August 17, 2018

NASA Admits $400M Mars Opportunity Rover Could Be Lost Forever (Source: FOX News)
NASA said that it may never again have contact with the Opportunity rover, after the craft got caught up in a Martian dust storm in the middle of June. While expressing optimism that the worst of the Opportunity's rover's problems may be behind it, as the dust storm starts to "decay," NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Andrew Good cautioned that the battery for the $400 million vehicle might have discharged so much power and been inactive for so long, it could be a loss. (8/17)

NASA Identifies 'Foreign Object Debris' Spotted by Mars Curiosity Rover (Source: C/Net)
NASA's Curiosity rover team spotted a weird-looking object on Mars this week and worried it might be a piece of spacecraft debris. The rover snapped an image of a thin, light-colored item laying on top of the reddish ground. It stands out from the surrounding surface. Curiosity's Earth handlers labeled the enigmatic piece as "Pettegrove Point Foreign Object Debris." Pettegrove Point is the area the rover is currently exploring inside the Gale Crater on Mars.

There was some concern the rover might have dropped a piece of itself. "In fact, it was found to be a very thin flake of rock, so we can all rest easy tonight -- Curiosity has not begun to shed its skin," Curiosity team member Brittney Cooper declared, after a closer look.  Curiosity got a better view of the rock by using its ChemCam to zoom in and identify it as a natural piece of the Mars landscape. (8/17)

Rogozin Accuses Musk of Dumping Below-Cost Boosters on Market (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin says Russia is working on a reusable launch vehicle that would land back on the runway and accused the U.S. government of letting Elon Musk’s SpaceX of dumping below-cost boosters on the international market to kill competition. The new heavy Soyuz-5 rocket, currently developed by Russia, must become more powerful yet remain cheaper than the products supplied by the competitors, the recently-elected head of the Russian space corporation told TASS in an extensive interview on Thursday.

While Moscow is looking into adding reusable elements to the Soyuz-5 to further lower launch costs, reusability is not a universal solution to achieve this goal, Rogozin believes. Musk’s SpaceX, which is currently the only company to have launched reusable rockets commercially, manages to cut the costs by other means, the Russian space boss pointed out.

“Musk’s advantage is not the reusability but that the US government gives him opportunities for dumping [prices] on the market. Musk sells his launches twofold to the Pentagon, covering his losses on the commercial market and killing competitors, who lack such a generous state behind them,” Rogozin said. Due to its geography, Russia is largely unable to make Falcon-style reusable boosters that would make vertical powered descent to a movable platform at sea, and so it has to follow an alternate path sticking to horizontal landings or relying on parachutes, he said. (8/17)

Aerojet Rocketdyne Expands Solid Rocket Motor Center of Excellence at Arkansas Facility (Source: Space Daily)
Aerojet Rocketdyne, a leader in the development and manufacture of aerospace and defense products, has announced plans to expand its Southern Arkansas facility near Camden, where the company manufactures solid rocket motors and warheads critical to national defense.

Aerojet Rocketdyne's currently envisioned expansion plans include investing in new infrastructure and creating more than 140 new jobs over the next three years. The growth would bring total employment to approximately 900 employees at the facility. Working in partnership with Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), Calhoun and Ouachita Counties, more than $50 million dollars will be invested in the expansion.

NASA Team Demonstrates "Science on a Shoestring" with Greenhouse Gas-Measuring Instrument (Source: Space Daily)
A novel instrument that has already proven its mettle on field campaigns will attempt to measure atmospheric greenhouse gases from an occultation-viewing, low-Earth-orbiting CubeSat mission called Mini-Carb early next year - marking the first time this type of instrument has flown in space.

Emily Wilson, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, is teaming with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to fly a smaller, more ruggedized version of her patented mini-Laser Heterodyne Radiometer, or mini-LHR, on a CubeSat platform early next year. Although NASA is currently measuring carbon dioxide from space, the agency has never flown a laser heterodyne radiometer to do the job.

Laser heterodyne radiometers were adapted from radio receiver technology. In this variation, the concentrations of greenhouse gases are found by measuring their absorption of infrared sunlight. Each absorption signal is mixed with laser light in a fast photoreceiver within the instrument and the resulting signal is detected at an easier-to-process radio frequency. (8/17)

Lockheed Martin, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Launch New Astronaut Training Experience (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)\
Lockheed Martin and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex "launched" the new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. The event was conducted with pomp, leading members of the space community and those who stand to benefit from this new attraction. The event was held in honor of Lockheed Martin becoming the attraction's title sponsor.

Igniting the spark of interest in today’s youth can be a difficult task. The ATX is an effort to breach the disinterest in education that is a hallmark of students – by combining the tasks they would need to perform if they were to become astronauts with an engaging experience. On top of that, they would be walked through their encounter by trained educators.

