March 6, 2017

Don't Expect a Space Race. SpaceX and NASA Need Each Other (Source: LA Times)
SpaceX and NASA both have plans to venture to Mars and orbit the moon. But that doesn’t mean they’ve launched a new space race. In fact, NASA has long been SpaceX’s most important customer, providing contracts to deliver cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. And the will need NASA’s technical support to achieve the first of its grand ambitions in deep space.

NASA, on the other hand, has come to rely on SpaceX and other companies for transport to the space station as its funding has tightened. In today’s dollars, the agency’s budget is about half what it was at the peak of the 1960s, and down from the 1990s. In the wake of the SpaceX news, NASA issued a statement that said it is “changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships,” in part to “free” the agency to focus on rockets and spacecraft to go beyond the moon into deep space.

“The whole idea is that NASA is at the point of a spear,” said Howard McCurdy, professor in the school of public affairs at American University. “It’s like exploration of any terrestrial realm. This is the way the model is supposed to work.” Indeed, the rapid ascent of Musk and other space industry pioneers is validation of the public-private partnership envisioned when Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984. (3/5)

Colorado Likely To Benefit From Privatized Space Travel (Source: CBS4 Denver)
“They’re taking the ball from NASA, from government, which they’ve partnered with, and they’re going to go do big things,” said Phil Larson a former employee of SpaceX, and the assistant dean of University of Colorado’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. Larson says privatizing space travel is good news for Colorado. “New jobs, new industries, new technologies,” Larson said.

Larson says Colorado is one of the main aerospace capitals of the world with numerous companies. Even schools, like CU, have developed numerous designs for NASA. “It’s awesome to know that that’s happening right here, in Colorado, in the United States … and we’re helping lead the way in this new era in space. It’s not just governments anymore,” Larson said. (3/5)

Onward and Upward (Source: Vogue)
Early on in the history of NASA, mission control was white shirts and ties, crew cuts and cigarettes. There were women behind the scenes, as famously seen in Hidden Figures, the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, the three (brilliant) African-American women whose math fueled the launch of astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. But the faces at what became Kennedy Space Center stayed mostly the same during the ’60s and ’70s, when the race to the moon got caught up with the Cold War.

By the ’80s, though, NASA got better at recruiting women. “I remember that when I first came here, I was the only one in my group,” recalls Luz Marina Calle, the lead scientist and principal investigator of the Corrosion Technology Laboratory at an outdoor exposure facility. “When I used to answer the phone, people thought I was the secretary, and I would say, ‘No, in fact, he is my colleague.’ ” Click here. (3/53)

Why You Can Bet America is Going Back to the Moon (Source: Huntsville Times)
Former President Obama wasn't for it. "We've been there," he said while canceling the rocket program that could have taken us back. NASA certainly hasn't pushed it, preferring to focus its energy instead on a "Mission to Mars." There's doubt, too, that the Millennials who will have to keep America's future in space alive are all that interested in it, either. They seem to have Mars fever if they have any space fever.

"It" is the idea of America returning to the moon to orbit, then land, and then to stay permanently. But the first steps toward "it" are already happening and the clues are where they always are - in following the money. Going to Mars is the big goal, but it is so complex and expensive that going and returning probably won't happen for decades. That's several presidents, several Congresses and many federal budgets away. Yet there seems to be a consensus emerging that returning to the moon is doable and worth doing. Look for that consensus to grow this year. Click here. (3/4)

SpaceX's Texas Operations Inspire Students (Source: KWTX)
SpaceX, which tests its rocket motors in McGregor, announced its plans to send two civilians on a trip around the moon next year. The company's impact can be seen throughout the McGregor community including at the high school. About 20 students are enrolled in the scientific research and design class. The course is more commonly known as rocket class.

Chris Kuhl has been the course's instructor since the program launched eight years ago. He said the class has a positive influence on students. "It give students not only motivation to dream big, but it also gives them kind of a better sense of what opportunities are out there," said Kuhl. Students learn about SpaceX, and also get to design and build replicas of rockets using computer software and other tools. (3/4)

Reach for the Stars! But Do It Without the Government (Source: Conservative Review)
These were the words of President Trump in his recent address to Congress and, as far as they go, I am fully in agreement with them. Space exploration remains one of the most thrilling areas of human enterprise, and as Gene Roddenberry noted, it truly is the final frontier. To be dismissive of the dreams of space travel would be an affront to the innately human sense of curiosity that has led us steadily from the dark ages of primitive barbarism to our current world of technological marvels.

And the prospects are good. Just this week, SpaceX, the private spaceflight company helmed by billionaire entrepreneur and whiz-kid Elon Musk, announced plans to send two passengers on a trip around the moon by 2018, which will mark the first time humans have visited our illustrious satellite since the 1970s. Nevertheless, I suspect the president and I have rather different visions for how that dream should play out in reality. (3/5)

Silent Sentry Defends the Final Frontier (Source: USAF)
So, how does the Air Force defend its resources in space? One answer to this question was a proof of concept system started in 2005. At that time, the 379th Expeditionary Operation Support Squadron was tasked with testing the capabilities of a new defensive space control system, which would protect U.S. Central Command’s satellite networks. The proof of concept was so successful that the operation remained active, and is now called Operation Silent Sentry.

“The current focus of Silent Sentry is to detect, characterize and monitor electromagnetic interference on signals of interest across the area of responsibility,” said Capt. Marcus Losinski. Since its inception twelve years ago, Operation Silent Sentry has grown and become an important asset to not only the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, but the entire CENTCOM theater.

Editor's Note: Silent Sentry was proposed over a decade ago as an Eastern Range modernization, but it supposedly "went black" before it could be implemented, as it was viewed as a threat to some stealth aircraft technologies at that time. As I understood it, Silent Sentry passively measures how non-radar broadcast signals (practically omnipresent these days) are redirected by objects in flight, allowing those objects to be tracked. Or something like that. (3/3)

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