May 30, 2017

Finally, Liftoff for Small Launchers (Source: Space Review)
After years of development, and talking about launch plans, companies are now starting to launch new commercial small rockets. Jeff Foust reports on the recent progress made by those companies. Click here. (5/30)
Schiaparelli Did More Things Right Than it Did Wrong (Source: Space Review)
The European Space Agency released last week a summary of the final report investigating the crash of its Schiaparelli Mars lander last year. Svetoslav Alexandrov argues that the report shows that the mission should not be dismissed as a total failure. Click here. (5/30)

A Counterspace Awakening? (Source: Space Review)
In the concluding part of his examination of US national security space policy, Maximilian Betmann examines the technical and organizational issues that are driving a shift to a more aggressive military posture in space. Click here. (5/30)

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel (Source: Space Review)
Roger Moore, an actor whose career included playing James Bond in several films, passed away last week. Dwayne Day examines the one Bond film where 007 travels into space, Moonraker. Click here. (5/30) 

We're All New Space (Source: LinkedIn)
Frankly, I think old space and new space are false dichotomies. Don't get me wrong -- I'll be the first to admit that a startup and a 104-year-old company like Lockheed Martin have plenty of differences. But, I've said it before and I'll say it again -- no matter how many years you've been in business, I believe the key is to keep reinventing yourself.

The companies that have pioneered the firsts are paving the way for others to follow. While Lockheed Martin is incredibly proud to have been a part of every NASA mission to Mars over the past 50 years, we know there's so much more work to be done. That's why, at this very moment, we're hard at work building the only spacecraft capable of taking humans to Mars and bringing them home safely. (5/30)

Newly-Discovered Potentially Habitable Planet Just 21 Light Years Away (Source: Daily Mail)
Scientists have detected a new ‘super-Earth’ planet just 21 light-years away, and they say it could be habitable. The planet is roughly three times more massive than Earth, and is thought to be a rocky world that may even be cool enough to sustain liquid water. It orbits along the inner edge of an M-dwarf star’s habitable zone, and researchers are now hoping to characterize its atmosphere and other features to better assess its potential to support life. (5/29)

Bigelow 'Absolutely Convinced' There are Aliens on Earth (Source: Daily Mail)
A billionaire aerospace entrepreneur who has recently worked with Nasa has said he is 'absolutely convinced' that there are alien visitors living on Earth. Robert Bigelow, whose company Bigelow Aerospace has built expandable space habitats for the ISS, was speaking in an interview with 60 minutes on Sunday. The conversation focused on working with NASA before it shifted to Mr Bigelow's reported obsession with aliens, as the mogul revealed he has invested 'millions' into UFO research.

Asked whether he believed in aliens, Mr Bigelow responded: 'I'm absolutely convinced. That's all there is to it... There has been and is an existing presence, an ET presence [on Earth]. Mr Bigelow did not specify exactly how much he has spent on this research, and declined to comment on any personal UFO encounters. (5/30)

UK Company Plans Satellite Constellation for Imaging, Video (Source: BBC)
A British company plans a constellation of satellites to provide high-resolution Earth images and video. Earth-i said Tuesday its constellation of satellites will offer images with a resolution of better than a meter per pixel, as well as color video. The company's first satellite is scheduled for launch later this year, with five more to launch through 2019. The satellite is based on a project called Carbonite by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., a British smallsat manufacturer, to develop spacecraft that could be built quickly and inexpensively. (5/30)

Low Interest Among Industry and Legal Experts for Space Treaty Treaty (Source: Space News)
Neither companies nor legal experts show much interest in modifying the Outer Space Treaty. At a Senate hearing last week, space lawyers as well as executives of companies working on new space applications said that concerns about regulatory gaps and related issues could be addressed through changes in federal law and regulations, rather than amending the 50-year-old treaty. The chairman of the Senate space subcommittee, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), said prior to the hearing he was interested in studying potential changes to the treaty, but didn't indicate specific modifications he was seeking. (5/30)

