July 3, 2017

The Future of Heavy-Lift Space Launchers (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s Space Launch System is moving at a glacial pace. In the meantime, commercial space companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are pressing ahead. Who will win the race to Mars? Listen in as our editors discuss. Click here. (6/30) 

Aldrin Seemed Baffled as Trump Gives Credit to 'Space' and Not Scientists for NASA Missions (Source: Daily Mail)
Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin didn't hold back his hilarious facial expressions as he listened to President Donald Trump's comments about space and security on Friday. Trump announced a new executive order that will see the reestablishment of the National Space Council.  

Aldrin was standing next to Trump when the president made his remarks that appeared to baffle the astrounaut. "At some point in the future, we're going to look back and say, 'How did we do it without space?'" Trump said causing Aldrin's eyebrows to shoot up. Trump's question made it seem like he was referring to 'space' as was one of the scientists on the team.

As Trump prepared to sign the executive order, he turned to Aldrin and asked: "There's a lot of room out there, right?" "To infinity, and beyond," Aldrin quipped as others laughed. But it seemed like the joke referencing Buzz Lightyear's catchphrase soared right over the president's head. "This is infinity here. It could be infinity," Trump answered in a rambling response. Click here. (7/2)

DARPA Trying to Launch Smallsat Experiment on an Indian Rocket (Source: Space News)
Citing delays with its original launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is trying to launch an experimental small satellite mission on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from India.

DARPA had originally planned to launch a mission called EXCITE, or eXperiment for Cellular Integration Technologies, on a secondary payload adapter called Sherpa that Seattle-based Spaceflight expected to launch on a Falcon 9 in 2015. But the continued delay of that mission forced Spaceflight this March to seek out alternatives for Sherpa customers. (7/3)

Close Encounters of the Classified Kind (Source: Space Review)
A month ago, a classified satellite made a series of close approaches to the International Space Station, sparking questions about whether it was coincidental or intentional. Marco Langbroek examines what is known about USA 276 and why it may have passed so close to the station. Click here. (7/3)
At Last, a National Space Council. Now What? (Source: Space Review)
Last Friday afternoon, President Trump signed the executive order formally creating the National Space Council. Jeff Foust reports that the establishment of the council still leaves many questions unanswered about what it will do and how it will affect space policy. Click here. (7/3)
Re-Opening the American Frontier: Recent Congressional Hearings on Space (Source: Space Review)
A Senate committee has held a series of hearings on commercial space policy issues. Peter Garretson offers some recommendations on what Congress should, and should not, do to promote the development of new space markets. Click here. (7/3) 
Space Colonization, Faith, and Pascal’s Wager (Source: Space Review)
The idea of space settlement, some have argued, is reminiscent of religion in the idea that it may represent the salvation of humanity. Sylvia Engdahl argues that faith in space colonization isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Click here. (7/3)

Reused SpaceX Cargo Capsule Returns to Earth After 2nd ISS Trip (Source: ABC)
A SpaceX Dragon capsule that brought supplies to the International Space Station has splashed down as planned in the Pacific Ocean. The Dragon hit the water off the California coast shortly after 5 a.m. Monday. After being released by the space station's robotic arm, the capsule completed a 5-hour journey back to Earth. SpaceX will recover the spacecraft and take it back to California. Cargo from the space station will be sent to NASA for analysis. (7/3)

Monkey-Mapping Satellites Could Identify At-Risk Populations (Source: Space.com)
In the Amazon rainforests that are home to hundreds of known species of monkeys — and likely more that have yet to be discovered — it can be extremely difficult for conservationists to track their numbers and monitor how they are affected by human activities such as hunting and deforestation.

However, scientists proposed in a recent study that a diverse range of technologies, including satellites, can combine with observations on the ground to give a more accurate picture of biodiversity among monkeys and other animals in hard-to-access habitats. (7/3)

Australian Military Frustrated by Out of Sync Space and Ground Assets (Source: Space News)
The mismatch between Australia’s military space and ground infrastructure is limiting the country’s ability to fully use its satellite telecommunications infrastructure, to the frustration of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The ADF is concerned that some of its projects are taking so long that by the time one half of the system is ready, the other won’t be, an Australian military official said at a recent conference. The primary example of this is a beleaguered Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) anchor ground station project that is now five years behind schedule. (7/3)

SES Regains Contact with Broken Satellite (Source: Space News)
SES says it has regained contaact with its malfunctioning SES-9, even as it appears that pieces have broken off the spacecraft. SES said it had reestablished contact with the satellite, which malfunctioned two weeks earlier and started to drift in the geostationary belt. The company confirmed tracking information from a commercial space situational awareness company, ExoAnalytic, who said that at least two objects had broken off the spacecraft. What caused the breakup remains under investigation. (7/3)

RBC Signals Offers Virtual Network of Ground Stations (Source: Space News)
A company that offers a virtual network of ground stations has signed up a satellite constellation as an early customer. RBC Signals said last week that it was working with Sky and Space Global, providing communications for its initial three cubesats launched last month on an Indian rocket. RBC Signals has a ground station in Alaska but also works with operators of more than 30 antennas worldwide, using excess capacity at those facilities to provide communications, particularly for Earth-observation spacecraft. (7/3)

Trump Even Finds a Way to Ruin Space Exploration (Source: The Mary Sue)
At the signing for an executive order that reinstates the National Space Council, Trump’s remarks were strange and small-minded, re-framing space exploration as a matter of Mike Pence’s personal interests, “space security,” and a popularity contest to see who’ll be chosen for the advisory board “everybody wants to be on.”

