June 16, 2017

Wilson: Why I’m Directing The Air Force to Focus on Space (Source: Defense One)
For the service that I once served and now lead, one of the most important tasks ahead is getting space operations right.

In many respects, the Air Force and the nation are at a critical crossroads. We realize, as do our potential adversaries, that space is interconnected to American life and to U.S. military success. The time is now to integrate, elevate, and normalize space in the Air Force and thus assure continued American dominance in this most critical domain.

We will do this systematically and doggedly, drawing lessons from earlier periods in which airmen created the resources, tools, and tradecraft to assure freedom of access and freedom of operation for the U.S. military writ large. Today, we begin the process of standing up a new organization at the Pentagon that will be responsible for recruiting, training and equipping airmen involved in the space mission. The establishment of the deputy chief of staff for space operations is the next step toward ensuring that we maintain space superiority. (6/16)

NASA's Wild Fabric is Basically Chain Mail From the Future (Source: WIRED)
At $10,000 per pound to orbit, it pays to keep things light. To minimize the weight of its payload, NASA has experimented with inflatable materials that can balloon into habitats, and tangles of lightweight rods that can shift shape on different terrains. Now, designers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a foldable fabric that could pull triple duty during outer space missions.

Researchers at JPL spent the last two years developing a metallic space fabric made of interlocking stainless steel squares. It looks like chain mail, but unlike the ancient armor, NASA’s fabric isn’t welded together. Instead a 3-D printer extrudes stainless steel as a continuous sheet of material with different properties on each side. Click here. (6/16)

NewSpace Thinking - Arianespace Valuation: $500 Million. Rocket Lab: $1 Billion (Source: Space Intel Report)
You know the power of New Space and the New Economy — as ideas, if not as business models — has reached a high-water mark when the former director-general of the European Space Agency seeks to explain the fact that a startup launch operator has a higher market valuation than Europe’s Arianespace.

Jean-Jacques Dordain, who is now on the advisory board for the Luxembourg government’s space-mining initiative, spaceresources.lu, did not defend the fact the valuations themselves, but rather to defend their ultimate value to society. “This is the characteristic of the New Economy, to invest in businesses of the future, not in current businesses,” Dordain said.

“It’s extraordinary that we assign a much higher value to future businesses than than to current business. Take the company Rocket Lab. It has conducted one launch, which was a failure. It has been valued at $1 billion. “Arianespace, which launches 10-12 times per year with success, is valued at much less than $1 billion as we saw from the sale of shares between CNES and Airbus. We assign more value to a business’s perspectives than to its current value. And space is not an exception to this rule.” (6/16)

Musk Promises Update on Mars Plan – Including How He’ll Fund It (Source: GeekWire)
The newly published print version, appearing on the New Space website, recaps Musk’s 95-minute talk at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico last September – during which he laid out a decades-long plan to develop and launch fleets of giant spaceships to Mars, each carrying 100 passengers at a time.

The presentation has been online in video form for months, with accompanying slides, but the text-plus-graphics version is arguably easier to scan and digest. It’ll be available for free through July 5, after which time it’ll presumably be downloadable for a fee in the range of $51. Click here. (6/16)

The Bandwidth Black Hole That Will Kill Elon Musk’s Mars Dream (Source: New Scientist)
SpaceX's Mars dreams are in jeopardy because of a little-known problem: the deteriorating communications infrastructure between Mars and Earth. This set-up could be inoperative as soon the mid-2020s, leaving us unable to launch the next generation of landers and rovers, let alone get any useful scientific information from them. We need to get serious about building the interplanetary internet or, instead of colonizing a new planet, we’ll be going nowhere fast.

To understand the problem, consider what happens when communications come from Mars today. A rover usually sends it first to one of the five spacecraft orbiting the planet, which then relay the information to the Deep Space Network on Earth. This set of three facilities, each with an array of at least four antennae, is strategically placed around our planet so that any spacecraft can always communicate with at least one location.

Using this system to send a single, high-definition colour image from Mars to Earth takes at least 30 minutes. One 22-minute video will take nearly six days to transmit – and that’s assuming that no competing information, like scientific instructions or requests for emergency medical assistance, needs to be relayed at the same time. (6/16)

Budget Proposal Fails to Recognize NASA’s Growing Importance to Nation (Source: Space News)
Vice President Pence stressed the importance of NASA’s work to inspire young people and demonstrate American leadership to the world and pledged that “NASA will have the resources and support needed to continue to make history, to push the boundaries of human knowledge, and advance American leadership to the boundless frontier of space.”

