July 6, 2017

11 Things We Love About Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin (Source: Observer)
Buzz Aldrin’s life and name is ubiquitous within the world and history of space exploration. Aldrin became one of the first humans to walk on another world when he exited the Lunar landing module during the Apollo 11 mission. Since then, he’s been in the public eye advocating and defending space travel through many channels that include film, television and even the music industry. Here are 11 things we love about Buzz Aldrin. (7/5)

100 Billion Brown Dwarfs May Populate Our Galaxy (Source: Cosmos)
The Milky Way may contain as many as 100 billion brown dwarfs, according to new research to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Brown dwarfs are failed stars that were not quite heavy enough to sustain the hydrogen fusion reactions that make real stars shine. They weigh about 10 to 100 times as much as Jupiter, which means their internal gravitational pressure is enough to fuse deuterium (a kind of hydrogen that contains an extra neutron in each atom) and sometimes also lithium.

This means they glow only dimly. Most of the radiation they do give off is in the infrared spectrum and hence invisible to the human eye, though some would appear faintly purple or red. All of this makes brown dwarfs very hard for astronomers to spot. While scientists have speculated since the 1960s that they might exist, the first definite sightings did not occur until 1995. (7/6)

Pence: America Will Dominate the Heavens Under Donald Trump (Source: Newsweek)
On Earth as it is in heaven (including the weapons). While delivering a speech at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence promised the American people that under President Donald Trump, the United States will control the heavens—presumably, meaning space—as he said America does the world.

“As we once again lead in space exploration, we will continue to make the investments and presence in space to ensure the safety and security of the American people,” Pence said. “Space is vital to our national security. I saw it firsthand when I visited Schriever Air Force Base just a few weeks ago. And I can assure you, under President Donald Trump, American security will be as dominant in the heavens as we are here on Earth.”

“We will beat back any disadvantage that our lack of attention has placed and America will once again lead in space,” Pence said.  “We will return our nation to the moon, we will go to Mars, and we will still go further to places that our children’s children can only imagine. We will maintain a constant presence in low-Earth orbit, and we’ll develop policies that will carry human space exploration across our solar system and ultimately into the vast expanses." (7/6)

SpaceX Sets New Pace for Launches (Source: Space News)
SpaceX set a new company record with its successful launch Wednesday evening. The launch was the tenth this year for SpaceX, the most missions it has performed in a year and putting the company on track to launch 18 or more times this year. (7/6)

NASA Considers Extended Mission for Dawn Probe (Source: Space News)
NASA is reviewing options for another extended mission for the Dawn spacecraft that could include a flyby of another asteroid. Dawn completed a one-year extended mission in orbit around Ceres at the end of June, and the spacecraft is continuing operations there while NASA reviews the science the mission has achieved there. The agency expects to make a decision in 30 to 60 days about another extension, which could include remaining in a high orbit around Ceres or using the spacecraft's ion engine to leave orbit and fly by another asteroid. (7/6)

Branson Confident That Virgin Galactic Will Fly Passengers in 2018 (Source: Bloomberg)
Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson reiterated plans this week to start commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo next year. Branson, interviewed Wednesday in Hong Kong, said powered test flights of SpaceShipTwo would begin later this year, allowing commercial flights to begin by the end of 2018. The timeline Branson provided is similar to previous statements he has made in recent months about development of the suborbital spaceplane, but company executives have been reticent to provide a schedule with the same level of detail. (7/6)

After the Crash: Inside Richard Branson's $600m Space Mission (Source: GQ)
Three years after its spaceship exploded in a tragic accident, Virgin Galactic has regrouped. Sir Richard Branson hopes to start flying passengers in 2018. GQ went behind the scenes as the company attempts to fulfil the dreams of a generation of would-be astronauts. Click here. (7/6)

Indian Lunar X Prize Team Raising Money for Launch (Source: Times of India)
Team Indus is looking to raise $40 million to fund the completion and launch of its lunar rover mission. The team, one of the finalists in the Google Lunar X Prize, is seeking a mix of corporate sponsorship and crowdfunding to raise the money to fund the December launch of its lunar lander and rover. Team Indus has raised $20 million from several investors as well as $20 million from agreements to carry payloads for third parties on the mission. (7/6)

Rocket Lab Wants to Build and Launch a Rocket Every Week (Source: New Zealand Herald)
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck revealed the company plans to build a rocket and launch into space every week. Beck said the company had six rockets in various stages of production in New Zealand and Los Angeles and the goal was to get production time down to a week. "There's a large element of [automation]. We've embraced the latest technology in 3D printing and the latest in composite manufacturing."

Rocket Lab's goal was to launch a rocket to space every week, so the company would need to produce a rocket every week, Beck said. Parliament passed the Outer Space and High-Altitude Activities Bill yesterday, which sets in place a legal framework for space industry in New Zealand. Beck said the new law doesn't change anything for Rocket Lab. "We operate amongst a lot of regulatory regimes in New Zealand and internationally. For us it's business as usual," Beck said.