Lockheed Martin has donated a full-scale mock up that provides participants with an idea of the scale of the working spaces they might encounter while on orbit. Lockheed Martin has been tapped to produce a habitat that could one day orbit the Moon as what has come to be called NASA’s “Gateway.” Potential missions to the Red Planet are all part of the plan. In fact, ATX is actually two missions in one. One element would be the astronaut training itself – while the second would be “Mars Base 1.” Much like the regular duties on the ISS, these future “astronauts” would learn about the science being conducted on the Red Planet as well as the engineering required. (8/17)

Senate Urged to Pass FAA Bill (Source: AIN Online)
The Aerospace Industries Association joined 32 aviation organizations to send a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, urging them to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill before funding for the agency runs out on Sep. 30. "Long-term legislation will allow employers, manufacturers, customers, and communities the certainty to continue to build, invest, hire, innovate, and grow in this dynamic industry," the letter said. Editor's Note: This bill includes important space-related provisions, including for the operation of Space Support Vehicles under revised FAA guidelines. (8/15)

Air Force Space Programs Vulnerable to Cyberattack (Source: Space News)
Air Force space programs are vulnerable to cyberattacks and sabotage because of supply chain issues, a new report concluded. An audit by the Defense Department’s inspector general office, released this week, found security cracks in the supply chain of four critical military space programs, including the Space Based Infrared System and GPS. Air Force Space Command "did not fully implement DoD supply chain risk management policy," according to the report, creating security gaps that could be exploited. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center said in a response to the audit that it agreed with its findings and was implementing measures to improve security. (8/16)

Proposed NASA Deputy Administrator Would Focus on Acquisition Reform (Source: Space News)
The nominee to be NASA's deputy administrator says he will focus on acquisition reform and finding new ways to work with commercial partners if confirmed. In a questionnaire released by the Senate Commerce Committee, James Morhard emphasized his managerial experience as Deputy Sergeant at Arms for the Senate and background as an appropriations staffer, rather than any experience in the space industry.

Morhard said the key challenges facing NASA include establishing a "clear, compelling, and executable direction" for its human spaceflight efforts, developing new relationships with commercial partners and a need to "work to address the national space acquisition process." The committee will hold a confirmation hearing regarding his nomination next Thursday. (8/16)

Pence Plans Second Visit to JSC (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Vice President Mike Pence will make a return visit to the Johnson Space Center next week. Pence announced the visit on Twitter Thursday, saying he was going to JSC to "talk about the future of human space exploration." That visit is scheduled for next Thursday, according to NASA, but details about the trip are still being worked out. Pence visited JSC in June 2017 to announce the new class of NASA astronauts. (8/16)

Loral Wins USAF Satellite Contract (Source: Space News)
Space Systems Loral has won an Air Force contract to develop tactical satellite communications technologies. The contract with the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center covers work to develop, test and analyze antenna subsystem prototypes to demonstrate key technologies for resilient, cost-effective and high-performance protected tactical satellite communications. The contract is the latest in a growing number of military space projects for SSL, a company once known for doing commercial satellites almost exclusively. (8/16)

Surrey to Launch Two Satellites on Indian Rocket (Source: SSTL)
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) said Thursday it will launch two of its smallsats on a Indian PSLV rocket next month. The British smallsat developer said NovaSAR-1, a small synthetic aperture radar satellite, and SSTL S1-4, a high-resolution Earth imaging satellite, will be among the payloads on the PSLV-C42 mission launching in September. The UK Space Agency provided more than $26 million to support development of NovaSAR-1 and will have access to the radar imagery it produces. (8/16)

New (Old) Russian ISS Module Now Scheduled for Nov. 2019 Launch (Source: TASS)
A long-delayed Russian space station module is now scheduled for launch next November. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos, said the Nauka module is scheduled for launch in November 2019, and will be shipped to the Baikonur launch site around the end of this year for launch preparations. The module, originally developed as a backup to the Zarya module in the 1990s and now reconfigured to support research, has seen its launch date slip for years because of technical problems. (8/16)

Poll Shows Low Public Support for Space Force (Source: CNN)
Another poll shows a lack of public support for the Space Force. The CNN poll found that 37 percent of respondents supported creating the Space Force as a separate military branch, but that 55 percent were opposed. Even among supporters of President Trump, only half said they backed the creation of the Space Force. (8/16)

This is the Rover China Will Send to the [Far] Side of the Moon (Source: CNN)
China has unveiled a new lunar rover as it prepares to become the first nation in the world to explore the [far] side of the moon later this year. Revealed at a press conference Wednesday, the unmanned vehicle is 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and about one meter (3.3 feet) wide and tall, with two foldable solar panels and six wheels. China announced its intentions in 2015 to send a rover to the [far] side of the moon. In May this year, it launched a relay satellite to establish a communication link between Earth and the planned lunar probe. (8/16)

At KSC, Lockheed Martin Developing Deep Space Habitat Prototype Based on ISS Module (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A massive cylindrical habitat may one day house up to four astronauts as they make the trek to deep space. Lockheed Martin gave a first look at what one of these habitats might look like Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center, where the aerospace giant is under contract with NASA to build a prototype of the living quarters.

Lockheed is one of six contractors — the others are Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Space Systems, Orbital ATK, NanoRacks and Bigelow Aerospace — that NASA awarded a combined $65 million to build a habitat prototype by the end of the year. The agency will then review the proposals to reach a better understanding of the systems and interfaces that need to be in place to facilitate living in deep space.

Lockheed’s design uses the Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, a refurbished module dating back to the space shuttle era that was once destined to transfer cargo to the International Space Station. But Donatello was never sent into space, and the module has now instead been transformed into Lockheed’s prototype. (8/16)

In Trump's Universe, Everyone Loves "Space Force" (Source: Comedy Central)
Michael Kosta visits a Trump rally in South Carolina to find out how the president's supporters feel about his proposal to add a Space Force branch to the U.S. military. Click here (Space Force comments start about halfway into the video). (6/26)

NanoRacks Awarded Study to Help Develop Vibrant Future Commercial Space Economy (Source: NanoRacks)
Last week, NASA announced the awardees for an ongoing effort to foster commercial activity in space. This effort allows 13 companies to study the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, including long-term opportunities for the International Space Station. NanoRacks is one of these awardees.