We applaud Vice President Pence’s support for a great NASA, and industry stands ready to work to assure that NASA can meet this bold vision for American space leadership. Unfortunately, the administration’s FY2018 budget request seeks to cut NASA by more than $560 million and then hold spending flat through 2022, further eroding NASA’s buying power from levels that are already below those of the 1990s. This budget fails to address NASA’s growing — not shrinking — importance to our nation. (6/16)

French Startup Raises $1.9 Million for Smallsat Electric Propulsion (Source: Space News)
A pair of French entrepreneurs have raised 1.7 million euros ($1.9 million) for a new electric propulsion system to address the small satellite market. ThrustMe, a startup formed in February, raised the money from Kima Ventures and a collection of U.S. and European angel investors in order to fund a technology demonstration in the next 18 months. The startup also plans to use the funding to double its headcount to 14 and to secure customers. (6/16)

It’s Time to Explore Uranus and Neptune Again — and Here's How NASA Could Do It (Source: The Verge)
A group of researchers from NASA and various US universities have come up with plans to explore two of the least visited planets in our Solar System: Uranus and Neptune. That’s because compared to the other worlds in our cosmic neighborhood, these ice giants have been sorely neglected.

To fix that, researchers released a report this week detailing four different types of missions that could be sent to Uranus and Neptune sometime in the next decade or so. The concepts include vehicles that could orbit the planets for 10 to 15 years and even carry probes to dive into the worlds’ atmospheres. The main focus of each mission would be to figure out what the planets are made of — and how their interiors are structured. Click here. (6/16)

Space Station Welcomes Food and Supplies from Russian Ship (Source: Space.com)
A robotic Russian cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station Friday (June 16), delivering tons of fresh food and other supplies for the orbiting lab's crew. The Progress 67 spacecraft linked up with the space station in a smooth docking at 7:37 a.m. EDT as both vehicles sailed 258 miles over the Philippine Sea. (6/16)

Classified Satellite Swings Close to ISS (Source: Ars Technica)
A close pass of the International Space Station by a classified satellite remains a mystery. USA 273 was launched May 1 on a SpaceX Falcon 9, and amateur satellite trackers noticed its orbit brought the spacecraft to as little as 4.4 kilometers from the station on June 3. Neither NASA nor the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates USA 273, have commented on whether the close flyby was deliberate or a coincidence. (6/14)

KSC's Cabana Set for Senate Hearing (Source: Senate Commerce Committee)
KSC Director Robert Cabana and SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell will be among the witnesses at a Senate hearing next week. The hearing, scheduled for the afternoon of June 21, will focus on partnerships between the government and the private sector "to advance exploration and settlement."

Other witnesses include Tim Ellis, the co-founder and CEO of launch vehicle startup Relativity; Moriba Jah, a space situational awareness expert at the University of Texas; and Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks. The hearing is the third in a series by the Senate's space subcommittee on commercial space issues. (6/15)

Is the Earth-Observation Industry Consolidating, or Just Evolving? (Source: Space News)
Do three events constitute a trend? For many in the Earth-observation industry, the answer seems to be yes. Three deals in less than three months appeared to herald a new wave of consolidation among both established companies and startups. It started in early February when Google announced it was selling its Terra Bella satellite imaging company — originally known as Skybox Imaging — to Planet for an undisclosed sum.

Three weeks later, Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) announced it was acquiring DigitalGlobe, itself the product of the merger of other remote sensing companies, for $2.4 billion. Two months later, in a far smaller deal, EagleView Technologies announced it was buying OmniEarth. (6/14)

How One Company Wants to Recycle Used Rockets Into Deep-Space Habitats (Source: The Verge)
As NASA works toward sending people into deep space, the agency is looking for new types of space habitats that astronauts can live in far from Earth. One company, Nanoracks, has a design idea in mind — but rather than build something completely new, the company has a bold plan to recycle space hardware to create living quarters. Their plan: turn used rocket tanks into suitable places for deep-space explorers to live.

