June 1, 2017

First Year of BEAM Demo Offers Valuable Data on Expandable Habitats (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Halfway into its planned two-year demonstration attached to the International Space Station, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, is showing that soft materials can perform as well as rigid materials for habitation volumes in space. The BEAM was launched and attached to station through a partnership between NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division (AES) and Bigelow Aerospace, headquartered in North Las Vegas, Nevada.

NASA and Bigelow are primarily evaluating characteristics directly related to the module’s ability to protect humans from the harsh space environment. Astronauts aboard station work with researchers on the ground to monitor the module’s structural integrity, thermal stability, and resistance to space debris, radiation, and microbial growth.

Researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, continually analyze data from internal sensors designed to monitor and locate external impacts by orbital debris, and, as expected, have recorded a few probable micrometeoroid debris impacts so far. BEAM has performed as designed in preventing debris penetration with multiple outer protective layers exceeding space station shielding requirements. (5/31)

Sierra Nevada Corporation Passes Key Milestone in NASA Commercial Cargo Contract (Source: Space News)
Sierra Nevada Corporation said Thursday it passed a key milestone in its commercial cargo contract with NASA. The company said it completed a third integration review on its Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract with NASA, confirming that the company’s Dream Chaser vehicle can meet NASA requirements for transporting cargo to and from the space station.

Sierra Nevada won one of three CRS-2 contracts last year for services scheduled to begin in late 2019. The company is currently developing Dream Chaser, with a flight test article undergoing tests at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center that will include glide tests later this year. (5/31)

Ancient Mars Lake Had Multiple Environments That Might Have Supported Life (Source: Space.com)
The window of opportunity for life to arise on ancient Mars was apparently broader than scientists had thought. The lake that once filled much of Mars' huge Gale Crater featured multiple potentially habitable environments segregated by depth, as some water bodies here on Earth do, a new study based on observations by NASA's Curiosity rover suggests.

"This chemical stratification might've provided a sort of menu of options for any microbes that preferred one environment over the other to take advantage of," study lead author and geoscientist Joel Hurowitz said. "What we're learning is that all of the necessary ingredients for life to take hold were present inside this lake in Gale Crater," Hurowitz added. (6/1)

RUAG Opens in Decatur, Looking to Fill New Jobs (Source: WAFF)
A $40-million aerospace manufacturing facility is open for business in Decatur and management is recruiting at least 100 highly-skilled workers to help launch the River City further into space. Swiss-company Ruag Space says this is a first-of-its-kind factory in the United States. The company plans to use complex manufacturing techniques to produce rocket sections for United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket and eventually the Vulcan Rocket.

Ruag officials will start by hiring 100 top notch aerospace manufacturing experts and hope for 100 more in the coming years. Also this summer, Huntsville's Dynetics will turn dirt on another rocket part factory right across the street from ULA. Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling believes the new industry is a sign of his city's ever-growing aerospace footprint in North America. (5/31)

Japan Launches its Version of GPS Satellite to Improve Location Positioning (Source: Reuters)
Japan launched a rocket carrying a satellite with a local version of the U.S. global positioning system (GPS) on Thursday, which is expected to increase the precision of location information used in smartphones and car navigation system. Japan launched an H-2A rocket which carries the satellite called "Michibiki No.2" from a space center in Tanegashima, southern Japan.

The nation launched the first Michibiki satellite into space in 2010 on a trial basis and it plans to send two more satellites later this year, according to the Cabinet Office. Once the four satellites are in orbit, at least one satellite will be flying over Japan for eight hours per day. Combining with the U.S. GPS and the Japanese system will enhance the stability of receiving radio waves and increase the precision of position information. (6/1)

Russia’s Phoenix Rocket Project to Cut Space Launch Costs by 20% (Source: Tass)
The implementation of the Phoenix space rocket project will reduce the cost of a launch from $70 million to $55 million, Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos Head Igor Komarov said on Thursday. "This project will ensure competitive advantages and allow cutting the launch cost from the current $60-70 million to $55 million," the Roscosmos head said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Russia’s federal space program for 2016-2025 stipulates developing a new-generation medium-class space rocket complex (the Phoenix R&D work) from 2018 to 2025. Russia intends to spend almost 30 billion rubles ($530 million) on developing a new carrier rocket. The project’s budget financing will begin in 2018. (6/1)

Russia's New Soyuz-5 Rocket Will Launch Atop Sea Launch Platform (Source: Tass)
Russia plans to hold launches of its new Soyuz-5 medium-class carrier rocket from the Sea Launch platform, Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos Head Igor Komarov said on Thursday. "This project [Soyuz-5] will be used by our private partners and we are going to use it in the Sea Launch. The partnership with S7, which we signed last year, will develop," the Roscosmos chief said. According to Komarov, Roscosmos intends to use this project both for state and private needs. (6/1)

OneWeb Says No Steam Lost Despite Intelsat Merger Unravelling (Source: Space News)
OneWeb says that the now near-certain collapse of its planned merger with Intelsat has by no means slowed any of the company’s progress, and that other geostationary satellite operators have already expressed interest in taking Intelsat’s place. Intelsat bonders had until midnight May 31 to agree on the terms of a debt exchange conditional to the merger, whereby Japanese conglomerate SoftBank would have invested $1.7 billion in the company and green-lighted a merger agreement with OneWeb. (6/1)

OneWeb and Russia's Gonets Sign Joint Venture Agreement (Source: Tass)
Proposed satellite constellation OneWeb and Russian communication satellite system Gonets signed an agreement on creating a joint venture at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017. The agreement was signed by OneWeb CEO Eric Beranger and Gonets CEO Dmitry Bakanov. OneWeb plans to create constellation of around 648 satellites expected to provide global Internet broadband service to individual consumers.

