May 22, 2017

Moon Express Chairman Believes his Team’s “Ready to Go for the End of This Year” (Source: Ars Technica)
The day before we talked with Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain, he sat on the Collision Conference mainstage next to a HoloLens-clad Robert Scoble. The successful investor Jain and the enthusiastic tech-evangelist Scoble chatted about “Startups as a Superpower,” exploring what it means if a private business—and not another nation-state—becomes the fourth entity to reach the Moon. And while the challenge definitely carries an inherent amount of glory, Jain believes a startup will have the next Armstrong moment for one familiar reason.

“[Successful entrepreneurs] have to look at what problems we want to solve—tech is a means to an end, and profit is a motivator,” he said. “If I want to create a $10 billion business, I need to solve a problem that affects at least one billion people.” Maybe it doesn’t seem like it to everyone just yet, but Jain definitely sees the Moon as a perfect entrepreneurial opportunity. (5/22)

How Jeff Bezos’ Passion for Space is Inspiring the Next Generation (Source: GeekWire)
When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos visited the Museum of Flight this weekend to answer questions from students, the kids did not hold back. “That’s one of the great things about kids,” Bezos said on Saturday. “There are always questions.” Scores of elementary-school and middle-school students came from the Seattle area as well as from Deer Park, a city just north of Spokane on the other side of the state, to cram into the museum’s “Apollo” exhibit and meet America’s second-richest person (after Bill Gates). Click here. (5/22)

How the Indian Space Agency Thrived Despite the Massive Poaching During the IT Boom (Source: Quartz)
The Mission Readiness Review (MRR) is in session. We are just a few days away from a major launch campaign. Each of the engineers responsible for a particular subsystem is getting ready to go on stage and present details of the tests carried out on it. Problems, solutions, tests, last-minute tweaks—everything is covered. The group is an amazing mix of veterans and greenhorns and everyone in between. Anyone who is part of the project and has something to say is there. I sit next to the chairman and senior center directors.

Retired pioneers like me who are experienced experts in certain fields form an integral part of the MRR. To the newest recruit attending an MRR for the first time it is a thrilling and challenging experience. As one of the senior engineers finishes his presentation, a voice from the last row raises an issue. It is a junior engineer. There is absolute silence as everyone in the room gives him a patient hearing. The engineer who is making the presentation takes notes and gives a detailed response.

It really does not matter that the questioner is quite junior in the hierarchy, for in that hall there is absolute technical democracy and no voice is stifled. Everyone knows that many an important issue has come to light at an MRR and at times major failures have been averted because someone raised a pertinent question. The MRR epitomizes the functioning of ISRO, where the work ethics had evolved over the years. (5/22)

ULS Wins $208 Million for Rocket Production (Source: Space Daily)
United Launch Services, on behalf of United Launch Alliance, won more than $208 million from the Air Force to provide production services for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV). The company will provide the launch vehicle configuration of an Atlas V 551, an additional solid rocket booster for an Atlas V 551 and transportation to the launch site. (5/22)

Delta 4 Replacement Ready by 2023 (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force expects a replacement for the Delta 4 Heavy rocket will be ready by 2023, with one of several vehicles under development able to take its place, Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, told a House committee May 19. Raymond said that the Air Force expects to have uninterrupted access to heavy launch for national security missions. Several companies have heavy-lift vehicles in development, including SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and Blue Origin’s New Glenn, that could replace the Delta 4 Heavy built by United Launch Alliance.

The Air Force has purchased launches on seven more Delta 4 Heavy rockets, Raymond said, though one launch will be a NASA mission. The final launch is scheduled for 2023. “We’re comfortable that we will have a new capability online that will be able to support the requirements going forward,” Raymond said. The Air Force also has three more Delta 4 Medium rockets left, with the last launch scheduled for 2019.

ULA is currently searching for an engine for its Vulcan rocket, which is intended to succeed the Atlas 5 and Delta 4. The company has said the leading candidate is the BE-4 liquid methane engine under development by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. That engine will also be used on Blue Origin’s New Glenn heavy launch vehicle. (5/22)

Rocket Competition Planned at Spaceport America (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
New Mexico’s Spaceport America next month is hosting its first ever worldwide collegiate rocket competition featuring 110 teams from 12 countries who will launch solid, liquid, and hybrid rockets to target altitudes as high as 30,000 feet. Dubbed the Spaceport America Cup, the June 20-24 event is designed around the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition for student rocketry. The event, now in its 12th year, “will be the competition’s biggest year yet,” according to Spaceport America Cup website. (5/22)