And now, Nanoracks has signed a contract with NASA to start turning this habitat concept into reality. Last summer, the company was one of six picked to be part of the second round of NASA’s NextSTEP program, an initiative to create concepts and ground prototypes of novel deep-space habitats. Now with a finalized contract, Nanoracks can get to work on developing its concept, called Ixion, and eventually turning a spent rocket tank into a habitat that can then be tested out in space. (6/15)

The State of Planetary and Space Sciences in Africa (Source: EOS)
Africa has an enormous potential to provide insights into planetary and space sciences, but it has remained largely untapped. Fostering a new generation of scientists promises far-reaching benefits. Click here. (6/15)

Kamaz Truck Driver Dies in Fire at Rocket Stage Drop Zone (Source: Tass)
The driver of a Kamaz truck operated by Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia rocket-and-space enterprise has died while extinguishing a fire in the Kazakh steppe, which erupted at the drop zone of the stages of the Russian Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket, the Roscomos Space Corporation reported on Thursday.

"According to the available information, the Kamaz truck driver, an employee of JSC NPO Mashinostroyenia, has died while extinguishing the fire. JSC NPO Mashinostroyenia (not affiliated to Roscosmos) oversees maintenance of the drop zones. The fire engulfed the Kamaz vehicle after a particularly strong gust of wind," says a report obtained by TASS. (6/15)

Space Debris is More Than a Nuisance; it’s a Borderline Violation of International Agreement (Source: Space News)
Despite all the discussion about orbital debris, there hasn’t been much analysis of whether established rules and agreements are being violated by spacefaring countries that create the debris. This isn’t surprising since it is primarily the spacefaring countries that set these boundaries in the first place. Still, spacefaring countries that create debris and make no effort to remove it are, at best, negligent in their obligations, and at worst, in violation of their own commitments.

Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty provides that a state “shall retain jurisdiction” and control over its objects. In sum, a state that has launched an object into space will always own and be responsible for that object. In addition, the Outer Space Treaty points to additional principled obligations against the creation of space debris. Click here. (6/15)

Students and Educators Become Rocket Scientists for a Week at NASA Wallops (Source: SpaceRef)
Have you wondered what it would be like to be a real rocket scientist? Approximately 150 university and community college students and instructors and high school educators will get that chance during Rocket Week June 17 through 23 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Nearly 130 university and community college students and instructors from across the country will build and fly experiments on a NASA suborbital rocket through the RockOn! and RockSat-C programs. Another 20 high school educators from across the United States will examine how to apply rocketry basics into their curriculum through the Wallops Rocket Academy for Teachers (WRATs). (6/14)

Florida Company Encouraged by Results of ISS Agri-Biotech Research (Source: ZGSI)
Zero Gravity Solutions, a South Florida agricultural biotechnology company, announced favorable results from their initial educational research experiment using the BAM-FX micronutrient product on the International Space Station (ISS). A second educational experiment utilizing BAM-FX, launched to the ISS aboard the SpaceX 11 Cargo Mission to the International Space Station on June 3, 2017 has reached the ISS.

The second experiment, currently on board the ISS, incorporates hardware designed by the team of Valley Christian High School students, contains dried filter paper impregnated with a plant growth solution, with and without BAM-FX, to which broccoli seeds were affixed. These filters were rehydrated on command once safely in orbit on the ISS. Click here. (6/14)

Navy Veteran Discovers Rare NASA, Spy Drone Photos in Trash (SourcE: Click2Houston)
Yvette Quinn was convinced the list of aerospace engineers she discovered in a neighbor’s trash a few weeks ago was solid gold for international con men. The Navy veteran said she was concerned because the list of scientists had secret and top secret clearance along with their Social Security numbers in plain view.

Charles Jeffrey, a top space flight memorabilia appraiser for the American Space Museum in Titusville, Florida, said the find of the Gemini – Titan II press manual and the Titan manual tucked away in the stacks of photos was “history.” “Yeah, you have history,” Jeffrey said. “They were designing some of the very first unmanned aircraft drones.” Click here. (6/15)

NASA Prepares for Future Space Exploration with International Undersea Crew (Source: Space Daily)
NASA will send an international crew to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean this summer to prepare for future deep space missions during the 10-day NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 22 expedition slated to begin June 18.

