May 16, 2017

Canadian Spaceport 'Won't Put Environment at Risk' (Source: Chronicle Herald)
A Halifax company proposing to build a rocket launching pad on the coast of Nova Scotia near Canso says it’s taking steps to protect nearby streams and wetlands. The proposed spaceport site is on 15 leased hectares of provincially-owned land with two hectares of wetlands, which triggers a provincial environmental review before the application can be approved. “We’ve begun our data collection, since February, and we’re modifying the layout to avoid wetlands,” said Steve Matier, president of Maritime Launch Services Ltd.

“We respect the process and will go to extreme measures to limit environmental impact.” Founded by United Paradyne Corp. in California, the company plans to invest upwards of US$225 million to set up its commercial spaceport, 300 kilometers east of Halifax. MLS plans a 10-15-metre-tall control center and rocket assembly area, a concrete launch pad, and a custom rail system to transport and position the rockets for liftoff. The complex will use Ukrainian technology, the Cyclone 4M orbital launch vehicle.

The infrastructure component of the spaceport is budgeted at US$100 million and Matier expects its construction will provide “several hundred jobs” with 30-50 full-time positions needed to run the facility. (5/16)

Libertarians in Space: Is “Alien: Covenant” a Parable About the Privatization of Space? (Source: Salon)
Along with Parkour-adept parasitic extraterrestrials, a common thread runs through Scott’s “Alien” films: In his universe, space activity is a private, commercial enterprise. Nostromo was owned and operated by the fictional Weyland Corporation, an intergalactic mining company focused on terraforming planets for profit that wants to capture, study and weaponize the aliens.

Unlike Scott’s 2015 feel-good space film “The Martian,” which is focused on scientific research and intergovernmental cooperation for the advancement of science, the “Alien” films depict a grimmer, for-profit take on space exploration. Even without the monsters, outer space from this perspective is a dark  and cruel place, characterized by blue-collar workers toiling in the outer reaches of the void on behalf of a giant soulless corporation back home on Earth.

When you talk to people involved in space policy, they’ll tell you there are currently no clear boundaries between the roles of government and the private sector. But there may soon be one in the form of distinguishing between missions near Earth and deeper space exploration, such as manned trips to the moon. To publicly fund both near-orbit and deep-space operations would require a massive increase in public allocations, which is unlikely to happen in the current political climate. Click here. (5/16)

NASA’s Worst Plan Yet (Source: National Review)
NASA is proposing to build a space station in lunar orbit. This proposal is notable for requiring a large budget to create an object with no utility whatsoever. We do not need a lunar-orbiting station to go to the Moon. We do not need such a station to go to Mars. We do not need it to go to near-Earth asteroids. We do not need it to go anywhere. Nor can we accomplish anything in such a station that we cannot do in the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, except to expose human subjects to irradiation – a form of medical research for which a number of Nazi doctors were hanged at Nuremberg.

If the goal is to build a Moon base, it should be built on the surface of the Moon. That is where the science is, that is where the shielding material is, and that is where the resources to make propellant and other useful things are to be found. The best place to build it would be at one of the poles, because there are spots at both of the Moon’s poles where sunlight is accessible all the time, as well as permanently shadowed craters where water ice has accumulated. (5/16)

Preparing for the Deep Space Gateway (Source: The Engineer)
Gerstenmaier positioned the DSG as part of two larger projects: the series of missions to develop NASA’s space launch system (SLS), the enormous rocket based on Space Shuttle technology intended to launch missions beyond Earth orbit; and the Mars project. The first SLS launch, designated Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), is currently planned for September 2018, and will send an uncrewed Orion capsule into lunar orbit to test its systems. Gerstenmaier envisages a further series of launches between 2018 and 2025 to ferry components of the DSG into lunar orbit where they will be assembled. NASA’s planned return to human Moon landings will use the DSG as a staging post.

Gerstenmaier conceives the DSG as being much smaller than the ISS, initially consisting of three module types: a power and propulsion bus (PPB), one or two habitation and laboratory modules, and a logistics module to service research. A spokesman from Boeing, one of the contractors hoping to build the DSG, said that these modules will contain advanced, next-generation systems suitable for deep-space operations: “Significant advancements in space technology have occurred since ISS was built and this latest technology will be used, resulting in smaller, more efficient systems. One very visible change will be the use of docking ports compliant with the new International Docking System Standard.” (5/16)

Alien Planet Proxima B ‘Has Conditions Right for Life' (Source: Newsweek)
A planet orbiting our closest neighboring star “may well” have a climate right for alien life to emerge, a new scientific model indicates. Scientists discovered Proxima b, located 4.2 light years away,in August 2016. It is the closest planet discovered outside the solar system in two decades. What made headlines, however, was its position within its solar system, Alpha Centauri. Scientists said it was within the habitable zone, meaning it was neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist—one of the key conditions believed to be required for life to take hold.

