May 23, 2017

White House Proposes $19.1 Billion NASA Budget, Cuts Earth Science and Education (Source: Space News)
The White House’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal seeks to cancel five NASA Earth science projects and confirms plans to shut down the agency’s education office as part of more than $560 million in cuts from 2017. The proposal, released May 23, offers $19.092 billion for NASA, $561 million less than what the agency received in a fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill enacted earlier this month. That amount matches values in a leaked spreadsheet last week, indicating cuts to NASA science, exploration, space operations and other major accounts.

“At $19.1 billion, we have a very positive budget that retains the same parameters we saw in March, and which reflects the president’s confidence in our direction and the importance of everything we’ve been achieving,” NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. The budget proposal includes $1.754 billion for NASA’s Earth science program, a cut of $167 million from what it received in 2017. Administration documents noted that included a savings of $191 million by cancelling five Earth science instruments and missions deemed low-priority.  (5/23)

Russia Set to Launch 2nd of 6 Early-Warning Satellites (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Russia looks to enhance its missile detection system with the launch of the second in a series of six early warning satellites. The EKS-2 satellite, alternately classed as a member of the 'Tundra' family of launch detection spacecraft, is designed to replace Russia's aging early-warning infrastructure and is targeting a launch on May 25, 2017, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (5/23)

Rubio, TedCruz Team Up on Missile Defense (Source: Sunshine State News)
With North Korea continuing to test ballistic missiles, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, has teamed up with senators from both parties to call for increased defenses. On Tuesday, Rubio teamed up with a host of senators--including Republicans Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Gary Peters of Michigan and Brian Schatz of Hawaii--to bring out the “Advancing America’s Missile Defense Act.”

The proposal would combine current efforts, harnessing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, Aegis Ashore, and Patriot Air and Missile Defense Systems together. It would also create 28 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) and accelerate advanced interceptor technologies. Under the legislation, reports would be authorized to examine adding 100 GBIs across the nation. Speaking about why the legislation was needed, Rubio pointed to North Korea’s continued missile tests. (5/23)

Engineer at Boeing Admits Trying to Sell Space Secrets to Russians (Source: Ars Technica)
Gregory Allen Justice, a 49-year-old engineer living in California, has pleaded guilty to charges of attempted economic espionage and attempted violation of the Export Control Act. Justice, who according to his father worked for Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, was arrested last July after selling technical documents about satellite systems to someone he believed to be a Russian intelligence agent. Instead, he sold the docs to an undercover FBI agent. The sting was part of a joint operation by the FBI and the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

The documents provided by Justice to the undercover agent included information on technology on the US Munitions List, meaning they were regulated by government International Trade in Arms regulations (ITAR). "In exchange for providing these materials during a series of meeting between February and July of 2016, Justice sought and received thousands of dollars in cash payments," a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. "During one meeting, Justice and the undercover agent discussed developing a relationship like one depicted on the television show 'The Americans.'" (5/23)

Detecting Life In Space: The Red Edge (Source: NPR)
Since we'll be staring hard at thousands of these worlds over the next few decades, each kind of life detection method is exciting in its own right. That's why today I want to introduce you to "The Red Edge" (which, also, just sounds pretty cool). The idea was, in part, Carl Sagan's. As Galileo passed by Earth, it trained its instruments on our planet and recorded the light it reflected from the sun. In this way, scientists could run an experiment to see if Earth's light "signal" could reveal the presence of life.

Of all the features the scientists found in the Earth-light, one of the most important came in the form of a sharp change in our planet's reflectance just past the wavelengths of red light. Reflectance means how much of the sunlight falling on the planet gets bounced back into space. Low reflectance means much of the light is being absorbed, while high reflectance means the opposite.

The Galileo data showed that Earth's reflectance depended strongly on the light's color (meaning its wavelength). Most of the light in the visible spectrum was strongly absorbed. But around the wavelength of red light (past a half of a millionth of meter) the reflectance shot up. This wall in the reflectance curve was known from remote sensing studies and was called The Red Edge. (5/23)

US Banned India's GSLV in 1992; Nnow NASA Revives It (Source: Domain-B)
has joined hands with the Indian Space Research Organisation for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar or NISAR satellite, a joint mission between the US space agency and the Indian space agency to develop the world's most expensive earth imaging satellite. Ironically, NISAR, scheduled to launch in 2021 from India, will be placed into the orbit using ISRO's Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) - the same rocket for whose cryogenic engine technology the US put sanctions on India some 25 years back.

In 1992, the US under President George Bush had slapped sanctions on ISRO and prevented Russia from sharing cryogenic engine technology with the Indian space agency on the ground that India could use it to make missiles. Following the US sanctions, Russia backed out of the deal and ISRO started the Cryogenic Upper Stage Project in April 1994 and began developing its own cryogenic stage. (5/22)

Australia’s Military Including Commercial Capacity in its Satellite Plans (Source: Space News)
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is planning to include commercial satellites as a necessary part of its communications architecture in the future, a defense official said May 15. Group Captain Patrick Del Guidice, the ADF’s Chief Information Office Group director for J6 Capability Coordination, said that long-term planning for commercial satcom has not traditionally been the case, but will be for the agency’s future satcom plans, which start in 2019.

