August 5, 2017

Mars Rover Wrapping Up US Tour To Showcase Future Of Space Travel (Source: CBS)
The Kennedy Space Center’s Mars rover is wrapping up its U.S. tour. The concept vehicle shows what a manned Mars rover might look like. Carter and Marshall Demars got their first taste of the future of space travel – meeting former astronaut Mike Massimino and getting up close to a prototype of NASA’s newest Mars rover.

“The size of the rover is just humongous. I thought it would be one of those puny rovers, but it’s just so big,” said Marshall. The nearly three-ton monster mobile looks like it’s made for Hollywood, but it’s meant for the Red Planet.

NASA engineers did, in fact, team up with movie props designers to create the 11-feet high, 24-feet long vehicle. Since it won’t ever really travel to the Mars, the mission here is earthbound. “I think the major purpose of it is probably to create excitement, get ideas going, get people excited about going,” said Massimino. (8/4)

After 5 Years on Mars, NASA's Curiosity Rover Is Still Making Big Discoveries (Source:
Five years after touching down on Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover mission is still making big discoveries. Curiosity landed on Mars at 10:17 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, with the signal of its success reaching Earth 14 minutes later after crossing the 154 million miles between Mars and Earth.

Within weeks of its arrival inside Mars' 96-mile-wide Gale Crater, Curiosity hit scientific pay dirt, rolling through an ancient streambed where water once flowed. And, not long after that, mission scientists revealed a bombshell: Billions of years ago, a nearby area known as Yellowknife Bay was part of a lake that could have supported microbial life. But that's not where Curiosity's story ends. The rover has continued to piece together details about the ancient Gale Crater environment — work that has led to another exciting find. (8/5)

Georgia Spaceport Could Present a Bright, Exciting Future (Source: Brunswick News)
It may still be a while before regular launches begin at Spaceport Camden, if they ever begin at all. An FAA study still must be completed on the environmental impact the proposed spaceport might have on the surrounding area — some of which is inhabited by people, but most of which is sensitive marshland.

The federal government tends not to move quickly on such matters, so the outcome of the study may not be known until at least the end of this year. If Thursday’s test launch was any indication, it seems Vector Space Systems is confident things are leaning toward an operational launch site right here in Coastal Georgia in the not-too-distant future.

Editor's Note: Was the Vector launch a publicity stunt or a legitimate test? Probably both. The Camden Spaceport advocates were happy to see this high-profile, safe launch demonstration, and Vector was happy to test their mobile launch processing procedures. But the amateur-class launch was not a very robust test of future orbital mission operations (nor was it intended to be). Perhaps the exercise was intended by Vector as a step toward securing local and state incentive funding to establish a permanent presence in Georgia. (8/5)

Japan's Interstellar Aims to Soar Past US Rivals in Small Rockets (Source: Nikkei)
In the growing business of private space, small, relatively cheap rockets are a particular area of interest. Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies has jumped in and is trying to close the gap with its U.S. competitors. Although Interstellar, based on the northern island of Hokkaido, saw the first launch of its Momo rocket fail, it has no choice but to keep honing its technology and cutting prices. Competition in commercial space is relentless.

Ground control in the town of Taiki in Hokkaido lost contact with Momo just 66 seconds after liftoff on Sunday. The rocket had reached an altitude of 10km when telemetry from the vehicle suddenly stopped.

"The failure at an altitude of 10km means that the rocket was traveling at a speed of Mach 1.3 and was exposed to the highest air pressure," said Interstellar CEO Takahiro Inagawa at a news conference after the launch. "There is a possibility that the body of the rocket was damaged and the wiring was broken." (8/3)

NASA Responds to 9-Year-Old's Job Application (Source: Business Insider)
When NASA posted a job description for its "planetary protection officer" role, the space agency was fishing for candidates with advanced degrees and experience working on interplanetary missions. What it did not expect, however, was an earnest letter from nine-year-old Jack Davis: a fourth-grader who wrote the space agency asking if he could apply. Click here. (8/4)

SpaceWorks Wins Phase-2 SBIR From DARPA for Innovative Modular Satellite Concept (Source: SpaceWorks)
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) announces the recent award of a Phase 2 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)'s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) to advance the design of a sustainable and evolvable platform to provide persistent payload hosting capabilities in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

The GEO platform would be a single spacecraft assembled from multiple smallsat-scale spacecraft modules conforming to the DARPA Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) form factor. The platform would be capable of providing electrical power, data processing, and high-bandwidth communications to hosted customer payloads. Support for both commercial and government customers is envisioned in order to maximize the utility of the platform and create an economically viable system.

The system aims to leverage the secondary payload launch opportunities to GEO that the DARPA POD form factor seeks to enable, and to support the rapid turnover and replacement of platform modules and payloads. The modular design of the platform would enable a phased deployment approach designed to minimize development risk and allow platform operators to pace launch and integration of new modules with customer demand. As envisioned, this platform would enable a wealth of new capabilities at reduced cost compared to current systems and solutions. (8/4)

NASA Space Launch System Upper Stage Arrives at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
An upper stage for NASA's next-generation Space Launch System rocket has arrived at Kennedy Space Center. The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, or ICPS, was transported from a United Launch Alliance facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to KSC's Space Station Processing Facility late last month. It saw final tests and checkout procedures after its arrival there in February.