Through this award, we will investigate the commercial case for the repurposing of in-space hardware via our NanoRacks Space Outpost Program, a concept we have already proven to be technically feasible from our NASA NextSTEP Phase II award. We will work with three types of partners in this study including: hardware providers, finance partners, and our current and future customers. What was once science fiction in our industry is now fast becoming a reality—commercial outposts at low-cost for factories, warehouses, hotels, office buildings, and more! (8/16)

Angara Rocket Family to Replace Proton Launchers NET 2024 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Angara rockets could fully replace Russia’s long-serving Soviet-era Proton launch vehicles as early as 2024. This is according to an industry official, who made the remark at an aerospace conference in the city of Kazan. Proton rockets have been in service since 1965. In recent years Russia and International Launch Services (ILS) have utilized the rocket in its 190-foot (58-meter) tall “M” variant to send military and commercial satellites to orbit.

About three to eight Proton-M launches are typically conducted annually from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan these days. The number of launches of Proton-M rockets is decreasing every year as the production of this rocket is drawing to a close and no new launch contracts are likely to be signed in the near future. According to remarks made by Yuri Koptev, Chairman of the Science and Engineering Board of the state-run Rostec corporation, Proton rockets will apparently still be in service for at least another six years as the number of constructed Angara launchers apparently is not enough to meet requirements. (8/17)

Boeing to Acquire Millennium Space Systems (Source: Boeing)
Boeing will acquire Millennium Space Systems, a provider of agile, flight-proven small-satellite solutions, under an acquisition agreement that will expand Boeing's satellite and space portfolio, talent and capabilities. "Millennium Space Systems' expertise in vertically-integrated small-satellite solutions perfectly complements Boeing's existing satellite portfolio, and will allow us to meet the needs of a diverse customer set," said Boeing's Leanne Caret.

Millennium Space Systems was founded in 2001 and is based in El Segundo, Calif. With approximately 260 employees, the company has developed high-performance satellites for exacting missions ranging from 50 KG to more than 6,000 KG. The acquisition, which is subject to customary conditions, is expected to close by the end of third quarter 2018. Once finalized, Millennium Space Systems will become a Boeing subsidiary, operating under its current business model and reporting to Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager of Phantom Works.

The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The transaction will have no impact on Boeing's 2018 financial guidance or the company's commitment to returning approximately 100 percent of free cash flow to shareholders. (8/16)

UrtheCast, Amid Restructuring, Acquires Analytics Firm from Land O’Lakes (Source: Space News)
Canadian remote sensing company UrtheCast says it has sufficient resources to cover the $20 million purchase of analytics firm Geosys from U.S. dairy giant Land O’Lakes. Urthecast, which is in the midst of a restructuring in pursuit of becoming profitable, lost $10 million for the three months ending June 30.

Geosys, a Minneapolis-based geoanalytics firm billing itself as the “largest purchaser of agricultural satellite imagery worldwide,”  should have greater success serving other agriculture customers who view Land O’Lakes as a competitor, and will serve as a conduit for UrtheCast satellite imagery. (8/16)

NASA Armstrong Collaborates with ULA for Cryogenic Fluid and Mid-Air Retrieval Demos (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA is partnering with six U.S. companies to develop 10 “tipping point” technologies. NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center will collaborate with ULA on two selected proposals. ULA will receive $2 million for the Cryogenic Fluid Management Technology Demonstration proposal that focuses on enabling efficient and safe transportation in to and through space.

This cryogenic fluid management demonstration project seeks to prove that very low cryogenic fuel boil off is achievable and can support long duration missions. ULA will perform critical testing of the existing space launch vehicle Centaur Cryote-3 tank. Another ULA award with Armstrong focuses on increasing access to planetary surfaces. The company will receive $1.9 million for a mid-air retrieval demonstration. This project will flight demonstrate mid-air retrieval capabilities up to 8,000 pounds, increasing current capabilities by a factor of four.

Editor's Note: It isn't mentioned, but the mid-air retrieval demonstration seems tailor-made for ULA's Vulcan reusability scheme, which involves the mid-air retrieval of the rocket's first-stage engine pod. (8/16)

As the Pentagon Moves to Stand Up a Space Force, Budget Fight Looms (Source: Space News)
There are no estimates yet for what it will cost to stand up a Space Force as a separate military service. The Pentagon will request funds in next year’s budget to get the process started but Congress will want to know the full costs. Some proponents of the Space Force have argued that if portions of the Air Force or the intelligence community are carved out to form a new service that there should be no significant added costs.

But that would be a fantasy, said Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Somehow there is a misconception out there that “this is going to be absolutely resource neutral,” he said. “I think we have to be wide-eyed about the kind of resources” that would be needed to support a sixth branch of the military. “Standing up an organization is generally not resource neutral,” he said. (8/11)

Weird Circles in the Sky May Be Signs of a Universe Before Ours (Source: New Scientist)
Swirling patterns in the sky may be signs of black holes that survived the destruction of a universe before the big bang. “What we claim we’re seeing is the final remnant after a black hole has evaporated away in the previous aeon,” says Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at the University of Oxford. He is co-creator of a theory called conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC). It states that, rather than having started in the big bang, the universe infinitely cycles through periods of ballooning up and collapsing. (8/15)

August 16, 2018

UCF-Managed Arecibo Telescope Gets Antenna to Help Search for Aliens (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A multimillion-dollar upgrade may be just what the world’s largest operational radio telescope needs to search for alien intelligence. Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory, which is managed by a University of Central Florida-led consortium, won a $5.8 million award for a new super-sensitive antenna that will enhance the telescope’s observation capabilities by 500 percent, UCF announced this week.

