June 22, 2017

How Well Have Climate Models Done in the Upper Atmosphere? (Source: Ars Technica)
If people who reject climate science ever point to actual data, you can just about bet the farm it will be data from satellite measurements of upper-atmosphere temperatures. At least until the record-setting global heat in 2015 and 2016, some of the satellite data was amenable to the claim that global warming had magically ended in 1998.

That was always nonsense, involving cherry-picking a start year and ignoring ongoing corrections to the complex satellite measurements. That said, it is certainly fair to compare the satellite records to climate models to see what we can learn. A group of researchers led by Ben Santer of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory carried out a careful analysis of those models and several satellite records of temperature in the upper troposphere, about 5 to 10 kilometers (3 to 6 miles) above the surface. Click here. (6/21)

Spaceport America Talks Commercial Space Flights, Introduces New Tenants (Source: KFOX)
New Mexico is getting closer to commercial space travel, according to officials at the Spaceport America facility in Truth or Consequences. Flights to space on Virgin Galactic were supposed to begin in 2014, but were delayed. On Wednesday, Spaceport America announced it's vision and direction ahead. They talked about how the facility is being used and about commercial space flights.

"We have access to space 24/7," said Dan Hicks, CEO at Spaceport America. He said more companies are becoming interested in the site for space testing. "One of the key attributes we have is restricted airspace," he said. "So from surface to unlimited, we have a partnership with White Sands Missile Range and the Department of Defense." (6/21)

NASA Completes Study of Future 'Ice Giant' Mission Concepts (Source: NASA)
A NASA-led and NASA-sponsored study of potential future missions to the mysterious "ice giant" planets Uranus and Neptune has been released -- the first in a series of mission studies NASA will conduct in support of the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey. The results of this and future studies will be used as the Decadal Survey deliberates on NASA's planetary science priorities from 2022-2032. The study identifies the scientific questions an ice giant mission should address, and discusses various instruments, spacecraft, flight-paths and technologies that could be used.

"This study argues the importance of exploring at least one of these planets and its entire environment, which includes surprisingly dynamic icy moons, rings and bizarre magnetic fields," said Mark Hofstadter of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, one of the two co-chairs of the science team that produced the report. The European Space Agency (ESA) also participated in the study. (6/20)

Harris Corporation Delivers Advanced Weather Satellite Instrument to South Korea (Source: Harris)
Harris Corp. has delivered an advanced digital weather satellite instrument to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute that will help forecasters safeguard people in the region from typhoons and other severe weather. The Harris-built Advanced Meteorological Imager, or AMI, will be integrated into the next-generation GEO-KOMPSAT-2A weather satellite, scheduled to launch in 2018. The AMI will deliver images with three times more data and four times the resolution at refresh rates five times faster than currently available in the region. (6/21)

New Company to Start Test Flights from Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
Officials with a company operating at Spaceport America said Wednesday they'll start test flights next week on a system to eventually take tiny payloads, including satellites, to suborbital space. The company, Pipeline2Space, or P2S, discussed its plans during the second day of the Spaceport America Cup, a rocket competition that's drawn roughly 1,000 college students to the southeastern Sierra County-based spaceport this week.

P2S plans to build an underground tube that will be used to fire a small capsules into the atmosphere and eventually suborbital space, said Mark Russell, CEO and co-founder of the company. The advantage is that the capsule at ground level already is traveling fast, while most other types of launches start with no speed. The idea is to reduce the cost and the accessibility of launching small payloads, he said. (6/22)

Minotaur Launch at Space Florida Pad Delayed to September (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The launch of a space surveillance satellite has been postponed by up to two months. The launch of the SensorSat spacecraft on a Minotaur 4, previously scheduled for mid-July from Space Florida's Launch Complex 46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, is now planned for some time between the end of August and mid-September. SensorSat, also known as ORS-5, is a mission by the Operationally Responsive Space office to track satellites and other objects in geostationary orbit. The Air Force did not disclose the reason for the delay. (6/22)

SES: Drifting Satellite Not a Threat to Nearby Satellites (Source: Space News)
SES says its malfunctioning AMC-9 satellite does not pose a risk to other satellites in geostationary orbit. The spacecraft, which suffered a "significant anomaly" June 17, is slowly drifting westward in GEO on a stable and predictable trajectory, and does not pose a collision hazard to nearby satellites. The spacecraft is being tracked by SES and others, including the Space Data Association, who says it will notify other satellite operators should AMC-9 come close to their satellites. (6/22)

Airbus Signs-On for Two Vega C Missions (Source: Space News)
Airbus will be the first commercial customer for the Vega-C launch vehicle. Airbus signed a contract this week for two Vega-C launches, each carrying two Earth-imaging satellites. Those launches are scheduled for mid-2020. Vega-C is an upgraded version of the existing Vega small launch vehicle, whose first launch is planned for 2019. (6/22)