NEEMO 22 will focus on both exploration spacewalks and objectives related to the International Space Station and deep space missions. As an analogue for future planetary science concepts and strategies, marine science also will be performed under the guidance of Florida International University's marine science department. (6/14)

Russian Billionaire in Hong Kong Touts World’s First Space Nation Asgardia (Source: South China Morning Post)
More than 28,000 Chinese, including over 1,000 Hongkongers, have joined the “world’s first space nation” founded by a Russian billionaire and scientist. Named “Asgardia” after the city of skies in Norse mythology, the unusual project is backed by a group of scientists keen to create an independent nation outside existing political and legal frameworks. Click here. (6/15)

Trudeau Under Pressure to Reject China Bid for Satellite Firm (Source: Space Daily)
Pressure ratcheted up Tuesday on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to effectively deny a Chinese firm's purchase of Canadian satellite communications company Norsat, over national security concerns.

Its purchase by Hytera Communications was approved earlier this month, after a routine security analysis. But since then, opposition parties, two former Canadian spy masters and a US congressional commission have raised concerns over the sale, which was put on hold Monday after a US hedge fund came forward with an unsolicited rival bid. (6/13)

Mars Mania is Completely Rational (Source: Space News)
In April, NASA’s robotic probe Cassini attracted widespread media coverage as it neared the end of its expedition of Saturn and its moons. While NASA celebrates the remarkable success of Cassini, it is hard not to look towards the future and ask, ‘what’s next?’

For the White House, the answer remains Mars. Recently, President Donald Trump showed his enthusiastic support for NASA’s mission to the red planet during a call with astronaut Peggy Whitson, boldly declaring, “we want to try and do it during my first term.” But, beyond the impossibility of such a near-term goal, is there sufficient motivation for a manned mission to Mars? Click here. (6/15)

China Launches X-Ray Space Telescope to Study Black Holes (Source: Gadgets)
China successfully launched on Thursday its first X-ray space telescope to study black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts, state media reported. A Long March-4B rocket carried the 2.5-tonne telescope into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), named Insight, will allow Chinese scientists to observe magnetic fields and the interiors of pulsars and better understand the evolution of black holes. (6/15)

Suborbital Space Race? Virgin and Blue Will Get There When They Get There (Source: Space News)
There are a few things a would-be suborbital space tourist must have. One, obviously, is a bank account large enough to afford the six-figure ticket price for a spaceflight. He or she also needs a tolerance of the risks inherent in spaceflight and be in at least decent health to handle the g-forces of launch and reentry. Perhaps most importantly, though, a space tourist needs patience.

More than a decade ago, Virgin Galactic started selling tickets for suborbital flights of SpaceShipTwo, still in its early phases of development. They started with a group of 100 customers, called “Founders,” who paid $200,000 up front. Among those Founders is Namira Salim, a Pakistani-born artist and adventurer who has traveled to both the North and South Poles.

Neither Salim nor any other Founder customers have flown to space yet. However, Salim is not impatient. “Yes, it has taken a bit longer,” she said in an interview in Washington in May after an event by her foundation, Space Trust. “I’ve never complained because, you know, we have to do it right.” Click here. (6/15)

Women Have Advantages As Astronauts, But History Gives Men A Head Start (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)

Spat Threatens China’s Plans to Build World’s Largest Telescope (Source: Science)
China's astronomers are united in wanting a world-class giant optical telescope, one that would serve notice that they are ready to compete on the global stage. But a squabble has opened up over the telescope's design. On one side is an established engineering team, led by a veteran optics expert responsible for the nation's largest existing telescope, that is eager to push ahead with an ambitious design.

On the other are astronomers reveling in a grassroots priority-setting exercise—unprecedented for China—who have doubts about the ambitious design and favor something simpler.

Now, a panel of international experts has reviewed the designs and come out squarely in favor of the simpler proposal, according to a copy of the review obtained by Science. But the conclusion has not ended what one Chinese astronomer calls "an epic battle" between the high-ranking engineers accustomed to top-down control over projects and the nascent grassroots movement. (6/15)

Mistaken Brown Dwarf is Actually Two Planets Orbiting Each Other (Source: New Scientist)
Finding massive planets is nothing new these days. But finding them orbiting each other instead of orbiting a star is unprecedented. An object initially thought to be a single brown dwarf is actually a pair of giant worlds. It’s not yet clear how this binary system formed, but the discovery may help redefine the line between planets and brown dwarfs – failed stars with tens of times the mass of Jupiter.

This pair of planets is made up of two balls of gas the size of Jupiter but almost four times more massive, separated by some 600 million kilometres, and slowly circling each other once per century or so. The young couple only emits light at infrared wavelengths, with residual heat from their formation, just 10 million years ago. (6/15)

New Evidence That All Stars are Born in Pairs (Source: Phys.org)
Did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes—though not an identical twin. And so did every other sunlike star in the universe, according to a new analysis. Many stars have companions, including our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, a triplet system. Astronomers have long sought an explanation.