Trump explained that he is reviving the National Space Council “because Mike [Pence] is very much into space.” Trump himself, though, also “Feel[s] very strongly about it. I’ve felt strongly about it for a long time. I used to say before doing what I did — I used to say, what happened? Why aren’t we moving forward?”

In reviving the Council, Trump tried to play up his trademark nonsense-hyperbole about leadership and renewal. “The future of American space leadership — we’re going to lead again,” he said. “It’s been a long time. It’s over 25 years, and we’re opening up, and we are going to be leading again like we’ve never led before.” (7/1)

NASA Unveils Plan to Test Asteroid Defense Technique (Source: CNN)
Humanity could face one less doomsday scenario if NASA has its way. On Friday, the space agency announced plans to redirect the course of a small asteroid approaching Earth, as part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The release notes that asteroids hit Earth nearly every day, but most are small enough to burn up in the atmosphere. But the DART project is for the asteroids that are too big to break up -- those that could have severe consequences for the Earth if they hit.

"DART would be NASA's first mission to demonstrate what's known as the kinetic impactor technique -- striking the asteroid to shift its orbit -- to defend against a potential future asteroid impact," said Lindley Johnson. The target of the test is an asteroid system called Didymos, the release said. Didymos -- Greek for "twin" -- is a binary asteroid system, made up of one asteroid, Didymos A, and a smaller one, Didymos B, which orbits its larger neighbor.

In October 2022, as Didymos makes an approach near Earth, NASA will launch a refrigerator-sized spacecraft towards the asteroids, aimed at Didymos B, the release said. When the DART spacecraft and the asteroid collide, the spacecraft will be traveling at a staggering 3.7 miles per second. (7/1)

KFC Chicken Sandwich Returns to Earth Early with Balloon Leak (Source: GeekWire)
World View Enterprises said its “Zinger 1” mission to keep a KFC chicken sandwich aloft in the stratosphere was terminated earlier than planned, due to a small leak in an altitude-control balloon system on its Stratollite platform. The company’s CEO, Jane Poynter, said today in a statement that the payload was brought down about 17 hours after the balloon launch on Thursday in Arizona.

“Within the first few hours of flight, all system test objectives were met,” she said. Poynter added that the chicken sandwich “performed flawlessly.” World View is developing the Stratollite balloon platform as a low-cost alternative to satellites, and eventually plans to send tourists up for hours-long excursions. So tell Colonel Sanders to keep that Kentucky-colonel spacesuit handy. (7/1)

A Large Satellite Appears to be Falling Apart in Geostationary Orbit (Source: Ars Technica)
On the morning of June 17, the Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES lost control of a large satellite in geostationary space, nearly 36,000km above the Earth's surface. Shortly after, the satellite operator began working with another company that specializes in space situational awareness to track the drifting machine, AMC-9. A few days ago that company, ExoAnalytic Solutions, saw the AMC-9 satellite begin to fragment.

"We have seen several pieces come off of it over the past several days," ExoAnalytic's chief executive officer, Doug Hendrix, told Ars. "We are tracking at least one of the pieces. I would hesitate to say we know for sure what happened." The AMC-9 communications satellite launched in 2003 aboard a Russian Proton rocket. It is a fairly large satellite and was nearing the end of its 15-year design lifetime.

Unfortunately, there is no atmospheric drag that high above Earth, so once debris gets into geostationary orbit it tends to remain there. With a global network of 165 optical telescopes around the globe, ExoAnalytic focuses on tracking objects in and near geostationary orbit. Its private services augment the "space situational awareness" program led by the US Air Force. (7/1)

Did You Know Ireland Has a Minister for Space? (Source: The Journal)
In Leo Varadkar's recent cabinet reshuffle, there was mention of all kinds of roles: Housing and Heritage, Planning and Public Expenditure. But no mention of space. Granted, Ireland doesn’t really have its own space program to speak of, but space sector jobs are predicted to rise from around 2,500 to over 4,500 by 2020 and a major space event is currently taking place in Cork across the summer.

If it seems that having someone at least overseeing space would be a good idea, worry not. We already have one.
John Halligan, the Minister of State for Training and Skills, is that man. (7/1)

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