August 10, 2017

NASA Antenna Maker Says Apple Copied Tech In IPhone (Source: Law360)
A Utah-based antenna maker who's licensed products to NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense sued Apple Inc. in federal court Wednesday, claiming the tech giant copied its patented antenna technology and uses it in its iPhone and other products. (8/9)

Congressman Raises Concern Over Potential Use of Russian Satellites for Troops’ Internet Service (Source: Washington Post)
In a letter to the Pentagon Friday, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter said he was concerned a contract to provide Internet service to deployed soldiers could allow the use of Russian satellites, jeopardizing troops’ privacy and security.

Previous service at bases’ Internet cafes had “stringent security measures,” Hunter wrote to Army Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, the head of the Defense Information Systems Agency. But he said he was worried the “contracting arrangement creates unnecessary security risks, given that our deployed warfighters could be exposed to transmitting their personal information over unprotected networks that are controlled by foreign and potentially hostile entities.”

Hunter, a California Republican who served three tours as Marine, said, “this is one of the dumbest things we could do. Why give the Russians the ability to basically spy on American military personnel when there are so many other options?” Federal law prevents using the satellites of many adversarial countries, such as North Korea and China, said Hunter, a member of the Armed Services Committee. But while there is no provision that specifically bars the use of Russian satellites. (10/21)

Investors Pour Billions Into Commercial Space Start-Ups as They Approach Exit Velocity (Source: CNBC)
Investment in space start-ups continues to soar, buoyed by the exploits of highly visible space concerns, like SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. But it's the terabytes of data streaming to Earth daily from a new generation of smaller, less-expensive satellites — thousands of which are slated to join the roughly 1,500 satellites already in orbit over the next several years — that have piqued investors' interest in everything from satellites themselves to software used to analyze their data and new rockets designed to loft them into orbit.

Newly compiled data from space industry consulting shop Bryce Space and Technology released Wednesday demonstrates the trend.

In 2016 space start-ups received a record-setting $2.8 billion in investment, $400 million more than in the year prior. With roughly 25 venture deals already reported in 2017 — including a $351 million investment in Elon Musk's SpaceX that pushed that company's valuation to more than $20 billion last month — these so-called "new space" ventures are once again on pace to raise billions in seed, venture and private-equity cash. (8/9)

NanoRacks Ready to Help Customers Get Into Polar Orbit (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Webster-based space-industry company NanoRacks is helping customers launch satellites into polar orbits, meaning they pass almost directly over the Earth's north and south poles. This allows satellites to see virtually every part of Earth. And it's a new offering for NanoRacks, which has mostly hosted experiments or deployed satellites from the International Space Station.

"We'll be providing the same services we do for our customers on commercial resupply launches to the ISS (International Space Station)," said spokeswoman Abby Dickes in an email. "(We're) just now adding on another rocket destined for a different location as an option for the customer." The satellites destined for polar orbit will be launched from India. NanoRacks is working with Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization, to get satellites on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. (8/9)

Could EmDrive Save the Planet from a World-Ending Asteroid Strike? (Source: International Business Times)
Controversial space propulsion technology EmDrive, which has set the international scientific community alight, has officially reached the mainstream – it is currently playing a starring role in new US sci-fi suspense series Salvation. Salvation, which debuted in July on CBS, is about an Elon Musk-esque tech billionaire and an MIT graduate student. They team up on a top-secret government project to build an EmDrive, in order to prevent an imminent catastrophic, end-of-the-world asteroid strike.

Considering just how controversial the technology is, and the fact that many people still do not believe that it works – despite the release of a peer-reviewed paper by NASA's Eagleworks laboratory in November 2016 – it is surprising to see EmDrive make its way onto prime-time TV. But for Roger Shawyer, the British engineer who invented the EmDrive, its appearance in a major US show is a hugely positive sign, particularly since it appears that the EmDrive design featured on the show was inspired by a NASA Eagleworks technical drawing of the device. (8/9)

Russia's Mayak ‘Lighthouse in the Sky’ Fails to Deploy Solar Reflector (Source: SpaceFlight 101)
The Russian Mayak satellite failed to deploy its reflective sail that would have placed it among the brightest objects in the night sky, the project announced on its website and via Russian media outlets this week.

Mayak, Russian for ‘Lighthouse’ or ‘Beacon,’ launched on July 14 atop a Soyuz 2-1A rocket carrying a total of 73 satellites into three different orbits as part of a complex multi-orbit, multi-burn mission dispatching the Kanopus V-IK Earth-imaging satellite as the primary payload along with five microsatellites and 67 CubeSats. Mayak was one of 19 CubeSats deployed from the Fregat upper stage during a 17-minute sequence starting two hours and 33 minutes after launch, targeting an orbit of 585 by 605 Kilometers. (8/9)

Four Earth-Sized Planets Detected Orbiting the Nearest Sun-Like Star (Source: UCSC)
A new study by an international team of astronomers reveals that four Earth-sized planets orbit the nearest sun-like star, tau Ceti, which is about 12 light years away and visible to the naked eye. These planets have masses as low as 1.7 Earth mass, making them among the smallest planets ever detected around nearby sun-like stars. Two of them are super-Earths located in the habitable zone of the star, meaning they could support liquid surface water.