Are binary and triplet star systems born that way? Did one star capture another? Do binary stars sometimes split up and become single stars? Astronomers have even searched for a companion to our sun, a star dubbed Nemesis because it was supposed to have kicked an asteroid into Earth's orbit that collided with our planet and exterminated the dinosaurs. It has never been found.

The new assertion is based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud filled with recently formed stars in the constellation Perseus, and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all sunlike stars are born with a companion. (6/15)

VAFB Set to Host First West Coast Launch with Automated Safety System (Source: Santa Maria Times)
A first-of-its-kind launch is set to take place this month from Vandenberg Air Force Base. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a set of Iridium NEXT satellites, is slated to blast off from VAFB’s Space Launch Complex-4 on June 25. The launch will be the first under Col. Michael Hough, the new commander of VAFB’s 30th Space Wing, and it will also be the first from the West Coast utilizing an Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS), which is expected to decrease launch costs and offer improved safety.

Along with assumed increased safety, the AFSS is also able to support multiple crafts in simultaneous flight, which is anticipated to be significant as companies build rockets with the intention of landing multiple boosters. The system also significantly cuts infrastructure costs and creates faster launch turnarounds by requiring fewer instruments. (6/15)

Musk Reveals Vision for a SpaceX City on Mars (Source: Newsweek)
Elon Musk has revealed his vision for what a SpaceX city on Mars would look like, saying he wants people to believe setting up a colony on the Red Planet will be possible within our lifetimes. Musk has discussed the possibility of creating a human settlement on Mars for several years. SpaceX is currently planning to send a robotic mission to Mars by 2024, and says that manned missions could begin as early as 2024--long before NASA’s projected timescale of the early 2030s. Click here. (6/15)

Planetary Resources Pivots Again (Source: Parabolic Arc)
You might recall that last June the company announced it had raised a Series A round of funding totaling $21.1 million for an Earth-observation project called Ceres. The constellation of satellites would monitor ground targets using the infrared and hyperspectral sensors.

In the five years since the company came out of stealth mode, it has pivoted from focusing on asteroid missions to remote sensing and now back to asteroid missions. Planetary Resources main financial backer and partner is the government of Luxembourg, a postage stamp-size country that doesn’t have a lot of use for natural resource monitoring, but is very interested in asteroid mining. (6/15)

States Bet On Spaceports, Future Economic Benefits (Source: Forbes)
Spaceports are popping up over the country as private companies bet on a surge in commercial spaceflight and equally eager states maneuver to make room for them. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has licensed 10 spaceports in seven states since 1996 — two in California, two in Florida, two in Texas and one each in Oklahoma, Alaska, New Mexico and Virginia.

According to the FAA, any U.S. citizen or entity can apply for a spaceport, or what it characterizes as a “launch and reentry site.” In evaluating applications, the FAA determines whether proposed spaceports would jeopardize public health and safety, property, national security, foreign policy interests or U.S. international obligations.

The administration stresses that it “does not provide any incentives towards generation of spaceport proposals, nor does the FAA make any proactive determinations of where spaceports should be located.” In recent years, spaceports have been supported by state governments that have offered tax incentives and investment, as well as new laws that allow for the growth of the commercial spaceflight industry. Click here. (6/15)

Florida Aerospace Workshop Sets Course to Develop 21st Century Talent Pipeline (Source: EDC of Florida's Space Coast)
On May 24, more than 50 industry, education, government, regional, state and national stakeholders gathered at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to forge a collaborative model to lead an effort ensuring regional employers have access to the talent needed to scale their businesses now and in the future.

While Florida is home to one of the nation’s most robust STEM graduate student pipelines; the fast-paced growth of the aerospace and defense industry, both nationally and locally, provides a unique opportunity to the Space Coast community and business leadership to resolve an emerging challenge within the sector.

“A workforce that meets the present and future needs of Space Coast employers is our core mission and in a world where competition for technical talent is intense, we need to be sure we drive innovative programs that build Brevard’s talent pipeline and create opportunities for area residents,” said Marci Murphy, president of CareerSource Brevard. Immediate next steps are for the aerospace workshop participants to identify specific strategies, with particular focus on apprenticeships, internships and university co-ops; and to identify funding sources to support the efforts. (6/15)

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