August 2, 2017

House Members Believe Space Corps Could Fix Space Acquisition (Source: Breaking Defense)
The congressional supporters of a Space Corps within the Air Force argue that the organization could help solve space acquisition issues. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN), who successfully added language to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act mandating the creation of a Space Corps within the Air Force, said this week that the Corps could better manage space programs that have suffered cost and schedule overruns. They cited as one example recent reports about cost and schedule increases for the OCX ground system for the GPS 3 satellites. (8/1)

China Plans for Next Astronaut Class (Source: GB Times)
China will select a new class of astronauts later this year. Yang Liwei, China's first person to travel into space and the deputy director of the country's manned space engineering office, confirmed plans to select a third class of 10 to 12 astronauts by the end of this year. Those astronauts will likely fly on the space station China is developing and plans to have in operation by the early 2020s. (8/1)

Aldrin (Again) Urges NASA to Drop Big Programs to Focus Instead on Mars (Source: The Hill)
Buzz Aldrin argues that NASA should drop a number of existing major programs to focus on Mars exploration. In an op-ed, the Apollo 11 moonwalker said the International Space Station, Space Launch System and Orion were "eating up every piece of the NASA budget" and preventing the agency from doing anything serious about human Mars exploration. "Again, we're not going anywhere if we don't do something about these issues," he wrote. He called on the National Space Council to convince the president to "commit to a continued occupation of Mars with international crews" on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing in 2019. (8/1)

One Hawaii Telescope Progresses While Another Stumbles (Source: Science)
As controversy surrounds one major observatory in Hawaii, another is being built with far fewer problems. The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakalā, on the island of Maui, will achieve a milestone this week with the arrival of its four-meter primary mirror. The telescope, the largest in the world devoted to observing the sun, is set to begin operations in 2019. Its development has progressed despite protests and controversy surrounding the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea, which observers attribute to a variety of factors, from different approaches to public relations and management to the presence of a national park on Haleakalā that limits access to the summit. (8/1)

Vega Launches Israeli Satellites (Source: Space News)
A Vega rocket successfully launched two Israeli-built satellites Tuesday night. The Vega lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana, at 9:58 p.m. and deployed the Optsat-3000 and Venµs spacecraft into their planned sun-synchronous orbits. Optsat-3000 is a high-resolution optical satellite that Israel Aerospace Industries built for the Italian government, while Venµs, a joint project of the French and Israeli space agencies, will provide multispectrial imagery of vegetation. (8/1)

Virgin Orbit Aiming for 2018 Launch (Source: Space News)
As Virgin Orbit takes delivery of its 747 aircraft, it expects its first LauncherOne mission next year. The 747, a former Virgin Atlantic jetliner that underwent extensive modifications, arrived in Long Beach, California, this week, where Virgin Orbit has its manufacturing facility. The aircraft will soon start a flight test program, and the company said the first LauncherOne launch is now slated for the first half of 2018. LauncherOne will be able to launch payloads of up to 300 kilograms into a sun-synchronous orbit. (8/2)

India to Replace Failed NavSat (Source: PTI)
India will launch a replacement navigation satellite this month. The IRNSS-1H satellite will launch on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle by the end of this month to replace the IRNSS-1A satellite, which has suffered failures in its onboard atomic clocks. IRNSS-1A is one of seven satellites in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, which provides navigation services in India and surrounding areas. (8/2)

The US Scientists Stepping Up to Run for Office (Source: WIRED)
There's something different about the crop of Democrats running for Congress in 2018. As in previous years, the party has recruited a small army of veterans in high-profile races and in Republican-held districts. There are loads of state legislators, business owners, and government officials. But the candidates also include a volcanologist who’s worried that her favorite research spot will be opened up for development; an aerospace engineer who’s running against the climate-denying head of the House Science Committee; a pediatrician who spends part of the year treating leprosy patients in Vietnam; and a physicist who worries what budget cuts would mean to the federal research facility where she spent her career.