In 2015, Russia signed a contract for the launch of 21 Soyuz rockets with OneWeb satellites from 2017 to 2019. Gonets is the only Russian low-orbit mobile satellite communication system designed for providing high-quality mobile satellite communication and relaying services to Russia and abroad. It also participates in the development of advanced space communication and relaying systems in cooperation with other companies of the Russian space industry. (6/1)

Indian Start-up is Aiming For A 'Moonshot' (Source: Enterpreneur India)
TeamIndus is a six-year-old company started with an attempt to launch a spacecraft towards Google Lunar XPRIZE, an international competition wherein the aim is to land a rover on the moon and make it move 500 meters and come back with the evidence. “That is where we started off with engineering as our core focus,” shares Rahul Narayan, Fleet Commander, TeamIndus. (6/1)

Iran Adds Soha Remote Sensing Satellite to List of Imminent Launches (Source: Spacewatch Middle East)
Iranian press reports suggest that Iran is preparing a third satellite for launch within the next 12-18 months. The satellite in question is called Soha, a remote sensing satellite believed to have a resolution of 15 meters. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the head of the Iran Space Agency’s (ISA) Aerospace Research Institute (ARI), Hassan Hadadpour, said that Soha will be launched as part of the ARI’s sixth development plan to promote the institute’s satellite laboratory and its capabilities. (6/1)

After Setbacks, Alaska Space Business Again Has High Hopes (Source: ABC)
When most people think of Alaska, they picture its thick forests, hulking grizzly bears and soaring, snow-covered peaks. What they might not imagine is rockets whisking defense and other payloads into space. But America's northernmost state has that too, entering the high-tech aerospace business more than 25 years ago as it looked to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

The state-owned Alaska Aerospace Corp. hit a low point after a rocket exploded at its launch site in 2014 amid a deepening state deficit. The governor later gave it an ultimatum: Become self-sustaining or shut down. Today, Alaska Aerospace has rebuilt its launch site and is again showing signs of liftoff. It is no longer confined to Alaska or government contracts, recently winning, for example, a deal with Rocket Lab to track the company's rockets and monitor its onboard systems in New Zealand.

Gov. Bill Walker said he is impressed by the corporation's aggressive pursuit of contracts and its "transformation." His budget office recently freed $2.2 million in state money previously earmarked for the corporation for launch site improvements. "Two years ago, we had a failed rocket, and we had a destroyed facility, and we had no customers," Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell said. "We've turned the corner." (6/1)

Astronauts Struggle to Sleep Among the Stars (Source: CNN)
An odd thing happens to astronauts as they zip around the Earth at roughly 17,500 miles per hour: They don't get enough sleep. This may be partly because astronauts don't have to wake up early to see daybreak; they get a sunrise and a sunset every 90 minutes. "It's far too fast for the body clock to adapt to, and so they essentially experience a perpetual jet lag," said Erin Flynn-Evans, director of NASA's Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory. (6/1)

Gravitational Waves Detected a Third Time (Source: U. of Maryland)
The twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors—located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington—detected the gravitational wave event, named GW170104. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) and the Virgo Collaboration published a report describing the discovery and its implications on June 1, 2017

LIGO’s first detection, on September 14, 2015, resulted from a merger of two black holes about 36 and 29 times the mass of the sun. In contrast, the black holes that created the second event were relative flyweights, tipping the scales at 14 and eight times the mass of the sun. (6/1)

SpaceShipTwo’s Test Flight Makes a Splash (Source: GeekWire)
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane took another step toward lighting up its engine in flight today, by simulating the shift in its weight with water instead of rocket fuel. Today’s test flight involved sending up the plane, christened VSS Unity, from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port attached to its twin-fuselage White Knight carrier airplane.

Once the paired aircraft reached the proper altitude, White Knight Two released VSS Unity for an unpowered, gliding descent back to base. That’s been done four times before since last December, but this time, there was an added twist: Before takeoff, about 1,000 pounds of water were loaded into a ballast tank in the back of Unity’s fuselage. The water, a stand-in for the fuel that will be consumed in Unity’s hybrid rocket engine, was dumped during the glide.

“That enabled us to explore the flight conditions we will experience during rocket-powered flights,” Virgin Galactic said in today’s post-flight update. “By jettisoning the water ballast on descent, we were also able to confirm handling characteristics as the vehicle’s center of gravity moved forward. Unity completed the flight with a safe and smooth landing in its lighter-weight configuration.” (6/1)

Airbus Compares Space Business Opportunities in China and the U.S. (Source: Space Intel Report)
Airbus Defence and Space is approaching the world’s two biggest space markets — China and the United States — in opposite ways as the company seeks to unlock opportunity in both. In China, a space market where the government is still omnipresent, Airbus will let Sino-European government initiatives take the lead in providing an entry for Airbus’s space products in services, said Colin Paynter, managing director at Airbus Defence and Space Ltd. Click here. (6/1)

SpaceX Scrubs Florida Launch Because of Lightning (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Lightning on the Space Coast has caused SpaceX to scrub a launch that had been set for tonight. It sets up a second attempt to send up a once-used cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station this weekend. The scrub pushes the launch window back to Saturday at 5:07 p.m. The Dragon will be loaded with nearly 6,000 pounds of supplies for astronauts, along with science experiments and research investigations. (6/1)

Musk and Disney's Robert Iger Quit Trump Advisory Councils, Citing Climate Change (Source: LA Times)
Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Robert Iger both said they were resigning from White House advisory councils after President Trump announced Thursday that he is withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord. Along with those two chief executives, other pillars of corporate America — including Google’s chief executive and Amazon.com — joined a growing chorus of disapproval over Trump’s decision. (6/1)

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