July 31, 2017

Pondering the Future of the International Space Station (Source: Space Review)
As researchers make increasing use of the International Space Station, some wonder what the long-term fate of the station is. Jeff Foust reports that as NASA studies options for a post-2024 ISS transition plan, commercial users want nearer-term certainty about the station’s future. Click here. (7/31)
The Stars, My Inspiration (Source: Space Review)
Space is often said to be inspirational, but what exactly does that mean? Dwayne Day examines how spaceflight, and space-themed science fiction, can inspire different people in different mediums. Click here. (7/31)
Iran’s Rocket Launch: a Need to Create a “Space” for Engagement (Source: Space Review)
Iran launched a rocket last week that it said was a test of a satellite launch vehicle, but which was condemned in the West as a missile test. Ajey Lele argues that Iran’s growing capabilities present the opportunity for peaceful space cooperation, perhaps as a way to dissuade further missile development. Click here. (7/31)
The End of a Very Long Honeymoon (Source: Space Review)
In May, DARPA selected Boeing to develop its Phantom Express vehicle as part of the XS-1 reusable spaceplane project. John Hollaway is unimpressed with this latest effort to try and reduce the cost of getting into space. Click here. (7/31)

Test Launch Coming to Proposed Georgia Spaceport Site (Source: Brunswick News)
For the first time in 50 years, a rocket engine will be fired in Camden County next week. The FAA has approved a permit for Vector Space Systems to conduct a low- altitude launch on Thursday of a full-scale prototype of the company’s Vector-R launch vehicle. The rocket will be launched from the site of a proposed spaceport, the same location in Camden County where NASA tested solid-fuel rocket engines in the 1960s. One reason for making the announcement early is to address any public concerns, said John Simpson, a county spokesman.

“We don’t want people concerned this is a missile heading to (Naval Submarine Base) Kings Bay,” he said. No target altitude has been announced, but Simpson said the rocket will travel at least several thousand feet high. The trajectory will take the rocket straight up and straight down, so there are no concerns about safety to surrounding areas. “Everything stays within the confines of the launch area,” said County Administrator Steve Howard.

Vector hasn’t revealed how the rocket will return to earth. There are no homes within miles of the site, so there are few concerns about public safety to address, officials said. The FAA requires Vector to ensure the launch does not create a hazard to people, property or other aircraft. “There are lots of buffers around the site,” Howard said. “There will be no disruption to citizens.” (7/31)

We Should be Welcoming the Nova Scotia Spaceport (Source: Chronicle Herald)
Above the quiet nights here in rural Cape Breton, jet-black skies are frosted with pinpoint lights that lift your mind though infinite, shifting patterns. Star-gazing, though glorious for poets and dreamers, also offers massive benefits to the more practical among us. These days, the money-making potential for Nova Scotia glimmers just across the causeway, in Canso.

The search for understanding of the world beyond our planet has led to brilliant, intricate machines, such as space mirrors and communication satellites, which earn billions of dollars and which companies like Halifax-based Maritime Launch Services would like to send soaring from a proposed launch pad at Canso, near the water’s edge.

Good on them. Canada hasn’t sent a craft into space since 1998. The Churchill Rocket Research Range in northern Manitoba, our last launchpad, has dwindled into a hotel for research tourism. It’s possible that our lack of a local, hands-on space industry and our willingness to let other countries take the lead explain why a handful of Nova Scotia environmentalists and a few science-phobes recently protested the proposed launchpad. (7/31)

How the UK Space Industry Can Achieve a Long-Awaited Liftoff (Source: The Telegraph)
Mention the space industry and most people think of huge rockets blasting astronauts through the atmosphere. That may be where the glamour is, but the UK has quietly made a name for itself in a less glitzy, but potentially more valuable line of work. Instead of looking up to the stars, Britain has become a major producer of satellites looking down to Earth, an industry worth almost £14bn a year and employing close to 40,000 people.

The UK is reckoned to produce about a quarter of all large communication satellites. Britain is also good at making small satellites – 10cm cubed “boxes” that the miniaturization of electronics has made possible. What the UK lacks is the capability to launch craft into space. Britain is unique in that it developed its own space launch capability – the Black Arrow project of the Sixties and Seventies – then gave it up under pressure from the Treasury, having undertaken only one mission. Click here. (7/30) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/07/30/uk-space-industry-can-achieve-long-awaited-lift/

China's Supercomputer Simulated the Universe with 10 Trillion Digital Particles (Source: WIRED)
China is already building a supercomputer that's capable of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second and hopes a prototype will be completed this year. Despite this computing prowess, the nation is trying to do more. The country has already stated its ambitions to ensure it is a leader in artificial intelligence by 2030. It's now created the largest digitally generated version of the Universe, a report claims.

