June 17, 2017

Falcon 9 Launch Scheduled for Monday (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The launch of a commercial Bulgarian television broadcast satellite from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is set for Monday after SpaceX ran through a mock countdown Thursday and test-fired a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket’s Merlin main engines. SpaceX pushed back the launch of the BulgariaSat 1 communications satellite two days — from Saturday to Monday — earlier his week after preparations for the static fire ran behind schedule. (6/16)

5 Healthcare Developments That Were Born in Space (Source: Mashable)
Space might just be the next frontier in our quest for better health. That’s because numerous healthcare developments we’ve come to rely on over the years got their start with astronauts. The microgravity climate of the International Space Station combined with the unique needs of making mechanical repairs in space and research efforts beyond our universe have led to some pretty amazing technologies – many of which we benefit from today. Discover how the healthcare industry has come to rely on space as a breeding ground for innovation. Click here. (6/16) 

NASA and Industry Team Successfully Test Orion Launch Abort Motor (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK, along with NASA and Lockheed Martin, successfully performed a ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) at Orbital ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah. The launch abort motor is a major part of the LAS, which provides a tremendous enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts.

The mission for Orion’s LAS is to safely jettison the spacecraft and crew out of harm’s way in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial launch ascent. Today’s abort motor test, Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1), was the culmination of a series of component tests conducted over the past few years in preparation for qualification. The test will confirm the motor can activate within milliseconds and will perform as designed under high temperatures. (6/15)

Entanglement Distributed over 1200 km by Quantum Satellite (Source: PhysicsWorld)
Entangled photon pairs have been separated and sent to cities in China more than 1200 km apart. This is about 10 times further than had been achieved previously. The feat was performed using pairs produced on board a Chinese satellite and could lead to the development of long-distance quantum cryptography.

In August 2016, China launched the world's first satellite dedicated to testing the fundamentals of quantum communication in space. On board the $100m Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) spacecraft is a "Sagnac" interferometer that is used to generate two entangled infrared photons by shining an ultraviolet laser on a nonlinear optical crystal. Now, a team led by Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei has used the photon source to distribute entangled photons to pairs of three ground stations in China – each up to 1200 km apart. (6/16)

New Quantum-Entanglement Record Could Spur Hack-Proof Communications (Source: Space.com)
A Chinese satellite has split pairs of "entangled photons" and transmitted them to separate ground stations 745 miles apart, smashing the previous distance record for such a feat and opening new possibilities in quantum communication. In quantum physics, when particles interact with each other in certain ways they become "entangled." This essentially means they remain connected even when separated by large distances, so that an action performed on one affects the other.

Quantum entanglement has interesting applications for testing the fundamental laws of physics, but also for creating exceptionally secure communication systems, scientists have said. That's because quantum mechanics states that measuring a quantum system inevitably disturbs it, so any attempt to eavesdrop is impossible to hide.

But, it's hard to distribute entangled particles — normally photons — over large distances. When traveling through air or over fiber-optic cables, the environment interferes with the particles, so with greater distances, the signal decays and becomes too weak to be useful. (6/16)

The Millennial Astronaut Who Wants to Go to Mars (Source: The Atlantic)
When Jessica Watkins was growing up, NASA was launching space shuttle missions into low-Earth orbit about every few months. But Watkins, one of NASA’s newest astronauts, doesn’t really remember watching the launches on television. Her first enduring memory of American space exploration came in 2004, when a pair of robotic rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on the surface of Mars. Click here. (6/16)

More Money Approved for Spaceport America (Source: El Paso Proud)
Spaceport America in New Mexico is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from tax payers in Doña Ana County. A special board approved an item that will allow funds from the 2007 tax increase to go to the launch site. That means Spaceport. could see somewhere between 300 and 900-thousand dollars a year. As we reported, since 2009 Doña Ana County taxpayers have contributed nearly $50 million dollars to Spaceport. The Money was earmarked for building the launch site. Now, the funds can be used on other things like employees. (6/16)

China to Launch Four More Probes Before 2021 (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch a further four space probes before 2021 as part of the efforts to develop space science, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence Friday. The China-Italy Electromagnetic Monitoring Experiment Satellite will be launched this August to study phenomena related to earthquakes from space.

The China-France Oceanography Satellite is expected to be launched in 2018. It will study ocean-surface wind and waves to improve forecasts for ocean waves and strengthen disaster prevention and mitigation. An astronomical satellite jointly developed by China and France will be launched in 2021 to study gamma rays and provide data for research in dark energy and the evolution of the universe.

China plans to launch the country's first Mars probe in 2020, which is expected to orbit the red planet, land and deploy a rover in just one mission. These will be the major probes in the country's space program in the coming years, following Thursday's launch of the country's first X-ray space telescope, the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope. (6/16)

A Step Toward Democratizing Space (Source: Billionaire)
If you’re thinking this is a follow-up toThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’re not far off. Russian rocket scientist and engineer Igor Ashurbeyli is trying to form Asgardia, what he calls the first space nation, a non-profit NGO, which, in the long term, he plans to lead to the first human habitation in space.