The stage, which will sit at the top of the rocket and under the Orion capsule, will be cleaned and maintained in the processing facility until later stacking of the SLS rocket at the Vehicle Assembly Building. The hydrogen-fueled ICPS is a modified version of the one on ULA's Delta IV rocket and is expected to fly only once on a 2019 inaugural test flight of the agency's massive exploration rocket. Labeled Exploration Mission-1, or EM-1, it will attempt to fly an unmanned Orion capsule around the moon. (8/4)

SpaceX Dragon to Carry Space Suit Painted by Young Cancer Patients to ISS (Source: Sputnik)
Retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott said that the SpaceX Dragon supply ship will carry a space suit called Unity hand-painted by young cancer patients from around the world to the International Space Station. The space suit will be showcased as part of the crew during a video conference between the ISS and mission control in Houston currently planned for August 23.

The Unity suit has been created from the pieces crated by children battling cancer form around the world, including from Russia, the United States, Canada and Germany to represent cancer issues, spread awareness and give hope to cancer patients across the globe. The goal of the Unity suit project is to show that a victory over a severe illness as well as a space flight is a difficult physical and emotional test that can be accomplished only by working in a team. (8/4)

Orbcomm Satellite Failures Prompt Replacement Plans (Source: Space News)
Orbcomm has suffered failures of three satellites in recent months, forcing the company to develop plans for new satellites. Orbcomm said Thursday that the failures, which have taken place since April, have reduced the number of operational satellites in its OG2 constellation to 12 from the 18 originally launched. Orbcomm said that the failures have had little effect so far on message delivery times for its system. Orbcomm is considering launching a set of new satellites, called OG3, while also collaborating with Inmarsat to use capacity on its geostationary satellites. (8/4)

Malfunctioning EchoStar-3 Veers Toward Bolivian Satellite (Source: Space News)
A commercial space situational awareness organization warned Bolivia's space agency of a potential close pass by the malfunctioning EchoStar-3 satellite. AGI's Commercial Space Operations Center alerted the Bolivian Space Agency last Saturday that EchoStar-3 would drift past Bolivia's Tupak Katari-1 communications satellite in geostationary orbit. Bolivia is not part of the Space Data Association, an organization of satellite operators that shares satellite positioning data with other members through the AGI-run Space Data Center, but is considering joining it. (8/4)

SpaceX Funding Round Boosts Musk's Net Worth (Source: Bloomberg)
A recent funding round for SpaceX has made Elon Musk several billion dollars richer. SpaceX raised $351 million last month in a funding round that increased the company's valuation to more than $21 billion. That, in turn, increased Musk's net worth by $4 billion. That funding round, as well as a rise in Tesla shares, gives Musk an estimated net worth of $21.3 billion. (8/4)

Satellite Maker's $85M Facility Goes Vertical on Space Coast (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
OneWeb LLC is well on its way to having its satellite manufacturing plant in Exploration Park. Greg Wyler, founder and executive chairman of OneWeb, tweeted photos of the ongoing construction for OneWeb's $85 million, 100,000-square-foot facility on Aug. 3, showing that the building is going vertical. "Looks surreal," he said in the tweet. "Mass production (of satellites) begins early 2018." The company broke ground on the project in March. (8/4)

What is the Best Way to Mine the Moon? (Source: Space News)
Earth’s nearest neighbor has a lot of valuable resources, including platinum group metals, an isotope called helium 3 that could be used to fuel future fusion power plants, and water that could sustain lunar colonists and be refined into rocket fuel. The moon also has oxides of more typical engineering metals such as iron, aluminum, titanium, and silicon. What then, is the best approach to encourage a lunar mining industry?

One approach that should be rejected right away is for NASA to mine the moon in any way except to develop and test technology. One approach that should be rejected right away is for NASA to mine the moon in any way except to develop and test technology. The space agency does a lot of great things, but it is rather bad at being a commercial enterprise. Starting with the second Bush administration and continuing under President Obama, NASA encouraged the development of commercial spacecraft to take astronauts and cargo to and from space. Lunar mining should be developed in the same manner. Click here. (8/4)

Virginia Students Explore Earth and Space on the Eastern Shore (Source: SpaceRef)
For the past five years, students throughout Virginia have received the opportunity to explore Earth and space through the Virginia Space Coast Scholars Summer Academy program at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. More than 500 students have participated in the summer program funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia and conducted in partnership between NASA Wallops and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. (8/4)

Virgin Galactic Carries Out “Dry Run” for Powered SpaceShipTwo Flights at Mojave Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic performed the latest glide flight of its second SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane Aug. 4, calling it a “dry run” for upcoming powered test flights. SpaceShipTwo, carried aloft by its WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, separated from the plane about an hour after its 11:58 a.m. Eastern takeoff from Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The spaceplane landed back in Mojave ten minutes later.

The glide flight was the sixth for this SpaceShipTwo vehicle, named VSS Unity, and the first in two months. As on two previous glide flights, pilots tested the feathering system that raises the vehicle’s twin tail booms for a safe reentry, then returned the tail booms to their normal position for landing. This flight was the first to carry most of the hybrid propulsion system that will be used for future powered test flights.

The spacecraft’s oxidizer tank was filled with nitrous oxide and a helium pressurant tank was also loaded. The only major component missing was the solid fuel casing, which was replaced on this flight with a ballast tank filled with water. Prior to release from WhiteKnightTwo, the SpaceShipTwo pilots tested venting of nitrous oxide from the tank. The ballast tank also allowed pilots to test landing of the vehicle with a heaviver weight and different center of gravity. (8/4)

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