July 14, 2017

Is China the Next Space Superpower? (Source: Particle)
Last year, China launched 22 rockets—more than the former Soviet Union and equal to the efforts of the US. The country is arguably NASA’s biggest rival in space exploration. There are reports it’s planning to put astronauts—or ‘taikonauts’ as they are known in China—on the Moon by 2036. And it’s not just China’s national space programme challenging US dominance. Private Chinese companies—many with relationships to the government—are aiming to commercially rival Western tech giants such as Blue Origin and SpaceX. Click here. (7/14)

Moon Express Aims for Multiple Lunar Landings, Sample Return Mission By 2020 (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Moon Express unveiled design details for its lunar spacecraft at a hearing held by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. The company is planning three missions to the moon by the end of 2020, with the ultimate goal of establishing a permanent station near the moon's south pole and returning lunar samples to Earth. Moon Express has revealed a number of spacecraft designs to help it achieve its various goals. The first up is the MX-1E, which is the small craft designed to launch on the Electron rocket and land on the moon later this year.

"Our goal is to open the lunar frontier for all of us, ultimately expanding Earth's economic and social spheres to our 8th continent, the Moon," Moon Express stated. The MX-2 spacecraft design is double the size and capability of the MX-1. It basically amounts to two MX-1s stacked on top of each other, with more fuel and more versatility when it comes to spaceflight. According to Moon Express, the MX-2 could travel not only to the moon but also to other locations in the inner solar system. The craft would be available as an orbiter as well as a lander. (7/13)

Government Needs to Set the Stage for New Space Industry Markets (Source: MarketWatch)
The best thing the government can do for the space market is simple: continue funding foundational science while leaving room for commercial industry to grow, according to aerospace industry experts. At the 6th annual Future Space 2017 event on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, industry leaders shared their thoughts on what’s next for developing commercial markets off-earth for the public and private sectors.

“The government’s role for commercial space is not only to open new markets but to drive technological advancement,” said Lori Garver, former NASA deputy administrator and current general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association. “What better way to advance space than to open new markets?” Former astronaut Michael López-Alegría agreed that the government’s role should be more about creating the foundations for future space markets. (7/14)

Orlando Science Center Aims to Inspire with Telescope (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Atop the Orlando Science Center, there’s a stairway to the heavens. Up there is the Crosby Observatory and its giant telescope that’s accessible to us mere stargazing mortals. Folks travel from parking garage to overpass to elevator, then hug the curve of the building – note the downtown skyline – before re-entering the building and climbing a spiral staircase to another platform. It’s just a few more steps up to put your eye to the skies.

The telescope, installed 20 years ago this week, is available for evening viewings on Fridays and Saturdays this summer. It’s the largest refractor telescope in Florida that the public is allowed to use. Now’s a good time to look up, says Brandan Lanman, vice president of visitor experience. Right now, weather permitting, folks spy Jupiter and Saturn, which has a surprising form, he said. (7/14)

Soyuz Launches 73 Satellites (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Soyuz rocket launched 73 satellites early this morning. The Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifted off on schedule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 2:36 a.m. Eastern. The rocket's primary payload is the Kanopus-V-IK remote sensing satellite, but it is also carrying 72 smallsat secondary payloads, including cubesats for Astro Digital, GeoOptics, Planet and Spire. Deployment of the satellites into their planned orbits won't be completed until more than eight hours after liftoff. (7/14)

Pace to Lead Space Council as Executive Secretary (Source: Space Policy Online)
As widely expected, the White House has selected Scott Pace to be the executive secretary of the National Space Council. The White House announced late Thursday the appointment of Pace to the position, which handles the day-to-day activities of the council, chaired by the vice president. Pace, currently the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, previously worked at NASA and other agencies involved with space issues before joining the Space Policy Institute. (7/14)

Russia Faces Struggle to Find New Cosmonauts (Source: Tass)
Russia, apparently struggling to find qualified candidates, has extended the deadline for applications for its next class of cosmonauts. The deadline for application was today, but Roscosmos said it was extending it for an unspecified period in order to attract "a bigger number of young people with engineering, technical and natural science skills." The Roscosmos Cosmonaut Training Center had earlier received 300 applications, a far cry from the thousands submitted in recent astronaut selection rounds by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. (7/14)

Planetary Resources’ Asteroid Miners Cheer Luxembourg Law on Space Property (Source: GeekWire)
Lawmakers in the tiny European country of Luxembourg today approved a measure affirming that space resources can be privately owned. The law, adopted nearly unanimously by Luxembourg’s parliament, also sets up procedures for authorizing and supervising space exploration missions. It will go into force on Aug. 1. Planetary Resources – which is headquartered in Redmond, Wash., but has a Luxembourg-based subsidiary – hailed today’s action as further evidence of the nation’s status as a global leader in the space resources sector.