All told, more than a dozen Democratic candidates with science backgrounds have announced their candidacies for Congress or are expected to in the coming months. The boomlet of STEM-based candidates amounts to a minor seismic event in a community where politics and research have traditionally gone together like sodium and water. Trump has been in office just six months, but he’s already done something remarkable—he’s gotten scientists to run for office. Click here. (8/2)

Harris Corp. Reports Fourth Quarter Earnings (Source: Florida Today)
Harris Corp., based on Florida's Space Coast, reported a fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $131 million. The company posted revenue of $1.54 billion during the period, exceeding Wall Street forecasts. (8/2)

How America’s Two Greatest Rocket Companies Battled From the Beginning (Source: Ars Technica)
It began as so many tiffs have in 2017—on Twitter. SpaceX had just completed a near-perfect first half of the year. Ten launches. Two re-flights. Zero accidents. Speaking to his 11 million followers, Elon Musk couldn’t resist taking a dig at his long-time rival in the US launch industry, United Launch Alliance.

“Worth noting that Boeing/Lockheed get a billion dollar annual subsidy even if they launch nothing. SpaceX does not,” Musk tweeted. Comparatively, this may not seem too incendiary for the social media platform. But within the stately rocket world, Musk had just trash-talked ULA, the joint launch venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Click here. (8/2)

Russian State Media Floats Threat of Ending Space Coopertion (Source: SPACErePORT)
In the wake of a new Russia sanctions bill passed by the US Congress and signed (reluctantly) by President Trump, Russia's state-controlled Sputnik media outlet has produced at least two articles warning of possible consequences for continued cooperation with Russia in space. Says one article: "[NASA and ESA] understand that possible suspension of cooperation may negatively affect each of them...It's very easy to make hasty decisions which would interrupt this cooperation." Another article titled "Let's Cut Them Off From Access to Space" suggests that there are "several ways Russia could respond to the new US sanctions bill." (8/2)

Could Breakthrough Starshot be Humanity’s First Interstellar Mission? (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
With engineers looking for ever smaller classifications to describe spacecraft by (“cube”, “small”, and “nano” being just some of the names that have been used to help classify these satellites), the company has dubbed Sprites as “the next step” in terms of spacecraft miniaturization. Built at Cornell University and incorporated into the Max Valier and Venta satellites (built by the Bremen-based OHB System AG), the Sprite is Manchester’s pride and joy.

These Sprites remain affixed to the satellites and could, one day, be used to explore further than mankind has been able to explore so far. By all accounts, these Sprites are performing as advertised, communicating back to stations located in California and New York. While having satellites piggyback their way to orbit is nothing new, this flight is meant to validate the spacecraft communications systems.

These systems would (most likely) be first used in three-dimensional antennas in deep space to monitor space weather that could threaten Earthly power-grids and orbiting spacecraft. So how would these Sprites enable interstellar space exploration? Click here. (8/1)

Europa’s Future: A Runaway Greenhouse (Source: Ars Technica)
Stars like the Sun brighten over the course of their history, a trend that has significant consequences for the habitability of Earth and other bodies both in our Solar System and beyond. An icy world on the far edge of the habitable zone may turn into a temperate paradise given enough time.

Or, it could go straight to being a Venus-style hell if a new study turns out to be right. The study's authors turned a full-planet climate model loose on a planet covered in ice. They find that, under a level of incoming light that's sufficient to melt the ice, the planet reaches a greenhouse state that would cause it to lose all of its water to space and possibly head straight into a runaway greenhouse. Click here. (8/1)

Orlando Science Center Plots Solar Eclipse Activities (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Orlando Science Center is planning events both at the Loch Haven museum and at satellite locations in Central Florida for the rare solar eclipse, which will be crossing over the United States on Aug. 21. Central Florida will experience the eclipse at 85 percent totality, the science center says. It will be the first time in 99 years that the moon will totally eclipse the sun in this country. Click here. (7/31)

Comings and Goings in the NASA Family (Source: Air & Space)
I've never liked it when people appropriate the term “family” to include everything from co-workers to customers. I’ve got my own family, thanks, and filling my tank with gas doesn’t quite warrant a “welcome to the Exxon family.” Still, some jobs really do go beyond just being another place to work, and astronaut has to be one of them. Over the decades, human spaceflight has developed a distinct culture, with its own particular customs and rituals that make NASA more like a family than a typical government agency.

I was thinking about this recently, watching Peggy Whitson’s change-of-command ceremony on the space station. In case you don’t know her, Whitson is one of the most accomplished astronauts of all time. She’s spent more time in space than any other American. She was the first woman to head NASA’s astronaut office, and this was her third time commanding the space station. Click here. (8/1)

NASA's Planetary Defense System Will Be Put to the Test in October (Source: CNN)
An asteroid is set to speed by Earth this fall, which is exactly what NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office is equipped to handle. The flyby isn't putting anyone in danger. Rather, it's an opportunity to test the agency's planetary defense systems in the event of an actual asteroid threat.

