July 5, 2017

Fastest Stars in the Milky Way are ‘Runaways’ From Another Galaxy (Source: RAS)
A group of astronomers have shown that the fastest-moving stars in our galaxy – which are traveling so fast that they can escape the Milky Way – are in fact runaways from a much smaller galaxy in orbit around our own. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and computer simulations to demonstrate that these stellar sprinters originated in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a dwarf galaxy in orbit around the Milky Way.
These fast-moving stars, known as hypervelocity stars, were able to escape their original home when the explosion of one star in a binary system caused the other to fly off with such speed that it was able to escape the gravity of the LMC and get absorbed into the Milky Way. (7/5)

Problems Aside, NASA Moves Toward SLS Structural Testing at Marshall (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Moving beyond site selection controversy and production problems that caused headlines in May, NASA is working to complete a Space Launch System (SLS) structural test article at the Space Agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in Louisiana. Early in May, workers discovered that the forward liquid oxygen tank dome had been damaged during welding, raising concerns the item would be useless for structural tests planned at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. However, engineers from NASA and prime contractor Boeing have now cleared the dome for use and completed repairs to the MAF’s specialized friction stir welding assembly.

Much of the hardware necessary for the structural tests on the SLS core stage has already been completed. The engine section, which will mount four RS-25 engines, was shipped to Marshall in April. The liquid hydrogen tank welding was completed in September of last year, and the intertank section was recently completed. Among the major test items, only the liquid oxygen tank remains unfinished. Meanwhile, Boeing has begun welding the first flight-intended liquid hydrogen tank.

The completed test articles will be qualified at a Marshall-based test stand that NASA’s Inspector General harshly criticized in a May report. The IG found that NASA did not adequately consider alternate locations, such as Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where NASA already hosts rocket engine testing. It noted that the journey by barge from Michoud to Marshall required two weeks of travel for each test component – on a barge that could only carry one piece at a time – requiring six weeks total of travel and a total cost of over $1 million. The entire test article could be shipped to Stennis within a week at a total cost of around $200,000. (7/5)

Juno Shatters Scientists' Jupiter Theories in Just 365 Days (Source: WIRED)
Last July 4TH, NASA's Juno spacecraft slowed its record breaking pace just enough to get caught in the pull of Jupiter's gravity. (The timing, according to NASA, was just a very patriotic coincidence.) Either way, Independence Day 2016 was the last time the Juno mission pumped its brakes. In the year since, the 66-foot solar-powered craft has given scientists more and weirder Jupiter data than they ever thought possible. So, in honor of Juno's first year orbiting the hitherto mysterious gas giant, here's a rundown of the mission's greatest scientific hits so far. Click here. (7/4)

Organic Molecules Near Saturn’s Moon Enceladus Not a Sign of Life (Source: Cosmos)
If you’re looking for life elsewhere in the solar system, you could do worse than look to the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Although they don’t have much in the way of atmosphere, several have liquid oceans sealed inside their frozen crusts. Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede, for example, may hold saltwater oceans under kilometers-deep crust, and conditions inside might be similar to those in underground lakes in Antarctica. Saturn’s moon Enceladus, with its cryovolcanoes spraying hot water into space, is also worth a look.

Two British astronomers, Jane Greaves of Cardiff University and Helen Fraser of the Open University, recently made a surprising discovery while observing Enceladus via the IRAM 30-metre radio telescope in the Spanish Sierra Nevada. They found the tell-tale signature of the complex organic molecule methanol in the spray plumes. This is the first observation of Enceladus’ chemistry with a ground-based telescope. (7/5)

UK’s Orbital Access Wins ESA Two-sStage-to-Orbit Study Contract (Source: Space Intel Report)
Orbital Access Ltd. of Britain, which is designing a small-satellite launcher that would lift off from a horizontal runway under the belly of a modified jet airliner, has won a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry the project to system definition before a preliminary design review. The four-month contract is valued at 200,000 British pounds ($257,000). Orbital Access estimates that carrying the program through to first flight would take about four years and cost some 500 million pounds. The contract comes as the British government debates how far it wants to go in promoting a domestic space-launch capability. (7/5)

