May 12, 2017

Water Leak Forces NASA to Scale Down 200th Spacewalk, but Job 1 Gets Done (Source: GeekWire)
A small water leak cropped up in one of the hoses designed to keep NASA astronaut Jack Fischer’s spacesuit cool while he waited to begin today’s 200th spacewalk on the International Space Station. That had a domino effect on the preparations, drawing down battery power and forcing NASA to trim back the time allotted to the outing from six and a half hours to a little more than four hours.

The schedule still gave Fischer and NASA’s Peggy Whitson enough time to accomplish the spacewalk’s primary task: replacing the ExPRESS Carrier Avionics box, which provides electricity and data connections to science experiments and spare parts mounted on the space station’s exterior. The spacewalkers also installed a data connector for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, the station’s cosmic particle detector. It was the first spacewalk for Fischer, the ninth for Whitson (America’s most experienced astronaut), and the 200th for the station since 1998. (5/12)

New Horizons Team Prepares For Another Flyby (Source: Aviation Week)
Early in June, a team of about 50 astronomers will spread out across South America and Southern Africa to attempt an unprecedented observation of a small body 1 billion mi. beyond Pluto. If it works, it will help ensure NASA’s New Horizons probe will not smash into an obstacle at 30,000 mph when it encounters its next Kuiper Belt Object (KBO).

The nuclear-powered spacecraft that rewrote the textbooks on Pluto is hurtling toward a tiny frozen chunk of primordial material designated 2014 MU69, a “cold classical” KBO that measures about 40 km across. If all goes as planned, New Horizons will pass as close as 3,000 km to the object on New Year’s Eve, 2019, using its seven instruments to reprise the highly successful July 14, 2015, encounter with Pluto. (5/12)

Trump’s Right: A Mars Mission by 2024 is Possible (Source: Space News)
On April 24, President Trump spoke by video teleconfernece to astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer on the International Space Station. During the conversation, Trump strongly hinted that he would like to see America send a mission to Mars while he is president. Most observers have taken his comments as less than serious. Whitson herself told the president it would take until sometime in the 2030s.

But Whitson’s comments notwithstanding, Trump is right. American should go to Mars, and the president and Congress should commit to launching that mission by sometime in 2024. There will be some who object to pursuing such a goal. There are those who claim that there is too much more work and research to be done before such a commitment can be made. But when Kennedy and Congress took up the public challenge of landing on the moon we had in hand precious few of the technologies needed to get us there. America had not yet even placed a man into orbit. (5/11)

Neptune-Like Exoplanet Offers Clues About Our Solar System (Source: Newsweek)
About 437 light years from Earth—more than 2 quadrillion miles—a planet about the size of Neptune orbits a bright star every four days. Astronomers at Princeton University first spotted this exoplanet in 2011 but a detailed study of its atmosphere, reported this week by NASA, reveals that it is an entirely new kind of planet. “We’re seeing something that goes against how we think about how our solar system formed,” says lead study author Hannah Wakeford, a postdoctoral fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  

Joel Hartman, who led the Princeton team that found this exoplanet, called it a “puffy Neptune,” because its large radius hinted at a small core supporting a gaseous globe. Its nearness to its star—compare its four-day orbit to Earth’s 365-day trip around our sun—meant this exoplanet (a planet outside our solar system), named HAT-P-26b, was also extremely hot. (5/11)

With Research at KSC, Electromagnets Offer Tantalizing Options for Satellites (Source: NASA)
A group of NASA physicists at Kennedy Space Center may have uncovered an intriguing option for controlling a fleet of satellites or stopping an older satellite from tumbling out of control. The research centers on electromagnetics and considers how simple devices might offer solutions to problems that have eluded engineers. For example, oscillating magnetic fields on adjacent spacecraft can be used to push and pull against each other and may prove a better steering mechanism in orbit than small thrusters that consume – and eventually exhaust – fuel.

