April 21, 2017

Apple Hires Top Google Satellite Executives for New Hardware Team (Source: Bloomberg)
After revolutionizing phones, Apple Inc. is testing self-driving cars and exploring augmented reality. Recent hires suggest the company is now also looking to the skies. The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google's spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.'s Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said.

They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. They asked not to be identified talking about Apple's private plans. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Google. Fenwick, Trela and Duffy didn't respond to requests for comment. These are experts in the demanding, expensive field of satellite design and operation. At the moment, these endeavors typically fall into two fields: satellites for collecting images and those for communications.

In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. Boeing has talked with Apple about being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It's unclear if those talks will result in a deal. Industry insiders said Boeing's project was being funded by Apple. (4/21)

NASA Filmed a 'Potentially Hazardous' Asteroid Flying Near Earth as Big as a Skyscraper (Source: Business Insider)
Astronomers on Wednesday night will be keeping a close eye on a big asteroid that's zooming past Earth. Telescopes like the Arecibo Observatory — a huge radio dish built inside of a Puerto Rican sinkhole — have already started filming the tumbling space rock, called 2014 JO25. They are pinging the asteroid with radar and recording the echoes.

NASA said the space rock will fly within about 1.1 million miles of Earth, or roughly 4.6 times the distance from our planet to the moon, on April 19. Astronomers discovered the object about 3 years ago. Because it will fly so close to Earth, it has earned the label of a "potentially hazardous asteroid," or PHA. However, NASA says 2014 JO25 "will fy safely past Earth" and isn't due to swing by again for more than 400 years. (4/19)

New Study Ranks Hazardous Asteroid Effects from Least to Most Destructive (Source: Space Daily)
If an asteroid struck Earth, which of its effects - scorching heat, flying debris, towering tsunamis - would claim the most lives? A new study has the answer: violent winds and shock waves are the most dangerous effects produced by Earth-impacting asteroids. The study explored seven effects associated with asteroid impacts - heat, pressure shock waves, flying debris, tsunamis, wind blasts, seismic shaking and cratering - and estimated their lethality for varying sizes. The researchers then ranked the effects from most to least deadly, or how many lives were lost to each effect. (4/20)

Capsule Carrying American and Russian Astronauts Blasts Off (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A Soyuz space capsule blasted off Thursday for the International Space Station, carrying an American astronaut making his first space flight and a veteran Russian cosmonaut. NASA's Jack Fischer and Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin lifted off from the Russia-leased launch facility in Kazakhstan. They reached orbit about nine minutes later. They were to travel six hours before docking at the space station. (4/20)

China Launches Space Station (Source: GB Times)
China launched its first cargo resupply spacecraft Thursday on a mission to test docking and refueling technologies. A Long March 7 rocket lifted off from the Wenchang spaceport and placed the Tainzhou-1 spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft, the first in a new line of spacecraft designed to eventually support a Chinese space station, will dock with the uncrewed Tiangong-2 laboratory module in orbit to test automated docking technologies and refueling of the lab module by the cargo spacecraft. Tianzhou-1 also carries experiments it will perform for three months after completing initial docking and refueling tests. (4/20)

India Plans Moon Mining by 2030 to Meet Energy Needs (Source: Live Mint)
From launching 104 satellites at one go, enabling commercial roll out of lithium-ion batteries, to taking the lead in providing energy security, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is firing on all cylinders. Apart from planning for manned missions to Moon, Mars and even aircraft development, ISRO is now working on a plan to help India meet its energy needs from the Moon by 2030.

The premier space agency, credited with launching 225 satellites till date, plans to mine Helium-3 rich lunar dust, generate energy and transport it back to Earth. This lunar dust mining plan comes in the backdrop of India’s plan to cut down import dependence in hydrocarbons by 10 percentage points by 2022. India’s energy demand growth is expected to outpace that of the other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, according to the latest BP Energy Outlook.