Del Guidice said Australia has about 507 million Australian dollars ($337 million) budgeted under JP 2008 for defense satellite communications between 2016 and 2019. Despite its name, JP 2008 is an almost three-decade-old umbrella program for Australia’s military satellite communications. From 2019 on, a new program called JP 9102 takes over until 2029, with 2 to 3 billion Australian dollars. Del Guidice described ADF’s spending on commercial satellite communications, or comsatcom, as largely an afterthought in the past, but said that won’t be the case going forward. (5/23)

Contingency Spacewalk Required to Replace Failed Relay Box (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A data relay box failure outside the International Space Station (ISS) has prompted mission managers to begin planning a contingency spacewalk. On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer will venture outside the Quest airlock to replace the failed component. (5/21)

This Technology Could Help Us Build Huge Structures in Space (Source: NBC News)
The nascent off-Earth manufacturing industry is getting set to take its next big steps. Made In Space, the California-based company that owns and operates the commercial 3-D printer aboard the International Space Station (ISS), is developing new technology, called Archinaut, that's designed to enable the assembly of large structures in the final frontier.

The Archinaut concept integrates a 3-D-printer and flexible robotic arms into a single spacecraft capable of manufacturing parts and putting them together in space. In addition to building structures anew, Archinaut could help repair or upgrade existing satellites, Rush said. Click here. (5/17)

Sperm Stored in Space Makes Healthy Baby Mice on Earth (Source: The Verge)
Lengthy stays on board the International Space Station don’t seem to hurt sperm fertility. In a new study, mice on Earth successfully gave birth to litters of pups after being fertilized with sperm that had been freeze-dried for nearly a year on the ISS. It’s potentially good news if, one day, animals and people will have to reproduce beyond Earth. But experts say there is still a lot more research that needs to be done to fully understand how the space environment affects reproduction.

The point of this study, published today in the journal PNAS, was to see if the sperm experienced extensive DNA damage while in orbit around Earth. On the ISS, people receive between 10 to 100 times more radiation than they do on our planet, and the parts of the body most sensitive to that exposure are the reproductive organs. (5/22)

Diving Deep Into the World of Emergent Gravity (Source: Ars Technica)
At the moment, we tend to think that dark matter is something missing from quantum mechanics, a particle that provides dark matter. Dark energy seems to be more gravity related. But it's possible the two are linked. Until we have an explanation for dark matter and dark energy, it will remain unsatisfying. Which is why, even though this general understanding of the Universe works so well, some people are skeptical that the data will continue to support it. Verlinde is clearly one of them.

Verlinde is ready offer an alternative, having made something of a name for himself for a seemingly quite different take on gravity. But the differences in Verlinde's views are exaggerated, according to Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder, a research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, "It’s not so far out there," she said. "It’s mostly his interpretation that seems to strike some people as a little odd." (5/22)

Russia to Operate 15 Earth Observation Satellites by 2020 (Source: Tass)
The number of Earth observation satellites is set to be no less than 15 by 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting on the space sector’s development on Monday. "As is known, in this sphere Russia has indisputable advantages and we need to maximally use them. First of all, the orbital remote sensing satellite grouping needs to be built up," the Russian president said. "By 2020, it should comprise no less than 15 satellites," Putin said. (5/22)

A Counterspace Awakening? (Source: Space Review)
National security space policy in the United States has quietly shifted in the last few years. Maximilian Betmann, in the first of a two-part article, examines the factors that have led to that change in approach to defending space assets. Click here. (5/22)
Is “Fast Space” Fast Enough? (Source: Space Review)
A recent Air University report recommends that the Air Force partner with industry to develop new, low-cost reusable launch vehicles. Jeff Foust reports on how effective such partnerships could be given the progress industry alone is making. Click here. (5/22)
Piecing the Puzzle by Piercing the Veil: The Declassification of KENNEN (Source: Space Review)
Is the National Reconnaissance Office preparing to declassify one of its biggest reconnaissance satellite programs? Joseph T. Page II discusses recent evidence that suggests major details may soon come about it. Click here. (5/22)
Redefining NASA (Source: Space Review)
In the second installment of his three-part series, Zach Miller describes how the Cold War origins of NASA influenced the nation’s space program to this day. Click here. (5/22)

Putin Sets Task of Accelerating work on Super-Heavy Rocket (Source: Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has set a task of accelerating work on a super-heavy rocket, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told journalists on Monday after a government meeting on the space industry development. "We looked at a serious perspective - a perspective of developing a super-heavy-class rocket," he said. "The president set a task for Roscosmos to accelerate work by means of developing the technologies presented by general designers."

According to Rogozin, the government has approved a plan of further use of the Baikonur spaceport, which will be discussed in Kazakhstan within days. "We plan to immediately start work on a medium-class rocket that would be competitive with the United States’ latest developments on the commercial services market," he said, adding that this rocket will have a carrying capacity of 17 tonnes.

Apart from that, in his words, it is planned to use Baikonur’s launching pad for Zenit rockets. He said this work will be part of the plan for the development of a super-heavy-class rocket and stressed the importance of large-scale cooperation with Kazakhstan. (5/22)

Russia's Space Agency to Look into Developing ISS with BRICS Partners (Source: Tass)
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has instructed Roscosmos to look into the possibility of developing the International Space Station in cooperation with partners in the BRCIS group (Brazil, India, China and South Africa).
"Yes, I did give such an instruction to Roscosmos to look into the possibility," Rogozin said.

"For now we have agreed with the Americans to work on the ISS up to 2024, but it should be born in mind that starting from 2019 they will be launching space crews on their own, using their own vehicles. Also, we expect that the ISS will be increasingly commercialized...Nobody doubts Russia needs an operational orbiting station - either a new national space laboratory or an international project." Rogozin added that Russia’s existing ISS segment would be involved in that future project. "We are not going to dispose of it, for instance, drowning it, by any means. It is absolutely viable till 2024." (5/22)

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