It may also present methods to make a series of small spacecraft perform as well or better than a single large spacecraft. "Maybe instead of flying one big telescope, you fly a bunch of mirrors in formation and they form the telescope," said NASA's Stan Starr, one of the researchers. "You could have the same number of mirrors and spread them out to collect more light, or bring them together tightly to look at a specific area. You could change shape to refine the focus. The mirror of the telescope would be fully adaptable." (5/11)

Aldrin: US Must Abandon the International Space Station if it Wants to Reach Mars (Source: Mic)
If NASA wants to reach its goal of sending humans to Mars by 2033, it better forget about the International Space Station, a five-bedroom, astronaut-occupied spacecraft that’s been orbiting the Earth since 1998. Or, at least, that’s what Buzz Aldrin — one of the first Apollo 11 astronauts to step onto the moon in 1969 — suggested at the Humans to Mars conference in Washington.

“We must retire the ISS as soon as possible,” Aldrin reportedly said at the conference. “We simply cannot afford $3.5 billion a year at that cost.” The 2033 goal for a human mission to Mars was endorsed by a bill President Donald Trump signed in March, which authorized a hefty $19.5 billion of funding to the space exploration project. It’s not clear whether or not humans would land on Mars or just orbit around it, but either way, Aldrin implied that cutting costs by working with partners in the private sector is critical to the mission.  (5/9)

The Next Billion-Dollar Startup Will Be in Aerospace (Source: Tech Crunch)
Late last month, 500 people from around the world gathered in Dallas at Uber’s inaugural Elevate Summit. The invite-only conference was the next actionable step forward, post-Uber’s white paper published last fall, “Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation,” to catalyze the emerging ecosystem around what Uber, along with partners in aerospace, aviation, and energy storage, see as the next unicorn transportation sector.

On the back of the incredible innovations that have disrupted today’s urban transit systems, with new ride-share models, electric energy and autonomous technologies, urban air mobility is poised for massive growth over the next five years. After more than 20 years in the aerospace sector, uniting early-stage tech innovators with private capital, my takeaway at the end of this three-day event is that urban air mobility is no longer a future-tech vision… it’s happening now. (5/9)

CU Boulder, Harris Combine Forces to Boost Research in Space Antennas, Radar, and More (Source: CU Boulder)
The University of Colorado Boulder and Harris Corporation have announced a new master research agreement. The agreement solidifies the relationship between Harris and CU Boulder to further mutual interests in analytical instrumentation, space antennas, space payloads and electronics, radar, universe exploration and other capabilities. (5/11)

Review of Federal Aviation Regulations Aimed at Cutting Red Tape Begins (Source: Flying)
The FAA recently complied with President Donald Trump’s February executive order for federal agencies to begin comprehensive regulatory reforms. The order was a fulfillment of his campaign promise to “reduce the regulations that are crushing our economy,” as he ordered every federal agency to create a task force to examine existing regulations and identify those that should be eliminated or altered.

That might be an easier task for the FAA than other agencies, due to the overabundance of unnecessary and outdated regulations. As such, the FAA’s Regulatory Reform Task Force (RRTF) will not only make its own recommendations for repealing and modifying existing regulations, but it is also accepting recommendations from the “broad spectrum of entities” affected by regulations they deem “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective.” Additionally, the task force will identify regulations that “eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation,” as well as any that “create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies.”

The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) requires that these entities submit two recommendation reports: an initial report due by June 1 and then an addendum report due by August 31. ARAC will then make its considerations for approval ahead of its September 14 meeting. (5/11)

Florida Aerospace Items in the Budget Bill on Governor Scott's Desk (Source: SPACErePORT)
Governor Rick Scott may veto a budget bill passed by the Florida Legislature, based on its lack of support for his economic development and tourism development priorities. Enterprise Florida is the biggest victim, but Space Florida was not totally unscathed. The state space agency's 'We Are Go' space tourism promotion program would lose its annual funding source from Space Florida under the budget bill. Meanwhile, Space Florida would get $7M for operations, and $12.5M for financing and business development (including $1M for Florida/Israel joint projects).

$25.9M is included for economic development grant programs that can include space-related recipients, and $400K is included for the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast. Other aerospace spending includes $6.5M for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University programs including a flight research center, aerospace academies, and a manufacturing academy. $3.7M is included for the Pensacola-based Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (which has supported many space projects).

The Governor may veto the whole $82.4 billion budget bill and require legislators to return to Tallahassee. He may also approve the bill with various line-item vetoes, including eliminating some or all of the items listed above. (5/11)

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