“Luxembourg’s new space resources law provides Planetary Resources with a strong basis for stability and predictability for our current and future asteroid mining operations,” Peter Marquez, the company’s acting general manager, said in a statement. A delegation from Luxembourg visited Redmond and Seattle during a U.S. tour last month. (7/13)

Seemingly Strange Radio Signals From a Red Dwarf Star Spark Interest at Arecibo (Source: GeekWire)
The 1,000-foot-wide radio telescope at Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory will take a closer look at a red dwarf star known as Ross 128 after picking up what one astronomer said were “some very peculiar signals” during a 10-minute observing session in May. “The signals consisted of broadband quasi-periodic non-polarized pulses with very strong dispersion-like features,” said Abel Mendez. Mendez said the signal did not appear to be earthly interference, “since they are unique to Ross 128, and observations of other stars immediately before and after did not show anything similar.” (7/13)

White House Against 'Space Corps' and Other House Plans (Sources: Defense News, Space News)
A controversial proposal to create a "Space Corps" within the U.S. Air Force is now expected to survive in the House version of a defense authorization bill. The House Rules Committee rejected a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) late Wednesday that would have replaced language in the bill establishing the Space Corps with a study of the need for one.

The committee reportedly ruled the amendment out of order, but did not provide additional details about its decision. That means the Space Corps language will likely remain in the bill when the House votes on the full bill. The Air Force, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the White House have all expressed their opposition to the Space Corps provision in the act.

The White House is also opposed to language in the NDAA that would block the Pentagon from using commercial satellites launched by Russia. The provision would prevent the Defense Department from buying bandwidth on commercial communications satellites launched on Russian rockets, regardless of who owns the satellite. (7/13)

Alabama County Approves Incentive Package for Blue Origin Engine Plant (Source: WHNT)
A local government has given its approval to an incentive package for Blue Origin's engine manufacturing plant. County commissioners in Madison County, Alabama, voted Wednesday to approve its role in the incentive deal for the BE-4 engine plant, including site preparation and $500,000.

The Huntsville City Council will vote to approve its part of the overall deal Thursday. The agreement, announced last month, will have Blue Origin build a factory for BE-4 engines in the city should United Launch Alliance select that engine for its Vulcan rocket. (7/13)

Australia Considers Space Agency (Source: ABC)
The Australian government will carry out a space policy review that could lead to a national space agency. The review, announced Thursday by Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos, will examine how the country can support the development of a space industry. The review will start later this month and be completed by next March. It could set the stage for the creation of an Australian space agency, which many space advocates in the country say is sorely needed. (7/13)

Canadian Astronaut Joins Government (Source: CBC)
Former Canadian astronaut Julie Payette will become the country's next governor general. The formal announcement of Payette as governor general, the Queen's representative in Canada, will be made later today. Payette was selected as an astronaut in 1992 and flew on two shuttle missions in 1999 and 2009. (7/13)

NASA Admits Funding Levels Won't Put Humans on Mars (Source: Ars Technica)
For the last five years or so, NASA has sold the public on a Journey to Mars, a grand voyage by which the agency will land humans on the red planet during the 2030s. With just budgetary increases for inflation, the agency said, it had the resources for humanity's next great step, to land crews safely on Mars, and to bring them home. The agency's new rocket, the Space Launch System, and spacecraft, Orion, were sold by NASA administrator Charles Bolden as the vehicles that would get the job done.

There were plenty of naysayers. For example, a National Research Council report cautioned that the agency had too much work, and too little funds, to accomplish these goals in the 2030s with the SLS rocket—and that sustaining a "Mars program" into the 2040s would be a tremendous challenge. NASA's remarkable response to this critical report was that it validated the Journey to Mars. (7/13)

NASA Tests Orion Spacecraft Recovery From Off Texas Coast (Source: KHOU)
NASA went offshore to conducted the first major test of equipment meant to keep astronauts safe when they splash down on Earth. Astronauts and others tested Orion spacecraft splashdown recovery about four miles off the coast of Galveston. The testing is the first series of evaluations in open water and is taking place with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force. (7/13)

SpaceX Goes There—-Seeks Government Funds for Deep Space (Source: Ars Technica)
During the last decade, NASA has invested billions of dollars into programs with private companies to carry cargo and, eventually, astronauts to the International Space Station. These commercial services were powered by new kinds of contracts for the agency, because they offered a "fixed price" for services and required companies to put in their own funding to develop new spacecraft and rockets.