Its proximity to Earth makes the prospect of identifying any signs of life even more tantalizing. But not everyone is convinced. Since its discovery, different studies have drawn different conclusions about Proxima b’s potential habitability. For example, some researchers have argued that solar flares from Proxima Centauri, the red dwarf star it orbits, would have stripped away any atmosphere the planet had. But other studies are more optimistic. In October last year, France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) found Proxima b could be an “ocean planet” covered with water, like Earth. (5/16)

DiBello Remarks on Workforce are an Overdue Call for Action (Source: Team-Serv)
One target of concern is the persistent disconnect between the educational community and the needs of industry being recruited. While the focus on traditional two and four year technical education has caught the interest of young people (and well fed by aggressive educators) the needs of industry have yet to be met. Frankly, far too many companies are depending on recruiting from competitors to meet the craft and technician level of support needed to meet the needs of the growth opportunities being presented by commercial firms new to the space industry of 2017.

Education and training must be quicker and the graduates more agile. Focused in-plant or within the community of a short duration (weeks and months) need to be developed and in place ready to respond and support these outstanding growth opportunities. Equally important the program must be on-going and expandable to accommodate continuous growth. Industry leaders and the educational community need to adjust and offer new types of rapid training of people and in particular our at-risk youth. (5/15)

The Artistic Astronaut Conquers the Canvas (Source: SRQ)
In her time with NASA, former astronaut Nicole Stott marked a lot of milestones. She’s flown on two spaceflights and spent more than 100 days working and living aboard the International Space Station. She’s spacewalked, crewed the final flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery and became the first person to fly the robotic arm to capture a free-flying HTV cargo vehicle. Earning the moniker The Artistic Astronaut, Stott was also the first astronaut to paint in space, an experience that sparked a second career post-NASA. Returning to her Florida roots as the 2017 Ringling College Commencement Speaker, Stott took a moment with SRQ to talk the difficulties of painting in space but also why it’s important. Click here. (5/16)

What's it Like to Be on Mars? Take a Virtual Reality Tour (Source: CBS News)
Sand dunes stretch for miles, climbing into the sky. Ancient lakebeds are host to round pebbles, evidence that water once flowed past them. The Martian landscape is intricate and often Earth-like, and thanks to virtual reality, can now be experienced up close. Click here. (5/16)

Your Smartphone Could be Your Ticket to Space — if Space Nation Takes Flight (Source: Space News)
Space Nation, the Finnish startup seeking to pave the way for the transition of humanity into space, announced plans May 16 conduct experiments on the international space station. “We are democratizing access to the space station to do experiments,” Peter Vesterbacka, the marketing genius who helped turn Rovio Entertainment’s Angry Birds into the most profitable mobile game franchises in history, said during the announcement’s webcast from Helsinki. “Why would that be limited to a few people?”

Researchers will be able to conduct experiments in a box equipped with a video camera and divided into 18 individual cubes measuring 10 centimeters on a side. Space Nation plans to send its first box into orbit in 2018 on a NASA cargo flight. Space Nation also announced its new membership in the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization, during the May 16 press conference. (5/16)

Staff Raise Concerns over Privatization of ISRO Centers (Source: Times of India)
"Increased private participation for production of key space components is speculated as a move toward total privatization in future," said ISRO staff association president G Ramesh. Already the production of many components for space launch vehicles and satellites is outsourced by ISRO centers to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Godrej, Larsen & Toubro and other firms.

Shortage of manpower and resources for production at ISRO centers are the reasons behind outsourcing production, yet certain launch vehicle components and solid propellants are produced at Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC). Liquid propellants are produced at Liquid Propulsion Systems Center (LPSC) and ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC). These centers are also involved in testing, assembling and integrating the space components for launch missions. (5/16)

As a Female Engineer, I Aim to Design Rockets. I Want Other Girls to be Equally Ambitious (Source: Guardian)
Each time I tell a friend that I’m studying engineering because I want to design aeroplanes, I get more or less the same reaction, along the lines of: “Wow, you must be really smart.” Many of my female friends appear to think my goals are unreachable for them, and male friends seem to admire it as something extraordinary. I hope to see these views change in the next 10 years or so. Engineering needs to be seen differently, not as a tough subject or one specifically for men. It can be challenging, but it’s all about mindset and vision.

