July 26, 2017

New Nanotube Tech Could Revolutionize Spaceflight (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
A cold-gas thruster system, partially made from carbon nanotube material, was recently tested aboard a Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket, which was launched on May 16, 2017, at 5:45 a.m. EDT (09:45 GMT) from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Part of the thruster system was a Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel (COPV). Click here. (7/26)

China’s Quest to Become a Space Science Superpower (Source: Nature)
At mission control, a gigantic screen plays a looping video showcasing the country's major space milestones. Engineers focus intently on their computer screens while a state television crew orbits the room with cameras, collecting footage for a documentary about China's meteoric rise as a space power. The walls are festooned with motivational slogans. “Diligent and meticulous,” says one. “No single failure in 10,000 trials,” encourages another.

China is rushing to establish itself as a leader in the field. In 2013, a 1.2-tonne spacecraft called Chang'e-3 landed on the Moon, delivering a rover that used ground-penetrating radar to measure the lunar subsurface with unprecedented resolution. China's latest space lab, which launched in September 2016, carries more than a dozen scientific payloads. And four additional missions dedicated to astrophysics and other fields have been sent into orbit in the past two years. (7/26)

Made In Space to Print Breast Cancer Ribbon on ISS (Source: CollectSpace)
A race car driver's personal mission will tie together breast cancer awareness and the International Space Station using a zero-g 3D printer and the auction of a very special pink ribbon.

Pippa Mann, whose bright pink and white race car bore the logo of Made In Space for the Indianapolis 500 in May, is extending her partnership with the in-space manufacturing company to beyond the track and all the way to orbit. This October, during Breast Cancer Awareness month, Made In Space will use its commercial 3D printer aboard the station to create a pink ribbon, which will be returned to Earth and auctioned to benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation. (7/26)

Senate Moves to Bump Up NASA Budget (Source: Space News)
A Senate subcommittee approved an appropriations bill that provides more than $19.5 billion for NASA in 2018. The commerce, justice and science appropriations subcommittee approved the bill during a brief markup session Tuesday afternoon. The bill increases NASA's budget by more than $400 million from the White House request, but offers $340 million less than a House bill. The Senate bill includes increases for the Space Launch System and Orion, and restores funding for NASA's education office. The same bill also provides full funding for NOAA's weather satellite programs. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill Thursday. (7/25)

CFIUS Blocks Chinese Satellite Deal with US Company (Source: Space News)
A proposed joint venture between satellite connectivity provider Global Eagle Entertainment and a Chinese company has been blocked by U.S. regulators. Global Eagle said in a regulatory filing Tuesday that the companies terminated a pending investment agreement because they could not get approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) for the deal. Beijing Shareco Technologies had planned to invest $416 million into Global Eagle for a one-third stake in the company as part of the agreement. CFIUS, which reviews proposed foreign investments in U.S. companies, concluded the deal had unspecified "national security concerns," according to Global Eagle CEO Jeff Leddy. (7/25)

Cassini Trying to Measure Saturn's Rotation (Source: Space.com)
Time is running out for Cassini to complete one of its science objectives: measure the length of a day on Saturn. Scientists have planned to use the final phases of Cassini's mission at Saturn to precisely calculate the planet's rotational period by measuring the wobble of its magnetic field. However, the magnetic field is almost exactly aligned with its rotational axis, making those measurements more challenging than expected. "We have not been able to resolve the length of day at Saturn so far, but we're still working on it," said one scientist. (7/26)

The Sound of Space (Source: Washington Post)
If you could hear sounds in space, it might sound like a "chorus of alien birds." A physicist working on NASA's Van Allen Probes mission has converted the radio waves detected by the spacecraft in the Earth's magnetosphere into sound waves of the same frequency. The sounds are entertaining, but also help scientists better understand the creation and propagation of those radio waves. (7/26)

DiCaprio Helms New 'Right Stuff' Space Series (Source: Deadline)
Leonardo DiCaprio thinks a new series will have the right stuff. The actor will be an executive producer on a remake of The Right Stuff, which National Geographic will produce as a scripted series. The series is expected to span several seasons to follow the Mercury 7 astronauts in the early Space Age. The announcement didn't disclose when the series would begin to air. (7/26)