China has used the Sunway TaihuLight, the world's most powerful supercomputer, to simulate "the birth and early expansion of the Universe" using 10 trillion digital particles. The work has reportedly been completed by the National Supercomputer Centre in Wuxi, and involved computer scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. The supercomputer used 10 million CPU cores to create the universe – known as N-body simulation – and involved breaking the universe's mass down into particles.

"This is just a warm-up exercise," Gao Liang, chair scientist of the computational cosmology group at the National Astronomical Observatories said. "We just got to the point of tens of millions of years after the Big Bang. It was still a very young stage for the universe. Most galaxies were not even born". (7/31)

Ex-NASA Agent Fears Gold Lunar Module Will Be Melted Down (Source: The Vindicator)
Whoever broke into an Ohio museum late Friday and stole a solid-gold replica of the Apollo 11 lunar module likely intends to melt it down for the value of the gold instead of trying to sell what could be a collectible worth millions of dollars, said a Texas attorney and retired federal agent with NASA who has helped recover and locate stolen moon rocks worth millions of dollars.

The 5-inch high replica was discovered stolen after an alarm sounded just before midnight Friday at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, the boyhood home of astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the moon in July 1969. Replicas made by the French jeweler Cartier were presented to Armstrong and fellow Apollo 11 space voyagers Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in Paris after they returned to Earth.

The NASA agent, Joseph Gutheinz Jr., told The Associated Press on Sunday there’s a moon rock in the museum from the Apollo 11 mission that’s much larger than other rocks given away or loaned to museums or foreign countries that could easily be smuggled out of the country, where a geologist could verity its authenticity. He said it would be worth millions of dollars to a collector into space items. (7/31)

Iran's Space Launch: Act of Defiance or Legitimate Space Test? (Source: SpaceWatch Middle East)
Iran launched its Simorgh space launch vehicle (SLV) into space on Thursday, July 27, 2017, from the Imam Khomeini Space Center. The Simorgh SLV (Farsi for ‘Phoenix’) was not thought to have carried a payload. The U.S. Air Force’s Joint Space Operations Centre (JSpOC) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California reported that it had not detected any satellite released in to low-Earth orbit by the Simorgh SLV.

The launch came within days of the U.S. Congress passing a bipartisan bill that puts in place further sanctions against Iranian entities in retaliation for Tehran’s continued testing and use of ballistic missiles. A large number of proliferation and ballistic missile experts believe that the Simorgh SLV is being used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a test-bed for an eventual intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability that could potentially strike targets in the United States. (7/31)

Space Florida, Orbital ATK Gear Up for Historic Rocket Launch (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
A rocket launch is taking place at Cape Canaveral — but it's not from SpaceX or United Launch Alliance. Orbital ATK Inc. will launch its Minotaur IV rocket on Aug. 25 from Space Florida's launch complex 46 — a first for the pad since 1999. "Space Florida is in the final stages of preparing LC-46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport," said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, the state's aerospace economic development agency.

Orbital ATK's rocket will carry the ORS-5 satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force — a $23.6 million contract Orbital ATK won in 2015. ORS-5, also known as the SensorSat, will scan for other satellites and debris to aid the military in tracking objects. LC-46 was a Navy site for test launches of the Trident missile in the 1980s, Orbital ATK explained in a press release. The state of Florida took over LC-46 in the 1990s, and saw two launches in that decade. Since 2012, Space Florida has been working to upgrade the pad, including a brand new underground communications center. (7/31)

Aphelion Orbitals Secures Seed Funding, Announces Plans to Revolutionize Low-Cost Space Access (Source: Aphelion)
Aphelion Orbitals, Inc., an innovative nanosatellite manufacturer and launch services provider, announced today it has successfully closed on $500K in seed funding from an international group of angel investors. With the brightest young talent in the aerospace industry, Aphelion Orbitals operates from offices in New York City, NY and Titusville, FL as well as an R&D facility in Union City, NJ. Aphelion Orbitals was founded to dramatically reduce the costs of getting to space for nano-satellites and revolutionize access to space.

CubeSats are a class of nanosatellites that use a standard size and form factor.  The standard size uses a 1.33kg "one unit" or "1U" module measuring 10x10x10 cm, extendable to larger sizes. By developing the only small launch vehicle dedicated to the CubeSat-class market and a total mass to orbit less than 20kg, Aphelion Orbitals provides services optimized for both performance and price.

