April 9, 2017

Soviet Union Fought the Cold War in Nicaragua. Now Putin’s Russia is Back. (Source: Washington Post)
On the rim of a volcano with a clear view of the U.S. Embassy, landscapers are applying the final touches to a mysterious new Russian compound. Behind the concrete walls and barbed wire, a visitor can see red-and-blue buildings, manicured lawns, antennas and globe-shaped devices. The Nicaraguan government says it’s simply a tracking site of the Russian version of a GPS satellite system. But is it also an intelligence base intended to surveil the Americans? (4/8)

'The Best Around': No One Has Ever Outperformed Russia’s RD-180 Rocket Engines (Source: Sputnik)
Even after Americans design their own heavy rocket engine to replace the RD-180s they have been buying from Russia since the 1990, Russia would keep using them on its heavy and even super-heavy launch vehicles. “Our main advantage [over the Americans] is that we already have a successfully working rocket engine, which is the best around and will remain so in the foreseeable future,” said Boris Katorgin. (4/8)

Space Warfare: 'US Has Already Taken Out Satellite With Missile' (Source: Sputnik)
Looking at the repercussions such space wars can have in the future, Stupples said, “Let’s just look at the global positioning satellites and if you just start to take out those, then the navigation systems of every single airline will be impacted because the airline’s navigation is updated via the GPS satellites.”

He further said that ships also operate on the same GPS satellites and to go back to standard navigation using compasses and charts would be a retrograde step costing a lot to the world. Most importantly, the expert noted that some of these satellites currently in space are nuclear powered and if they are destroyed they will rain down nuclear material on the planet below. (4/8)

What Europe Can Do for Your Space Start-Up? (Source: SpaceWatch ME)
Last year was a very successful year for the European Union in space and for Start-ups. A Space Strategy was adopted in October 2016. Galileo initial services were launched in December 2016. The Copernicus program is now operational, with 5 sentinel satellites in orbit and 6 thematic services. And a Start-up and Scale-Up Initiative was adopted in November 2016. All this brings new opportunities for business – and it is up to the entrepreneurs to seize these opportunities. Click here. (4/8)

The Middle East: a Microcosm of Our New Space Age (Source: SpaceWatch ME)
Throughout the Middle East, one of the most geopolitically consequential regions in the world, countries are using space for a range of civil, commercial, and security purposes. It is a region where space is contested, a means to prestige, and the subject of political and economic development and controversy.

For decades, Israel was the only country in the region with a space programme, and to this day it is the regional leader in satellite technology, industrial and scientific capacity, and military and civil space applications. Over the past decade, though, it has become arguably easier to name the countries in the region that do not operate a satellite or have established a space agency. Click here. (4/8)

Meet the Australian Engineer Pioneering Space Tourism (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
Not many people have business cards that specify which planet their office is on. Enrico Palermo is one of them.  "I pinch myself everyday," the 37-year old Australian says of his job as vice-president and general manager of The Spaceship Company.

Palermo runs day-to-day operations at the Virgin Galactic sister company building spacecraft which – all going to plan – will soon take wealthy tourists on joyrides into space. "One of the reasons I sit on the shop floor is I look up and there's a spaceship. It is surreal, but this is the new future." Click here. (4/9)

Luxembourg Leaders Will Visit Seattle Area to Dig Deeper into Asteroid Mining (Source: GeekWire)
Luxembourg’s Crown Prince Guillaume and Deputy Prime Minister Étienne Schneider will be leading a delegation from the tiny European nation on a trip to the Seattle area on Monday. The main attraction? Asteroid mining, of course. Last year, Planetary Resources struck a deal for $28 million in investment and grants from Luxembourg’s government and bankers.

Planetary Resources, based in Redmond, Washington, is developing spacecraft for Earth observation as well as asteroid exploration and mining. By some accounts, mining asteroids for water and other space resources could turn into a multitrillion-dollar industry. That fits in with Luxembourg’s SpaceResources.lu initiative – which will be in the spotlight in Seattle. (4/8)

Risk, Reward, Regulation & Space Tourism (Source: The Monitor)
Although the FAA enjoys approval authority over launches, the Commercial Space Act limits government interference in post-launch space flight. That’s a good thing, for three reasons. First, the U.S. is neither the only country in the world nor the only country capable of hosting launch facilities. If Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and other companies can’t do the things they aim to do in America, they’ll do those things elsewhere, in countries where governments are happy to mind their own business in exchange for an economic boost and more tax revenues.

The second reason is that government regulation tends toward a “one size fits all” approach that stifles innovation, including innovation in safety. Once a regulatory requirement has been established, the incentive for business is to concentrate on meeting the requirement rather than on developing even better systems that make it irrelevant and hope they can get the rule changed.

The third and final reason is that for space tourists, risk is part of the package. Space travel is dangerous. It will remain dangerous for the foreseeable future. Those considering paying big money to be flung into space know the risks and are OK with them. Click here. (4/8)

Russia’s Quest to Build a Space Empire—or Go Broke Trying (Source: WIRED)
I'ts not unusual for space agencies to wax lyrical about how their work exploring all that lies beyond Earth’s atmosphere is for the shared benefit of humankind. It’s probably expected. So when the head of the Russian space agency says things like “How should we collaborate for the benefit of all of us to get the best result?” and “We need to find the way how can we do it together,” nobody seems to question his motives.

Which maybe they should have, since that country’s space agency, Roscosmos, hasn’t sent significant representation to the symposium in over 20 years. During this panel, which included 14 other space-agency leaders, Roscosmos general director—a dark, handsome man named Igor Komarov—puts special emphasis his country’s desire to collaborate with the fledgling space programs of emerging nations, like Vietnam and Venezuela. Komarov sticks to feel-good terms like “cooperate” and “collaborate” when he talks about international partnerships—which he and other Roscosmos reps do throughout the symposium.

