April 24, 2017

No Hidden Ninth Planet After All? (Source: Newsweek)
Ever since enthusiasm started growing over the possibility that there could be a ninth major planet orbiting the sun beyond Neptune, astronomers have been busy hunting it. One group is investigating four new moving objects found by members of the public to see if they are potential new solar system discoveries. As exciting as this is, researchers are also making discoveries that question the entire prospect of a ninth planet.

It’s been suggested that the extreme trans-Neptunian objects could be clustered in space by the gravitational influence of a “Planet Nine” that orbits much further out than Neptune. This planet’s gravity could lift out and detach their orbits—constantly changing their tilt. But this planet is far from proven. It turns out that there are other explanations.

Our study based on computer modeling hints at the influence of an idea from everyday physics called diffusion. This is a very common type of behavior in the natural world. Diffusion typically explains the random movement of a substance from a region of higher concentration to one of lower concentration – such as the way perfume drifts across a room. A form of diffusion can cause the orbits of minor planets to change from an ellipse that is initially only 730 astronomical units on its long axis to one that is as big as 2,000 astronomical units or bigger. (4/19)

Russian MoD to Further Develop Plesetsk Cosmodrome Infrastructure (Source: Space Daily)
The Plesetsk Cosmodrome is a launch site developed by the Soviet Union primarily for intercontinental ballistic missile tests in the late 1950s. The Russian Defense Ministry will further develop the infrastructure of the spaceport to increase the number of satellite launches, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said. In 2016, a total of five spacecraft were launched from Plesetsk, in comparison to 11 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which Russia has leased until 2050. (4/24)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Qualification Tests on Starliner Reusable Rocket Engine (Source: Space Daily)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed hot-fire qualification tests of an engine that demonstrates the ability to meet reusability requirements for Boeing's Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner crew module propulsion system. The tests were conducted on Aerojet Rocketdyne's MR-104J hydrazine monopropellant engine in Redmond, Washington. For NASA service missions to the International Space Station, Boeing's Starliner spacecraft will carry up to four astronauts and time-critical scientific research.

"Our engineers have incorporated a unique design that will allow the MR-104 engine to be used on multiple missions, providing the reliability, cost-efficiency and reusability our customer needs to be competitive in the current commercial space environment," said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake. (4/24)

SpaceX: US Should Vet Debris Measures for Constellations Seeking US Access (Source: Space Intel Report)
SpaceX is asking U.S. regulators to force even non-U.S.-licensed satellite systems to meet the same standards of debris-mitigation measures as those being imposed on U.S.-licensed satellite systems. SpaceX is designing a 4,400-plus constellation of low-orbiting satellites to provide Internet connectivity worldwide. It is one of about a dozen such proposals being reviewed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

As part of its review, the FCC asked SpaceX to detail how it would limit the risk of in-orbit collisions among its satellites, and collisions with other satellites or space stations. The mega-constellations now before regulators in the US and elsewhere are a major source of worry for space debris experts. About 7,000 satellites have been launched since the dawn of the space age. If a couple of the mega-constellations now in development are actually built, they will equal that figure in just a few years.

Managing a constellation of hundreds or thousands of satellites, operating at an orbital altitude of 1,100-1,200 kilometers, is a major operational challenge in and of itself, government and academic officials told the conference. Add in a still-uncertain number of other constellations and it becomes even more daunting. But short of a United Nations resolution that is not likely anytime soon, it’s up to each national administration to decide its license criteria. SpaceX said any constellation planning to offer service in the US should be vetted by the U.S. regulator for best-practice debris-mitigation procedures. (4/24)