The planets were detected by observing the wobbles in the movement of tau Ceti. This required techniques sensitive enough to detect variations in the movement of the star as small as 30 centimeters per second. (8/8)

NASA’s Plasma Engine Making Progress Toward a 100-Hour Firing (Source: Ars Technica)
Almost everyone recognizes that if humans are truly to go deeper into the Solar System, we need faster and more efficient propulsion systems than conventional chemical rockets. Rocket engines powered by chemical propellants are great for breaking the chains of Earth's gravity, but they consume way too much fuel when used in space and don't offer optimal control of a spacecraft's thrust.

NASA recognizes this, too. So in 2015, the space agency awarded three different contracts for development of advanced propulsion systems. Of these, perhaps the most intriguing is a plasma-based rocket—which runs on Argon fuel, generates a plasma, excites it, and then pushes it out a nozzle at high speed. This solution has the potential to shorten the travel time between Earth and Mars to weeks, rather than months. (8/10)

Chinese Quantum Satellite Sends 'Unbreakable' Code (Source: Reuters)
China has sent an "unbreakable" code from a satellite to the Earth, marking the first time space-to-ground quantum key distribution technology has been realized, state media said on Thursday. China launched the world's first quantum satellite last August, to help establish "hack proof" communications, a development the Pentagon has called a "notable advance".

The satellite sent quantum keys to ground stations in China between 645 km (400 miles) and 1,200 km (745 miles) away at a transmission rate up to 20 orders of magnitude more efficient than an optical fiber, Xinhua cited Pan Jianwei, lead scientist on the experiment from the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences, as saying. "That, for instance, can meet the demand of making an absolute safe phone call or transmitting a large amount of bank data," Pan said. (8/10)

Rogue Planets: Not as Plentiful As We Thought (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Astronomers know that there are rogue, Jupiter-sized planets roaming the galaxy on their own, without a star to call home. But how many dark and lonely planets are out there? Six years ago, a study found that they might be so abundant, they outnumbered the stars two to one. The result had implications not only for how these dark planets might form, but also for the general messiness of the early years of planet formation. Now, a new study using the exact same technique has contradicted that first result — turns out there aren't nearly as many of these dark, Jupiter-sized worlds as we once thought. (8/10)

NASA's Smartest Satellite Is Gone. Can Private Space Replace It? (Source: WIRED)
Look down on Buenos Aires from the sky, and you can learn a fair bit about the city. It's got a lot of concrete. Also a lot of trees. There's a bright green river delta to the north, which probably explains the ruddy-brown bay to the east. But with the right camera—a hyperspectral one—you can pick up a whole lot more. New colors emerge, hidden hues your eyes and mine aren't wired to see. And these colors reflect even more detail about the scene: the gases coming out of the city, the health of the plants surrounding it, the species of algae coloring the water offshore.

Scientists love pointing hyperspectral cameras at the Earth to analyze things like crop health, or the mineral content of exposed soil. But there aren't many spectroscopic satellites in orbit: The US decommissioned one of the best, called Hyperion, earlier this year. So a private company called Satellogic wants to give scientists its data for free—the company plans to have 300 spectroscopic satellites in orbit by the early 2020s. Click here. (8/10)

Mines School Plans Space Resources Graduate Program (Source: Colorado School of Mines)
Colorado School of Mines could soon be preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers to responsibly explore, extract and use resources not only on Earth but also on the Moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond. Mines is planning to launch a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary graduate program in space resources in 2018. The first course, Space Resources Fundamentals, will be offered for the first time this fall, to be followed in the spring semester by a new space systems engineering course, design project class and seminar series, all focused on space resources.

“In recent years, there has been a growing interest by space agencies and the private sector in resources found beyond our planet, such as water, gases, minerals and metals, to be used in space, instead of launching them from Earth.  This often-called ‘living-off-the-land’ approach has been driven by an awareness that further development of space travel will be enabled through processing of materials and production of propellants in space for more affordable and flexible transportation, facilities construction and life support,” said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Mines Center for Space Resources and research associate professor in mechanical engineering. (8/7)

EchoStar Orders Advanced Satellite From Loral (Source: Space News)
EchoStar has ordered an "ultra high density" broadband satellite from Space Systems Loral. The Jupiter-3/EchoStar-24 satellite, scheduled for launch in 2021, will provide 500 gigabits per second of capacity for broadband services in the Americas. EchoStar first mentioned plans for Jupiter-3 in February 2016, saying at the time that it expected to make an announcement about its plans for the satellite in a few months. SSL's parent company, MDA Corp., hinted at the order in a recent earnings call when it mentioned a pending order for a $400 million satellite. (8/10)