NASA to Share Tech From Supersonic Project (Source: Bloomberg)
Lockheed helped create NASA’s design, using fluid dynamics modeling made possible in the past decade or so by increasingly powerful computers. Together, Lockheed and NASA tested and mapped how subtle differences in aircraft shapes affect the supersonic shock waves they create. The design they’ve settled on keeps sound waves from merging into the sharp N pattern of a sonic boom, according to Peter Iosifidis, Lockheed’s design program manager on June’s small-scale model. Instead, the waves are kept dispersed across a wide range of points behind the plane, leaving the resulting supersonics a mere hum.

NASA plans to share the technology resulting from the tests with U.S. plane makers, meaning a head start for the likes of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, and startups such as Boom Technology and billionaire Robert Bass’s Aerion. Click here. (7/25)

First-Ever Laser Communications Terminal to be Tested on the Moon (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
ATLAS Space Operations Inc., a company specializing in cloud-based satellite management and control services, has announced that it will test the first-ever laser communications terminal on the lunar surface. The company has recently signed a contract with Astrobotic Technology Inc., which could see their system fly to the Moon in late 2019. (7/25)

Over 200 Orbiting Satellites Now Available to Digital Humanitarians (Source: LinkedIn)
Planet Labs has an unparalleled constellation of satellites in orbit. In addition to their current constellation of 130 micro-satellites, they have 5 RapidEye satellites and the 7 SkySat satellites (recently acquired from Google). What’s more, 88 new micro-satellites were just launched into orbit this July, bringing the total number of Planet satellites to 230. And once the 88 satellites begin imaging, Planet will have global, daily coverage of the entire Earth, covering over 150 million square kilometers every day. Never before has the humanitarian community had access to such a vast amount of timely satellite imagery. (7/24)

NASA Seeking BIG Ideas for Solar Power on Mars (Source: SpaceRef)
Missions to the surface of distant planetary bodies require power — lots of power.  Through the 2018 Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, NASA is enlisting university students in its quest for efficient, reliable and cost-effective solar power systems that can operate on Mars both day and night. The teams will have until November to submit their proposals. Interested teams of three to five undergraduate and/or graduate students are asked to submit robust proposals and a two-minute video describing their concepts by Nov. 30.

NASA’s Game Changing Development Program (GCD), managed by the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) are seeking novel concepts that emphasize innovative mechanical design, low mass and high efficiency, with operational approaches that assure sustained power generation on the Mars surface for many years. (7/24)

Noise in Gravitational-Wave Data Casts Doubt on Historic Finding (Source: WIRED)
A team of independent physicists has sifted through the data from the historic LIGO gravitational wave detection, only to find what they describe as strange correlations that shouldn’t be there. The team claims that the troublesome signal could be significant enough to call the entire discovery into question. The potential effects of the unexplained correlations “could range from a minor modification of the extracted wave form to a total rejection of LIGO’s claimed [gravitational wave] discovery."

LIGO representatives say there may well be some unexplained correlations, but that they should not affect the team’s conclusions. The technical issues at stake here have to do with the extreme difficulty of the measurements that LIGO attempts to make. Gravitational waves are exceedingly faint, so to catch them LIGO was built with the ability to measure a change in distance just one-ten-thousandth the width of a proton. Lots of little bumps and vibrations can mimic a gravitational-wave signal, so LIGO uses two observatories, 3,000 kilometers apart, which operate synchronously, each double-checking the other’s observations. (7/24)

Inner Strength for Outer Space (Source: NBC)
The glamorous parts of spaceflight — ascending skyward on a pillar of fire, floating gracefully against a backdrop of stars — are in some ways the easiest on the astronauts’ minds and bodies, as long as nothing goes wrong. As NASA eyes the long-term future of human space exploration and missions to Mars, medical and psychological challenges are among those that loom largest. Click here. (7/20)

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