Smallsats Have Role as Larger Satellites Become Targets for Attack (Source: Space News)
Smallsats could provide an insurance policy for larger national security space systems. During a panel discussion Wednesday, advocates for small satellites and small launch vehicles argued that such systems could deter attacks on larger systems in the event of a conflict, or supplement or replace them as needed. Those systems could be developed for one to two percent of current investment in national security space systems. Smallsats have long been proposed as a responsive solution for national security, but panelists said increasing capabilities of smallsats make that approach more feasible than ever. (6/22)

Luxembourg Links with ESA on Asteroid Exploration (Source: Govt. of Luxembourg)
Luxembourg has signed an agreement with the European Space Agency on space resources. The agreement, signed this week at the Paris Air Show, will include a feasibility assessment and analysis of technical maturity by ESA of asteroid exploration and utilization. Luxembourg, an ESA member state, has its own space resources initiative, funding investment in asteroid mining companies and other efforts to support the field. (6/22)

US Industrial Base at Risk for key Rocket Motor Ingredient (Source: Defense News)
A California Republican congressman included a provision near the bottom of a proposed act dealing with domestic strategic materials that would restrict companies manufacturing rocket motors for DOD and NASA to source its oxidizer for its solid-propellant rocket boosters from within the U.S. The only problem is there is just one U.S. company that manufactures the key chemical compound known as ammonium perchlorate, or AP, and industry isn’t happy that its flexibility to obtain the best priced substance through competition outside of the U.S. could be in jeopardy.

Rep. Duncan Hunter introduced a bill called the Materials Essential to American Leadership and Security Act, or the METALS Act, that would help domestic producers of strategic and critical materials. Some in industry are arguing the legislation is an earmark to help a now struggling business — American Pacific (AMPAC), owned by the Huntsmans of Utah — with political ties to the Trump administration. Both Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne buy ammonium perchlorate from AMPAC. There are several programs that get AP from other countries that would be in jeopardy should such a provision pass. (6/21)

Astronauts in Orbit Around Alien Planets Should Explore Surfaces With Robots and VR (Source: Motherboard)
“The historical presumption is that exploration means ‘boots on the ground.’ But we’ve gone way beyond that.” When we imagine crewed missions to worlds beyond Earth, we tend to presume they will involve landing humans on alien planetary surfaces. We want to see the first footprints in the red soil of Mars, for instance, or to return astronauts to the Moon to wander the lunar wilds.

An article published Wednesday in Science Robotics challenges this narrative and offers up a significantly safer and cheaper alternative—"exploration telepresence." Led by Dan Lester, a research scientist at the US consulting firm Exinetics, the piece explores the idea of putting telerobotic sensory components on the surface of alien planets, which would be operated in real-time by crews orbiting those worlds.

"Exploration telepresence is about putting human presence and activity where it's really hard to put humans," Lester told me over the phone. "I would certainly never say to do it instead of landing," he added. "I think landing humans [on other planets] would be wonderful. What I'm saying is that this is a strategy that ought to be thought about as we move in that direction." (6/21)

Graduates from Florida Universities Make More Money (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
A recent study shows that over 90 percent of Florida graduates from the Class of 2015 found jobs within one year of finishing their bachelor's degrees. Median wages for graduates of Florida universities increased to $39,100 in 2015, up from $36,300 in 2014, according to the Florida Board of Governors.
Graduates in the engineering field made the most money, with a median salary of $58,600, while graduates in the biological sciences earned the least, at $29,500, since many continue on to graduate school, according to the study. In addition, 30 percent of graduates pursued additional degrees and, of those students, 74 percent were enrolled in school and working at the same time. (6/21)

Boeing Plans Huge Investment, More Jobs in Alabama (Sources: Made in Alabama, Birmingham Business Journal)
By 2020, Boeing hopes to have added 400 more jobs and invested $70 million to grow its operations in Huntsville, according to Made in Alabama. Boeing’s Alabama operations are centered at two main facilities in Huntsville, located in the Jetplex Industrial Park and at Redstone Gateway.

Expansion of the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Seeker facility in Huntsville. The 28,000-square-foot facility will include machinery and other capabilities to support the missile defense program for the U.S. Army. Other Boeing operations in Alabama include the Huntsville Design Center, which supports 20 major programs such as the new 777X, 737 Max, 787 and more, and Boeing Research & Technology, a research center that develops future aerospace solutions for defense and commercial businesses.