New Russian Crew Craft Debut Delayed, Considering New Rocket (Source: Tass)
Russia's next-generation crewed spacecraft is facing a delay. Roscosmos had planned the first launch of its Federatsiya, or Federation, spacecraft on an Angara rocket from the Vostochny cosmodrome in 2021. The state space corporation is now considering shifting that launch to Baikonur, using a new medium-class rocket, Fenix, under development. This would delay the spacecraft's launch to at least 2022. The shift in spaceport and launch vehicle would allow Roscosmos to defer work on developing infrastructure at Vostochny needed for crewed missions. (5/30)

Citizen Scientists Join the Search for Planet 9 (Source: Science News)
Astronomers want you in on the search for the solar system’s ninth planet. In the online citizen science project Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, space lovers can flip through space images and search for this potential planet as well as other far-off worlds awaiting discovery.

The images, taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer satellite, offer a peak at a vast region of uncharted territory at the far fringes of the solar system and beyond. One area of interest is a ring of icy rocks past Neptune, known as the Kuiper belt. Possible alignments among the orbits of six objects out there hint that a ninth planet exerting its gravitational influence lurks in the darkness.

The WISE satellite may have imaged this distant world, and astronomers just haven’t identified it yet. Dwarf planets, free-floating worlds with no solar system to call home and failed stars may also be hidden in the images. (5/29)

China's Space Telescope to Observe "Big Eaters" in Universe (Source: Xinhua)
China's new space telescope to be launched soon will probe many mysteries of the universe, including the belching "big eaters" -- active galactic nuclei at the most remote edges of the universe. Scientists have discovered that almost every galaxy has a supermassive black hole with a mass several million to several billion times that of the Sun at its center. With their mighty gravitational attraction, the supermassive black holes engulf the surrounding gas and dust.

When a black hole swallows too much, the excess matter is converted into two jet-flows perpendicular to the accretion disk of the black hole, which is like a glutton with a bloated belly belching. These galaxies have very bright nuclei -- so bright the central region can be more luminous than the remaining galaxy. Scientists call them active galactic nuclei. The Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), developed by Chinese scientists, will observe some active galactic nuclei. (5/29)

94 Percent of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Launches Have Been Successful (Source: Recode)
SpaceX has attempted to launch its Falcon 9 rocket 34 times in the past seven years, counting only two complete failures, one of which happened in the run-up to a test. That makes for a success rate of 94 percent, which is important to maintain, since every time a rocket launch fails, hundreds of millions of dollars are burned in the process.

No one wants to burn money, but that’s especially true for SpaceX, which has stated that one of its primary goals is to make its rockets reusable in order to significantly bring down the cost of space travel. But now SpaceX is starting to get to its desired cadence of sending a rocket into space every two to three weeks, which means its clear that the company has learned from its rare, albeit expensive blunders. (5/29)

How the Humble CPU Launched NASA’s Golden Age of Space Exploration (Source: Motherboard)
Even today, retro-computing is carrying humanity to the edge of interstellar space. In 1962, NASA launched the Mariner 2 probe past Venus, marking the first successful planetary flyby for the agency. It was done with an incredibly primitive computer that hardly fits the bill of anything we'd recognize today.

Each instrument worked on a tape loop, and the computer on board would run a sequence of commands based on an internal clock. It wasn't very sophisticated or easy to control. All input came from ground control, which could merely activate it to run certain pre-programmed sequences. (In fact, the lack of control led to the Mariner 1 craft's destruction when it failed to clock correctly.)

