June 27, 2017

Luxembourg Offers Prizes for Space Resource Projects (Source: Luxemburger Wort)
Luxembourg, as part of its space resources initiative, is offering prizes for innovative ideas. The Space Exploration Masters offers more than $480,000 in prizes for proposals related to the "full chain for exploiting space resources," from extracting minerals from asteroids to selling processed products. The prizes are open to anyone under the condition that they register a company in the country. Luxembourg previously announced plans to spend at least $225 million on its SpaceResources.lu effort to build up a space resources industry in the country. (6/27)

Magnetic Field Around Uranus Opens/Closes Daily (Source: Georgia Tech)
The magnetosphere of the planet Uranus opens and closes on a daily basis, scientists found. The planet's magnetic field is lopsided, located off-center and tilted 60 degrees compared to the planet's rotation, which itself is inclined more than 90 degrees. This complex set of conditions causes the magnetic field to periodically open and close to the solar wind as the planet spins on its axis. That can result in magnetic reconnection events that, in the Earth's magnetosphere, can create auroral displays, although the Hubble Space Telescope has only seen faint glimpses of auroras at Uranus. (6/27)

Japan's H3 Rocket on Track for 2020 Debut (Source: Space News)
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) says its development of the H3 launch vehicle remains on schedule. The company won a contract from the Japanese space agency JAXA in 2014 to develop the rocket, which will ultimately replace the existing H-2A and H-2B vehicles. Part of the effort in designing the H3 is to reduce its costs so that MHI can cut the price per kilogram of payloads by half. MHI said it should know by this fall, when it conducts a critical design review for the rocket, if that cost goal is feasible. First launch of the H3 is planned for 2020. (6/27)

Final TRDS-M Satellite Arrives in Florida for August Atlas Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA's next communications satellite has arrived in Florida for a launch in August. The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) M satellite arrived at Cape Canaveral late last week, followed a few days later by the Atlas 5 rocket that will launch it. TDRS-M is scheduled for an Aug. 3 launch from the Cape. The spacecraft is the third and final in a series of Boeing-built satellites that provide communications for the International Space Station and other NASA missions. (6/27)

Alabama Incentives for Blue Origin Left Washington State Out of Running (Source: LA Times)
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin will build its next-generation BE-4 rocket engines in Huntsville, Alabama, bringing more than 340 manufacturing jobs and $200 million in capital investment. Washington state, the home of Blue Origin, was not even a finalist. Washington state, the home of Blue Origin, was not even a finalist in the state-versus-state competition.

“We were considered in the first or second round,” Brian Bonlender said. But when Gov. Jay Inslee met Jan. 12 with Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson and asked what Washington state might do to match upfront incentive offers from other states, he didn’t get very far. Alabama is providing more than $50 million in incentives, and local governments plan their own inducements, officials there said.

“The incentive packages other states offered were a big determinant,” Bonlender said. “We were unable to come close to the types of offers they were getting from other states.” Washington’s constitution bars the state from providing upfront money to private companies — either directly or indirectly, such as paying for construction of a facility — as an incentive to locate work here. (6/27)

Orbital ATK Says Loral's Data Breach Suit is Retaliation (Source: Law360)
Orbital ATK asked a Virginia federal judge Friday to toss a competitor’s allegations of trade secrets theft, saying the suit is a “baseless retaliation” for a separate lawsuit it filed challenging a separate government contract award. Space Systems/Loral filed suit against Orbital ATK in March for theft of proprietary data and business plans for in-space satellite servicing technology. (6/27)

Could a Dedicated Mission to Enceladus Detect Microbial Life There? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus is perhaps best known for its numerous geysers ejecting plumes of water and ice. These eruptive fountains have perplexed researchers searching for signs of microbial life beyond Earth. A dedicated spacecraft designed to study the plume-like features sprouting from Enceladus could definitely tell us whether they contain alien microorganisms. (6/27)

North Korea Conducts Rocket Engine Test (Source: Space Daily)
North Korea has tested a rocket engine that could be fitted to an intercontinental ballistic missile, a US official said, in an apparent provocation ahead of a summit between President Donald Trump and the leader of South Korea.

President Moon Jae-In heads to Washington next week to meet Trump for the first time since taking office in May, as tensions soar on the Korean peninsula over Kim Jong-Un's nuclear weapons program. The US official confirmed to AFP that Pyongyang tested a rocket engine on Thursday, on condition of anonymity and without providing further details. (6/23)

Tech Meant to Explore Space May Also Solve Mysteries of Breast Cancer (Source: STAT)
or decades, scientists here at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have sent spacecraft deep into the solar system. Now, they’re exploring another mysterious terrain: the human breast. Top scientists here have realized that JPL’s powerful technology for exploring the cosmos might also help solve daunting medical questions here on Earth.

