August 9, 2017

Virgin Orbit User Guide Suggests Possible Operating Locations in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico (Source: SPACErePORT)
Virgin Orbit distributed a User Guide document at this week's Small Satellite Conference in Utah. The document includes a section on "Launch Locations" with Mojave in California as their primary spaceport. However, lower-latitude alternatives are also being pursued...

"Virgin Orbit has completed launch assessments for MHV and is assessing requirements for a variety of lower latitude operating locations, including the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, Kona International Airport (KOA) in Hawaii, and former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station in Puerto Rico. Virgin Orbit can also assess alternative launch locations and will pursue approvals to operate from these locations as necessary to support our customers’ needs." Click here to download the PDF. (8/9)

NSF, CASIS Select 3 Combustion & Thermal Transport Experiments for ISS (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced three projects have been selected from a joint solicitation focused on leveraging the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory in the fields of combustion and thermal transport. In total, up to $900,000 will be awarded for these three investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Laboratory.

Through this partnership, CASIS and NASA will facilitate hardware implementation and on-orbit access to the ISS National Laboratory. NSF will fund the selected projects to advance fundamental science and engineering knowledge. CASIS is the nonprofit organization responsible for managing and promoting research onboard the ISS National Laboratory. NSF supports transformative research to help drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and maintain America’s position as a global leader in innovation. (8/9)

Smallsat Market Forecast to Exceed $30 Billion in Coming Decade (Space News)
French consultancy Euroconsult forecasts that significant expansion in terms of capabilities and demand is underway in the smallsat market. More than 6,200 smallsats are to be launched in the next 10 years, with the market value expected to reach up to $30.1 billion, compared with $8.9 billion in the previous decade, according to a report Euroconsult released last month.

“The smallsat market from 2017-2026 will be driven by the roll-out of multiple constellations accounting for more than 70 percent of this total, mainly for commercial operators,” the consultancy said. “Of the total $16.5 billion manufacturing market value from 2017 to 2026, $3.7 billion is absorbed internally by in-house manufacturing; the remaining $12.8 billion is considered part of the open market.” (8/9)

Houston Spaceport Moving Forward with First Phase After Losing Blue Origin Project (Source: Houston Business Journal)
The spaceport is looking for other opportunities with aerospace and aviation companies after Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos took its Blue Origin investment to Alabama. Click here. (8/9)

NGA Director Supports Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Reform (Source: Space News)
Facing increasing pressure from both industry and Congress, the head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said the federal government is taking steps to streamline the licensing process for commercial remote sensing satellites. NGA Director Robert Cardillo said he also expected the newly-reconstituted National Space Council to play a role in speeding up the license application review process as more companies and organizations propose small satellite systems for Earth imaging.

Cardillo shared the assessment of others in both industry and government that the sometimes lengthy delays in getting commercial remote sensing licenses from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is caused in large part by the surge in license applications, including from companies planning constellations of satellites or proposing other novel applications that required extended review. (8/8)

India's Soaring Space Ambitions (Source: The Diplomat)
On February 15, 2017, the world watched in awe as the Indian Space Research Organization successfully blasted off a record-breaking 104 nano-satellites, along with a 714-kg satellite for earth observation, into orbit from a single rocket. The entire operation took around 30 minutes.

Of the more than 100 smaller satellites, weighing under 10 kg each, three were Indian-owned, 96 were from U.S. companies, and the rest belonged to Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the UAE. The milestone launch, from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in south India’s Sriharikota, overtook the 2014 Russian record of launching 37 satellites in a single burst. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the accomplishment on Twitter as an “exceptional achievement.” (8/9)

Trump’s Space Leader Says SpaceX is Outstanding, But… (Source: Ars Technica)
Scott Pace, a well-known academic figure in the aerospace community, was named executive secretary of the National Space Council in July. As such, he was the first key appointee of the Trump administration on space policy in regard to the future of the military, civil, and commercial space enterprises. While it is not entirely clear how influential the new council will be, it is clear that Pace will have a strong voice in whatever direction it goes.

Although generally regarded as highly capable, thoughtful about space policy, and certainly a true believer in the value of robotic and human spaceflight, the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University has in recent years made comments that have raised concern among commercial spaceflight advocates.

In particular, during both interviews and comments to Congress, Pace has expressed skepticism about both NASA's commercial crew program under President Obama and the abilities of Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX. "It's kind of amazing to me that the Trump administration would line up against the commercial space industry like this," said one former White House official who helped NASA develop the commercial crew program under President Obama. (8/8)

NASA's ISS Could Become More Corporate (Source: Alabama Public Radio)
NASA is gathering stakeholders in the International Space Station to look at the future of the orbiting complex, and potential changes could impact the city of Huntsville. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville controls science work that’s done aboard the football field-sized space station. That could soon mean working for or with private industry on the complex.