Later Mariner missions, which explored Mercury, Venus and Mars, were equipped with a very, very limited computer that was paired with the sequencer clocks. For instance, Mariner 8 could store data and run slightly more complex commands by kicking on sequencers in a cycle. Still, it only had about 100 commands it could understand based on a 512-word "vocabulary." (5/29)

SpaceX Rocket Test Sparks Fire at Kennedy Space Center (Source: Sacramento Bee)
Federal officials say a rocket test on a Florida launch pad sparked a wildfire. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management Division said that the fire was sparked Sunday during a static fire test of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. Fire officials say the wildfire spread to 2-acres on a small island near Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Helicopters dropped water on the blaze. The fire didn't threaten any structures. (5/28)

This is What a Micrometeoroid Striking a Spacecraft Sounds Like (Source: The Verge)
Last week, NASA reported that a micrometeoroid struck its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in October 2014. NASA noted that the impact didn’t damage the orbiter, but made for a “fascinating example” for how the data from the spacecraft can be used in unexpected ways, including what that impact sounds like.

Scientists discovered the incident when they received a distorted image from the spacecraft on October 13th, 2014, which scientists determined was caused by a sudden movement from one of the orbiter’s three cameras. After ruling out normal equipment activity such as movement from the solar panels or antenna, they concluded that it must have been from a meteoroid.

Alex Parker took the data from the raw images and correlated “the image offsets line-by-line, and [did] a dead-reckoning reconstruction of camera motion.” From there, he was able to reconstruct the sound that the impact would have made, posting it in a short video here. (5/28)

If I Were a Martian, I’d Start Running Now (Source: New Scientist)
Exploration has never been neutral, and it’s hard to believe that future exploration of the cosmos will be different. So: doesn’t Science Fiction have a duty to flavour its fantasies of boldly going with a smidgen of ideological honesty? “Exploration Fiction” is, after all, better placed than any other kind of literature to explore exploration itself. (5/28)

Bigelow Aerospace Founder says Commercial World Will Lead in Space (Source: CBS)
There's a new space race and it's not between the U.S. and Russia. It's between private companies and it's attracted multimillionaires and billionaires, like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. A less likely player is Las Vegas real-estate tycoon, Robert Bigelow, who, at 73, is making the biggest gamble of his life -- not on rockets -- but on expandable spacecraft, large, lightweight structures that inflate in space, a technology that could dramatically change how humans live and work in zero gravity.  

NASA has partnered with Robert Bigelow, who's an unconventional figure in the aerospace world. He's more at home on the Vegas strip than at America's space agency, and he's obsessed with aliens and UFOs. In the spring of last year, he and NASA carried out an historic test to prove his high-flying technology is ready to support humans in space.

When Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket roared into the skies above Cape Canaveral, it was on a mission for NASA, carrying nearly 7,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station -- food, supplies and Robert Bigelow's expandable spacecraft. Click here. (5/28)

Inflatable Space Habitat Passes First Hurdle, Now Onto Radiation Testing (Source: Ars Technica)
It has now been a year since NASA successfully expanded a habitat attached to the International Space Station, the experimental Bigelow Expandable Activity Module. Initial tests on the module suggest that expandable habitats may play an important role as NASA considers how best to expand human activity into deep space.

During the first year, NASA and its astronauts on board the station have sought primarily to test the module's ability to withstand space debris—as a rapidly depressurized habitat would be a bad thing in space. And indeed, sensors inside the module have recorded "a few probable" impacts from micrometeoroid debris strikes, according to NASA's Langley Research Center. Fortunately, the module's multiple layers of kevlar-like weave have prevented any penetration by the debris.

While NASA will continue to monitor the module for debris, the agency's focus is now turning toward radiation. Bigelow officials have said the company's inflatable habitats should be as good, or better than the space station in terms of limiting radiation. Unlike the station’s metallic shell, which scatters radiation from solar flares, the non-metallic skin of the expandable module should reduce this scattering effect. (5/28)

ISS Demonstrates Possibilities Of Low-cost Launch (Source: Aviation Week)
Tom Mueller, the technical wizard behind SpaceX, made a rare—if virtual—public appearance at the New York University (NYU) Astronomy Club in May, Skyping in from Hawthorne, California, with a surprisingly detailed look at what his company is doing, how it is doing it and why. The why is very interesting, for reasons that transcend launch services. “I think the transport problem has to get solved, and then the killer apps in space are going to appear,” Mueller says. (5/24)

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