Engineers design, or gauge designs to ensure that they meet engineering principles and that they are feasible. Aerospace engineers do this for aircraft including satellites, spacecraft and aeroplanes. They oversee every stage from the design to the development of the physical products to ensure they will be safe and efficient. (5/16)

Maryland's Cardin Pledges to Support Goddard Programs with Delegation (Source: Space News)
A Maryland senator said Monday he'll work to preserve NASA programs in his state threatened with cuts. At a Maryland Space Business Roundtable luncheon, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) said he and other members of the state's congressional delegation would work to preserve Earth science and satellite-servicing programs at the Goddard Space Flight Center facing cuts in the administration's proposed 2018 budget. Cardin said they are stepping up for such efforts that in the past had been handled by the now-retired Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who was a leading appropriator. (5/16)

Japan Considers More Sats for GPS Backup (Source: Space News)
Japan is considering adding satellites to a domestic navigation system to serve as a backup to GPS. Current plans for the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System call for four satellites that would augment the GPS system to improve the accuracy of navigation data in Japan. Col. Shinichiro Tsui, a counsellor in Japan’s Cabinet Office, said the government is considering three additional satellites for the system to ensure that Japan would have a satellite navigation capability even in the absence of GPS. (5/16)

NASA Seeks Less Reliance on NASA for ISS Communications (Source: Tass)
Russia plans to end its dependence on U.S. satellites for communications with the International Space Station. Currently, the Russian segment of the station is in direct contact with Russian controllers only when the station is passing over Russian ground stations, relying the rest of the time on NASA satellite links. The head of the Reshetnev Information Satellite Systems company said that Ku-band links between the Russian segment and the Luch family of relay satellites should be in place by the end of this year. (5/16)
Elysium Plans Flight of Cremated Remains with SpaceX in 2018 (Source: Space News)
A startup company plans to fly cremated remains on an upcoming Falcon 9 launch. Elysium Space said Tuesday it will fly its Elysium Star 2 cubesat on dedicated SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rideshare mission slated for 2018. Elysium Space flies small amounts of cremated remains on spacecraft that remain in orbit for a few years before reentering. The company's first satellite was lost in the failure of a Super Strypi rocket in 2015. (5/16)

EADS Executive Joins Spanish Air-Launch Startup (Source: Celestia)
The former chief technology officer of EADS Space is joining a European startup with plans to develop an air-launch system. Robert Lainé previously served as the program director for the Ariane program and CTO of EADS Space, now Airbus Defence and Space. He is joining Celestia Aerospace, a Spanish company that does space consulting and is working on a air-launched rocket for small satellites. (5/16)

No Rush for Mars (Source: Space Review)
A few weeks after President Trump suggested that NASA needed to accelerate plans to send humans to Mars, agency leadership said they’ve received no direction to do so from the White House. Jeff Foust reports this is a sign that neither the government nor most companies are in a particular hurry to send humans to Mars. Click here. (5/15)

The G-Hab Hotel (Source: Space Review)
Partial gravity could have benefits for both future human expeditions as well as those who plan to live and work in space over the long term. Bob Brodbeck offers one proposal for a commercial partial gravity facility that could attract both researchers and tourists. Click here. (5/15)

Stranger Danger: Extraterrestrial First Contact as a Political Problem (Source: Space Review)
Searches for signals from extraterrestrial intelligences, both in fact and fiction, have often presumed that any such radio signals detected could be understood, and be friendly. John Hickman and Koby Boatright argue that those assumptions may not be warranted. Click here. (5/15)

Gigi Hadid's Space Odyssey (Source: Harper's Bazaar)
Hadid, 22, is perhaps the most famous model in the world. According to Forbes, she earned $9 million in 2016; she has more than 33 million followers on Instagram; and last year she was named International Model of the Year by the British Fashion Council. After about 90 minutes of “glam,” Hadid is ready for her day of being photographed at different locations around the space center. Before she jumps off the makeup chair, she turns to me and asks, “Have you ever seen me shoot before?” I shake my head no. Click here. (5/15) 

Buzz Aldrin Will Not Stop Talking (Source: Space Review)
The moderator who introduced Buzz Aldrin at the Humans To Mars (H2M) Summit last Tuesday said that when she informed Buzz that he had 30 minutes to speak, he replied that this was not nearly enough time. Predictably, he blew through his 30 minutes, then through the 20-minute break, and then 10 minutes into the next panel discussion. He didn’t care. He’s Buzz Aldrin. He always does this. Click here. (5/15)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Increases Thrust of 3-D Printed Bantam Engine by 500 Percent (Source: SpaceRef)
Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc., recently completed a series of hot-fire tests on a 30,000 lbf thrust-class Bantam liquid-fueled rocket engine built with additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing.

