May 15, 2017

As NASA Eyes Mars, Ohio to Be Big Player (Source: The Blade)
As summer approaches and bright stars begin to light up the clear night sky, Ohioans can take comfort in knowing their home state is tied to whatever the future of space travel brings. Few states have contributed as much to space knowledge and innovation. Many people don’t realize aerospace manufacturing and research is Ohio’s No. 2 industry behind agriculture, said John Horack, a senior International Astronautical Federation adviser and member of its governing board who joined the OSU faculty last August.

OSU entered a new era of commitment to the space industry last week by creating an endowed academic chair called the Neil Armstrong Chair in Aerospace Policy in the university’s College of Engineering and John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Whichever direction the space program goes, Ohio will be there. The Buckeye State is one of America’s tops for producing astronauts, with 25. But numbers don’t tell the whole story: Some of the space program’s most important research is done at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and its satellite campus in Sandusky, the Plum Brook Station. (5/14)

Communications-Satellite Revolution Gets Off the Ground in Southern California (Source: Daily Breeze)
In its relatively short 15-year life, SpaceX has grown accustomed to “firsts.” It was the first commercial rocket manufacturer to deliver rockets into orbit, dock at the International Space Station, and return rocket boosters to Earth for reuse. It has plans to begin the first commercial-crewed orbital missions next year. So it’s not surprising the company wants to be among the leaders in bringing the internet to every corner of the Earth.

The FCC is now reviewing 21 applications to operate global broadband satellite constellations from SpaceX, Boeing, LeoSat Enterprises in Florida, O3b Networks in Britain’s Channel Islands, Spire Global in San Francisco, ViaSat Inc. in Carlsbad, Audacy in Stanford, and OneWeb and Karousel LLC in Virginia, among others. Undeterred by legions of competing young tech businesses, Boeing put forward the second-largest satellite constellation proposal now under FCC review. The company has a century of engineering innovation under its belt and has been building complex satellite systems for 50 years. (5/13)

Netflix Treks into ‘The Mars Generation’ with Hopeful Documentary (Source: Daily Dot)
Netflix’s new space documentary introduces us to several bespeckled, bright-eyed teens who identify as “the Mars generation.” They are perceptive and smart, priding themselves on being labeled “space nerds.” It’s all very endearing, without becoming saccharine. But there is wistful feeling of melancholy here, given how every recent generation also believed it was, in spirit, the Mars generation. So what separates this crop of dreamers?

The fact that we are closer than we’ve ever been to Mars, for starters. Even if NASA is no longer funded as it was during the Space Race that started in 1957—4 percent of government funding went to NASA in the 1960s, compared to the 0.04 percent that is being allocated today—under President Barack Obama, it was estimated we would reach Mars sometime in the 2030s. (5/13)

Nearby Brown Dwarf is a Free-Floating Planetary-Like Object (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
One of the nearest brown dwarfs to the Solar System, designated SIMP J013656.5+093347 (SIMP0136 for short), turns out to be a planetary-mass object, a new study finds. A team of astronomers, led by Jonathan Gagne of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, has presented evidence proving planetary nature of this object. (5/13)

Blue Origin Suffers BE-4 Testing Mishap (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin said May 14 it suffered a setback in the development of its BE-4 engine with the loss of a key hardware component of the engine in a recent test. In a pair of tweets late May 14, the company said it lost “a set of powerpack test hardware” for the BE-4 on a test stand at the company’s West Texas test site in a May 13 incident. “Not unusual during development,” the company said, offering no other details about what caused the accident, or any damage to the test stand or other equipment.

The powerpack is a key component of a rocket engine that includes the turbomachinery that pumps propellant — in this case, liquid oxygen and methane — through the engine. The BE-4 powerpack generates about 75,000 horsepower, getting its power from a small engine called a preburner. Blue Origin has been testing BE-4 powerpack systems since 2014, according to past company statements. The company has been gearing up for tests of the full BE-4 engine, once planned to begin in 2016 but which company officials had more recently been saying would begin in the coming weeks. (5/15)

Rocket Lab Sets Date for First Electron Launch (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab, the U.S.-New Zealand company developing the Electron small launch vehicle, plans to carry out its first flight in a window that opens May 21. The company announced May 14 that a 10-day window for the first Electron launch, which the company has dubbed “It’s a Test,” will open at 5 p.m. Eastern May 21 (9 a.m. local time May 22) from the company’s launch site at Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand’s North Island.

“We are all incredibly excited to get to this point,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, said in a statement about the planned launch. “Our talented team has been preparing for years for this opportunity and we want to do our best to get it right.” (5/14)

Big Bang or Big Bounce? (Source: Newsweek)
Stephen Hawking and 32 of his fellow scientists have written an angry letter responding to a recent Scientific American article about how the universe began. In it, they declare their “categorical disagreement” with several of the statements made, and explain why the theory of inflation is still one of the best models for the origin of the cosmos.

The article in question was published in February. Titled “Pop Goes the Universe,” physicists Anna Ijjas, Paul J. Steinhardt, Abraham Loeb examine the latest measurements from the European Space Agency relating to cosmic microwave background (CMB).

