June 14, 2017

Operator License for Spaceport Colorado Could be Less than a Year Away (Source: Denver Post)
A Colorado airport may finally get its commercial spaceport license next year. The FAA visited Front Range Airport, east of Denver, on Tuesday, and said the facility could receive an FAA spaceport license by early next year. The airport has been promoting itself as "Spaceport Colorado" for several years, but said efforts to receive an FAA license have been a "lengthy process," in part because of the need to coordinate airspace with nearby Denver International Airport. Even with the license, airport leaders say it will likely take five to eight years before commercial spaceplanes would be flying from the spaceport. (6/14)

Russian Soyuz Launches Cargo to ISS (Source: NASA)
A Soyuz rocket successfully launched a Progress cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station this morning. The Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:20 a.m. Eastern and placed the Progress MS-06 spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft, carrying more than three tons of supplies and fuel, will dock with the station's Zvezda module Friday morning. (6/14)

NASA Closing Down Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: Space News)
NASA is in the process of closing out its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) program. Agency officials said Tuesday that ARM is now in "an orderly closeout phase" after the administration announced plans to cancel the mission in its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal earlier this year. That closeout includes cancellation of selections of payloads and members of an investigation team for the mission that were announced last year. ARM would have sent a robotic spacecraft to a near Earth asteroid to grab a boulder and return it to lunar orbit to be visited by a crewed Orion mission. Many key technologies being developed for ARM, like solar-electric propulsion, will continue. (6/14)

Boeing Reorganizes Defense and Space Business Unit (Source: Bloomberg)
Boeing is reorganizing the management of its defense and space business, cutting 50 jobs in the process. The company announced Tuesday that Boeing Defense, Space & Security would break up its two current units, Boeing Military Aircraft and Network & Space Systems, into four smaller groups. The Space and Missile Systems unit, to be led by Jim Chilton, will include the company's current space business, such as satellite manufacturing, ISS operations and the company's stake in United Launch Alliance. The move is intended to streamline management of the business and be more responsive. (6/14)

Orbcomm Acquiring Inthinc (Source: Space News)
Orbcomm has acquired another company in its effort to transform from a satellite operator to a broader provider of hardware and tracking services. Orbcomm announced this week that it is buying inthinc, a Salt Lake City provider of vehicle telematics and driver safety products, for $35 million. The acquisition is the tenth by Orbcomm since 2012 as it expands its business into hardware, applications and device management. (6/14)

Defense Spending Could Trump Space Spending (Source: Space News)
Increased spending on space systems could be a casualty of defense budget negotiations. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned at a hearing this week that unless negotiations on a 2018 Pentagon budget start now, it's likely the Defense Department will start the fiscal year on a continuing resolution, keeping funding at 2017 levels. That, and the threat of sequestration-related cuts, could jeopardize plans in the budget proposal to increase spending on space systems, including missile warning and GPS satellites. (6/14)

NASA Transition Chief Takes DOD Job (Source: DOD)
The former head of the NASA transition team has taken a new job at the Pentagon. The Defense Department named Chris Shank as senior adviser to the secretary and under secretary of the Air Force, one of several appointments to senior positions announced Tuesday. Shank chaired the NASA transition team last fall for the incoming Trump administration before taking a position on the "beachhead team" at the Defense Department after the inauguration. (6/14)

Foundation Creates Asteroid Institute (Source: GeekWire)
The B612 Foundation is establishing an "Asteroid Institute" as it sets aside plans for a large space telescope. The foundation, devoted to planetary defense issues, is working with the University of Washington on the institute, supporting two postdoctoral fellows at the university to develop tools to track near Earth objects and assess their impact threats. The foundation has been best known for proposals for a space telescope called Sentinel to track such objects, but foundation leaders say they are no longer pursuing the project because of other efforts, like NASA's proposed NEOCam mission. (6/14)

Orbital ATK Poised to Test Orion Launch Abort Motor (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA, Orbital ATK and Lockheed Martin are slated to carry out the first of three qualification ground tests (QM-1) of the Launch Abort Motor being developed for use on the space agency’s Orion spacecraft. The vertical ground test firing is slated to take place Thursday at 1 p.m. MDT at Orbital ATK’s test facility located near Promontory, Utah.

In the event of an emergency either at the launch pad or during ascent, Orion is fitted with a Launch Abort System or “LAS” that would pull Orion’s Command Module away from the vehicle’s Service Module as well as the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket it is attached to.

The 17-foot (5.2-meter) tall Launch Abort Motor set to be tested is the main motor in the escape system and has a diameter of about three feet (1 meter). It has a manifold that has four nozzles and turns the flow of the flames to create a pulling motion. (6/14)

Space Florida and Israel Innovation Authority Announce Joint Funding Winners (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and the Israel Innovation Authority have announced fourth-round winners of industrial research and development funding tied to the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership Program. In October 2013, Florida and Israel created a $2 million recurring joint fund to support research, development and commercialization of aerospace and technology projects that benefit both Israel and Florida.