Aphelion Orbitals' Feynman CubeSat launch system is optimized for payloads up to 6U. Future versions will allow larger payloads and permit deep space trajectories. Aphelion Orbitals offers a complete turnkey system, including satellite bus and systems so that customers will only need to interface their payload to the spacecraft. (7/31)

Thieves Take Neil Armstrong's Solid Gold Lunar Module Replica (Source: NPR)
Thieves made off with a solid gold replica of the first vehicle to land on the moon Friday. Police in Wapakoneta, Ohio, say they found the model of the 1969 Lunar Excursion Module missing from the Armstrong Air & Space Museum after they responded to an alarm that went off at the museum late Friday night. The gold replica, given to famed astronaut Neil Armstrong, is one of only three made — one for each astronaut aboard Apollo 11. Police said in a statement that "the value of such an item cannot be determined."

Readers of French newspaper Le Figaro gave the 18-karat gold models to Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins during a visit to Paris in October 1969, according to the website collectSPACE. Le Figaro commissioned French jewelry-maker Cartier to design and make the models; the newspaper asked its readers "to contribute to the cost — 10 francs, 20 francs, whatever they could afford — with two of [the readers] making the presentation," Cartier archivist Violette Petit told Barron's in 2015. Inside each model was a microfilm with the names of readers who contributed. (7/30)

Russia to Continue Delivering Rocket Engines to US (Source: Tass)
Russia is set to continue the deliveries of its rocket engines to the United States, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Saturday in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel. "They (the United States) have an interesting approach, they try not to harm areas in which they are interested. They say that "space is outside politics." We take the "space is outside politics" slogan into account, but nothing lasts forever," he said. According to the Russian official, the US is interested in keeping the deal running, because their space launches currently depend on the delivery of Russian-made rocket engines. (7/29)

This is What Happened When a Man Found a Tiny Meteorite (Source: Washington Post)
Micrometeorites are everywhere. Think of them as tiny space invaders — specks of dust, sometimes smaller than a grain of sand, that have survived a trip through space and a hellacious entry into Earth’s atmosphere. They’re so small that most can’t be seen by the naked eye. Until recently, scientists thought they were too small to be spotted in populated areas. "In Stardust: Amazing Micrometeorites and Their Terrestrial Imposters” uses high-resolution microscopes to home in on the glittering, strangely shaped debris.

Jon Larsen, a Norwegian jazz musician, began his search for the miniature space rocks after one landed on his outdoor table near Oslo. The glistening speck caught his eye, and he wondered whether it had come from space. It’s unclear where they come from: They could originate in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or even be made of material that existed before the sun formed. But their mysterious origins make their weird textures, shapes and colors even more intriguing. Click here. (7/30)

Japan Venture Ends Rocket Launch After Communications Glitch (Source: AP)
The launch of a rocket by a private Japanese venture was cut short after liftoff Sunday due to a communications failure. Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch, applauding as the rocket took off from a launching pad on Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido. The rocket's developers, Interstellar Technologies, said they aborted the launch after about 80 seconds and it landed about 8 kilometers (5 miles) offshore. The aim had been to launch the rocket, called "Momo," to an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles), but it only traveled about 30-40 kilometers (19-25 miles). (7/30)

New Zealand: Draconian Restrictions in New Outer Space Act (Source: Stuff)
Anyone found guilty of photographing the remains of a crashed satellite in a "declared satellite debris recovery area" could face three months in prison as well as a $2000 fine. The same applies to anyone removing souvenirs from a crash site. They are just two of the penalties under the new Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act. The Act is mainly aimed at ensuring compliance with the international Outer Space Treaty which New Zealand has ratified, according to Christchurch Lane Neave law firm partner Maria Pozza who made submissions on it.

Pozza who said the Act introduced a licensing regime to the sector and she predicted an increase in companies using New Zealand as a lunch pad because orbits over other parts of the world were crowded. Launching a rocket without a licence could attract a sentence of imprisonment for a year or a fine of $50,000 for an individual, or $250,000 for a company. The international Outer Space Treaty treaty forbids anyone putting weapons into Earth's orbit, which means any rocket payload from New Zealand must  have undergone national security checks, including consultation with national security Ministers.