“It’s very simple. If JPL has a bunch of technology — to get to the moon, to look for life on Europa — and that has any benefit for medicine and health, then we have a responsibility to share that benefit with the public,” said Leon Alkalai, a veteran technologist at JPL who has been involved in several space missions and now manages the lab’s office of strategic planning.

One of lab’s first medical breakthroughs came in the area of breast cancer. Dr. Susan Love, a well-known surgeon and advocate for breast cancer research, was trying to understand the microbiome of breast ducts — the channels under the skin that carry milk to the nipple. Since almost all breast cancers originate in the ducts, Love has been keen to map them and to determine if they harbor any infectious agents that may play a role in breast cancer. Click here. (6/26)

Beware of Mars and Bust (Source: Space Review)
NASA’s focus on sending humans to Mars is widely seen as a driving goal for the agency, down to the mantra of “Mars or Bust” espoused by many Mars exploration advocates. Mark Craig warns that effort could succeed, yet not be sustainable in the long-run without tying it to more fundamental goals. Click here. (6/26)
A Small Country’s Big Vision About Small Objects (Source: Space Review)
Activity in the nascent asteroid mining industry has surged again in the last year, thanks to interest, and funding, from one small country. Jeff Foust reports on the outsized role Luxembourg is playing in building up the space resources market. Click here. (6/26)
Outpost in the Sky: Skylab, the NASA Mission Reports (Source: Space Review)
The Skylab program of the 1970s is often overlooked between the end of Apollo and the beginning of the shuttle program. Dwayne Day examines the legacy of Skylab as seen through the lens of a series of books reprinting official documents about those missions. Click here. (6/26)
Interstellar Communication Using Microbial Data Storage (Source: Space Review)
In the concluding installment of his paper, Robert Zubrin examines some of the implications of the transmission of genetic material among solar systems, by nature or by intent, and the role Mars exploration would play to study that question. Click here. (6/26)

'Anonymous' Says NASA Has Found Alien Life (Source: Mashable)
The shadowy hacker collective Anonymous believes that NASA is about to announce that it has discovered alien life of some kind. We've looked into these claims and concluded they are, at best, a bone-headed misunderstanding of  mundane statements from a NASA official in April, or, at worst, a bold-faced lie playing all of us for clicks.

Either way, it's not worth our time to fully debunk or yours to deeply consider. Simply put, there's no evidence that NASA is about to reveal that it's found aliens. Anonymous cites out-of-context testimony from Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, given during an April 26 hearing before the House Science, Space and Technology.

Consider what Zurbuchen actually said in his written testimony: "... We haven’t found definitive signs of life elsewhere just yet, our search is making remarkable progress and astrobiology is a focus of a growing number of NASA missions." (6/24)

No, NASA Hasn't Found Alien Life (Source: Space.com)
NASA is not preparing to drop an alien-life bombshell, despite what you may have heard. Last week, the hacking group Anonymous posted a video on YouTube suggesting that the space agency is about to announce the discovery of life beyond Earth. The video has made a big splash online — so big that NASA science chief Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted: "Contrary to some reports, there's no pending announcement from NASA regarding extraterrestrial life." (6/26)

After Nine Launches in 2017, It’s Tough to be an Honest Critic of SpaceX (Source: Ars Technica)
Elon Musk and SpaceX had one hell of a weekend. While much of the country celebrated the summer weekend at the beach or enjoying time with friends, SpaceX was hard at work launching two rockets for customers, one from the East Coast and one from the West Coast. One of those rockets had previously been flown. And despite dangerous returns due to high-energy missions and inclement weather, the company recovered both of the first stage boosters.

SpaceX garners a lot of acclaim for its achievements, and it has legions of admirers within the aerospace community and the public at large. But it also has critics, primarily competitors who look at SpaceX and see a company that gets a lot of hype but doesn't always deliver. What is perhaps most striking about this weekend's back-to-back launches is that the company's successes drove a stake into some of the most credible criticisms that have been levied against SpaceX in recent years. Click here. (6/26)

Space Florida 'Disappointed' in Blue Origin Decision to Build BE-4 Elsewhere (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A decision by Blue Origin to build the engine of its upcoming rocket in Huntsville was disappointing but not unexpected, a Space Florida official said Monday. President and CEO Frank DiBello said the decision had been anticipated for months. Still, that preparation did not completely take the sting out of the announcement, he said.

“While I’m disappointed, I’m not disheartened,” said DiBello, who has led Space Florida since 2009. “We are not going to win them all. That’s the name of the game.” Although he did not share details, DiBello said the Space Coast put together an “aggressive” package, as it tried to lure Blue Origin’s rocket-production facility.

Editor's Note: No surprise here. Blue Origin will already be challenged to hire enough qualified workers for its rocket factory and launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Plus Huntsville is a veritable center of excellence for rocket engines. (6/26)

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