The National Science Foundation awarded the money to a group of scientists who will design and mount the antenna on the observatory’s 1,000-foot-diameter dish. The team will be led by Brigham Young University engineering professors Brian Jeffs and Karl Warnick, and will include collaborators from UCF and Cornell University, UCF said. (8/16)

Space Coast Games to Challenge Industry Teams at Spaceport (Source: SPACErePORT)
Boeing is sponsoring an effort on the Space Coast inspired by the recent Aerospace Summer Games in Southern California. The Space Coast Games will be a family-friendly competitive event among companies with ties to NASA and the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Events will include fun activities like tug-o-war, volleyball, kickball, watermelon eating, etc. The date for this event is November 3 and the location is the KARS Park facility on Merritt Island. Click here for information. (8/16)

Mattis Sees Future US Space Opportunities with Brazil (Source: Jane's 360)
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis sees future opportunities for advanced research with Brazil, particularly in space, he told an audience at Brazil’s war college on 14 August. Pentagon spokesperson Commander Sarah Higgins said on 15 August that the Department of Defense (DoD) has a strong science and technology (S&T) relationship with Brazil.

She said the two nations signed a space situational awareness (SSA) agreement that will allow them to share information about more than 23,000 objects in orbit, including Brazil’s satellites. Cdr Higgins said Brazil has revitalised its space program since a tragic accident more than a decade ago. A rocket exploding at the Alcantara Launch Center (ALC) in northeast Brazil in 2003 caused numerous fatalities. (8/15)

Ariane 6 is Nearing Completion, but Europe’s Work is Far From Over (Source: Space News)
In 2014, when the European Space Agency settled on a six-year roadmap for the development of two next-generation rockets — Ariane 6 and Vega C — Europe’s main launch service provider Arianespace was still in the driver’s seat. International Launch Services was recovering from another Proton failure. Sea Launch was in drydock. SpaceX had just begun to crack the commercial market.

The competitive landscape was shifting but Arianespace still sat firmly on top with its Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega rockets. Responding to the threat SpaceX’s lowpriced Falcon 9 posed to Europe’s launch sector dominance, ESA and its industrial partners ArianeGroup and Avio made cost control a defining requirement of Europe’s future launch vehicles.

Arianespace’s competitive landscape isn’t getting any easier. In the U.S., SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA and Northrop Grumman are developing Ariane 6 competitors, Russia is building Angara, India is gaining traction with GSLV, Japan is building the H3 and China is aiming its Long March family at markets further beyond its borders. In the midst of these changes, ESA is pushing European industry to continue innovating and finding efficiencies even after Vega C’s introduction in 2019 and Ariane 6’s debut in 2020. (8/15)

'Facility Issue' Cuts NASA Engine Test Short (Source: Space News)
NASA confirmed Wednesday that an unspecified "facility issue" cut short an RS-25 engine test Tuesday, although the test was still a success. An agency spokesperson said that the test, scheduled to run for more than eight minutes, ended three minutes early because of that issue, but didn't provide more details about what specifically went wrong. A NASA statement released earlier Wednesday made no mention of the problem or even the planned and actual duration of the test. Both NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne, which builds the RS-25, said the test was a success nonetheless. Eight more tests of the engine are planned through early next year as part of the overall Space Launch System effort. (8/15)

Descartes Partners with Airbus on Global Imagery (Source: Space News)
Geospatial analytics company Descartes Labs announced a partnership with Airbus Wednesday. Under the agreement, Descartes will add Airbus' OneAtlas global basemap image catalog to its existing library of Landsat and Sentinel data. Descartes uses technology to extract insights from image data, and announced Wednesday that it has also added weather data to its image library. (8/15)

ISRO Surprised by Human Spaceflight Announcement (Source: The Telegraph)
The head of the Indian space agency ISRO said he was surprised by Prime Minister Modi's announcement Wednesday of a 2022 goal for the country's first human mission. K. Sivan, chairman of ISRO, said in an interview that Modi's announcement of that specific date for the first crewed mission was "a surprise for us," but added that he felt that ISRO was confident it could meet the deadline based on development of key technologies. Two uncrewed test flights would take place before the first crewed mission, Sivan said, with an estimated cost of the overall program of nearly $1.5 billion. (8/15)

Russia to Develop Super-Heavy Rocket as Reusable Spacecraft (Source: TASS)
Russia’s super-heavy carrier rocket scheduled to blast off for the first time from the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East in 2028 will be a reusable spacecraft, State Space Corporation Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said. The multiple-use principle "will be formulated as a task during the work on the super-heavy rocket," Rogozin stressed. According to designers’ plans, the Russian super-heavy carrier rocket should be able to deliver over 70 tonnes of cargo into low near-Earth orbit at the first stage. It will be developed to provide for deep space flights, specifically, to the Moon and Mars.

The construction of the infrastructure for the new carrier rocket at the Vostochny cosmodrome is scheduled to begin in 2026 and its first launch will take place in 2028. The concept of creating a super-heavy carrier rocket envisages maximally utilizing the accumulated potential. Also, basic elements and technologies of the Soyuz-5 medium-class rocket currently under development will be used to create the super-heavy launch vehicle. According to Roscosmos’s estimates, the creation of the super-heavy carrier rocket and the construction of the corresponding infrastructure will cost 1.5 trillion rubles ($22.5 billion). (8/16)

Angara Launch Pad Years Away at Vostochny (Source: TASS)
It could take nearly four years to build a second launch pad at Russia's new Vostochny Cosmodrome. In an interview, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said a contract for building the second pad, intended for use for the Angara launch vehicle, will take 45 months to complete once a contract to construct it is signed. That contract should be awarded in the near future. (8/15)

Tennessee Middle-Schoolers Complete Space Experiment (Source: Knoxville News Sentinel)
Five boys have worked over the summer at a Tennessee middle school to complete a science experiment on the effects of space travel on tooth decay after their sample tooth returned from the International Space Station. The team competed with others around the world to have their experiment chosen by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. (8/13)

SpaceX's Starlink Constellation Could Have a Military Customer (Source: Teslarati)
In FCC regulatory documents, SpaceX states that it is “working with a manufacturer of conformal antennas for tactical aircraft” to design and build “a custom installation kit consisting of mechanical plates for the low-profile antennas and fairings reducing wind drag”, seemingly indicating that SpaceX itself intends to supply the phased array antennas itself.

Normally, this sort of testing would be fairly mundane and expected for any global satellite network, as one of the largest markets for satellite internet connectivity happens to be commercial aviation, particularly airlines and passenger entertainment. Most tellingly, SpaceX wrote it “will perform a series of tests with the integrated airborne prototype terminal … varying motion for representative roll and pitch rates of a high-performance aircraft“, later also describing a request for permission for “additional test activities undertaken with the federal government.”

It just so happens that the US Air Force’s Research Laboratory (AFRL) spoke with Aviation Week earlier this year (just weeks after SpaceX’s first prototype satellites had launched, in fact) about a nascent program exploring the potential utility of a spate of commercial Low Earth Orbit satellite internet constellations proposed for launch in recent years. (8/15)

Student Experiments Soar with Early Morning Launch from Wallops (Source: Space Daily)
Approximately 100 undergraduate university and community college students from across the United States were on hand to witness the launch of their experiments and technology demonstration projects on a NASA suborbital rocket at 6:13 a.m., Aug. 14, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

The Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket launched as the sun was rising over the horizon and carried the student projects to an altitude of 98.5 miles. After a brief ride into space, the payload carrying the students' projects descended by parachute and landed in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 64 miles from the launch site. After recovery, the experiments will be returned to the students later in the day. (8/15)

ASTERIA Wins Small Satellite Mission of the Year Award (Source: Space Daily)
The ASTERIA mission has earned the Small Satellite Mission of the Year award from the Small Satellite Technical Committee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). The award is given to a mission that has "demonstrated a significant improvement in the capability of small satellites," according to the award description.

The mission is a collaboration between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and the Massachusets Institute of Technology, Cambridge. The award was presented at this month's annual Small Satellite Conference in Logan, Utah, hosted by AIAA and Utah State University. Finalists for the award are selected by committee, and the winner is chosen through a public vote. (8/15)

New Pentagon Report Names Russia, China as Threats to US Space Capabilities (Source: Space Daily)
A new space report by the Pentagon has named Russia and China as key threats to US space capabilities, according to a document released on Thursday. "The United States faces rapidly growing threats to our space capabilities. China and Russia, our strategic competitors, are explicitly pursuing space warfighting capabilities to neutralize US space capabilities during a time of conflict," the report said.

"Other potential adversaries are also pursuing counter-space capabilities such as jamming, dazzling, and cyber-attacks." The report specified that the US Space Command's capability development efforts would focus on global surveillance for missile targeting and other priorities. "Department capability development efforts will focus on... Persistent Global Surveillance for advanced missile targeting," the report said.

The paper stated that the command will also focus on developing its deterrent capability and nuclear command, control and communications. In addition to this, artificial intelligence-enabled global surveillance and near-real-time space situational awareness will be priorities, it added. At the same time, the Pentagon outlined in the report the US Space Command's major priorities. "US Space Command priorities will include: designing and executing a full range of joint space training and exercises, with focused support to the Asia Pacific Security Initiative and the European Deterrence Initiative," the report said. (8/10)

US Working Hard to Cease Reliance on Russian Rocket Engines (Source: Sputnik)
The U.S. is working hard to halt its dependence on Russia's RD-180 rocket engines, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. Earlier in August, the US administration announced new sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow's alleged use of chemical weapons against Russian ex-intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in the UK city of Salisbury in March. The Russian upper house's budget committee head, Sergei Ryabukhin, has told Sputnik that Russia's options for retaliation against the new US sanctions may include affecting deliveries of the RD-180 engines to the United States.

Bridenstine emphasized that NASA did not want to be dependent on Russia, but wanted to maintain good relations with Moscow. Russia is supplying the RD-180 engines to the United States under the 1997 contract. The US space program relies on the Russian-built engines to power the first stage of the Atlas V rocket, used for sending heavy payloads into space. In late July, Igor Arbuzov, the head of Russia's major rocket engine manufacturer JSC NPO Energomash, said his company had signed a new agreement with the United Launch Alliance on the delivery of six RD-180 rocket engines for Atlas V rockets in 2020. (8/14)

Earth Mini-Moons: Potential for Exciting Scientific and Commercial Opportunities (Source: Space Daily)
The detection of "mini-moons" - small asteroids temporarily captured in orbit around Earth - will vastly improve our scientific understanding of asteroids and the Earth-Moon system, says a new review published in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science. These small and fast-moving visitors have so-far evaded detection by existing technology, with only one confirmed mini-moon discovery to date. The advent of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will verify their existence and track their paths around our planet, presenting exciting scientific and commercial opportunities.

"Mini-moons can provide interesting science and technology testbeds in near-Earth space. These asteroids are delivered towards Earth from the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter via gravitational interactions with the Sun and planets in our solar system," reports Dr Robert Jedicke, lead author, based at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, USA. "The challenge lies in finding these small objects, despite their close proximity." (8/14)

Wearable 'Microbrewery' Saves Human Body from Radiation Damage (Source: Space Daily)
The same way that yeast yields beer and bread can help hospital lab workers better track their daily radiation exposure, enabling a faster assessment of tissue damage that could lead to cancer. But rather than building portable cellars or ovens, Purdue University researchers have engineered yeast "microbreweries" within disposable badges made of freezer paper, aluminum and tape. Simply adding a drop of water activates the yeast to show radiation exposure as read by an electronic device.

On a commercial level, the readout device could one day be a tablet or phone. The badge could also be adapted in the future for nuclear power plant workers and victims of nuclear disasters. Radiology workers are regularly exposed to low doses of radiation when they obtain patient imagery, such as X-rays. While protective gear largely keeps workers within a safe range of radiation exposure, absorbing a little bit is still inevitable. Radiation doses creeping above regulated guidelines pose risk for developing conditions such as cancer, cataracts, skin irritation or thyroid disease. (8/10)

Mystery Russian Satellite's Behavior Raises Alarm in US (Source: BBC)
A mysterious Russian satellite displaying "very abnormal behavior" has raised alarm in the US, according to a State Department official. "We don't know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it," said assistant secretary Yleem Poblete at a conference in Switzerland on 14 August. She voiced fears that it was impossible to say if the object may be a weapon.

Russia has dismissed the comments as "unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions." The satellite in question was launched in October last year. Alexander Deyneko, a senior Russian diplomat, told the Reuters news agency that the comments were "the same unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions, on suppositions and so on." He called on the US to contribute to a Russian-Chinese treaty that seeks to prevent an arms race in space.

Ms Poblete's comments were particularly interesting in light of President Donald Trump's decision to launch a sixth branch of the US armed forces named Space Force, added Ms Stickings. "The narrative coming from the US is, 'space was really peaceful, now look at what the Russians and Chinese are doing' - ignoring the fact that the US has developed its own capabilities." (8/15)

Two Companies Team Up to Send 3D Bioprinter to the Space Station (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
When our reality catches up with sci-fi, there will be lots of reasons to have bioprinters in space. For example, an astronaut on the long-haul voyage to Mars might get a terrible burn while futzing around with chemicals, and would be grateful for the ability to print out a new patch of skin. Or, looking even further into the future, a Martian colonist might suffer from liver failure but be saved by doctors who could print out a replacement organ.

Those scenarios are far off both in terms of humanity’s spaceflight capabilities and the state of 3D bioprinting—a rapidly advancing technique in which specialized 3D printers squeeze out biomaterials and cells to build up pieces of tissue, layer by layer. But a new partnership between the bioprinter company Allevi and Made in Space, a company with two 3D printers aboard the International Space Station (ISS), represents the first step toward those scenes of sci-fi medicine. (8/10)

Can Humans Live in Space Without Going Crazy? (Source: Discover)
What impact does being in space have on the human psyche? And for those future Mars astronauts, how would the human mind hold up as Mother Earth fades away to a dot? Surprisingly, it wasn’t until Mars missions became feasible that NASA considered the full breadth of the psychological needs of astronauts. Click here. (8/15)

NASA Rocket Carries Student Experiments into Space from Wallops (Source: DelMarVa Now)
A suborbital sounding rocket carrying student experiments from across the U.S. blasted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Tuesday morning. The 44-foot tall, two-stage Terrier-Improved Malemute rocket took off at 6:13 a.m. carrying the student projects to an altitude of 98.5 miles. Officials had to briefly delay liftoff after a boat entered the area. Approximately 100 undergraduate university and community college students from across the United States were on hand to witness the launch. (8/15)

State Grant Funds New Facilities at Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville (Source: Jax Daily Record)
The Jacksonville Aviation Authority board of directors accepted a $1.8 million matching grant from Space Florida to design and build a space operations control center, a payload preparation facility and a rocket motor testing facility at the Cecil Spaceport. (8/15)

Hanging Out With the Guy Who Launched the Fastest Manmade Object in History (Source: Medium)
The fastest manmade object ever was just launched from Florida, and it’s possible you didn’t hear much about it. I had the honor of meeting Tory Bruno, Chief Executive Officer of United Launch Alliance on the Mobile Service Tower for rollback prior to the Parker Solar Probe Delta IV Heavy launch. He showed up without media or an entourage…. which I thought was awesome. I also captured a candid moment between him and his wife. Click here. (8/13)

Lockheed ‘Seizes High Ground’ With Second Hypersonics Deal (Source: Breaking Defense)
 It’s not over until it’s over,, but Lockheed Martin is certainly showing early promise in the eye-wateringly difficult technical field of building a useful hypersonic weapon. The Air Force announced last night that it was awarding the world’s biggest defense company a $480 million contract to develop a prototype for the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). (8/14)

Russian Cosmonauts to Spend Almost 7 Hours Outside ISS on Wednesday (Source: Sputnik)
Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Sergei Prokopyev will spent almost seven hours in the open space on Wednesday on a mission to install an antenna as part of a birds monitoring the experiment. On the same mission, Artemyev and Prokopyev launched four nanosatellites into orbit and picked up bacteria samples from the International Space Station's (ISS) external surface.

So far, 19 space dust samples have been delivered to the Earth since the experiment began in 2010. The scientists found DNA of bacteria from the upper level of the World Ocean, the dust with a strong concentration of holmium, normally typical of Przybylski's Star in the constellation of Centaurus.

Editor's Note: So here's another reference to Russia's dubious claims of harvesting extraterrestrial bacterial DNA in low Earth orbit, by wiping it off the exterior of the International Space Station. It would be nice to hear NASA's opionion on this. (8/15)

August 15, 2018

Saalex Solutions and ELVIS 3 Team Supported Parker Solar Probe Satellite Launch (Source: Saalex)
Saalex Solutions is a teammate to a.i. solutions, Inc. on the Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 3 (ELVIS 3) contract at Kennedy Space Center. The ELVIS 3 team supported the launch of the Parker Solar Probe satellite on Aug. 12 from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida. Parker launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket, NASA’s first launch on a Delta IV Heavy. (8/15)

HP Mars Home Planet Premieres Virtual Reality Experience (Source: Design World)
HP Inc. and a global community of creators unveiled a virtual reality (VR) simulation of what life on Mars could look like for a human population of one million people. The HP Mars Home Planet program, led by HP and NVIDIA, is the culmination of a year-long engagement with the creative community to simulate life on the Red Planet. The program attracted more than 90,000 creative professionals, architects, engineers and students spanning more than 150 countries. The most innovative ideas were brought to life through a VR experience created by Technicolor that premieres this week at SIGGRAPH. Click here. (8/14)

3D Printing in Space With Moon Dust Is the Secret to Your Future Home on Mars (Source: Redshift)
Many sci-fi conceptions of space exploration have envisioned astronauts running experiments on a planetary surface and then returning to a small base composed, principally, of the ship that took them there. But lengthier missions, if they ever happen, will require more extensive infrastructure: habitats, launch and landing pads, blast walls, meteoroid shields, cryogenic fuel and oxidizer storage, and other facilities.

A human mission to Mars would entail astronauts living and working in structures built on the Martian surface. But what would those structures be made of? Because only so much material can be brought from Earth, Mars explorers would have to learn to build using materials found on Mars. That may seem a mundane problem, compared to getting a crew to Mars, but it presents a host of complexities—problems on which NASA scientists and engineers at the agency’s Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations (GMRO) Lab, at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, are actively working. Click here. (8/14) 

Defense Firms Bullish on ‘Space Force’ (Source: The Hill)
Defense contractors are eagerly awaiting the launch of President Trump’s new “Space Force,” in hopes the Pentagon will go on a space-related shopping spree. One of the driving forces behind creating a new branch of the military dedicated to space is addressing problems with the acquisition process. Supporters of Space Force say the acquisition process for space technology has been a mess without a dedicated military service.

Contractors say if it is organized right, Space Force could be a boon to their businesses. “It’s pretty exciting for all of us in the industry to see the intense level of interest that this administration and our Congress has in space,” United Launch Alliance (ULA) CEO Tory Bruno said recently. “I think there is sort of, at last, an appreciation of how vitally important space is to all of our lives and certainly to our country.” (8/15)

U.S. Worries About Russian Satellite (Source: Space Policy Online)
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Yleem D.S. Poblete delivered a speech at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CD) that laid out the U.S. Government’s assessment of Russian counterspace efforts. Threats to U.S. national security space systems posed by Russia and China are frequently cited by Pentagon and White House officials explaining why Congress should provide more money for space security and, more recently, why they believe a U.S. Space Force is needed.

Poblete specifically made the Space Force connection in her speech, quoting from Vice President Pence’s remarks last Thursday.  She called Russia’s pursuit of counterspace capabilities “disturbing given the recent pattern of Russian malign behavior.” Her statement is a continuation of the years-long debate in the CD over a proposed Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) proposed by Russia and China.  The gist of her statement is that Russia is conducting activities that would be prohibited by the draft treaty.

"In October of last year the Russian Ministry of Defense deployed a space object they claimed was a 'space apparatus inspector.' But its behavior on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities. We are concerned with what appears [this satellite's] very abnormal behavior... We don’t know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it. But Russian intentions [are] a very troubling development – particularly, when considered in concert with statements by Russia’s Space Force Commander who highlighted that 'assimilate[ing] new prototypes of weapons [into] Space Forces’ military units' is a 'main task facing the Aerospace Forces Space Troops.' ” (8/15)

NASA Took Away Jeanette Epps’s Chance to Make History. Now, She’s Focused on Iinspiring the Next Generation (Source: The Lily)
In her blue NASA overalls at Berlin’s Tech Open Air Conference, with a calm and unfussy demeanor, Jeanette Epps looked like she was born to be an astronaut. Epps has dreamed of space travel since she was about 9, when her older brother planted the idea in her head. Epps and her twin sister had showed him their report cards, and he was impressed by their high marks. Their brother told them that they were capable of becoming aerospace engineers or even astronauts one day.