Editor's Note: Achieving a weekly launch cadence is certainly possible, and probably most financially feasible from Florida, where cubesat customers are more likely to be available for pre-launch payload processing. Requiring customers trek to New Zealand with their payloads might be a difficult proposition. Weekly launches of this type would also represent a great training opportunity for the spaceport's workforce, including NASA, Air Force and FAA personnel. (7/5)

UK Space Industry Bill Introduced (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Space Industry Bill has been introduced into the House of Lords, marking the first step in the process to create new laws and a regulatory framework to enable exciting new technologies to operate safely from the UK. The Bill, which was outlined in the Queen’s Speech, is a clear signal of the UK’s commitment to enabling commercial spaceflight from UK spaceports, and a key part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy to ensure the UK businesses capture a share of this emerging global market.

Lord Callanan, Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Transport introduced the Space Industry Bill, which is a joint initiative by the Department for Transport, UK Space Agency and Civil Aviation Authority supported by the Health and Safety Executive. (7/5)

Air Force Asks SpaceX, ULA to Bid on a Five-Launch Contract (Source: Space News)
The Air Force announced it is soliciting proposals for five upcoming launches — the largest group it has posted since certifying SpaceX to compete with United Launch Alliance for launch contracts. Grouping launches together is an effort to streamline and speed the acquisition process at a time when the national security sector is demanding ever-increasing access to space.

The EELV contracts included in the solicitation are Air Force Space Command Satellite 8 and Satellite 12, and three GPS 3 launches. Interested companies have until Aug. 14 to submit proposals, but must bid on all five launches. A waiver to not bid on a particular launch will only be granted if there are technical concerns.

Two more bidding opportunities are expected before the end of 2017, with an RFP for AFSPC-52 in August, and another batch of five launches grouped together sometime before the end of the year. That next group of five launches would include three missions for the National Reconnaissance Office — NROL-85, -87, and -107 — one satellite for the Space Based Infrared Systems missile-warning constellation, and AFSPC-44. It’s possible that another GPS 3 launch might be added to the group as well. (7/5)

XCOR Lays off Remaining Employees at Midland TX and Mojave CA Spaceports (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Struggling XCOR Aerospace has laid off its remaining employees in Mojave CA and Midland TX. “Due to adverse financial conditions XCOR had to terminate all employees as of 30 June 2017,” the company said in a statement. “XCOR management will retain critical employees on a contract basis to maintain the company’s intellectual property and is actively seeking other options that would allow it to resume full employment and activity.”

The move follows the news last month that CEO Jay Gibson was leaving the company after President Donald Trump nominated him for a high-level position at the Department of Defense. Gibson left the company at the end of June. XCOR hired Gibson in March 2015 to replace founder Jeff Greason. The objective was for Gibson to focus on the business side while Greason focused on completing construction on the two-seat Lynx suborbital space plane.

Editor's Note: Not a big deal for Mojave, as XCOR had already all but left California, but Midland can't be happy because XCOR was their bet to establish a new Texas spaceport. Midland also has invested in Orbital Outfitters, a company with a similarly bleak future because XCOR was a key customer. State and local EDCs should take a hint from the venture capital world: avoid funding a startup that relies on another startup for its success. (7/5)

Russia Starts Designing Super-Heavy Rocket (Source: Tass)
A decision on starting work on the conceptual design of a new Russian super-heavy carrier rocket may be taken in the coming weeks, a source in the rocket and space industry said. "State Space Corporation Roscosmos is expected to issue a resolution in the coming weeks on the conceptual designing of the super-heavy carrier rocket," the source said.

This work will last 18-24 months. Over this period, developers should determine the rocket’s design and its technical characteristics and outline the missions, for which it can be used. Roscosmos’s resolution will also define the parent organization and cooperation for the launcher’s development. (7/5)

Calm Lakes on Titan Could Mean Smooth Landing for Future Probes (Source: UT Austin)
The lakes of liquid methane on Saturn's moon, Titan, are perfect for paddling but not for surfing. New research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that most waves on Titan's lakes reach only about 1 centimeter high, a finding that indicates a serene environment that could be good news for future probes sent to the surface of that moon. (7/5)

SpaceX Scores Another Launch Success After Twin Technical Delays (Source: Tech Crunch)
SpaceX successfully launched an Intelsat 35e satellite today in its third attempt after the mission was aborted once on July 2 and then again on July 3. The scrubs were due to automated countdown clock stoppage with 10 seconds remaining prior to launch. SpaceX took July 4 to fully investigate the cause and review its systems. The original scrub for the mission occurred because SpaceX’s computer system detected a potential issue with its Falcon 9’s guidance platform. (7/5)

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