April 23, 2017

Vector Surging Ahead on All Fronts (Source: Arizona Daily Star)
Vector Space Systems is hurtling ahead on all fronts as it moves to build out its Tucson rocket factory and start commercial rocket launches as soon as next year. Opened just last year, Vector is building small rockets to launch a growing class of micro-satellites into orbit. In just the past month or so, the company has raised millions of dollars from investors, prepared to pick a builder for its planned rocket factory south of Tucson International Airport and has identified possible future launch sites including Cape Canaveral.

Vector is looking to raise a total of around $50 million from investors to get the company going. Most recently, Vector raised $4.5 million in capital in a bridge round of funding ahead of a Series A investment round of $15 million to $20 million, which is expected to close in a couple of months, Cantrell said.

During a visit to Florida’s Cape Canaveral in March, the company placed a mockup of its Vector-R rocket in the NASA Now exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The company also announced in late March that it will conduct a suborbital test flight of the Vector-R rocket this summer in Camden County, Georgia, on the coast near the Florida border. The county is still working to win approval for launches from the Federal Aviation Administration. Click here. (4/22)

Time for the U.S. Air Force to Prepare for Preemption in Space (Source: War is Boring)
There are few strategic concepts as hotly debated as anticipatory self-defense—or preemption. This is particularly the case when considering military action in space. As Colin Gray observes above, preemption should not be considered controversial, because it is based upon hundreds of years of customary international law.

Despite this historic precedence, the United States still has much to do before preemption in space is, in fact, a viable means of protecting national interests. These discussions are especially needed as space grows more contested, degraded and operationally limited. While being perhaps counterintuitive, developing the concepts of preemption well before conflict occurs enhances deterrence and promotes international peace and stability.

Specifically, America needs a better understanding of what is occurring in space, what constitutes a hostile action or intent, and a fully developed plan for discussing preemption with the international community to make preemption a viable strategic option. (4/22)

Let's Shoot for the Moon - Yes, Again...This Time for Economic Development (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The ink was not yet dry on the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced that he was going to work on a new NASA Authorization bill that will chart a long-term course for the space agency. Speaking to the Commercial Space Federation in Washington, D.C., last month, Cruz also said he will work on a new commercial space transportation bill that will build on the success of the 2015 Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.

Cruz, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, will be in the position to determine where and, almost as important, how and why America will go into space for the foreseeable future. He also will be able to correct some of the mistakes of the past that have hampered the American civil space program for the past 10 or so years. (4/22)

Scientists, Feeling Under Siege, March Against Trump Policies (Source: New York Times)
Thousands of scientists and their supporters, feeling increasingly threatened by the policies of President Trump, gathered Saturday in Washington under rainy skies for what they called the March for Science, abandoning a tradition of keeping the sciences out of politics and calling on the public to stand up for scientific enterprise.

As the marchers trekked shoulder-to-shoulder toward the Capitol, the street echoed with their calls: “Save the E.P.A.” and “Save the N.I.H.” as well as their chants celebrating science, “Who run the world? Nerds,” and “If you like beer, thank yeast and scientists!” Some carried signs that showed rising oceans and polar bears in peril and faces of famous scientists like Mae Jamison, Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie, and others touted a checklist of the diseases Americans no longer get thanks to vaccines.

Its organizers were motivated by Mr. Trump, who as a presidential candidate disparaged climate change as a hoax and cast suspicions on the safety of vaccines. Their resolve deepened, they said, when the president appointed cabinet members who seemed hostile to the sciences. He also proposed a budget with severe cuts for agencies like the National Institutes of Health — which would lose 18 percent of their funding in his blueprint — and the Environmental Protection Agency, which faces a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of a quarter of the agency’s 15,000 employees. (4/22)

International Coalition Set Up to Promote Space Cooperation (Source: Xinhua)
A coalition was established Sunday in northwest China's Shaanxi Province to promote innovation and cooperation on space exploration under the the Belt and Road Initiative. The coalition, set up in the provincial capital of Xi'an, encompasses 48 universities, research institutes and academic organizations at home and abroad. It was initiated by the Chinese Society of Astronautics and Xi'an-based Northwestern Polytechnical University.

Tian Yulong, secretary-general of China National Space Administration, said the alliance will boost exchanges on space innovation between its members and help joint training of high-caliber professionals. China designated April 24 as Space Day last year to mark the anniversary of the country's first satellite launch Dongfanghong-1 in 1970. Xi'an, home to more than 200 aerospace research centers and enterprises, will hold major celebrations on Monday. (4/22)

ISRO Is Not Going to Mine the Moon for Helium-3 (Source: The Wire)
On April 20, 2017, Livemint reported that the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has plans to mine helium-3 from the Moon to help manage India’s energy needs. Even if we supposed that it did, they would be grossly premature. There is neither the technology anywhere in the world to use helium-3 to generate energy nor are the legal and logistical hurdles fully understood.