Asteroid 2012 TC4's brief swing by Earth on October 12 isn't expected to get anywhere closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) to Earth's surface. The space rock is considered small by asteroid standards, at about 30 to 100 feet in size. But while scientists know 2012 TC4 won't impact Earth, they don't know much else about the asteroid's trajectory.  (8/1)

Raytheon Under “Pressure” After GPS 3 Ground Control Network Extension (Source: Space News)
Following an acknowledgment of another deployment extension for the GPS 3 ground control network, the U.S. Air Force publicly and forcefully called on contractor Raytheon to put the program back on track. It will take at least another additional nine months to deploy the Global Positioning System Next Generation Operational Control System (GPS OCX), Capt. AnnMarie Annicelli, an Air Force spokeswoman, said July 31. (7/31)

NASA Puts $14M Toward SBIR Phase-2 Projects (Source: Tech Crunch)
NASA has announced the latest beneficiaries of its Small Business Technology Transfer program, which solicits and funds small-scale research projects outside the agency but relevant to its interests. Nineteen projects in a variety of fields are being awarded a total of $14.3 million.

Those 19 were selected from an initial pool of 56 announced last year; those “Phase I” companies and institutions were awarded up to $125,000 to pursue their proposals, and would have reported on their progress to NASA later. The surviving 19 “Phase II” projects presumably showed enough promise that they’ll get up to $750,000 to keep going. Click here. (7/31)

NASA Awards Laboratory Support Services and Operations Contract at KSC (Source: NASA)
NASA has awarded the Laboratory Support Services and Operations (LASSO) contract at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center to URS Federal Services Inc., an AECOM company. LASSO is a cost plus fixed-fee contract that includes a two-month phase-in period, which begins Aug. 2, followed by a two-year base period and three one-year options. The total potential value of the contract is approximately $69.4 million.

The LASSO contract also includes the option to add ‘flex’ hours to cover additional work. The scope of this contract includes program management; laboratory maintenance and support; operational laboratory services; and professional and technical support for scientific research and engineering analysis, test and evaluation in laboratory environments. (8/1)

Got $12,500? Send Your Ashes to the Moon — or Hold Off for a Celestial Cemetery Plot (Source: Daily Breeze)
Can’t get to outer space in this lifetime? For $12,500, you can send a gram of your cremated remains blasting onto the moon or have them shot out into deep space. It costs about $5,000 for a “burial” in low-Earth orbit, where a travel-shampoo-size urn can spin for years at 17,000 mph until it gradually descends into the white-hot re-entry atmosphere.

Celestis, the U.S. market leader for space burials, is able to accommodate more customers because of new technologies and affordable commercial rocket ships. “We’re in the tsunami phase of new space activities,” Chafer said. The company just partnered with Torrance-based Argos Funeral Services to provide more personalized space burials. Last year, Argos became the first funeral provider to score permission from the California Department of Public Health to send cremated remains to space on the first privately funded lunar mission led by Moon Express. (7/31)

NASA Expands Contract with Virginia Spaceport Authority to Support "UnManned Systems" (Source: NASA)
NASA is entering into a sole-source arrangement to fund the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) to support UnManned Systems (UMS) activities at the Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Virginia. UMS missions will be supported by MARS at a new WFF location because the aging and deteriorating condition of existing WFF facilities. The contract modification will add $16 million to the existing $15.8 million MARS contract with NASA. Click here. (7/31)

Exploring Space With “Astropreneurs” (Source: Fair Observer)
“Astropreneurs,” are the early-stage space entrepreneurs who hope to make it big by inventing faster, better, cheaper technologies for propulsion, surveillance, manufacturing and other activities in space. Many of these companies are benefiting from the introduction of the Cubesat design specification, an open standard built around 10x10x10-centimeter blocks that can be combined into satellites of arbitrary size.

There’s a growing supply chain of Cubesat components, with some merchants even offering parts on Amazon. That means space startups can build satellites mostly using off-the-shelf technology, while focusing the real innovation and investment on the components that are core to their mission. In the case of Lunar Station, a startup featured in this week’s episode, that’s a high-definition digital video camera that will capture and retransmit live-stream video of the moon. Click here. (7/31)

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