Huntsville also is home to NASA’s Space Launch System program, where Boeing is responsible for the design, development, testing and manufacture of the core and upper stages, as well as the avionics for the nation’s next-generation rocket to transport people and cargo to deep space. (6/20)

Market Forecast Sees Big Data In Space (Source: Euroconsult)
Around 100 new geostationary high-throughput satellites (HTS) are expected to launch between now and 2025, but about 60 of those have yet to be ordered, according to a new study from Euroconsult. The research firm expects HTS capacity in orbit will reach almost 2,000 Gbps by 2018, and roughly 3,600 Gbps by 2020. Should the non-geosynchronous HTS programs of SES/O3b, SpaceX, LeoSat, Telesat and OneWeb all succeed, Euroconsult estimates they would add another 40 terabits per second of capacity. Euroconsult anticipates at least one new NGSO-HTS system will launch by 2025, and charts demand for NGSO-HTS capacity, led today by O3b, as growing at an average pace of over 40 percent per year. (6/21)

SpaceX in Texas: 4 Years Late, $35M in Subsidies Short (Source: El Rrun Rrun)
Someone asked Elon Musk what he saw when he looked out at the water off Boca Chica Beach. "The future," Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez said that Musk had answered. But Martinez didn't hear the rest of what Musk said that day.
"The future...$35 million in public subsidies," Musk finished. And so we remain suspended in space as we breathlessly await the coming of the SpaceX launch station.
But meanwhile, we are pegging the lengthening of the city airport runways for SpaceX, the construction by Cameron County of an amphitheater at Isla Blanca Park so they can see the satellite launches, the courses at UTRGV-TSC to start training aerospace engineers, and the support of the Brownsville Independent School District with a space-based curriculum to start educating the future astronauts who will take off from Boca Chica Beach for Mars and beyond as the huckster billionaire promised.

The local EDC fell over itself telling us about the 600 well-paying jobs it would bring to Brownsville. Even McAllen and Harlingen chipped in. And what have we got after all that? SpaceX claimed it would generate 210 transient jobs and 110 full-time jobs by 2017. Well, it's 2017 and five years into the "plan" the only thing out at Boca Chica are mounds of dirt. There are no jobs. There are no rocket launches. Maybe if we give it a couple more years something will happen. Here's a photo of the site (6/9)

Iridium Open to Reused Falcon 9s if it Means SpaceX Can Speed Schedule (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium is willing to use pre-flown Falcon 9 first stage boosters for missions during the second half of its fleet replacement if SpaceX can show that reuse will shorten Iridium’s wait for launches.

Iridium is launching 75 of its 81 second-generation Iridium Next satellites using eight Falcon 9 launches, the first of which took place Jan. 14. In a conference call with reporters June 19, Desch said Iridium’s original contract with SpaceX calls for new Falcon 9s for each mission, but if SpaceX can improve its launch schedule with pre-flown stages, Iridium would consider them for missions in 2018. (6/20)

Roscosmos Subsidiary Gets SmallSat Launch Role (Source: Space News)
Russian company Glavkosmos seeks to become a major smallsat launch provider. The company, a subsidiary of Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, will fly 72 smallsats as secondary payloads on a Soyuz launch next month, and plans to launch about 40 more on two Soyuz launches in December. Glavkosmos expects to to provide secondary payload opportunities on three more Soyuz missions in 2018 and on a continuing basis thereafter, competing primarily with India's PSLV for smallsat missions. (6/21)

DOD Laments Risk Aversion in Space Systems (Source: Space News)
The commander of U.S. Strategic Command said that the country needs to be willing to accept risk if it is to remain a world power in space. "We've lost the ability to go fast, test, and fail," said Gen. John Hyten Tuesday. He noted the speed at which the U.S. developed early ICBMs and launch systems in the early Space Age despite numerous failures. He also criticized the media coverage of a Blue Origin engine testing mishap last month: "Blue Origin just had a failure. Son of a gun. That’s part of learning." (6/21)

China's Tencent Pours Capital Into Space Startups (Source: Bloomberg)
China's social media giant, Tencent, has started focusing its venture capital investment on startups developing technology for use in space. The company has taken stakes in Planetary Resources, which aims to mine asteroids; satellite imagery company Satellogic; and Moon Express, which plans to put drones on the moon. (6/20)

Showdown Looms Over Trump's Pick to Head Ex-Im Bank (Source: Politico)
One of the Senate’s most bipartisan committees is about to engage in a political battle over President Donald Trump's nomination of former Rep. Scott Garrett to lead the Export-Import Bank. The White House formally tapped the New Jersey Republican Monday to head the agency over the objections of Democrats, who have tried to convince the administration to back off from plans to appoint one of the bank's biggest critics to be its president.

Before he can be confirmed by the Senate, Garrett will need to be vetted by the Banking Committee, where Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) and ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have attempted to work hand-in-hand over the last several months. (6/20)

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