The report is referring to comments made by the noted space scientist Sivathanu Pillai at the Observer Research Foundation’s Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue 2017, held in New Delhi in February. Those who attended the conference say that Pillai had said mining helium-3 from the Moon was possible – but that he didn’t say anything about ISRO planning to do it. (4/22)

First Look Inside NASA’s New Australian Deep Space Complex (Source: news.com.au)
In a valley near Canberra is a hidden complex that will help land the first people on Mars. The Deep Space Communication Complex, operated by the CSIRO on behalf of NASA, is now home to seven satellite dishes, two command centers and a museum, sprawled out over 157 hectares of land in a lush green valley, about 45km south west of Australia’s capital city.

Streets that run through the site have space themed names. Access to the compound, which is mostly restricted to the public, is via a long and winding road through immaculate countryside where sheep-dotted hilltops touch the clouds and Autumn leaves flitter around freshwater lakes. But the location of the complex — on land leased by the ACT government — was not chosen for its beauty.

The hills surrounding the valley shield it from “line of sight radio noise” caused by electronics including mobile phones and televisions. This noise has the potential to interfere with signals transmitted between the satellite dishes and space crafts “hundreds of billions of kilometres away”. Mobile phones on site must be switched to ‘flight mode’. A ‘no-fly’ zone for aircraft is in place with the exclusion area spanning 15km. Click here. (4/21)

Israeli Finalist in Google’s $20 Million Moon Race Won’t Make it to the Starting Line (Source: Quartz)
The Google Lunar XPrize, a contest offering $20 million to the first private team to send a robot to the moon—and explore the lunar surface for the first time since China’s space agency landed a rover in 2014—is now down to four competitors with just over eight months until the race comes to an end.

SpaceIL, formed by veterans of the Israeli tech sector, will not be able to launch by the year-end deadline set by the race’s organizers, according to Spaceflight Industries, the space transport company hired to carry the team’s spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket launch it purchased from SpaceX. A Spaceflight executive tells Quartz that SpaceIL’s rocket is still in the launch queue but will be unable to launch before 2018, effectively scotching SpaceIL’s chance at the contest barring a last-minute extension to the deadline. (4/21)

UK Spaceport Backers in Investor Talks (Source: Newquay Voice)
The body behind the plans to establish a spaceport at Cornwall Airport Newquay is in talks with four potential investors. The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is looking to secure funding from partners as it prepares to capture a share of the £25 billion global spaceflight launch market.

Aerohub Enterprise Zone manager, Miles Carden, is holding the discussions following the Government inviting joint bids from potential Spaceport launch sites and space vehicle system operators to set up the UK’s first commercial spaceport by 2020. There is up to £10 million being made available from the Government to make the UK the first place in Europe where commercial space operators can launch small satellites into orbit and offer spaceplane flights for science and tourism.

Cornwall’s bid will be seeking up to £10 million of investment to upgrade facilities, which would include a Spaceplane Systems Integration Facility comprising a hangar and clean rooms to cater for satellite and future flight technologies. The LEP is leading Cornwall’s bid to establish Spaceport Cornwall across two sites at Cornwall Airport Newquay and Goonhilly Earth Station, which together offer an “unrivalled” combination of horizontal launch, monitoring and tracking facilities. (4/21)

New Commercial Crew Vehicles Could Serve As Space Station 'Lifeboats' (Source: Space.com)
New commercial crew spacecraft for the International Space Station will be able to do more than just carry astronauts to the orbiting lab: They will also serve as temporary shelters, or even fly crew home, if there is an emergency in space, according to NASA. Currently, in dangerous situations, such as when a piece of orbital debris threatens the space station, crewmembers take shelter in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

And if a medical emergency were to arise that could not be handled in orbit, the crew would head back to Earth in the Soyuz craft. The SpaceX Dragon and the Boeing CST-100 commercial crew spacecraft are both set to start crewed flights as early as next year, and NASA is working to ensure that these new spacecraft will serve most of the Russian spacecraft's protective functions, agency officials said

"The scenarios that would call for the spacecraft to operate as space-borne lifeboats have not occurred on the International Space Station before, but mission planners have long made sure they are prepared," NASA officials added.  "An electrical issue or ammonia leak on the space station could call for astronauts to shelter inside a Commercial Crew Program spacecraft long enough to correct the problem." (4/21)

SpaceX Next Up on Eastern Range with Falcon 9 NRO Launch (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is next up at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as it targets April 30 for the launch of a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite. A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch with NROL-76, the first dedicated SpaceX mission for the NRO, during a two-hour window that opens at 7 a.m. A first stage landing at the spaceport is expected shortly after liftoff. (4/21)

'Space Fabric' Links Fashion and Engineering (Source: NASA JPL)
Raul Polit Casillas grew up around fabrics. His mother is a fashion designer in Spain, and, at a young age, he was intrigued by how materials are used for design. Now, as a systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, he is still very much in the world of textiles. He and his colleagues are designing advanced woven metal fabrics for use in space. These fabrics could potentially be useful for large antennas and other deployable devices, because the material is foldable and its shape can change quickly. Click here. (4/18)

No comments: