June 19, 2017

Chinese Launch Misses Mark with Satellite Placement (Source: GB Times)
An upper stage malfunction has left a Chinese satellite in a lower-than-planned orbit after a launch Sunday. The Long March 3B lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 12:12 p.m. Eastern carrying the Chinasat-9A satellite. It was not until early Monday, though, that Chinese officials announced that the third stage of the rocket malfunctioned, leaving the satellite in a lower orbit than planned. Officials did not provide additional details about the satellite's orbit, but did state that the satellite had deployed its solar panels and was functioning normally. (6/19)

SpaceX Delays Florida Launch to Replace Fairing Valve (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX has postponed the launch of a Bulgarian communications satellite until Friday, setting up a "doubleheader" with a West Coast launch. SpaceX said Sunday it was delaying the Falcon 9 launch of BulgariaSat-1, previously scheduled for Monday, until at least Friday to replace a valve in the rocket's payload fairing. SpaceX said that, despite the delay in this launch from Florida, it was still targeting a Sunday launch of 10 Iridium Next satellites on a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (6/18)

XCOR Chief Gets DOD Job (Space News)
The White House has nominated the president and CEO of XCOR Aerospace to a top Pentagon position. The administration announced late Friday that it has nominated Jay Gibson to be Deputy Chief Management Officer within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a position responsible for management of business systems within the Defense Department. Gibson had been head of XCOR Aerospace, a developer of rocket engines and the Lynx suborbital spaceplane, since March 2015. During that time, the company halted work on Lynx to focus on engine work. (6/19)

Few Teachers Believe Students Interested in Subjects That Would Lead to Space Exploration Careers (Source: Space Daily)
A strong future Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workforce is vital to sending humans to Mars, yet a new survey commissioned by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) shows about a third of U.S. middle school and high school teachers (36 percent) see enthusiasm from their students about STEM learning.

To help address these findings, today the company unveiled new resources as part of its Generation Beyond program, including a space-themed curriculum and new app that simulates what it's like to explore the surface of Mars. NASA is planning to send a crew to Mars in the 2030s. To meet tomorrow's ambitious goals, the country will need thousands of today's students to follow career paths that will create the next generations of scientists, engineers and space explorers. (6/19)

Full-Scale Crew Dragon Recovery Trainer Being Built at KSC (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The evolution in Dragon design has been shaped by the CRS contract drawing a line between a cargo version and a crew version. Dragon v1 has been responsible for delivering 10 cargo shipments to the International Space Station (ISS). Crew Dragon, or Dragon v2, will fly crews to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) as early as 2018.

At the Kennedy Space Center, engineers are building a full-scale model, or Recovery Trainer, of the Crew Dragon capsule with the aid of the Kennedy Prototype Lab, which has a history of providing fast solutions to complex design challenges. SpaceX is putting the finishing engineering touches into the Recovery Trainer to ensure that it will float identically to how an actual Dragon v2 will with a crew present.

The Crew Dragon can carry up to seven astronauts, which makes evacuation more challenging. Two escape hatches and other various components within the Recovery Trainer will be present to better reflect a real-world environment for astronaut crew and Pararescuemen, also known as PJs. USAF Pararescuemen will be required to enter the water to assist in any number of rescue scenarios where a crew may or may not be able to assist in their own recovery. (6/19)

Rocket Scientist Says Space the Place for Budding Entrepreneurs (Source: Irish Times)
The man behind one of the world’s first rocket launches from a private site has called on Irish spacetech firms to focus on small satellites if they want to get ahead. Peter Beck, chief executive and founder of Rocket Lab, said money is no longer an obstacle for companies who want to build their own satellites.

Rocket Lab, whose mission it to remove barriers to commercial space by providing frequent-launch opportunities, last month successfully launched a low-cost battery-powered 3-D printed rocket called Electron into orbit from New Zealand’s remote Mahia Peninsula. The maiden flight was one of three tests the company is undertaking this year.

At full production Rocket Lab expects to launch more than 50 times a year, and is regulated to launch up to 120 times per annum. In comparison, there were 22 launches last year from the US, and 82 internationally. Starting price for flights start at about $5 million, with already-signed customers including NASA, Spire, Planet, Moon Express and Spaceflight. (6/15)

Spacecraft to Launch, Land at Cape Canaveral — and it's Not SpaceX or Blue Origin (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
An aerospace manufacturer will build a reusable spaceplane the size of a business jet that will launch from and land at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Boeing won the contract — valued at $146 million — with DARPA last month to build the spaceplane called the XS-1, or the Phantom Express. Vertical takeoff of the plane is scheduled for 2020, and the goal is for it to launch daily, with the ability to carry satellites to low Earth orbit.

Reusable rockets are becoming a staple for rocket companies to help lower the cost of launches and to be competitive in a growing commercial market. However, some experts have said we're still a long way off from used rocket totally changing the cost of launches. "I’ve been hearing the argument about reusability and they say it’s the path to the future, but we’re a long way off. Here's why: If you look at the economics of it, cost benefits only work if you get up to 50, 60 or 70 units a year, and then it starts to pay for itself,” said Vector's Jim Cantrell. (6/15)

Craig Technologies Wins NASA SLS Stage Adapter Role (Source: Craig Technologies)
Craig Technologies is part of the winning team that will be building the Universal Stage Adapter (USA) for NASA’s Space Launch System as a subcontractor to Dynetics, Inc. The USA will connect the Orion spacecraft to SLS and provides additional cargo space for future launch configurations.

The stage adapter is 32.4 feet tall and 27.6 feet in diameter at its largest point, and will provide environmental control to payloads during ground operations, launch and ascent, while also accommodating the electrical and communication paths between the Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) and Orion.

The Dynetics Team will design, develop, test, evaluate, produce and deliver the first universal stage adapter for the second integrated mission of SLS and Orion, known as Exploration Mission-2, or EM-2. This mission will be the first test flight with crew aboard NASA’s new deep space exploration systems. (6/19)

SpaceX's Mars-Colony Rocket Could Make "Pinpoint Landing" at Launch Pad (Source: Space.com)
SpaceX has already brought a Falcon 9 booster safely down to Earth 11 times during orbital launches, on each occasion successfully targeting a relatively small landing zone: either the deck of a robotic ship at sea or a pad on terra firma near the launch site.

But these touchdowns could get even more precise when SpaceX starts flying its huge, reusable Mars rockets, which the company is developing to help establish a million-person city on the Red Planet. "If you have been watching the Falcon 9 landings, you will see that they are getting increasingly closer to the bull's-eye," Musk wrote.

"In particular, with the addition of maneuvering thrusters, we think we can actually put the booster right back on the launch stand," he added. "Then, those fins at the base are essentially centering features to take out any minor position mismatch at the launch site." (6/15)

10 New Planets tThat Could Have Life Discovered (Source: USA Today)
en new Earth-size planets that could host liquid water and might have rocky surfaces have been found beyond our own modest solar system by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, scientists said Monday. The new planets’ existence must still be double-checked. But Kepler’s latest haul — which includes a planet that is only slightly larger than Earth and receives the same amount of energy from its sun as Earth — is the latest triumph for Kepler, which has spotted roughly 80% of the planets orbiting stars other than our sun. (6/19)

Lockheed Martin Picks Harris Corp. to Upgrade F-35 Avionics (Source: Harris)
Lockheed Martin has selected Harris Corp. to upgrade mission system avionics for the F-35 Lightning II as part of the Technology Refresh #3 (TR3) program, significantly boosting the aircraft’s data storage, display processing and throughput capabilities. Based on Florida's Space Coast, Harris will provide the Aircraft Memory System (AMS) and Panoramic Cockpit Display Electronic Unit (PCD EU), which are based on open architecture and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology. (6/19)

Selecting a New Astronaut Class (Source: Space Review)
Earlier this month, NASA unveiled a new class of 12 astronauts from a record-breaking pool of more than 18,000 applicants. Jeff Foust reports on how NASA carried out that selection process and the future of both new and current astronauts from the point of view of the agency’s former chief astronaut. Click here. (6/19)
Better Than Paris: Space Solar Power (Source: Space Review)
The decision by the White House to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord has been widely criticized. Peter Garretson believes, though, that it opens new opportunities for the United States to invest in alternative technologies, notably space-based solar power, that can address the climate change issue and more. Click here. (6/19)
Interstellar Communication Using Microbial Data Storage: Implications for SETI (Source: Space Review)
Most have assumed the best way to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence is to look for radio or optical communications. However, in the first of a two-part paper, Robert Zubrin argues that other formats may be more effective, with implications both for SETI and astrobiology in general. Click here. (6/19)
Sunlight and Shadow: Putting People on Mars (Source: Space Review)
The decision to send humans to the Moon in the 1960s was in a very different geopolitical environment from the one that exists today when planning human missions to Mars. Mack A. Bradley discusses how to make human Mars exploration relevant when old arguments no longer apply. Click here. (6/19)

How a Soviet Lander Could Help Chinese Astronauts Reach the Moon (Source: Popular Mechanics)
The Chinese space industry is buying the Soviet propulsion system designs originally intended to put humans on the Moon, well-informed sources told Popular Mechanics. As part of this new deal, a Ukrainian firm will recreate the historic engine module developed to land the first Soviet cosmonaut on the Moon ahead of the U.S.

The unique engine system designed in the former Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic could be crucial for accelerating China's own fledgling effort to land a man on the Moon. As the most complex and challenging part of the lunar lander design, the purchase could save Chinese engineers years of development work. (6/19)

Orbital Access and Spaceport Cornwall form Partnership to Provide Horizontal Launch Services (Source: Rocketeers UK)
Orbital Access Ltd (OAL), a UK based launch systems and aerospace services business, and Spaceport Cornwall have announced their partnership in the development of Spaceport Cornwall and to establish Orbital Access as a principal operator. Spaceport Cornwall comprises Cornwall Airport Newquay, Goonhilly Earth Station and the wider space and aerospace supply chain in Cornwall.

The collaboration is also part of a bid for a grant from the UK Space Agency to establish cost effective end-to-end launch services from an operational UK spaceport by 2020, as set out in the draft UK Spaceflight Bill. OAL has also confirmed the impending establishment of a new office at Goonhilly Earth Station. (6/18)

Alaska Aerospace Company Wants to Launch More Satellites (Source: AP)
An Alaska aerospace company wants to increase number of launches to at least two or three launches per year. Representatives from Alaska Aerospace Corp. spoke about their plans earlier this week at a town hall meeting in Kodiak. The advancement of small-launch vehicles provides an opportunity to send more satellites into space, they said.

"Nobody in the small launch vehicle community has been successful yet to get a small, cheap vehicle operating frequently. But we think the Rocket Labs and a couple other customers that we're talking to are going to be successful over the next year, and then these small guys have a ride they can afford."

There have been 17 launches from the Kodiak launch facility since November 1998. All were government launches, but the company is negotiating with three commercial companies to launch from the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska, King said. (6/18)

Dark Matter Recipe Calls for One Part Superfluid (Source: Quanta)
The simplest and most popular model holds that dark matter is made of weakly interacting particles that move about slowly under the force of gravity. This so-called “cold” dark matter accurately describes large-scale structures like galaxy clusters. However, it doesn’t do a great job at predicting the rotation curves of individual galaxies. Dark matter seems to act differently at this scale.

In the latest effort to resolve this conundrum, two physicists have proposed that dark matter is capable of changing phases at different size scales. Justin Khoury, a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania, and his former postdoc Lasha Berezhiani, who is now at Princeton University, say that in the cold, dense environment of the galactic halo, dark matter condenses into a superfluid — an exotic quantum state of matter that has zero viscosity.