Nelson Seeks Increased KSC Funding for SLS/Orion Launch Preparation (Source: Sen. Nelson)
US Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) has written to President Trump urging his support for "increased funding for work at Kennedy Space Center to prepare for the launch of Orion and hte Space Launch System "monster rocket" as our triumphant return to deep space nears. We also need to sustain funding for the Commercial Crew Program that will end our reliance on Russia for access to space." Click here. (5/19)

Weird Energy Beam Seems to Travel Five Times the Speed of Light (Source: New Scientist)
We’ve known about the jet of plasma shooting from the core of M87 since 1918, when astronomer Heber Curtis saw a ray of light connected to the galaxy. To be visible from so far away, it had to be huge – about 6000 light years long. As modern astronomers now know, pretty much all galaxies have a central black hole that periodically draws in stars and gas clouds. When gas begins to swirl down the drain, it heats up and magnetic fields focus some of it into jets of hot plasma. These jets shoot out at velocities near to – but not faster than – the speed of light.

If you compare the first and second images from Earth’s perspective, it looks like the blob has just moved across the sky to the right. But because the second position is also closer to us, its light has had less far to travel than it appears. That means it seems to have arrived there faster than it actually did – as if the blob spent those 10 years travelling at ludicrous speed. Click here. (5/22)

NASA's CPEX Weather Research Takes to the Skies Over Florida (Source: Space Daily)
A NASA-funded field campaign getting underway in Florida on May 25 has a real shot at improving meteorologists' ability to answer some of the most fundamental questions about weather: Where will it rain? When? How much? Called the Convective Processes Experiment (CPEX), the campaign is using NASA's DC-8 airborne laboratory outfitted with five complementary research instruments designed and developed at NASA. The plane also will carry small sensors called dropsondes that are dropped from the plane and make measurements as they fall.

Working together, the instruments will collect detailed data on wind, temperature and humidity in the air below the plane during the birth, growth and decay of convective clouds - clouds formed by warm, moist air rising off the subtropical waters around Florida. (5/22)

Air Force Makes Case to Congress for Remaining Lead for Military Space (Source: Space News)
Separating space operations from the Air Force would hamper the service’s efforts to address threats in orbit, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said May 17. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Goldfein argued that setting up a separate “Space Corps” within the Air Force — similar to the Marine Corps within the Navy — would only cause confusion. (5/19)

Who’s in Charge of Outer Space? (Source: Wall Street Journal)
In space, no one can hear you scheme. But here on Earth, plans to go where few have gone before are getting louder by the minute. The final frontier is starting to look a lot like the Wild West. As more companies announce ambitious plans to do business beyond Earth, serious questions are emerging about the legality of off-planet activity.

Everything that happens in space falls under the purview of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. This international agreement, also known as the Outer Space Treaty, turned 50 years old in January. More than 100 countries, including the U.S., Russia and China, are parties to the treaty. Click here. (5/19)

Welcome To TrumpSpace (Its Really ObamaSpace) (Source: NASA Watch)
Despite promises of a new breath of commercial space thinking in the way NASA does things, the presence of Newt Gingrich and Bob Walker in the wings has not made any noticeable change in NASA priorities - at least not yet. That may come when Scott Pace shows up for work at the National Space Council. But any coordinated policy formulation at the Space Council is going to take a long time to be translated into guidance for Administration budget requests.

In the mean time NASA is going to have to send its envoys to Congress to say that the President's budget cuts are good while simultaneously explaining why it does not have the money for the things Congress has told NASA to do. This is going to happen across the Federal government. Congress already spurned the earlier FY 2017 budget request from the White House. Congress will almost certainly do the same thing with the request for FY 2018. When all is said and done NASA's portfolio under the Trump Administration is going to look exactly like the Obama Administration's portfolio: Strategically scattered, chronically inefficient, and woefully underfunded. (5/22)

Bulgaria in Space: One Disaster Mission, One Success and One Satellite (Source: Sofia Globe)
Now that Bulgaria is about to shoot a satellite into space, it is time to remember that it actually won’t. BulgariaSat-1, which is scheduled to blast off on aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in mid-June, is not a state-owned, but a private satellite. Its owner is BulgariaSat, a division of Bulsatcom, the country’s largest cable-TV provider.

Even while BulgariaSat-1 is still on Earth, its owner BulgariaSat just announced they might send a second satellite into space within five years, “if the launch (of the first one) goes well”. The company says the Romanians, the Greek, the Israelis, the Germans and others were interested. They presumably mean cable-TV and communication companies in those countries, which want their TV programs spread from space too. (5/22)

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