surface. A New York City-based architecture firm has released plans for a skyscraper that redefines the very word. Clouds Architecture Office proposed an idea for a building that would dangle from an asteroid in Earth’s orbit and take residents on a tour of the world over a 24-hour period. The “Analemma Tower” would use a principle called the “Universal Orbital Support System,” to suspend the skyscraper from an asteroid via a high-strength cable. Click here. (3/30)

US Vice Admiral Calls for Code of Conduct for Space (Source: Voice of America)
The deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command is calling for the development of a code of conduct for space as dreams of altruistic exploration fade. Vice Admiral Charles Richard believes establishing norms and practices of behavior in space would help nations better understand each other's activities.

"We're still sorting out what constitutes an attack in space," Richard said at a conference titled "Space Security: Issues for the New U.S. Administration" held last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“What is the indisputable evidence required within the international community to assert violation of sovereign territory in space? What constitutes provocation in space from our point of view?” he asked. (3/29)

Reusable Rockets Could Disrupt the Space Industry, Not Always in a Good Way (Source: Quartz)
SpaceX believes that reusing boosters will allow it to cut prices by 30% on its Falcon 9 rocket. Musk’s rival space billionaire, Jeff Bezos, is expecting to test the high-powered engine of his reusable orbital rocket soon. And Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s joint space venture, United Launch Alliance, has a scheme to begin using orbital space tugs to cut the cost of space operations.

In other words, there’s a lot of money and mind-power going toward getting into space more easily. This episode of disruption has ignited a firestorm of funding for private space companies whose ideas for doing business in space have suddenly become more feasible. That promises to create a congestion problem.

“We don’t have the oversight in place yet to manage a massively growing space industry,” says Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, who is lead author of a new report on low-cost space access and the US military. “The US government could be caught flat-footed in a lot of this, create a big space traffic management issue that could affect the military.” (3/29)

Encounters with Jupiter Send Asteroid on Bizarre Backward Orbit (Source: Ars Technica)
Jupiter is widely credited with providing Earth with a bit of protection. The immense gravity of the gas giant typically either sucks in asteroids and comets or flings them out into orbits where they pose our planet little danger. But astronomers have now identified an asteroid that's in a stable orbital interaction with Jupiter. That interaction sends the asteroid around our Solar System backward and causes it to shift between two radically different orbits without ever settling into either.

The planets and other bodies in the Solar System mostly orbit in a single direction, inherited from the spinning disk of material from which they formed. A few bodies orbit in the opposite direction—called retrograde—but these tend to have odd, highly elliptical orbits. They're also very rare; only 0.01 percent of the known asteroids have retrograde orbits. Orbiting in the wrong direction around the Solar System tends to bring an object into relative proximity to a planet twice an orbit, and the resulting gravitational interactions will eventually destabilize the orbit. (3/29)

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