ISRO’s success on this front will also help reduce pollutants and India’s fuel imports. This assumes significance given India’s energy import bill of around $150 billion, which is expected to reach $300 billion by 2030. India imports around 80% of its oil and 18% of its natural gas requirements. India imported 202 million tonnes of oil in 2015-16. (4/20)

Flat Budgets in Store for NASA (Source: Space News)
NASA is facing the prospect of five years of flat budgets without inflation adjustments, putting the pinch on research funding. At a microgravity research meeting Wednesday, Gale Allen, acting chief scientist at NASA, said the agency has been advised to expect those flat budgets for the next five years, which, without keeping pace with inflation, would result in an effective cut of $3.4 billion over that time. That, she warned, could put pressure on technology development and research programs, which she noted have traditionally been the "bankers" for other programs seeking funding in tough budget times. (4/19)

Trump to Call ISS (Source: NASA)
Astronaut Peggy Whitson will celebrate breaking a spaceflight record on the ISS Monday with a call from President Trump. The president, along with Ivanka Trump and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, plan to call Whitson Monday when she breaks the NASA record of 534 cumulative days in space. NASA and the Department of Education plan to encourage classrooms across the country to tune in to the call on NASA TV. (4/19)

National Marches for Science and Climate Include Florida Events (Source: Florida Today)
Our new president seems to be following a path in favor of fake news and science denial. He has awakened a global protest movement against his fake science, fake facts and numerous outright lies. It has culminated in a People’s March for Science scheduled for April 22 in Washington, D.C., and nationwide. In Brevard County, a march begins at 11 a.m. at the American Space Museum at 308 Pine Street in Titusville. At 1 p.m. the march moves to Space View Park, where topics will include the science behind the space program.

It will stress the need for using real science to guide us into a safer future. April 29 brings another big national event, the People’s Climate March, sponsored by the climate change organization 350.org. These are welcome events, planned to counter the fake news and fake science so widely affecting current politics. (4/21)

Drones Creating Thousands of New Jobs in Florida (Source: WFLX)
Thousands of new jobs are coming to every industry in Florida and it's all because of drones. “I can have fun and I can get paid, wooh!” said Shawn Morse. Morse typically gets that reaction when he sells drones to customers from his TB Drones and Hobby Store. St. Petersburg College professors typically get that reaction too when they introduce students to careers with drones. Nearly every industry from emergency workers to realtors are turning to the high-flying contraptions.

St. Pete College keeps adding drone classes for the public and they keep filling up. It's for good reason. The industry is growing wildly fast. Within the next few years, 100,000 new jobs are expected to be added and 1.6 million commercial drones will be in the air helping people run their businesses. (4/20)

Cassini Is Ready to Sacrifice Itself for the Good of the Solar System (Source: WIRED)
NASA’s Cassini orbiter has spent the last 13 years studying Saturn and its moons, but this year, it has to die. Its fuel has run out. With each orbit, it swoops lower and lower, skimming through Saturn’s rings while sinking towards the gas giant’s crushing atmosphere. After passing Titan one last time on April 22nd, the mission will enter its final stage: diving through the unexplored, 1,500 mile-wide space between Saturn and its famous rings. And by mid-September, Cassini’s signal will go silent for the first and final time.

But Cassini’s team is also sacrificing the orbiter to avoid contaminating anything living in the Saturn system. Cassini’s discoveries on Saturn’s moons Titan and Enceladus—everything from complex organic materials to methane lakes to liquid oceans to hydrothermal reactions— are not only interesting points of comparison to Earth’s systems, but also make those moons look a lot more habitable.

This grand finale isn’t going to be the mission’s final word, either: Cassini will be collecting data right up until September 15th, when the heat and pressure of Saturn’s atmosphere are due to give it an explosive Viking funeral. But as the mission, which was a monument to innovation and international space science cooperation, passes further and further beyond its team’s control, mission scientists are getting a little sniffly. And who could really blame them. (4/19)

Slow Going in India for Human Spaceflight (Source: PTI)
More than a decade after Indian scientists recommended the country pursue human spaceflight, its space agency has made little progress. At a November 2006 meeting organized by the Indian space agency ISRO, scientists recommended that the country develop a human spaceflight capability. In the intervening decade, though, ISRO has made little progress on such a program beyond demonstrating some technologies for spacecraft reentry. The head of ISRO said that satellite programs to provide communications and other services remain a higher priority. (4/19)

Slow Going in Kazakhstan for Russian Baiterek Partnership (Source: Space Daily)
The director of the joint Kazakh-Russian enterprise JSC Baiterek said that the creation of a carrier rocket for the joint Russian-Kazakh Baiterek Space Complex at the Baikonur cosmodrome will approximately cost Russia $500 million, while the Kazakh side will finance the modernization of the existing facilities at the cosmodrome.