If dark matter forms a superfluid at the galactic scale, it could give rise to a new force that would account for the observations that don’t fit the cold dark matter model. Yet at the scale of galaxy clusters, the special conditions required for a superfluid state to form don’t exist; here, dark matter behaves like conventional cold dark matter. (6/17)

What Would a Fidget Spinner Do in Space? (Source: Mashable)
Would these fidget spinners just spin forever and ever in weightlessness? The quick answer is: probably not. But to fully answer this question for the ages, we need to get specific and determine exactly where these spinners are.

If the fidget spinners were used somewhere built for humans, like the International Space Station (ISS), then the answer is somewhat easy: The fidget spinners would work very similarly to those spun on Earth. "A spinner on ISS would still be subject to friction and air resistance which would still cause it to stop spinning," NASA spokesman Dan Huot said via email.

Basically, fidget spinners work thanks to nifty low-friction ball bearings that allow the outer mechanism to just spin and spin around its central axis. Even on the Space Station, the (albeit low) friction and air pressure would still slow the spinner down to eventually stop it. Now, once you take the spinner outside into the vacuum of space, things get a little more interesting. (6/17)

Where Do SpaceX and Other Aerospace Companies Find Engineers? On the Race Track (Source: LA Times)
As they hire numerous young engineers, NewSpace companies and more traditional aerospace giants are finding talent in an unlikely place: a college race-car competition. Next week, 100 university teams will bring their prototype race cars to the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) competition in Lincoln, Neb., where they will be judged on design, manufacturing, performance and business logic.

Editor's Note: Florida Tech now has a partnership with Larsen Motorsports to build, maintain and drive jet dragsters. This arrangement was previously with nearby Embry-Riddle (ERAU). ERAU (located next to the Daytona Speedway) also has an EcoCar automotive technology program. Florida has also focused on leveraging the region's computer gaming industry to build its aerospace workforce. (6/16)

Why India Needs a Space Law (Source: The Hindu)
India as a space superpower stands mightier than ever, but a law that protects the country’s sovereign, public and commercial interests is needed. India is today at par with giants such as the United States and Russia. This fact raises only a natural presumption that India must be equalizing with these nations at providing sufficient state laws to regulate this field. Besides, the rate at which India continues to etch its name in the frontiers of space innovations and technological know-how only heightens such a presupposition. (6/18)

Price Wars Among The Big Launchers (Source: Fortune)
SpaceX has not yet launched the Falcon Heavy, its answer to ULA's Delta Heavy, but it has promised launch prices barely higher than those for the Falcon 9. The first Falcon Heavy is expected to launch this year. ULA, under pressure from SpaceX, has continued to push its prices down, announcing this April that it would dropping the cost of Atlas V launches by a third, putting it very close to the cost of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch.

ULA also said it would eliminate nearly a quarter of its workforce by the end of this year as part of cost-cutting.But SpaceX isn’t standing still, either. Its repeated successes since last year in recovering and reusing rocket components may point to even lower future launch costs, and SpaceX is working to scale up launch volume. ULA announced its own reusable rocket initiative in 2015, but Bruno has recently downplayed the potential impact of reusability on launch costs. (6/18)

Musk Thinks He Can Make Getting to Mars Cheaper Than Going to College (Source: Recode)
Sending people to live on Mars may sound outlandish, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is adamant about his plan. And now, we know a little more about how he sees this all coming together. Space technology journal New Space published an article by Musk this week outlining his plans, and Musk tweeted Friday night that changes to the plan are coming.

Here’s what the 16-page paper, available for free online from New Space until next month, tells us: Going to Mars is still too expensive. The people who can afford to go to Mars, and the people who actually want to go, are not the same people at this point. Musk estimates the cost of getting 12 people to Mars to start a colony is about $10 billion per person at this point.

“If we can get the cost of moving to Mars to be roughly equivalent to a median house price in the United States, which is around $200,000, then I think the probability of establishing a self-sustaining civilization is very high,” he writes. “I think it would almost certainly occur.” (6/18)

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