Student Launches Planned For Spaceport America (Source: KRWG)
From April 27-­‐29, 2017, STEM+C and students from Spring Grove, Illinois and Gilbert, Arizona will be bringing “Project Blackbird” to Spaceport America’s horizontal launch area for the first of a series of STEM educational launches over the next two years. The students of Spring Grove have participated in a 6 week course covering subjects from meteorology to basic electrical theory. They have assembled the “RvJets”, learned how to fly RC airplanes via FPV (first person view), and also learned their responsibilities and duties expected while conducting each mission. The project is an attempt to break the world record for “Highest RC Airplane Flight”. (4/23)

Reaching for the stars: The Top Ideas in Space Travel (Source: Cosmos)
A starship drive, a vacuum airship, solar surfing. NASA has awarded funding to 22 new projects as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. This is where the organisation awards the most innovative, and sometimes wacky, ideas for new technologies aiding humanity’s future exploration of space. The newly published description of far-out projects reads like the contents of a sci-fi anthology. Click here. (4/24)

Are Human sSpace Babies Conceivable? (Source: Space Daily)
As astronauts continue to break records for time spent in space and manned Mars exploration is under discussion, scientists in China have begun a groundbreaking study to determine if humans can reproduce in space. Scientists will for the first time conduct an experiment to induce the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into germ cells on China's first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1. The experiment aims to study the effects of the space environment on human reproduction, beginning with the study of microgravity on human stem cells and germ cells, says Kehkooi Kee, lead researcher on the project. (4/23)

Scientists to Test Medicine for Bone Loss on Tianzhou-1 (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists will test a medicine to treat bone loss during the maiden voyage of China's first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1. The medicine has been specially developed for astronauts, but they hope it will benefit ordinary people too. The main mission of Tianzhou-1 launched on Thursday is to test propellant refueling technology, which is crucial for the construction and operation of China's planned space station. But each voyage is a precious opportunity to conduct space experiments.

Chinese scientists will use the micro-gravity environment to test the effect of 3-hydroxybutyric acid (3HB) in preventing osteoporosis, said research leader Chen Guoqiang, who is also director of the Center for Synthetic and Systems Biology at Tsinghua University. One day of bone loss in space is equivalent to a year on earth," he said. (4/23)

Chinese Space Scientists Study Human Organs in Space (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists around the world are looking for the "keys" to enable humans to regrow tissues or organs lost due to illness or injury, just like gecko can regrow a tail. Their quest now extends into space. Stem cell research on Tianzhou-1, China's first cargo spacecraft, is far from realizing this dream, but it's the first step to explore the possibility.

Scientists from the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) are conducting experiments on Tianzhou-1, which launched Thursday, to study the effects of micro-gravity on embryonic stem cell proliferation and differentiation. (4/23)

French Guiana Accord Sets Stage for Arianespace to Resume Launches (Source: Space News)
An agreement between France and its restive South American territory French Guiana, home to Europe’s spaceport, has resolved a month-long dispute that had prevented any launch activity since mid-March.

Thanks to the “Accord de Guyane” agreement signed Friday by French and French Guianese officials, launch service provider Arianespace says it will be able to soon resume launch activity and can make up for delays by using previously scheduled downtime over the next two months. (4/22)

Why There Was an Anti-Trump Ad in Your Sunday Newspaper (Source: CNN)
A full-page ad in the Sunday editions of the Washington Post and The New York Times urged Tesla CEO Elon Musk to "dump Trump." The ads were paid for by a startup investor named Doug Derwin. The longtime Silicon Valley resident told CNNMoney he shelled out $400,000 to run ads in the Times and the Post, as well as the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News.

It's the latest step in Derwin's $1 million bid to convince Musk he's failing environmentalists. He calls it "Elon Dump Trump." Derwin said he didn't want to launch the campaign at first. Back in January, he was eagerly awaiting the arrival of his Tesla Model S electric car.

But as his Tesla was about to be delivered, Derwin said he caught wind of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's decision to walk away from Trump's business advisory council, which Kalanick served on with Musk. Kalanick had previously defended his working relationship with President Trump, but public pressure mounted in the wake of the president's immigration order. (4/23)

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