For this year's collaboration, 22 joint proposals were submitted by teams of for-profit companies in Florida and Israel, and five teams have been selected. They include projects focused on genetics; 3D printed electonics; UAS vehicle systems for mosquito control; and 3D printed ceramic materials. Click here for details. (6/13)

World View and KFC Plan Stratospheric Balloon Mission for Chicken Sandwich (Source: GeekWire)
Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken is planning to fly its Zinger sandwich up to the stratosphere and back on a World View balloon platform. But no, the mission isn’t merely a publicity stunt. For World View Enterprises, the flight is expected to serve as a four-day shakedown cruise for its “Stratollite” system, which could eventually send military and commercial imaging payloads to the edge of the atmosphere for months at a time.

“When KFC first brought this to us, we had a good chuckle,” World View CEO Jane Poynter told reporters during a teleconference today. But then the Arizona-based company realized there could be a serious point behind the project. “If you can fly a chicken sandwich to the edge of space … you can fly really just about anything,” Poynter said. (6/13)

Russian Firm Plans Cooperation with China on Lunar Mission (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Lavochkin Research and Production Association is ready to work with China on designing lunar exploration missions, including orbital and return ones, said Sergei Lemeshevsky, the Russian company's director general. CNSA chief Xu Yansong said that China and Russia were in talks on lunar exploration cooperation, because China's Chang'e-4, Chang'e-5, Chang'e-6 missions were quite similar to Russia's Luna-26, Luna-27, Luna-28.

"Variants of cooperation on spacecraft Luna-Resurs (Luna 26/27) and Luna-Grunt (Luna-29) actually exist, we are ready to discuss the variants of mutual cooperation," Lemeshevsky said. The head of the Russian company noted that the firm was working closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) on Luna-Glob (Luna-25), which is supposed to launch in 2019 and to perfect soft-landing technologies. (6/13)

What China's Space Ambitions Have to do With Politics (Source: Space Daily)
Experts told Sputnik they believe China's space ambitions are driven not only by the goal of space exploration itself but also by politics. Tommy Yang - China's commitment to its space exploration programs is driven by the same sense of national pride that fueled the "space race" between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1960s, experts told Sputnik.

China's space programs topped the What China's Space Ambitions Have to Do With Politicss this week after Chinese authorities unveiled more details of the nation's Lunar exploration and manned spaceflight missions during the 2017 Global Space Exploration Conference in Beijing. (6/13)

The Rise and Fall of Suborbital Space Tourism Companies (Source: Space News)
Most of the X Prize teams faded away after Scaled Composites won the prize, unable to raise money or develop the technology needed for their vehicles. The few that would continue on would encounter problems of one kind or another that would delay or derail their efforts. Click here. (6/13)

The Tiny Edit That Changed NASA's Future (Source: The Atlantic)
On March 21 of this year, both parties in Congress and the Trump administration made a change to a federal document that amounted to only a few words, but which may well change the course of human history. Amongst the many pages of the 2017 NASA Authorization Act (S. 422) the Agency’s mission encompasses expected items such as continuation of the space station, building of big rockets, indemnification of launch and reentry service providers for third party claim and so on.

But in this year’s bill, Congress added a momentous phrase to the agency’s mission: “the search for life’s origins, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.” It’s a short phrase, but a visionary one, setting the stage for a far-reaching effort, that could have as profound an impact on the 21st century as the Apollo program had on the 20th. Click here. (6/13)

When Flatworms Go to Space, They Grow Two Heads (Source: Ars Technica)
Among the hundreds of scientific tests happening on the International Space Station, only one has yielded a result worthy of a B-movie starring Ice Cube. It turns out that flatworms undergo an odd and as-yet-unexplained transformation in space. When profoundly injured, they grow a second head.

Scientists who study tissue regeneration have long been fascinated by flatworms because of the worms' ability to regrow after being cut in half. The worms can even regrow heads. But as Tufts University biology researcher Junji Morokuma and his colleagues explain in a paper for the journal Regeneration, they have never seen a worm grow two heads after amputation. But that's just what happened when an amputated flatworm was sent to the ISS back in January 2015. (6/13)

Space Tourism Investment Prospects in the Near Future (Source: Space News)
By all accounts, 2018 should be the year of the space tourist. Like the Chicago Cubs who endured decades of “wait until next year,” credibly both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic should be positioned to fly paying passengers in late 2018. How will a successful commercial flight impact the economics of space tourism? What is the demand for such flights?

