July 22, 2017

NASA Continues X-57 Development with Second Fuselage (Source: Aerospace Daily)
NASA is continuing development of the X-57 Maxwell electric aircraft with the delivery of a second Tecnam fuselage. "This second fuselage is not a flight article; it's being used as [a] fit check unit so that we can continue building the NASA experimental high-aspect-ratio wing while we are integrating and flight testing the electric propulsion system on the actual flight unit," said NASA's Sean Clarke. (7/19)

Musk: Math Education Should Be Project-Based (Source: CNN)
SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk says math education in US schools should focus on project-based lessons where students are solving problems and getting hands-on experience in math and science. Speaking this week at the ISSR&D Conference in Washington, D.C., Musk said such projects excite students and encourage them to master a subject. (7/20)

NASA and Companies Express Growing Confidence in Commercial Crew Schedules (Source: Space News)
Both NASA and the two companies developing commercial crew vehicles say those efforts remain on schedule for test flights that are in some cases less than a year away. NASA published July 20 what it called “the most recent publicly-releasable dates” of the test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicles. Each company, under terms of Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded in September 2014, are required to first fly an uncrewed test flight of their spacecraft, followed by one with astronauts on board.

The latest SpaceX schedule calls for an uncrewed test flight in February 2018, followed by a crewed test flight in June 2018. Boeing’s schedule anticipates an uncrewed test flight in June 2018 and a crewed test flight in August 2018. Those scheduled have slipped considerably from the original CCtCap announcement. At that time, NASA expected both vehicles to have completed their test flights and be certified for regular crew transportation missions to the International Space Station by the end of 2017. (7/21)

UK Sidelined as Europe Looks Beyond Brexit in Aerospace (Source: Reuters)
Britain risks losing clout in the aerospace industry, one of its largest skilled employers, due to concerns over its departure from the European Union, a corporate overhaul at Airbus and a new Franco-German push on defense, industry insiders say. Initiatives from a new continental combat jet to a decision by Airbus to downgrade its UK representation, as well as the redeployment of some research projects, have left the $90-billion UK sector feeling increasingly sidelined.

France and Germany last week announced plans for a joint fighter, catching many in Britain off guard. Though chiefly designed to rejuvenate the Paris-Berlin axis, the move has highlighted questions over Britain's place in the European powerhouse after Brexit and left its biggest defense firm BAE Systems maneuvering for a place. (7/21)

Lockheed Martin to Build Full-Scale Prototype of NASA Cislunar Habitat (Source: Space Daily)
Refurbishing a shuttle-era cargo container used to transfer cargo to the International Space Station, Lockheed Martin is prototyping a deep space habitat for NASA at Kennedy Space Center. This prototype will integrate evolving technologies to keep astronauts safe while onboard and operate the spacecraft autonomously when unoccupied.

Under a public-private partnership, NASA recently awarded Lockheed Martin a Phase II contract for the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) habitat study contract. As part of Phase II, the team will continue to refine the design concept developed in Phase I and work with NASA to identify key system requirements for the Deep Space Gateway. (7/21)

NASA Reviewing TRDS Mishap, Could Delay Launch (Source: Space News)
NASA is continuing to study a spacecraft processing mishap that could delay next month's launch of a communications satellite. NASA said Thursday it was working with spacecraft manufacturer Boeing on a plan to replace an S-band omnidirectional antenna on the TDRS-M satellite, which was apparently damaged during final closeout work late last week. The satellite is scheduled to launch Aug. 3 on an Atlas 5, and NASA said that date remains under review. TDRS-M is the third in the latest series of satellites that provide communications for the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit spacecraft. (7/21)

To Own or Lease - Gogo Considers Satellite Options for Airline Connectivity (Source: Space News)
Gogo and two satellite operators are in a heated debate about whether it's better to lease satellite capacity or own it. Gogo, which provides airline inflight connectivity services, has argued that its approach, where it leases capacity on satellites from companies such as Intelsat and SES, gives it access to more satellites and more capacity than Inmarsat and ViaSat, who own the satellites that provide competing services. Executives with Inmarsat and ViaSat take issue with those claims, stating that their systems have more than enough capacity to support inflight services as well as other customers. (7/21)

UK Wants to Retain Copernicus Role After Brexit (Source: BBC)
Britain wants to remain a part of the European Union's Copernicus Earth observation satellite program even after the country exits the EU. Greg Clark, business secretary in the British government, said this week that "we want our companies and universities to continue participating in key EU space programs" such as Copernicus. Such participation would have to be negotiated as part of the U.K.'s Brexit talks with the EU. The comments came at an event to mark the completion of the latest Copernicus satellite, Sentinel-5P, at an Airbus factory in the U.K. (7/21)

Apartment Complex Near SpaceX California Factory Could Impede Company Expansion (Source: Daily Breeze)
Plans for an apartment building near SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California, have come under criticism from the company. The Hawthorne Planning Commission approved plans this week for the six-story apartment building with 300 units that will be built on industrial land adjacent to SpaceX's headquarters and factory. The head of the city's chamber of commerce said more than 700 company employees have expressed an interest in leasing apartments there. However, SpaceX executives are opposed to the building, citing growth of its "industrial manufacturing footprint" around the factory. The Hawthorne City Council will vote on the proposal next month. (7/21)

Jupiter Has Two New Moons, and Five Lost Ones are Found Again (Source: Astronomy)
As if the gas giant wasn’t impressive enough, Jupiter’s already long list of moons has just grown by two. While on the hunt for Planet X, DTM staff scientist Scott Sheppard, along with David Tholen from the University of Hawaii and Chadwick Trujillo from Northern Arizona University, decided to point their telescopes toward Jupiter. From there, the team could study Jupiter in the foreground while continuing their search for Planet X in the background.