The creation of a carrier rocket for the joint Russian-Kazakh Baiterek Space Complex at the Baikonur cosmodrome will approximately cost Russia $500 million, while the Kazakh side will finance the modernization of the existing facilities at the cosmodrome, Oleg Balitsky, the director of the joint Kazakh-Russian enterprise JSC Baiterek, said.

Russia and Kazakhstan have been implementing the Baiterek project since 2004. The project prescribes the construction of the infrastructure which will allow to launch environmentally friendly rocket carriers, instead of Proton rocket carriers, which use fuel with toxic components. (4/19)

Planet Hunters Named in TIME’s Top 100 Most Influential People (Source: NASA)
Three extraordinary planet-hunters have been recognized by TIME Magazine as this year’s top 100 most influential people: Natalie Batalha from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; Michael Gillon from the University of Liège in Belgium; and Guillem Anglada-Escudé from the Queen Mary University in London.

“It is truly exciting to see these planet-hunters among the other movers and the shakers of the world,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics division director at Headquarters in Washington. “These scientists have transformed the world’s understanding of our place in the universe, and NASA congratulates them for their well-deserved recognition.” (4/20)

NASA Rocket Engineers Torture SLS Parts in Key Structural Tests (Source: Huntsville Times)
The center leading development of NASA's new deep space rocket brought reporters to watch from the control room one of the first structural tests qualifying parts of SLS for flight.  Under way are tests of the adapters that connect the upper stage of the new rocket to the core stage and the Orion capsule to the upper stage. Also in the test stack is the cryogenic propulsion stage that will lift Orion further into space after the core boosters get it off the ground.

The hardware mounted on one of several new test stands built at Marshall for SLS mimics the upper half of the rocket minus the Orion capsule. All of the test hardware was built at Marshall and nearby Decatur. A system of 28 pistons plays the part of the atmosphere by squeezing, twisting and bending the test pack. Attached to all of this are 1,900 sensors feeding floods of data through more than 100 miles of cable between test stand and control room. (4/20)

Washington Continues Space Cooperation with Moscow (Source: Tass)
"Despite political disagreements, which we are all aware of, we keep working hard to continue the cooperation," said US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, who visited the Flight Control Center in the town of Korolyov near Moscow to watch the launch of the Russian Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. He also said that the two countries should continue to work together as they explored the future. (4/20)

India's Next Rocket Will Be a Game Changer (Source: Deccan Chronicle)
The Indian Space Research Organization plans to undertake next month the first developmental flight of a “game changer” rocket capable of launching 4,000-kg satellites from the Sriharikota spaceport, its chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar said. ISRO’s rockets can currently launch satellites weighing up to 2.2 tonnes; it depends on international launchers for heavier satellites.

“Next month, we have scheduled the launch of GSLV-Mk III-D1,” Mr Kumar said. The second developmental flight could come within a year. “By the time two developmental flights are over, we will be working towards more launches so that it (GSLV-Mk III) becomes operational,” he said. Isro views operationalisation of this rocket as a “game changer” for it, he said. (4/20)

Israel’s Space Program Innovates to Beat Geopolitical Struggles (Source: Red Herring)
Israel has long had to combat politics with innovation. The nation, which in recent years has become known as ‘Silicon Wadi’, has spun out some of the world’s best high-tech firms in fields like cybersecurity and agriculture, that have grown directly as a result of its many geopolitical binds.

Few industries have faced as stark a showdown as Israel’s space program. Conventional rocket launches, for example, are directed with the rotation of the earth to save fuel. Such launches would put Israel’s craft in the airspace of Iran, a longtime enemy, which has vowed to blow any Israeli objects out of the sky.

With regards to the satellites those rockets almost always carry, Israel has also become a world leader. Israel has made its satellites smaller, and smarter, than the majority of the competition. Nanosatellites have become so commonplace that this month a team of Israeli high-school kids built a 4lb device launched as part of the EU’s QB50 thermosphere research program. (4/20)

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