South Africa Joins BRICS Space Program (Source: SABC)
South Africa has joined a BRICS space program, the first substantive project in the field of space cooperation between the BRICS member countries. A statement from the South African National Space Agency (Sansa) on Tuesday said that the country had joined the the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB), the State Space Corporation “Roscosmos” in Russia, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to create the BRICS Remote Sensing Satellite Constellation. BRICS is a formal partnership between the  five major emerging economies, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. (7/54)

Foreign Launches: Small is Beautiful for ISRO (Source: Deccan Herald)
From a humble start and through a journey punctuated by public apprehension and criticism, the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) has grown to become a shining example of a state-run research organisation that's not a white elephant, but a successful revenue generating arm of the Government. Key milestones in this journey have been the ability of Isro's commercial arm, Antrix, to steadily grow its customer base offering a host of solutions. Most importantly, foreign satellite launches-the agency is today a go-to organisation for several countries wanting to put their satellites into space-which account for 10% to 20% of Antrix's revenue. (7/5)

The Surprising Space Ambitions in Colonial America (Source: The Atlantic)
Many turned out to watch Venus pass across the face of the sun, a tiny, black dot moving against a white-hot backdrop. Scholars organized watch parties up and down the East Coast, from Rhode Island to Delaware, ready to learn more about their place in the world. The observations were described in published papers, and they were praised by European observers, who were impressed by a “new stage of maturity in the development of America.” The year was 1769, and American space exploration was beginning to take shape. Click here. (6/27)

Roscosmos: Rocket Reusability’s the Future, But We Can Compete with SpaceX Now (Source: Space Intel Report)
The head of Russia’s space agency on July 4 said Russia will remain commercially competitive in launch services by cutting prices of a newly designed rocket by 20% — the same reduction he expects to see from SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9. Roscosmos Director-General Igor Komarov said Russia’s Soyuz 5 rocket will be competitive without being reusable for a few years.

Longer-term, Komarov said, reusable rockets likely will become the norm as advances in materials make the reuse of rocket stages more feasible. Komarov said the volume and value of SpaceX’s launch contracts present “a serious challenge, not only for us, but for all traditional producers of rocket and space technology…. I think in the future this technology will be used. The only question is when. There are serious doubts that we can do it with the present level of materials and rocket engines.” (7/5)

In-Flight Connectivity Legal Battle Heats Up Bbetween ViaSat, Eutelsat and Inmarsat (Source: Space Intel Report)
The dispute between satellite operators competing to provide in-flight connectivity services in Europe has sharpened, with the two sides exchanging cease-and-desist demands and the publication of a formal legal complaint. The judicial procedure, filed by satellite broadband provider ViaSat Inc. on April 24 in the General Court of the European Union, was published only July 3.

Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat, which has agreed to partner with ViaSat to offer in-flight WiFi on European and trans-Atlantic routes, is now expected to join ViaSat as a plaintiff in the case against the European Commission and Inmarsat‘s European Aviation Network (EAN). The ViaSat-2 satellite launched June 1, which is scheduled to enter service by the end of the year, is designed to provide in-flight connectivity in tandem with Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat, already in orbit.

The two companies, supported by a competing in-flight-connectivity provider, Panasonic Avionics, are asking the court to force the European Commission to intervene to stop Inmarsat from deploying its EAN service.
The companies allege that Inmarsat’s EAN is a misuse of Inmarsat’s European Commission license, intended to promote a mobile satellite services network throughout Europe. (7/5)

Veteran Ocean Satellite to Assume Added Role (Source: Space Daily)
A venerable U.S./European oceanography satellite mission with NASA participation that has expanded our knowledge of global sea level change, ocean currents and climate phenomena like El Nino and La Nina will take on an additional role next month: improving maps of Earth's sea floor.

The Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite, a partnership among NASA, NOAA, the French Space Agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), marked its ninth year in orbit on June 20. Designed to fly three to five years, OSTM/Jason-2 has now completed more than 42,000 trips around our planet, contributing to a database of satellite altimetry that dates back to the launch of the U.S./French Topex/Poseidon satellite in 1992.