CMB is the oldest light in the universe—light emitted just after the Big Bang around 13.7 years ago. In 2013, a map of the CMB appeared to show how the universe inflated extremely fast, before settling down to become the universe we see today. This, many experts said, backed up models relating to inflation theories, where the universe expanded exponentially fast a fraction of a second after the Big Bang. (5/12)

Globalstar For Sale? (Source: Bloomberg)
Globalstar is considering selling the company. The company, which operates a constellation of low-Earth-orbit communications satellites, is reportedly working with financial advisers to explore a sale of the company. Potential buyers will likely be more interested in the company's spectrum than its satellite network, after Globalstar won approval to use that spectrum for a mobile broadband service. (5/15)

Brooks Planning Run for Sessions' Senate Seat (Source: Politico)
A key member of the House space subcommittee is planning a run for the Senate. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) is expected to announce today that he will run for the Senate seat from Alabama opened up when Jeff Sessions became U.S. attorney general. That seat is held on an interim basis by Luther Strange, who will also run in the election to serve the remainder of Sessions' original term. The primary election will take place in August, followed by a December general election. Brooks, whose district includes NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, serves as vice chair of the space subcommittee of the House Science Committee. (5/15)

India Launching GSLV Mk 3 in June (Source: PTI)
India is planning to launch an upgraded version of its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) next month. The Indian space agency ISRO is planning the launch of the first GSLV Mark 3 in the first week of June, carrying the GSAT-19E communications satellite. The Mark 3 version of the GSLV is designed to place satellites weighing up to four tons into geostationary orbit, double the capacity of older versions of the GSLV. (5/15)

How Gorbachev Destroyed the USSR's Military Space Program, & What It Cost Russia (Source: Sputnik)
Thirty years ago, in May 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in the Baikonur Cosmodrome to personally order the closure of the USSR's military space program. Three decades on, Russian military observer Alexander Khrolenko looks back on what last Soviet leader's decision cost the country then, and what toll it continues to take on Russia.

Khrolenko recalled that as the leader familiarized himself with some of the technology developed by Soviet scientists during his visit to the spaceport, he expressed regret at having made his commitment to Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik a year earlier to unilaterally close the USSR's military space program. Washington, meanwhile, refused to halt work on its Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense shield, and would continue the project until 1993, after the Soviet Union itself had disappeared. (5/14)

The Real Story of the Rippling Flag on the Moon (Source: Washington Post)
The American flag that Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin planted on the moon in 1969 appeared to be blowing in the wind. Conspiracy theorists claim this is proof that the whole thing was staged — because there’s no wind on the moon. The real story? A horizontal rod had been inserted through a hem at the top of the flag, but the astronauts had trouble pulling the telescoping rod all the way out, leading to that rippling effect. In other words, it was an engineering blunder. (5/13)

Proposed Canadian Spaceport Has Clients Lined Up, says Maritime Launch Services (Source: CBC)
The company behind a proposed spaceport in coastal Nova Scotia says it has "several" clients committed to launching satellites, though it's not ready to divulge any more details. "We do have letters of intent signed for payloads," said Steve Matier, president of Maritime Launch Services. "Several is what I'll commit to at this point. We'll probably be making an announcement in the June time frame about them." Maritime Launch Services plans to build a $100-million satellite launch facility roughly 2.5 kilometers from Canso, which is about 300 kilometers east of Halifax. (5/15)

Mining the Moon for Rocket Fuel to Get Us to Mars (Source: The Conversation)
Forty-five years have passed since humans last set foot on an extraterrestrial body. Now, the moon is back at the center of efforts not only to explore space, but to create a permanent, independent space-faring society. Planning expeditions to Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor is no longer just a NASA effort, though the U.S. space agency has plans for a moon-orbiting space station that would serve as a staging ground for Mars missions in the early 2030s. ULA is planning a lunar fueling station for spacecraft, capable of supporting 1,000 people living in space within 30 years. Click here. (5/15)

Technology In Works To Find Extraterrestrial Life (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s managers are following a new congressional mandate to look for extraterrestrial life, with a push for technology that can probe for life in hard to reach places and know it is alive, both within the Solar System and beyond it, in orbit around nearby stars. Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), the powerful and enthusiastic lawmaker who oversees NASA’s appropriations in the House, makes no secret of his ambition to go down in history as the visionary who enabled the discovery of life beyond Earth. Now Congress, with broad support, has added the search for life in space to NASA’s mission in the new agency authorization act.

NASA was ready to take on the job, according to Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator who runs the Science Mission Directorate. “We actually had, through our internal discussions, really made it a coordinated high priority,” he says. His organization is figuring out how to tighten the focus of its planetary scientists—with their rovers and orbiters and the ever-larger space telescopes its astrophysicists use to probe deep into the galaxy—on finding strong evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Culberson thinks it may be on Europa, the large moon of Jupiter that conceals an ancient liquid-water ocean beneath a frozen surface. NASA is developing a mission, dubbed Europa Clipper, which will launch in 2022 to reconnoiter that moon’s surface for follow-on missions designed to penetrate the ice. That in itself will be extremely difficult, as will determining what—if anything—has evolved in the darkness. (5/15)

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