While making those observations, they discovered many “lost” moons in addition to two new, mile-wide moons they’re calling S/2016 J 1 and S/2017 J 1. The new moons lie about 13 million miles (21 million kilometers) and 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) from Jupiter. (7/21)

Target, CASIS Team For Sustainable Cotton Research on ISS (Source: Florida Today)
A natural resource rooted in the fabric of civilizations since antiquity is about to hitch a futuristic ride to the International Space Station. Cotton will be the focus of research for future residents of the ISS thanks to Target and CASIS. Both organizations announced their intentions to help research into cotton sustainability on Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington.

The Target-sponsored challenge will allow researchers and scientists to propose solutions for improving production of the water-intensive cash crop on Earth. The U.S. National Laboratory on the ISS will play host to the research, which may include investigating the plant's biology, water advancements or remote sensing technologies. The challenge will begin September 1 and run through November 1, according to CASIS. Researchers with winning proposals will receive up to $1 million in funding and support to send their work to the orbiting laboratory. (7/21)

Yes, Ancient Civilizations on Mars Sounds Crazy. And Yet… (Source: Ars Technica)
It is true that some scientists have considered the possibility that a technological species could have existed in the Solar System prior to humanity's rise on Earth. For example, last year, Penn State astronomer Jason T. Wright authored a paper that discussed possible origins and locations for "technosignatures" of such a civilization. Other astronomers have suggested looking for lights on Kuiper Belt Objects that "may serve as a lamppost which signals the existence of extraterrestrial technologies and thus civilizations."

"The most obvious answer [to why a previous civilization may have perished] is a cataclysm, whether a natural event, such as an extinction-level asteroid impact, or self-inflicted, such as a global climate catastrophe," Wright asserts. "In the case of a prior space-faring species that had settled the Solar System, such an event would only permanently extinguish the species if there were many cataclysms across the Solar System closely spaced in time (a swarm of comets, or interplanetary warfare perhaps), or if the settlements were not completely self-sufficient. Alternatively, an unexpected nearby gamma ray burst or supernova might produce a Solar-System-wide cataclysm." (7/21)

Smallsat Launch Outpacing Market Forecasts (Source: Space Angels)
This past Friday, a Soyuz rocket blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome with 72 small satellites aboard. With these latest satellites successfully delivered to orbit, the space industry is on the cusp of exceeding even the most optimistic expectations for this year’s nano- and microsatellite launch numbers.

However, continued growth within the miniature satellite market is contingent on a few crucial factors. To date commercial companies hoping to launch smallsats to orbit have relied upon a “secondary payload” launch format, meaning their core products are “hitching a ride,” in a sense, to space. While secondary payload deliveries have proven effective—indeed, the majority of today’s smallsats have been deployed in orbit in this manner—a number of dedicated smallsat launch services are on the horizon. While the commercial space industry waits to see which small launch vehicle will be first to market, smallsat operators will continue to turn to alternative launch options in order to deploy their technologies in orbit.

The pace of nano- and microsatellite launch this year is incredibly promising. A market forecast prepared by SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) projected that 182 nano- and microsatellites would launch in 2017. This conservative estimate was, perhaps, a reflection of a disappointing 2016—a year which saw multiple launch delays and cancellations, and created a huge backlog of satellites looking to get to orbit. After Friday’s successful Soyuz launch, SEI’s projection has been eclipsed: Thus far this year, 254 satellites have been deployed in orbit. Even the most optimistic estimates put 2017’s total smallsat numbers at 255 launches by year’s end, a number which now seems entirely within reach. (7/21)

DLR to Fly Suborbital Experiments with Blue Origin, Wanted DragonLab Too (Source: Space News)
The German Aerospace Center, Germany’s space agency (aka DLR), will fly two experiments on a suborbital flight by Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle later this year as part of an effort to diversify its microgravity research efforts. Thomas Driebe of DLR said that the center planned to fly the physical sciences experiments under a commercial deal with Blue Origin.

Driebe said one of the experiments will test a phenomenon known as photophoresis, the movement of particles suspended in a gas triggered by light. In astrophysics, photophoresis plays a role in the formation of planets in protoplanetary disks. The other experiment, he said, will test granular matter dynamics in microgravity.

Driebe said later that he had discussions several years ago with SpaceX about flying payloads on DragonLab, a version of the company’s cargo spacecraft that would carry experiments on orbital flights lasting a few weeks. SpaceX announced plans in 2008 to launch two DragonLab missions in 2010 and 2011, but those missions have yet to fly and are no longer listed in the company’s manifest of missions on its website. “I can easily think of experiments to fill a DragonLab,” he said. “It’s just a matter of budget.” (7/21)

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