But the space agency has established a Maginot line of sorts around the planet when it comes to deep space exploration. For example, less than a year ago, NASA's then-administrator, Charles Bolden, said he's "not a big fan" of commercial companies building large, heavy lift rockets that will enable private companies to venture beyond low-Earth orbit. Click here. (7/13)

Relativity Space Provides Congress With a Teaser for Stealthy Rocket Venture (Source: GeekWire)
The hush-hush space startup Relativity Space is still in stealth mode, but CEO and co-founder Tim Ellis lifted the veil just a bit on the company’s business plan and eight-figure funding today in Washington, D.C. Ellis shared the witness table with other space executives and experts at a Capitol Hill hearing organized by the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness to focus on public-private space partnerships.

A year ago, when Relativity Space filed documents showing that it raised $8.4 million in investments, Seattle was listed as the company’s headquarters. But today, Ellis said that the company is now based in Los Angeles. He also said in his prepared remarks that the investments have added up to an “eight-figure funding round” – that is, more than $10 million.

The Seattle-L.A. connection reflects the background of Ellis and Relativity Space’s other co-founder, chief technology officer Jordan Noone. Both men are propulsion development engineers who worked at the University of Southern California’s Rocket Propulsion Laboratory in the 2010-2013 time frame. They’re also both alumni of Blue Origin. (7/13)

Starliner Meets Milestones as ULA Switches Atlas Booster for Maiden Flight (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
As Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew transportation vehicle for NASA continues to meet its processing milestones at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and various test sites around the country, ULA, the company tasked with launching Starliner on its journey, has made the decision to swap the Atlas booster that will power Starliner’s first flight next year. Meanwhile, the first crewed Starliner mission appears to be slipping to “late 2018”. (7/13)

On-Orbit Operations the Next Frontier for Space, Experts Say (Source: Space News)
Operating while in orbit is the next big challenge for the space sector, be it manufacturing, assembly, satellite servicing, or debris removal, experts said Thursday. Speaking at a technology summit, Bhavya Lal, with the Institute for Defense Analysis at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, said focusing on the problems of the future will help the U.S. maintain its technological lead in space. (7/13)

Orbital ATK Wins $48 Million Contract for Missile Defense Agency Rocket Motor Sustainment (Source: Space News)
Satellite and rocket manufacturer Orbital ATK won a $48 million follow-on contract from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Targets and Countermeasures Directorate, the company announced. Orbital ATK will continue to support the Trident 1 and Orion rocket motors the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) uses for targets and interceptors. (7/13)

MDA, DigitalGlobe Withdraw, Resubmit Acquisition Documents for US National Security Review (Source: Space Intel Report)
MDA Corp. of Canada and U.S. geospatial services provider DigitalGlobe on July 13 said they had withdrawn and then re-filed documents about their planned merger with the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to give the committee additional time to assess the transaction for U.S. national security implications. (7/13)

GLONASS Proposed as Early Warning Tsumani Detection System (Source: Tass)
Signals sent by the GLONASS and GPS satellites have been suggested to be used for radar location of large waves in oceans, a report of the Conference on Current Aspects of Remote Sensing of Earth from Space says. "The appearance of numerous navigation satellites made it viable to study the possible use of reflected navigation signals for radar location of the water and Earth’s surfaces," the report says. (7/13)

Federal Court Dismisses Orbital ATK Suit Over Satellite Servicing Program (Source: Space News)
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Orbital ATK seeking to stop work on a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency satellite servicing program, concluding the company’s claims had no basis in federal law.

Orbital ATK filed the suit against DARPA in February in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, arguing that the agency’s Robotic Servicing of Geosynchronous Satellites (RSGS) program violated provisions of the 2010 national space policy that calls on government agencies to refrain from competing with the private sector.

Orbital ATK argued that DARPA failed to comply with the policy by making an RSGS award to another company, Space Systems Loral, to support development of a satellite servicing capability that will ultimately be commercially available. Orbital ATK is developing its own satellite servicing system, called the Mission Extension Vehicle, with its own funds. (7/13)

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