One key question for the space tourism industry is will there be repeat flyers? That is, until space tourism is a destination-based business (e.g. flights to a private space station or to the moon) will flyers pay to fly more than once after they have earned their astronaut wings? The answer to this is likely very dependent on the experience itself. Click here. (6/13)

Boeing, DARPA to Base XS-1 Spaceplane at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A reusable suborbital spaceplane the size of a business jet being developed by Boeing and the Defense Department’s research and development arm could be launching and landing at Cape Canaveral in 2020, officials said after the defense contractor won a competition last month to design and test the vehicle.

Designed for rapid reusability, the XS-1 spaceplane will take off vertically like a rocket — without a crew — deploy an upper stage after traveling beyond the edge of space, then return to landing on a runway for inspections and reuse.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, selected Boeing to finish designing the spaceplane last month. Boeing beat competitors Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems to win the $146 million contract. Boeing and DARPA are developing the spaceplane in a cost-sharing public-private partnership arrangement, but Boeing did not disclose how much it is spending on the program. (6/13)

Virgin Orbit’s CEO Will Use Psychology to Launch Satellites Faster Than Anyone Else (Source: Quartz)
Building a rocket is as much as an art as a science, according to Dan Hart, the newly-minted CEO of Virgin Orbit, one of a number of new launch-vehicle companies aiming to ride a wave of investment in small satellite businesses.

Hart, a long-time Boeing executive, joined Virgin Galactic, the space company financed by entrepreneur Richard Branson, earlier this year. Now, with Virgin Orbit spinning out as a stand-alone firm as Branson’s space companies focus on bringing products to market after years of delays, Hart is formally being made the company’s chief executive.

Orbit hopes to offer flights on its rocket, LauncherOne, for $12-15 million a pop. On a per kilogram rate, that would still be more expensive than SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Because the company will focus on smaller satellites, tailoring its services and launch timing to their needs, Orbit still expects to find enough customers for at least 10 launches a year before increasing the tempo to 20 if the demand is there. (6/13)

Lawmakers Show Little Agreement on the Defense Budget (Source: Space News)
U.S. lawmakers indicated there is little agreement on President Donald Trump’s defense budget proposal — with space likely to be a casualty of the fallout. Military space programs made out fairly well in the budget request the White House sent Congress late last month. Unclassified space spending — most of it managed by the U.S. Air Force — would total $7.75 billion in 2018, a roughly 25 percent increase over 2017 levels. (6/13)

What the Heck Is the National Space Council? (Source: Motherboard)
During an address last week to the new class of NASA's astronauts, Mike Pence announced that President Trump will be restoring the National Space Council after it was disbanded 24 years ago. But what's the council, and how will it impact NASA?

Pence will head the council, which was an oversight entity formed during the Space Race. Historically, the council has overseen all American space activities, including NASA and the Pentagon's space programs. But the council has had different levels of power under different presidents. It was disbanded by Nixon and wasn't relaunched until 1989 by George H.W. Bush. Bill Clinton got rid of it again in 1993, meaning Trump will become just the second president since Lyndon Johnson to use the council. (6/13)

Orbiting ‘Space Nation’ Data Center Could Avoid All Earthly Laws (Source: New Scientist)
Self-styled “space nation” Asgardia is planning to put a data centre in orbit, beyond the reach of Earthly laws, but lawyers say that leaving the planet isn’t enough to get around them. As more organisations seek to exploit space in this way, it’s time we decide how to govern the final frontier. Asgardia announced itself last year as a space-based nation, independent of countries on Earth, and has since convinced 180,000 people to become citizens by filling out an online form. (6/13)

Former Orlando Radio Broadcaster Retires as NASA Commentator (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
George Diller, the longest-serving NASA launch commentator and a former Sarasota resident who famously called the space shuttle program's return to flight in 2005, has retired after 37 years.

Diller rotated as the voice of the space shuttle program and served as the launch commentator for NASA Television. He gave commentary for the final space shuttle mission with Atlantis in 2011; the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990; probes launched to the moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Pluto; and the Atlas V rocket that carried the Mars Laboratory and Curiosity rover. (6/13)

Meet Jessica Watkins, The Only Black Woman In NASA’s Newest Astronaut Class (Source: Huffpost)
Watch out, universe. NASA’s newest class of astronauts includes one woman with some serious black girl magic. NASA announced its first class of astronaut candidates since 2013 on Wednesday. The twelve candidates from various backgrounds and fields of study met some pretty rigorous requirements and made it to the top of the pool of 18,300 applicants, a record number for NASA. Among them is one black woman: Jessica Watkins. Click here. (6/13)

Why Most Astronauts are Men (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has selected another class of astronauts, some of them young enough to be assigned a mission to Mars if the U.S. space agency maintains anything like its announced schedule for pushing human exploration into deep space. All of them are impressive, and if past is prologue almost all of them will be up for whatever the job throws at them. As has been the case with every group of U.S. astronauts but one, there are more men than women. (6/14)

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