Tomorrow’s International Space Station stakeholders’ conference may build on a similar meeting last month. That earlier conference focused on research and development. It also hinted how the future of the space station could hinge on commercial development aboard the complex. Click here. (8/8)

East Coast Launches to Resume Sunday, With Science-Heavy Dragon Mission to Space Station (Source: America Space)
For the first time, SpaceX will launch a third Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in a single calendar year, when the science-laden CRS-12 rockets away from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on Sunday, 13 August. Current plans call for the Dragon—mounted atop an Upgraded Falcon 9 booster—to launch no earlier than 12:56 p.m. EDT, kicking off a three-day chasedown of the orbiting laboratory. Assuming an on-time launch, Dragon will be robotically captured by the station’s 57.7-foot-long (17.6-meter) Canadarm2 robotic arm on Wednesday, 16 August. This will set the stage for a month-long stay at the ISS.

Earlier today (Tuesday), a group of researchers, scientists, principal investigators and program managers assembled for a teleconference to outline the payloads aboard CRS-12. All told, some 6,415 pounds (2,910 kg) of equipment, experiments and supplies will ride uphill aboard Dragon’s pressurized cargo module and its unpressurized “trunk”. This includes 485 pounds (220 kg) of crew supplies, 747 pounds (339 kg) of vehicle-related hardware, 66 pounds (33 kg) of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) gear and 117 pounds (53 kg) of computer resources. Topping the list will be 2,019 pounds (916 kg) of science investigations to support more than 250 research payloads across the ongoing Expedition 52 and upcoming Expedition 53 increments and beyond. (8/8)

Why Australia Should Follow the Canadian Space Agency’s Model (Source: Via Satellite)
Australia should model its proposed national space agency on the Canadian example, according to the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA). SIAA secretary Peter Nikoloff said a national space agency with clear space policies would allow Australia to find niche areas in the international arena.

“When people mention the space agency they think of NASA or the European Space Agency (ESA), where they are doing big rocket launches and spending billions of dollars on going to other planets; but from our perspective, that’s not practical in Australia to establish those sort of exploration projects,” he said. “The Canadians are a good example because their population and economy is not that much bigger than Australia’s but they have had a space agency for many years.” (8/8)

Secret History of the First Cat in Space (Source: Gizmodo)
On October 18th, 1963, the Centre national d’études in France was set to send a small cat named Félix into space. After lagging behind its Soviet and American competitors, France was eager to stake its claim in the space race—with cats, for some reason. But on launch day, the mischievous little beast went missing—and an accidental heroine stepped in to take his place. Her name was Félicette.

From the streets of Paris, this tuxedo kitty—nicknamed “Astrocat”—would reach heights never achieved by feline kind. On October 24th, 1963, Félicette jetted 130 miles above Earth on a liquid-fueled French Véronique AG1 rocket, soaring high above the Algerian Sahara Desert. She returned just fifteen minutes later, already a decorated heroine for her nation.

After her landing, French scientists at the Education Center of Aviation and Medical Research (CERMA) studied Félicette’s brain waves to see if she had changed at all since her voyage. While not much is known about their findings—or about Félicette’s eventual fate—the CERMA said she had made “a valuable contribution to research.” (1/26)

Nuclear Reactors on Rockets May Fuel Future Crewed Trips to Mars (Source: New Scientist)
NASA is working on a nuclear rocket. The space agency has signed an $18.8 million contract with BWX Technologies, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, to start developing a nuclear reactor that could power the rockets that some day shuttle people to Mars.

Nuclear thermal propulsion uses a nuclear reaction to heat fuel, generally liquid hydrogen, which expands and shoots out of a rocket nozzle to create thrust. The technology can enable rockets to attain more thrust per unit of fuel than standard rocket engines can. This means only about half as much fuel is required as used in the main engines for the space shuttle program – the gold standard of rocket engines for the past 40 years.

This high level of efficiency is particularly useful for long flights that would otherwise require lots of heavy fuel – and cutting out some of that fuel on a spacecraft to Mars would allow for more cargo. The high speed allowed by this nuclear technology would also reduce the journey time to the Red Planet from six months to four. (8/8)

Hunt for Other Worlds: 3,500 Exoplanets and Counting (Source: CSM)
Beyond the eight planets of our own solar system are another 3,500 planets that we know of, and probably millions or billions more yet to discover. The first exoplanet was spotted in 1989, but because the very existence of planets orbiting other stars was still a radical theory, its discoverer, David Latham, referred to it only as the “companion” of its star, HD 114762, and its planetary identity wasn't confirmed until 2012. Because of the delay in confirmation, most of the “first exoplanet” attention went to 51 Pegasi b, the first planet discovered around a main-sequence star, in 1995.