But his agency’s motivation seems more about another C-word: customers. Last year, the Russian government restructured Roscosmos as a state-run corporation, and the cash-strapped organization is using these altruistic overtures to cultivate nascent space programs into new customers dependent on Russia’s 60 years of orbital expertise. Click here. (4/9)

Space Start-Ups Get Their 'Shark Tank' Moment (Source: LA Times)
After the success of nimble companies such as rocket and capsule maker SpaceX and Earth-imaging firm Planet, investors are starting to see aerospace start-ups as viable ventures. But it’s still unclear whether these young firms can work with big, established players such as Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., or deliver the kind of quick returns that some investors expect.

Last month, a handful of aerospace start-ups gathered in El Segundo to pitch their ideas to a room of curious investors and space aficionados at an event co-hosted by Aerospace Corp. and incubator Starburst Accelerator. The companies had 10 minutes to make their case before taking questions from the audience. Some start-ups said large aerospace companies or investors expressed interest in their proposals; those talks are in early stages.

For successful space entrepreneurs with good ideas, “there is more and more money,” said Francois Chopard, chief executive of Paris-based Starburst Accelerator. In the year since its founding, the incubator has worked with more than 150 start-ups and hosted events in cities such as Berlin, Montreal and Seattle. Starburst Accelerator also has a consulting arm, a venture fund and offices in Los Angeles, Munich and Singapore. Click here. (4/8)

Russia Launches First Central American Satnav System in Nicaragua (Source: Sputnik)
Russia launched a new Glonass satellite navigation tracking station in Nicaragua on Thursday. The station, the first Glonass facility in Central America, was named Chaika (Seagull) – the call sign of the first woman in space – Valentina Tereshkova. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Laureano Ortega, President Daniel Ortega’s point man on cooperation with Russia, stressed the station’s importance for Nicaragua and Central America as a whole. (4/7)

No End in Sight for French Spaceport Strike (Source: Advanced Television)
The widespread labour strike in French Guiana shows no sign of ending. The action has forced rocket company Arianespace to suspend all work at the spaceport. The strike started on March 20th and now is more or less total with numerous road-blocks affecting all trade in the French colony.

Some 37 labor unions are supporting the strike which went widespread on March27, and with the unions demanding supporting payments from the French Government of €3 billion to aid the local struggling economy. The strikes mean that Arianespace’s launch routines are now severely impacted. Two satellites are currently in storage at the Kourou facility while satellites for Eutelsat, SES and ViaSat are having their launch expectations delayed. (4/7)

For Everyday Astronaut, What Was Once a Joke is Now a Job (Source: Florida Today)
When searching through registers of iconic astronauts past and present, Tim Dodd doesn't show up on the list – but he just might be the most socially savvy Earth-bound one to date. Dodd, a 32-year-old photographer from Cedar Falls, Iowa, is quick to point out that his 2013 decision to purchase a Russian high-altitude flight suit for $330 during an online auction was a joke. Four years later, Dodd's antic has evolved into a full-time effort to bring passion for space to others as the Everyday Astronaut online persona. (4/7)

NASA Balloon Launch in New Zealand Delayed (Source: NZCity)
Swirling winds have delayed the launch of NASA's latest super pressure balloon (SPB) from Wanaka Airport. The flight aims to test and validate the balloon technology in so-called near-space and had been scheduled for lift-off between 8am and 11.30am on Saturday.

However, NASA postponed the launch early on Saturday morning because a swirling wind eddy in the stratosphere, 33.5km above the earth's surface, made it hard to predict where the balloon would travel.

"Unfortunately, there's too much uncertainty in the final trajectory forecast given the nearby eddy pattern in the stratosphere," said Gabe Garde, mission manager for the 2017 Wanaka Balloon Campaign. The team will continue to look for a launch date and hope the balloon can stay up for up to 100 days, setting a record. (4/8)

US Confident it Can Thwart North Korean Missiles (Source: AFP)
The Pentagon can defend against any North Korean missile threat, but Pyongyang's rapidly evolving weapons program is shrinking the warning time ahead of a launch, a top US general said Thursday. General Lori Robinson told lawmakers she was "extremely confident" of US capability to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bound for America, should North Korea decide to launch one. (4/6)

US Military Satellite Production Rates Boosted by 3-D Printed Parts (Source: Space Daily)
Lockheed Martin said that using parts made from 3-D printers has cut four months from the production schedule for components used in the US Air Force's Advanced Extremely High Frequency military satellites. Using parts made from 3-D printers has cut four months from the production schedule for components used in the US Air Force's Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) military satellites, Lockheed Martin said. (4/6)

ZERO-G Research Flights Aim to Advance Deep-Space Tech (Source: Space Daily)
As part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, Zero Gravity Corp. (ZERO-G) recently worked with research groups from University of Florida, Carthage College and University of Maryland to validate technology designed to further humanity's reach into space. A collection of flights on G-FORCE ONE, ZERO-G's specially modified Boeing 727, gave researchers the chance to run experiments and test innovative systems in the only FAA-approved, manned microgravity lab on Earth.

Working with engineers at Kennedy Space Center, a team of students led by Carthage College Professor Kevin Crosby developed the Modal Propellant Gauging (MPG) Project. MPG is a non-invasive, real-time and low-cost method of measuring liquid propellant volume by analyzing sound waves produced by vibrations applied to the tank. (4/6)

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