It will start with the launch of a small unmanned satellite — Asgardia-1 — into orbit in September, containing data hand-picked by the hundreds of thousands individuals who have voluntarily signed up for free to become the first citizens of Asgardia. That satellite will ride a cargo spacecraft up to the International Space Station and, once docked, it will be ejected into orbit. It will become the first footprint of Asgardia. (6/15)

National Space Council: Don’t Pull the Trigger Before You Load the Gun (Source: Space News)
Twice it was stood up, and twice it was knocked down. What makes the third time a charm? President Trump signed his first NASA authorization bill with Vice President Pence at his side. Pence said he will lead a revamped National Space Council. While the devil is in the details, it must be armed if it’s reestablished. Pulling the trigger on the National Space Council before it learns from the past is like firing an empty gun: it won’t have the desired effect. Click here. (6/16)

Boeing, Apple Could Build A New Internet In Space (Source: Investors Business Daily)
Here's a match made in heaven, or at least low Earth orbit: Boeing's aerospace expertise combined with Apple's consumer-product savvy. If the two form a partnership to provide broadband access via thousands of satellites, it could transform how you – and the machines that surround your life – will connect to the internet.

Boeing already has a plan to develop, launch and operate a constellation of 3,000 satellites in low Earth orbit. Apple is reportedly in talks with Boeing to be an investor-partner in the project. With Apple on board, hundred-year-old Boeing could beat out the likes of Facebook, Alphabet's Google and SpaceX in the race to create a new internet in space and capture hundreds of billions of dollars.

In the process, Boeing also could upend the telecom market and enable emerging technologies, ranging from smart devices to self-driving cars, that are expected to send the appetite for spectrum soaring. (6/16)

Increasing Competition in the Launch Vehicle Market (Source: LinkedIn)
The US Government relied on Delta and Atlas, they competed, then combined, and relied on a joint US/commercial market (EELV by ULA). Then came SpaceX, purely commercial, and now has created competition for ULA, bringing innovations and lower price points. Today Orbital-ATK announced they may enter that market, adding a third to the mix.

ULA's record of performance is world-class. However competitive forces are always needed to drive innovations and best value. The US Government has opened that door, and may open it again. While one must be mindful of striking a balance between healthy competition and over-supply, this seems to be a good trend. Space is "contested, congested, and competitive". US leadership must be maintained. It's critical to national defense.  This seems like a trend that will help and driven by government and commercial forces. When we do that, we can achieve anything. (5/26)

Air Force Budget Reveals How Much SpaceX Undercuts Launch Prices (Source: Ars Technica)
A 2014 GAO report on costs for the Air Force's launches of national security payloads on ULA rockets was critical of the non-transparent nature of ULA's launch prices and noted that the government "lacked sufficient knowledge to negotiate fair and reasonable launch prices." The Air Force pays both a firm, fixed-price for the rockets, as well as a cost-plus incentive fee known as an ELC contract. This ELC contact was essentially to maintain ULA's "launch readiness" for critical national security payloads.

Now, competitive transparency is allowing lawmakers to more directly compare ULA's costs against those of SpaceX and others. New law requires the Air Force consolidate launch costs into a single budget line beginning in FY-2020. The Air Force's new budget estimates combine the fixed-price and ELC contract costs and they are strikingly high: the "unit cost" of a single rocket launch in FY-2020 is $422 million, and $424 million for a year later. This represents the maximum amount per launch, if ULA is selected for all Air Force launchs in 2020.

Last year the Air Force awarded SpaceX $83 million to launch a GPS satellite, and another in March 2017 to launch GPS satellite for $96.5 million. These represent "all-in, fully burdened costs" to the government, roughly comparable to that $422 million "unit cost" in the Air Force budget for 2020. SpaceX sells basic commercial Falcon 9 launches for about $65 million. But for military launches there are additional costs that add tens of millions of dollars to the total price. (6/16)

ULA Chief Disagrees with Article on ULA Launch Costs (Source: ULA)
ULA CEO Tory Bruno issued a tweet expressing his disagreement with the Ars Technica article on ULA launch prices. "Lots of questions re MISLEADING Ars article. Cherry picked odd number. Old InfoG explains 2013 contract. http://RocketBuilder.com  for current". Click here for the infographic and tweet. (6/16)

Senate Votes 94-6 To Let NASA Keep Using Russian Rocket Engines (Source: RadioLiberty)
The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on June 15 to allow NASA to continue using Russian-made rocket engines in an amendment to legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia. ULA currently uses Russian RD-180 engines to launch civilian and military satellites, although agencies are working to develop alternatives to the Russian engines as required by sanctions legislation passed in 2014.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner, the author of the amendment allowing NASA to keep using Russian engines, said the U.S. space program could have been seriously impaired. "The underlying language...would have unintentionally sanctioned our...aerospace industry," he said. "NASA would have potentially had to close up to seven space missions" which have already cost billions of dollars, he said.

The exception for NASA was strongly opposed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, who called it a gift to the Russian defense industry and "cronies" of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was approved by 94-6. Editor's Note: the RD-180 restriction remains in place for national security launches. (6/16)

NASA Finally has Roadmap Back to Moon, Mars (Source: Clarion-Ledger)
The words hit me like a brick to the face. They weren’t anything I didn’t already know, but hearing them out loud was overwhelming. And sad. “We can’t get to the moon right now. We can’t even launch an American into low earth orbit anymore. We can’t get to the International Space Station without paying $70 million per seat to the Russians — the Russians. Our only backup is the Chinese.”

Embarrassing. Stupid. Puzzling. Those words were spoken to me by Congressman Steven Palazzo, who passionately shares my view that we should be pushing hard to send astronauts back to the moon, on to Mars and beyond. It’s our last frontier. And ask yourself this: Do you really want Russia or China or, God forbid, North Korea to one day rule space? Talk about sitting ducks on earth … we would be defenseless. So would every other nation. (6/16)

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