Cubesat Constellation Planned with Airbus Support (Source: Space News)
A Swiss company has closed a $3 million seed round to support early development of a smallsat constellation. Airbus Ventures led the round for ELSE, a company developing a satellite system called Astrocast that will support Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications. ELSE is developing its first two satellites for launch next year, and later funding rounds will back the deployment of a constellation of 64 cubesats by 2021. (8/10)

Nelson: Space Coast "Coming Alive" (Source: Florida Today)
Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson knows his grandparents would have been amazed to see what became of their land on Merritt Island. The 160-acre parcel they obtained under Florida's Homestead Act of 1862 for working the land would later become the north end of NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, giving Nelson, a former space shuttle astronaut, yet another personal link to the Space Coast.

During a visit to KSC's Exploration Park on Wednesday, however, the senator didn't spend long talking about the past – his discussion with reporters about the promising future of the area was held at Blue Origin's cutting-edge facility that will one day assemble the company's massive New Glenn rockets. "The Cape is coming alive," Nelson said on the transition from historic spaceflight to modern-day commercial advancements spearheaded by Blue Origin, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, among others.

Editor's Note: Now running for re-election in what could be his final term in the Senate, expect to see and hear a lot more from Sen. Nelson over the next year, including on space policy. His likely challenger on the Republican ticket is current Governor Rick Scott, who is term-limited from running again for his Tallahassee job. (8/10)

Harris Pivots From Hosted Payloads to Small Satellite (Source: Space News)
Harris Corp. is pivoting. The company that played a leading role in promoting hosted payloads and sold excess space on Iridium Communications satellites, is turning its attention to small satellites “because that’s where the market is,” said Sid Stewart, manager of Harris Space and Intelligence Systems’ Satellite Solutions Group.

Harris is pairing commercially available small satellite buses with its own sensors to provide customers with complete missions. “We basically become a prime who does the satellite, the ground system and the data exploitation and dissemination,” Stewart said. Traditionally, Harris offered customers a variety of space sensors including large-aperture unfurlable mesh reflectors for communications satellites. With its 2015 acquisition of Exelis Inc., Harris expanded its role in the sensor market.

Now, Harris is seeking to draw on some of that expertise to trim the cost of sensors destined for small satellites. Harris already has attracted internal and external small satellite customers, although Lynch declined to name the commercial customers. Harris is developing small satellites to test electronics and other systems Harris plans to fly on larger spacecraft. Harris also is working with government and commercial customers to design satellites to fulfill their missions. (8/9)

China Eyes Manned Lunar Landing by 2036 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Recent and rather bold statements made by Chinese officials suggest that the country is moving forward toward its goal of sending Taikonauts to the surface of the Moon. China is the third country (after the Soviet Union / Russia and the U.S.) that has independently sent humans into space. In October 2003, Yang Liwei flew on board the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft, becoming the first Chinese in orbit. He now serves as the deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency.

“China intends to realize its plan of a manned landing on the Moon by 2036, according to a state official who revealed this deadline last year. Wu Yansheng, the president of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), has also confirmed that the country is working on fulfilling the envisioned manned lunar landing program. He revealed that the proposed mission would consist of a crewed spaceship, a propulsion vehicle and a lunar lander. According to him, the manned spacecraft and the lunar lander will be sent into circumlunar orbit separately. (8/9)

Pentagon To Assess Tactical Smallsat Reconnaissance (Source: Aviation Week)
A U.S. Army initiative slated for launch aboard SpaceX’s 12th NASA-contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station will evaluate the performance of a low-altitude, electro-optical small satellite as a direct provider of overhead reconnaissance to soldiers deployed in tactical positions. (8/9)

Chasing Shadows for a Glimpse of a Tiny World Beyond Pluto (Source: New York Times)
This summer, scientists crisscrossed two oceans, braved wind and cold and deployed two dozen telescopes — all for five blinks of starlight that lasted a second or less. For the team working with NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which made a spectacular flyby of Pluto two years ago, those smidgens of data provide intriguing hints about the spacecraft’s next destination, a distant frozen world that is believed to be a pristine, undisturbed fragment from the earliest days of the solar system.

New Horizons will fly past it on Jan. 1, 2019. But the object is so far away — a billion miles beyond Pluto — and so small — no more than 20 miles wide — that almost nothing was known about it. From the five blinks, obtained with exhausting effort, scientists now know that it has an odd shape. Instead of round like a ball it appears to be more like a long, skinny potato — or maybe two objects in close orbit around each other, possibly even touching. (8/9)

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