March 31, 2017

SpaceX Makes Aerospace History with Successful Launch and Landing of Used Rocket (Source: The Verge)
After more than two years of landing its rockets after launch, SpaceX finally sent one of its used Falcon 9s back into space. The rocket delivered a communications satellite into orbit, and then landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships floating in the Atlantic Ocean. It was round two for this particular rocket, which already launched and landed during a mission in April of last year. But the Falcon 9’s relaunch marks the first time an orbital rocket has launched to space for a second time.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk appeared on the company’s live stream shortly after the landing and spoke about the accomplishment. “It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight,” he said.

Editor's Note: As Wayne Hale pointed out, "It's been nearly six years since we've seen the launch of a reused rocket." He was referring to the Space Shuttle and its reuse of both the orbiter and its solid rocket motors. (3/31)

Embry-Riddle Students Spend Spring Break Lobbying for Space (Source: Avion)
Over spring break, instead of partying and going to the beach like the typical college student, four Riddle students traveled up to frigid Washington D.C. to lobby on Capitol Hill for what they believe in – a sustainable future in outer space.

This research trip was supported by Dr. Diane Howard of the Commercial Space Operations  program and sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research. The lobbying effort is entitled the “March Storm Legislative Blitz,” and is organized by the Alliance for Space Development, the National Space Society, and the Space Frontier Foundation. Although there are many legislative blitzes conducted each year, the March event certainly produces the most data, and it was a very productive week. (3/29)

Space Blanket Floats Away During Historic Spacewalk (Source: Space Daily)
A protective blanket for the ISS floated away from American astronaut Peggy Whitson on Thursday as she made a historic spacewalk outside the Space Station. (She sett a new record for the most spacewalks by a woman). The crew was not in danger due to the mishap, which occurred when Whitson was trying to fold up a bulky cloth cover, known as an axial shield, and put it in a bag.

The incident briefly raised concern at mission control in Houston that the shield might come back and hit the orbiting laboratory. About four hours into the spacewalk, however, NASA determined that the gear had drifted a safe distance away and there was "no recontact risk," said NASA commentator Gary Jordan.

A NASA statement said the shield "was inadvertently lost" and "posed no immediate danger to the astronauts." The space blanket was one of four covers designed to guard the station from micrometeoroids, and also for thermal protection. To make up for the loss, Whitson and her colleague Shane Kimbrough retrofitted an existing cover outside the space station to serve in its place. (3/30)

Spacewalkers Connect Adapter for Commercial Crew Vehicles (Source: Space Daily)
Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson of NASA concluded a spacewalk, which lasted just over seven hours, which successfully reconnected cables and electrical connections on the Pressurized Mating Adapter-3. PMA-3 will provide the pressurized interface between the station and the second of two international docking adapters to be delivered to the complex to support the dockings of U.S. commercial crew spacecraft in the future. (3/31)

Spaceport America Loses Potential Client To Spaceport That Hasn't Been Built (Source: KRWG)
“Spaceport America” has lost another potential client to a rival. Earlier this week, Vector Space Systems, “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,” signed 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.”

Last year, California-based Vector picked Arizona for its new manufacturing facility. Now it plans to send staffers flying over New Mexico on their way to test rockets in southeast Georgia. The Land of Enchantment’s taxpayers are accustomed to Spaceport America falling on its face, but in this case, the defeat is particularly bitter. Spaceport Camden, you see, doesn’t exist.

The site has no infrastructure. The feds haven’t issued an operator license. And eco-activists, as well as local homeowners, are fighting the proposed spaceport. In contrast, Spaceport America has “unique geographic benefits,” “basic operational infrastructure such as an airfield, launch pads, hangars, emergency response capabilities, 24/7 security, utilities and roadways,” and is “capable of accommodating the activities of both vertical and horizontal takeoff space launch vehicles.” (3/30)

Mock Launch Held at Camden Spaceport (Source: Golden Isles News)
Officials with Vector Space Systems, a company that specializes in launching small satellites into orbit, toured the proposed Camden Spaceport site last week, and they didn’t come empty handed. They brought a 43-foot tall rocket to the site to show Camden County officials how the company could quickly set up operations at the site at the end of Harriett’s Bluff Road, said Steve Howard, Camden County administrator.

“They wanted us to see a full-scale model,” Howard said. Vector officials, including a team of engineers and some of the company’s top executives asked for a private tour of the facility to determine if the site would be suitable for launches. The company didn’t want a lot of attention during its visit.

“They wanted to keep everything confidential,” Howard said. “They didn’t want a lot of fanfare.” Vector conducted a mock launch at the site during the visit to show county officials how it could be done without the expense of building a launch pad or a major investment in infrastructure at the site. “They did a full demonstration of what a launch day would look like,” he said. “They don’t need a lot of infrastructure to show what they can do. Their goal is to be mobile.” (3/30)

Here are the Jobs NASA Can't Fill Because of Trump's Hiring Freeze (Source: Gizmodo)
One of President Trump’s first actions after taking office was to institute a federal hiring freeze, leaving thousands of jobs vacant across the US government. Many of these jobs are in agencies that Trump supposedly values, like NASA. But when you look at the job vacancies that NASA is forbidden from filling, we see Trump’s “values” are a crock.

According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA), Gizmodo has learned that there are currently dozens of jobs that NASA is unable to fill as a direct result of Trump’s hiring freeze. The vacant positions include everything from aerospace engineer jobs at the Marshall Space Flight Center to accounting positions at the Kennedy Space Center to computer engineer jobs at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Click here. (3/30)

NASA Says Trump Hiring Freeze Isn't Stopping Work in Alabama (Source: Huntsville Times)
Alabama's NASA field center needs more aerospace engineers and a project manager it can't add because of President Trump's hiring freeze, the space agency confirms, but a spokesman says the important work there isn't stopping. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville wants to hire two aerospace engineers, two lead aerospace engineers, a project manager and a contract specialist.

NASA Headquarters spokesman Allard Beutel confirmed the vacancies late Thursday in an email. "Out of the approximately 2,300 civil servant positions at Marshall, those six positions at the center were open when the executive order was signed in January," Beutel said, "but it's not stopping Marshall's important work for the agency supporting many areas essential for NASA's mission of exploration and discovery." (3/30)

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