On June 20, Jason-2's four mission partner agencies agreed to lower Jason-2's orbit by 17 miles in early July, from 830 to 813 miles, placing it in a new orbit with a long repeat period of just more than one year. The move is designed to safeguard the orbit for Jason-3 and its planned successor, Jason-CS/Sentinel-6, planned for launch in 2020. In its new orbit, OSTM/Jason-2 will also undertake a new science mission. The long-repeat orbit will allow OSTM/Jason-2 to collect data along a series of very closely spaced ground tracks just 5 miles apart. The result will be a new, high-resolution estimate of Earth's average sea surface height. (7/5)

North Korea's ICBM Capability: What Now? (Source: Space Daily)
North Korea declared Tuesday that the country had finally achieved its dream of building an intercontinental ballistic missile, saying it would "fundamentally put an end to the US nuclear war threat and blackmail." The Hwasong-14 ICBM reached an altitude of about 2,802 kilometers (1,741 miles) and flew 933 kilometers for 39 minutes before hitting a target area on the sea off the east coast, the North said.

Washington, Japan and South Korea gave similar figures, and US experts said the trajectory implied the device could reach Alaska. Pyongyang is subject to multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its atomic and missile programs, which it says it needs to protect itself against a possible invasion. It regularly issues bloodcurdling threats against its "imperialist enemy" Washington, and has long sought a rocket capable of delivering a warhead to the continental United States.

The progress has accelerated especially after young leader Kim Jong-Un took power following the death of his father, longtime ruler Kim Jong-Il, in 2011. The latest launch potentially forces a recalculation of the threat it poses. (7/4)

Japan’s Manned Space Development Pressed to Deal with Rapidly Changing Age (Source: Nippon.com)
Preparations must be started now for a new lunar age that is just 10 years in the future. Space development is becoming more frenetic today around the world, and the private sector is playing a much more energetic role. Looking at Japan, on the other hand, one cannot help but conclude that it is starting late in both the areas of commercial services in orbit and in international space exploration.

Japan’s basic space plan advocates “industrial promotion,” but essentially is tilted toward the satellite-launching business and lacks a strategy for nurturing companies that can provide commercial services in orbit. In the area of international space exploration, Japan has still made no specific efforts despite the fact that the country will host an ISEF meeting in March 2018. The December 2015 revision of the Basic Plan for Space Policy includes a specific schedule for the next decade or so in working to achieve the nation’s goals in space. Amazingly, the schedule for international manned space exploration is completely blank after the year 2018.

For Japan, manned space development holds significant meaning in terms of diplomacy and security policy in the Asian region, and must be actively advanced. For that, what the nation needs most is a clear vision of a future—one that can be pictured by anyone—in which Japan is active in space developments both in orbit and on the moon’s surface. (7/4)

Inside the Startup that Wants to Mine Asteroids and Transform Space Travel Forever (Source: WIRED)
For one, the concept of asteroid mining made sense - in theory. There are more than a million asteroids orbiting our Sun, ranging from a few centimetres to hundreds of kilometres in diameter. Most are lumps of inert rock and dirt. Some, however, are ancient proto-planetary cores stripped of their outer layers during the violent tumult of our Solar System's youth.

These are made of pure metal, usually nickel, iron and platinum. "Having an abundant source of platinum group metals from space can transform the way our world works," Lewicki says. "Much as we transformed our relationship with metals when we figured out how to extract aluminium from the Earth's crust." Click here. (7/4)

Bezos and Musk Are Shaping the Worldviews of Future Space Settlements (Source: Motherboard)
“People living in free space near the Earth will remain Earthlings. People who settle Mars will become Martians.” What might be the difference between living in space while always seeing the Earth, versus perceiving it as a point of light from the surface of Mars? Some people suggest that two or more very different societies will emerge. This could be a positive step, as we experiment with various ways to survive in an unforgiving environment. It might also have negative consequences, as new forms of competition and conflict emerge.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, two billionaires who helm thriving private space enterprises—SpaceX and Blue Origin, respectively—are making plans that will address this question. They share the dream of taking us off of Earth, but have publicly expressed different ideas about how to do it and why. Click here. (7/4)

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