In the past few years, exoplanet discovery has become so common that between one and 10 planets are added to NASA's official Exoplanet Archive nearly every week, says Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer who has worked with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute for 4 years. “Sometimes there will be a week with none, sometimes there will be a week with 12,” she adds. (8/8)

Eclipse Superstitions Are a Thing of the Past, and the Present (Source:
All around the globe, ancient cultures and religions attempted to explain solar and lunar eclipses. Many of those stories involved gods, demons, dragons and other creatures that prowled through the sky and threatened to devour the sun or the moon. People prayed, made offerings or hurled things into the sky to chase off the invaders.

Today, as the U.S. prepares for the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, when the moon will cover 100 percent of the sun's disk, areas that lie in the path of the total eclipse are planning festivals and multiday celebrations. In the modern age, scientists can predict when and where these cosmic events will occur, and skywatchers can appreciate their beauty rather than fear that the events might bring devastating consequences. It seems that humanity's perception of eclipses has changed over the centuries. Click here. (8/8)

Space Command Develops Operational Concepts for Waging War in Orbit (Source: Space News)
For the U.S. Air Force Space Command, the question is no longer if war is battle zone, but how to fight it. To that end, the command has developed a concept of operations (CONOPS) for fighting in that realm, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, told attendees Aug. 8 at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium here.

“Space is a warfighting domain just like air, land and sea,” Raymond said. With the needs of the Air Force and broader intelligence community in mind, the command recent developed CONOPS for the domain battle. The CONOPS focus, Raymond said, is on command-and-control elements as well as integrated space awareness and warning. “It’s on paper,” he said. “Here’s how we plan to do this business.”

Along with the CONOPS, Space Command also has newly revived interest in strengthening partnerships. “We in the space community haven’t needed partnerships in the past,” Raymond said. “It was a benign domain. You launch something and as long as it survives the launch and survives the early obit” there was little to worry about. “That’s not the case anymore,” he said. “We are in a partnership with the intelligence community, with industry and with our allies.” (8/8)

NASA Wants to Hear From Smallsat Builders Interested in Hitching Rides on SLS (Source: Space News)
As NASA prepares to launch cubesats on the first Space Launch System flight, the space agency is asking satellite developers to share information on small spacecraft they would like to fly on subsequent missions. “We are seeking your input,” said Kimberly Robinson, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s SLS secondary payloads manager. “We want to make flexible options and accommodate the type of cubesats you want to fly in the future.”

NASA plans to fly 13 cubesats to gather data on the sun, moon, asteroids and Earth on the first SLS test flight slated for 2019. For the following SLS mission, a test flight of SLS with the Orion crew capsule known as Exploration Mission-2 scheduled to launch in 2022, NASA is redesigning the second stage to loft 105 metric tons into orbit. (8/8)

Judge Unlikely to Revive Wrongful Firing Suit Against SpaceX (Source: Law360)
A California judge said Tuesday he isn’t inclined to retry a former SpaceX avionics technician’s unsuccessful $6 million wrongful firing suit alleging the rocket-maker retaliated for blowing the whistle on falsified rocket-part testing data, as he didn’t see any error that would warrant a new trial. (8/8)

India Eyes Big Business with Africa in Space Exploration (Source: Sputnik)
Ghana recently launched its first ever satellite, GhanaSat-1, from NASA's International Space Station. A group of students at Ghana's All Nations University (ANU) built the satellite, which weighs about 1 kg and will orbit 400kms above the earth. Launched last month, it will help Ghana to monitor its coastline as well as help other activities to boost e-governance.

The ground station at the ANU's laboratory is awaiting first signals from the satellite. The $500,000 project that began in 2015 has the support of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. "The launch will help us train the upcoming generation on how to apply satellites in different activities around our region. For instance, [monitoring] illegal mining is one of the things we are looking to accomplish," the BBC quoted Richard Damoah, director of the Space Systems Technology Laboratory at the ANU, as saying. (8/8)

1-Inch Optical Device Will Shrink Space Telescopes by 90% (Source: IB Times)
Lockheed Martin is working on a space telescope with a one-inch wide sensor. The company claims its telescope called SPIDER (Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-Optical Reconnaissance) is able to take pictures with the same resolution that current space telescopes can. The SPIDER system, according to a release by the company, will cut down the weight and size of a traditional space telescope by 90%. Click here. (8/8)

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