April 30, 2017

Sensor Problem Delays SpaceX Launch to Monday (Source: The Verge)
Sunday morning, SpaceX stopped the launch of its Falcon 9 less than a minute before take off, citing an issue with one of the sensors on the first stage. The company will try to launch vehicle again on Monday at 7AM ET. This is SpaceX's very first national security mission for the US military — sending a spy satellite into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office.

Dubbed NROL-76, the secretive payload is scheduled to go up on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket early Monday morning from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. After launch, SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage — the 14-story high core of the rocket that contains the main engines and most of the fuel — on solid ground back at the Cape. (4/30)

Space: Trump's Least Controversial Frontier (Source: The Atlantic)
The first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been no less rife with controversy and political infighting than his campaign. As the new administration settled into the White House, it unleashed a torrent of new policy plans and executive orders for the public to debate, producing a flood of stories competing for the public’s attention. But one area in particular seems to have flown under the radar, prompting no outrage and little parsing from Trump’s critics: the nation’s space policy.

This kind of policy is, of course, typically quite low on the priority list for a new president, especially when there are jobs to create, Cabinet positions to fill, health-care laws to repeal, tax codes to reform, allegations of Russian ties to avoid, and potholes to fix. Domestic and foreign affairs naturally get more attention than rocket launches, robotic missions to planets, and astronomical research, and Trump has yet to formally lay out his plan for the nation’s space goals. But according to several space-policy experts and historians, Trump has publicly discussed the country’s space program and exploration efforts more than other modern presidents have in their first stretches in office.

In the last few weeks, Trump has reminisced about the Apollo era, cheered a future Mars mission, and chatted with astronauts. He devoted a recent Saturday address to space telescopes, praising the achievements of Hubble and getting excited about the James Webb. He signed a NASA bill into law, a tiny legislative win in a long list of mostly unchecked boxes. (4/28)

Can’t Afford Space Travel? Just Send a Piece of Yourself (Source: New York Post)
Don’t have the time or money to plan a trip to space? Just send your DNA. Celestis, a company that’s been sending cremated remains into space since 1997, recently expanded their services for humans who aren’t dead. The Houston-based company is now offering to launch your DNA to infinity and beyond – which is a great alternative to the hassle of trying to snag a $250,000 seat on Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight.

In order to make sure your DNA sample is ready for the journey, Celestis teamed up with a Canadian technology lab that will process the genome into a fine powder. The powder will then be placed into tiny, engraved capsules. Prices range from $1,295 to $12,500, depending on where you’d like your DNA to go. Customers can choose from four options: a suborbital launch that will return to Earth, a launch that includes incineration during re-entry, a rocket to the moon, or a rocket beyond the moon. The last option will not return to Earth, ensuring a piece of you will forever live among the stars. (4/28)

Space-Mining May Be Only a Decade Away. Really. (Source: Washinton Post)
Is water the new oil of space? It may be to Middle Eastern oil states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are looking at space as a way to diversify out of the earthly benefits of fossil fuel. “Middle East oil states are investing in satellite technology and trying to transform their domestic economies into digital economies and knowledge-based economies,” said Tom James of Navitas Resources.

“They are investing in it in order to attract business to the Middle East,” James said. Oil states have large, empty spaces, relatively small populations and are located near the equator. The UAE has launched a multipronged effort to establish a space industry in which it has invested more than $5 billion, and that includes four satellites already in space and another due to launch in 2018. (4/28)

Orbital ATK’s DeMauro: SLS Could Launch Clustered Groups of Cygnus Spacecraft (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
"We also have a team looking at where we take Cygnus beyond Earth orbit. And that’s the exploration stuff you’re talking about. So we’ve come up with our idea of how NASA can—relatively quickly—start putting some sort of outpost out in cislunar space.

“We think the best way to do that is to take Cygnus as it is—take the building blocks of Cygnus as it is—but enhance the systems that it needs for radiation protection, ECLSS (Environmental Control and Life Support System) for crew members to actually live in a Cygnus-derived vehicle. Have the avionics that can stand being in cislunar space for 15 years as opposed to low-Earth orbit for a few months. So our idea is [to] take Cygnus, build upon what we have, and create what we call the initial system or habitat—the ICH.

“We’d launch that on an SLS and put that out in cislunar space, so that when you start sending crews out on Orion vehicles, the Orion vehicle, rather than just being on its own, can then dock with this initial system or habitat. And the crew has a bigger place to live, and more supplies. You can pre-stage supplies.” (4/28)

Plans for British Spaceports 'In Danger of Being Grounded by Poor Legislation' (Source: Guardian)
Ambitious plans to launch satellites from spaceports in Britain are in danger of being grounded by poor legislation that leaves operators open to crippling insurance costs, MPs have warned. The government hopes to have satellites flown into orbit from UK spaceports by 2020, but a draft version of the spaceflight bill states that companies could face unlimited liability for any damages caused by falling space hardware.

The wording of the new bill appears to counter an amendment to the 1986 Outer Space Act made in 2015, which imposed a €60m cap on the amount that spaceflight companies are required to indemnify the government. “Lax wording in the bill leaves it open that an operator would have to indemnify the government against all losses and that makes it completely impractical,” said Stephen Metcalfe, chair of the cross-party science and technology committee. (4/29)

Lego is Releasing its Coolest Spaceship to Date: an Apollo Saturn V (Source: The Verge)
Lego is no stranger to space toys. The company first released its Space line of sets in 1978, and since then, fans have built hundreds of different spaceships, real and fictional. Today, Lego announced a new set that looks like it’ll be the best of them all: a Saturn V rocket. We’re already itching to get our hands on it.

This NASA Apollo Saturn V set looks amazing because it’s not just the rocket: it’s an entire Apollo mission in a box. The Saturn V splits into its three stages, while the Command and Lunar Modules are nestled at the top. There’s even parts for the Command Capsule to land in the ocean, although you’re on your own if you want an aircraft carrier to pick up your crew. Fittingly, the set is made up of 1,969 individual pieces (the year the US first landed on the Moon), and it’s the tallest toy the company’s ever made, standing at a meter tall, or 110th the size of the original Saturn V rocket.

This project comes out of the company’s Ideas program, where Lego builders submit concepts to the company and the larger fan community for kits that they want to see made. The set is scheduled for release on June 1st, and will retail for $119.99 in the US (€119.99 in Europe and £109.99 in the UK). (4/28)

President Plans to Bill South Korea for Missile Defense, Pentagon Unaware (Source: Buzzfeed)
If the United States is actually planning to bill the South Koreans for an advanced missile defense system that's just been set up in Seoul, as President Donald Trump said during an interview with Reuters, someone should tell the Pentagon. Officials in the building said Friday that they had no orders to halt the transport of the system or ask their allies for a payment. “Nobody here is making up a bill for the South Koreans,” one defense official explained to BuzzFeed News.

In the Reuters interview, Trump called for South Korea to pay for $1 billion system, outraging a key US ally in the midst of a presidential election where the system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) already is politically divisive. On Friday, an adviser to the leading presidential candidate, Moon Jae-in, called paying for the US setting up THAAD an “impossible option.” (4/28)

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