This is a 500 percent increase in the thrust level from the Baby Bantam engine the company 3-D printed and tested in June 2014. At the 30,000 lbf thrust level, this engine is ideal for the rapidly growing small launch vehicle and low-cost upper-stage markets. This latest milestone paves the way for Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop a family of low-cost, highly reliable rocket engines for booster, upper-stage and in-space propulsion solutions. (5/15)

SpaceX Launches Fourth Global Xpress Satellite on Expendable Falcon 9 (Source: Space News)
SpaceX launched the last of telecom satellite operator Inmarsat’s first-generation Global Xpress satellites May 15 on a mission where SpaceX did not attempt to recover the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage. The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, releasing the Inmarsat-5 F4 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit nearly 32 minutes later.

The decision to conduct an expendable launch, now seen as rare for the Hawthorne, California, company that has landed 10 first stage boosters after their respective missions, was because of the satellite’s mass, the heaviest geostationary orbit satellite launched to date by SpaceX. At 6,100 kilograms, Inmarsat-5 F4 required fuel SpaceX would have otherwise reserved for the rocket’s return in order to get the satellite to geostationary transfer orbit. (5/15)

Russia's Former Space Chief Linked to Trump Election NRA Investment (Source: Daily Beast)
In March 2014, the U.S. government sanctioned former Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin—-a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin-—in retaliation for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump’s most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him.

The meeting, which hasn’t been previously reported in the American press, is one strand in a web of connections between the Russian government and Team Trump. The NRA had previously objected to the parts of the U.S. sanctions regime that blocked Russian-made guns from import into the United States. Rogozin was serving as chairman of the Russian Shooting Federation.

His portfolio as deputy prime minister of Russia includes the defense industry. One issue where Rogozin seems particularly interested is cyberwarfare, which he has heralded for its “first strike” capability. And he’s well-known in Russia for being a radical—often taking a harder line than Putin himself. (5/15)

SLS Core Stage Team Recovering From Consequences of Weld Pin Change (Source:
NASA and Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage prime contractor Boeing recently resumed welding elements for the launch vehicle’s first flight after a technical issue suspended welding last year. A change to a welding tool in the Vertical Assembly Center (VAC) at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans had unintended consequences that in part disrupted the assembly and production schedule for the Core Stage and helped push the forecast target date for the first SLS launch on Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) into 2019. (5/8)

Student Team Gets White House Invite After Naming Their Rocket "Trump" (Source: Charlotte Observer)
When students from Charlotte’s Victory Christian Center School decided to revive a rocketry team tradition of naming their rockets, one of the groups christened their rocket Trump. And if there’s anyone who likes seeing his name on things, it’s the president. So when the team went to Washington, D.C., on Friday to get ready for the national competition, they ended up showing their entry to President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, introduced the team when the national press corps came in. They spent a little under 5 minutes exchanging pleasantries and having their pictures taken. “How did you come up with the name Trump?” the president asked. “Simply because it conquers all,” one student replied, drawing a handshake from the president and cheers from his classmates. “They’re never going to put that on television,” Trump said. (5/15)

The Search for Life on Mars is About to Get Weird (Source: Scientific American)
Mars remains a poker-faced world that holds its cards tight. No convincing signs of life have emerged. But astrobiologists continue to, quite literally, chip away at finding the truth. As the search becomes more heated (some would say more desperate), scientists are entertaining an ever-increasing number of possible explanations for Martian biology as a no-show. For example, could there be a “cover up” whereby the harsh Martian environment somehow obliterates all biosignatures—all signs of past or present life? Or perhaps life there is just so alien its biosignatures are simply unrecognizable to us, hidden in plain view. Click here. (5/9)

Is NASA Thinking About Flying Another Orion on Delta IV Heavy? (Source: NASA Watch)
Sources within NASA report that there is interest in buying another Delta IV Heavy for an Orion mission. NASA launched the first Orion mission - EFT-1 on a Delta IV Heavy in 2014. Speculation about the interest in another Orion flight on a Delta IV Heavy often surfaces with an expression of doubt with regard to the future viability of SLS and whether it will be used to loft human crews.

Some have suggested that Lockheed Martin may propose an Orion variant for a future commercial crew procurement opportunity. Congress has also expressed renewed interest in Orion visits to ISS and put language into the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 addressed "the ability of Orion to meet the needs and the minimum capability requirements described in section 303(b)(3) of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010." NASA was supposed to deliver a report to Congress within 60 days of the bill becoming law - which means that the report is past due. Oh yes: Delta IV Heavy is not human rated - yet. Stay tuned. (5/15)

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