October 12, 2019

SpaceX Extends Deadline, Reappraises Boca Chica Properties (Source: Brownsville Herald)
SpaceX has extended its buyout offer deadline to Boca Chica Village homeowners and agreed to reappraise the properties after complaints that the original appraisals were too low. Last month, SpaceX sent property owners a letter dated Sep. 12, offering them three times the value of their homes based on appraisals SpaceX had commissioned. The deadline for accepting the offer was two weeks from the date of the letter and the offer was non-negotiable.

SpaceX said it wants to buy the properties due to a greater-than-anticipated disruption to residents and property owners as development of the company’s Mars rocket, Starship, gains steam. Boca Chica Village resident and owners Terry and Bonnie Heaton, interviewed by the Herald last month, said SpaceX’s appraisal on their property was several thousand dollars lower than an appraisal by their own bank five years before. Real estate transactions include appraisals partly based on sales of comparable nearby properties. (10/11)

Rocket Lab’s New 5-year FAA License Will Help it Streamline its Rocket Launch Process (Source: Tech Crunch)
Rocket Lab  has received a new five-year Launch Operator License from the Federal Aviation Administration, which grants it permission to do multiple launches of its Electron rocket from its LC-1 launch site in New Zealand without having to seek individual clearance for each one. While not the only limiting factor, this should help Rocket Lab increase the frequency of its launches from LC-1, servicing more customers more often for commercial small satellite customers.

Until now, Rocket Lab has had to obtain a license (or multiple licenses) from the FAA for each individual rocket it flew — the company has seemingly managed that process just fine to date, but it’s an added process that probably adds a lot of time and effort to each launch attempt, even if it hasn’t directly flummoxed any mission to date.

Rocket Lab says this will provide a “streamlined path to orbit” for its customers, however, which should make it easier for the company to operate its flexible model that is designed to work better with the shifting timelines of small sat startups and younger commercial space companies, while still ensuring that Rocket Lab’s launch capacity is used to maximum effect. Rocket Lab just recently swapped one payload for another for an upcoming launch, for example. (10/10)

Living in Space is the Answer, But What Was the Question? (Source: Arch)
Even as the costs and barriers to entry drop, there is still uncertainty about the ways in which value might be designed into the projects that will help people live in space. Whether the users of the systems under design by these space architects are tourists, miners, hotelkeepers, or simple explorers, the question of “who?” is intimately tied up in the “why?” The architect Cedric Price famously asked, “Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” Maybe architects are the designers best positioned to ask, and even answer, these questions about space. Click here. (10/10)

Musk Explains that Destroyed SpaceX Capsule Came From Testing to the ‘Extreme’ (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk addressed an incident in April that destroyed the first SpaceX capsule. Known as Crew Dragon, the capsule was undergoing testing after it had successfully returned from the International Space Station. “You’re trying to find extreme corner cases of where things go wrong,” Musk said. He noted that the primary mission to the space station was a success, saying that “if people had been on board that craft, they would have returned safely.”

“You don’t do tests because you think everything’s going to be fine, you do tests to find out what’s not going to be fine,” Musk said. “I think there’s a fundamental principle: Make sure you fail on the test stand so you do not fail in flight.” While Musk has said SpaceX will be ready for its next milestone, known as an inflight abort test, in about 10 weeks, Bridenstine has remained skeptical. (10/10)

India's Space Activities Bill, Meant to Boost Private Role, Will Create Confusion Instead (Source: The Print)
When India’s Department Of Space (DoS), overseen by PM Modi himself, put forth a draft space legislation in 2017, one of its main aims was to create a legal framework to encourage the participation of Indian industry, including start-ups, oversee their performance, and facilitate growth. The bill might soon be tabled in Parliament, but it has, in its current form, glaring lacunae that are likelier to breed chaos than put Indian space activities on solid footing.

For one, the draft focuses heavily on the need to have a licensing regime to govern the activities of emerging Indian companies that deal with newspace — as growing private participation in space has come to be known — but does not really go down to the actual regulatory needs of the companies, which will need operational clarity for business. (10/11)

Elon Musk Says That NASA is Free to Share All SpaceX IP with ‘Anyone it Wants’ (Source: Tech Crunch)
SpaceX's  CEO joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne today to provide an update on the commercial crew launch program that the company is working on with the agency. During the remarks, which detailed the current state of the program and next steps, Musk reiterated twice that the intellectual property it’s developing in working with the agency is free for NASA to share with whoever it should wish.

Early on in the Q+A portion of the event, Musk said that the learnings that SpaceX  has gathered from the Crew Dragon parachute development program is free to share with anyone who wants it – SpaceX is working on its third major iteration of the parachutes it will use to ensure the Crew Capsule’s safe return to Earth. “I’ve been very very clear with Jim that any SpaceX data should not be considered proprietary,” Musk said during the remarks. “It can be used by any of our competitors […] No charge.”

Later on, he reiterated that what he meant was literally any of SpaceX’s IP is on the table for NASA to distribute freely as the agency sees fit. “I want to be clear: NASA can share all of our IP with anyone that NASA wants,” Musk said. To which Bridentstine replied that the agency genuinely appreciated this freedom but that it has limits on that potential sharing to consider. (10/10)

New Research Sheds Light on the Ages of Lunar Ice Deposits (Source: NASA)
The discovery of ice deposits in craters scattered across the Moon’s south pole has helped to renew interest in exploring the lunar surface, but no one is sure exactly when or how that ice got there. A new study suggests that while a majority of those deposits are likely billions of years old, some may be more recent.

Ariel Deutsch, a graduate student at Brown University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences in Providence, Rhode Island and the study’s lead author, says that constraining the ages of the deposits is important both for basic science and for future lunar explorers who might make use of that ice for fuel and other purposes.

“The ages of these deposits can potentially tell us something about the origin of the ice, which helps us understand the sources and distribution of water in the inner solar system,” Deutsch said. “For exploration purposes, we need to understand the lateral and vertical distributions of these deposits to figure out how best to access them. These distributions evolve with time, so having an idea of the age is important.” (10/10)

Rockets Purchased By Stratolaunch Back Under Northrop Grumman Control (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Hardware for two air-dropped Pegasus XL launchers previously purchased by Stratolaunch, a space launch company founded by the late billionaire Paul Allen, are now back under Northrop Grumman control and for sale to NASA, the Air Force, or commercial satellite operators, industry officials said. Phil Joyce, vice president of space launch programs at Northrop Grumman, said this week that the company is trying to sell the launches using the two remaining Pegasus XL rockets, and officials plan to keep the Pegasus rocket’s L-1011 carrier jet flying for at least five or 10 more years.

“We actually purchased those back (from Stratolaunch),” Joyce said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. “So they’re in a very advanced state of integration, which means they’re available for a very rapid response launch. We could launch one of those in six months, the second one probably in eight (months). “We’ve been talking with NASA and several other customers about potential use of those for the near-term,” Joyce said. “There are some interesting opportunities.” (10/10)

Sally Ride's Life Partner Weighs In On the Future of LGBTQ+ Astronauts (Source: Space.com)
Over the summer, the private life of NASA astronaut Anne McClain became very public when, in the midst of legal claims made against the astronaut by Summer Worden, it was revealed that Worden was McClain's wife. This has made McClain the first active astronaut who has been out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. But, regardless of how her identity was revealed, will this change how astronauts who are members of the community feel and are treated? Click here. (10/10)

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