The "draconian" restrictions on media coverage were highlighted in a submission from the Media Freedom Committee, worried about the ability to report on matters of national public significance. The Act sates that no person may, without permission of an enforcement officer, take any photograph, make any sketch, plan, model, or note, or otherwise record any image of, or study, any launch vehicle, payload, component of a launch vehicle or payload, related equipment, or other debris that the person knows or ought to know is in a debris protection area. (7/30)

Details Soon on Rocket Lab's Test Flight Results (Source: New Zealand Herald)
Rocket Lab is expected to release details about its first Electron test launch this week. The company, according to a report, plans to release this week the analysis of data collected during the first launch of its Electron rocket in May. That launch failed to reach orbit because of a problem with the rocket's upper stage, although the initial phases of flight appeared to go as planned. The company has not announced a date for the second of three planned test flights of the rocket. (7/31)

Moon Express Dream of Lunar Mission with Rocket Lab on Track (Source: New Zealand Herald)
A private company planning a Moon mission involving New Zealand's Rocket Lab says it still hopes to reach the lunar surface by as early as the end of the year. Florida-based Moon Express signed a deal with Rocket Lab in 2015 and if it can reach the Moon by the end of the year and accomplish a number of tasks it could win $20 million. Its robotic lander would be blasted into orbit aboard Rocket Lab's Electron rocket. The MX-1 lunar lander is reportedly about 1.8m tall, weighs about 250kg and would fly to the moon over about four days after being delivered into high earth orbit by the Electron. (7/29)

Iridium Launch Delay Leads to Credit Payment Delay (Source: Space News)
Delays in launching Iridium's next-generation satellite constellation have led to the company to seek extensions on payments. The company's chief financial officer said last week that Coface, the French export credit agency, has delayed $98 million in payments until March 2019, while satellite manufacturer Thales Alenia Space has deferred $100 million in payments until early 2019 as well. The third set of ten Iridium Next satellites are scheduled for launch on a Falcon 9 Sept. 30, with the fourth to follow in November. (7/31)

NASA Could Have Put Crew on First SLS Launch (Source: BuzzFeed)
A NASA report confirms that the agency could have put a crew on the first launch of the Space Launch System but concluded it could not afford to do so. NASA had announced in May that its study found that it could fly a crewed mission around the Moon on the EM-1 mission, but that it was not worth the additional risk and expense. A summary of that report, released by NASA last week, confirmed that assessment, but provided no significant new details. NASA currently plans to launch EM-1 without a crew some time in 2019. (7/31)

Controversial New Theory: Life Wasn't a Fluke of Biology - It Was Physics (Source: WIRED)
The biophysicist Jeremy England made waves in 2013 with a new theory that cast the origin of life as an inevitable outcome of thermodynamics. His equations suggested that under certain conditions, groups of atoms will naturally restructure themselves so as to burn more and more energy, facilitating the incessant dispersal of energy and the rise of “entropy” or disorder in the universe.

England said this restructuring effect, which he calls dissipation-driven adaptation, fosters the growth of complex structures, including living things. The existence of life is no mystery or lucky break, he told Quanta in 2014, but rather follows from general physical principles and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.” (7/30)

SpaceX Builds Final First-Generation Dragon Capsule, Plans Reuse Until Gen-2 Flies (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The Dragon supply ship set for liftoff from Florida next month was the last of SpaceX’s first-generation cargo capsules off the production line, meaning future logistics deliveries to the International Space Station will fly on recycled spacecraft until a new Dragon variant is ready. SpaceX launched a reused Dragon cargo craft on its last commercial supply shipment to the space station in June, and officials said then that the next Dragon mission — now scheduled for launch next month — will use a newly-manufactured capsule.

SpaceX clarified Friday that the company expects the upcoming automated logistics mission will be the last to fly with a newly-manufactured “Dragon 1” spacecraft. SpaceX has a contract with NASA for 20 commercial resupply launches through 2019, followed by at least six more Dragon cargo missions through 2024 under a separate follow-on agreement. (7/29)

Opposition Still Churning Against Proposed Georgia Spaceport (Source: SpaceportFacts.org)
The launch will be conducted "somewhere in the County" because Camden does not yet own the Union Carbide property and it is hard to imagine any incentive that would induce U/C to allow such a stunt. Assuming that Vector will launch to 10,000 feet, Camden would require a site similar to Jacksonville’s amateur rocket launch site at Clegg's Sod Farm near Bunnell where there is a permanent Part 101 waiver to 10,000 feet.

In any case, a launch to 10,000 feet altitude would be 1/32 of the altitude needed to reach the edge of space. Vector's recent tests have not even reached 5,000 feet altitude which is only 1/65th of that necessary to reach the "edge" of space. Amateur rocket launches by college rocket clubs have been conducted to greater than 100,000 feet as recently as May so Thursday's launch will not be especially noted except by Camden officials, their paid PR announcements, and Vector publicity.

Meanwhile, Camden County has not produced a vettable Economic Impact Study that supports their claim that “hundreds” of jobs will be created by the spaceport or that Camden County can ever recover the taxpayers' investment. Vector announced in October 2016, that they would open a new factory in Tuscon that would be operational by 2018 and employ 200. They presently share a garage/factory/workshop where the company President builds race cars and rockets. (7/30)

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