The idea took root. After graduating with a PhD in aerospace engineering, she worked as a research engineer for Ford Motor Company before moving to the CIA, where she gained operational experience in a foreign territory on a mission to Iraq. In 2009, she was accepted to NASA’s astronaut corps. She underwent physically and mentally challenging astronaut training in Houston, Germany, Japan and Russia, where the winter survival, water survival and centrifuge training takes place. For Epps, Russia was particularly difficult because she didn’t know what to expect; both the language and the training were unknown.

After completing her training, Epps was ready to go into space. But when the Russian Soyuz launched this year on June 6, Epps was not on board. In a controversial move, NASA pulled Epps from the mission without providing an explanation. Astronauts have been pulled from flight at the last minute before, but most of these cases have been due to medical issues. Last week, NASA announced the names of nine U.S. astronauts who would be flying to space using commercial spacecraft for the first time. Epps wasn’t on the list. As time goes on, it’s become increasingly likely that she will never get to go to space. Click here. (8/15)

Visionary Investors Should Place Their Bets in the Space Race (Source: Money Week)
Of course, the involvement of private business in the space economy shouldn’t be exaggerated. Governments are still the dominant players, and will be for the foreseeable future. But with that caveat in mind, it’s encouraging that since 2000 more than 180 space start-ups in all have been funded. Most of those came in the last three years or so, with around $2bn-$3bn being raised by the sector each year.

Overall investment since 2000 – including associated debt – now stands at $18.5bn from more than 500 investors, including the likes of Google, Fidelity and SoftBank. The aforementioned SpaceX and Blue Origin – both of which are developing technologies for vertical take-off and landing vehicles – are among a handful of space-related companies to have attracted more than $1bn-worth of investment each. Click here. (8/9)

Martian Dust Storm Is Clearing, but Opportunity Remains Silent (Source: Extreme Tech)
NASA’s Opportunity rover has been rolling around the surface of the red planet for an amazing 14 years. The rover’s expected operational life was a mere 90 sols (about three Earth months), but it just kept on going.  It’s looking increasingly likely that the planet’s global dust storm has ended the improbable run of Opportunity. As the storm begins to clear, there’s still no signal from the rover.

Opportunity uses solar panels to keep its batteries charged, and that’s a problem when the atmosphere is thick with dust. The newer Curiosity rover was also swallowed up by the dust storm, but it has a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to generate power from a chunk of radioactive material. NASA knew things were going to get rough for Opportunity as soon as the dust storm began morphing into a global event. (8/14)

SpaceX Reveals the Controls of its Dragon Spacecraft for the First Time (Source: Ars Technica)
SpaceX has made remarkable progress on the crewed Dragon. At this point, SpaceX remains the clubhouse leader in the effort to return human launches to US soil and become the first private company to launch people into space next year, with a timeline running a few months ahead of Boeing and its Starliner spacecraft.

The progress seems all the more remarkable because of SpaceX’s startup status. Back in 2011 when the company joined the commercial crew competition, SpaceX had barely flown an orbital rocket. By contrast, Boeing has a century of aerospace experience, playing a major role in nearly all of NASA’s human exploration programs since the dawn of the space age.

SpaceX has also done so for significantly less money than Boeing. Musk’s company offered to finalize development of the Dragon spacecraft and fly six operational missions to the International Space Station for $2.6 billion. For the same service, Boeing sought, and received, $4.2 billion. At such a lower price point, Ars asked, could SpaceX even be profitable? Click here. (8/14)

SpaceX Vows Manned Flight to Space Station is On Track (Source: Channel News Asia)
Tech magnate Elon Musk's SpaceX vowed Monday to send its first astronauts into orbit on schedule next year - part of a drive to restore America's dominance of the space race. Gwynne Shotwell, the aerospace manufacturer's president, told journalists in Los Angeles an unmanned flight to the International Space Station in November would pave the way for a manned mission in April 2019.

"Predicting launch dates could make a liar out of the best of us. I hope I am not proven to be a liar on this one," she said. NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 as part of its commercial crew program, aimed at helping private industry build spaceships to reach low-Earth orbit. (8/14)

Rovers Descend on Southern Alberta's Mars-Like Badlands (Source: CBC)
If you take away the vegetation and the dinosaur bones, apparently the badlands around Drumheller are a decent stand-in for Mars. That's why teams from Canada, the United States, Poland and Bangladesh were in that part of southern Alberta over the weekend, testing their robotic rovers in a friendly competition. In all, 13 teams were in the Drumheller area performing a number of tasks that simulate what a real Mars rover would have to do.

That includes prospecting and extracting resources and searching for an injured astronaut at night. Of course, acting as a rover on a distant planet, the tasks are hands-off for the human creators. Oregon State University took top prize in the Drumheller Mars Rover Contest, while Team Argo from the Bialystok University of Technology in Poland claimed second and the Carleton Planetary Robotics Team from Carleton University in Ottawa came in third. (8/14)

Lockheed Martin Awarded $2.9 Billion Air Force Contract for Three Missile-Warning Satellites (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $2.9 billion Air Force contract for three missile-warning satellites known as next generation overhead persistent infrared. The Air Force already had released in May a “notice of intent” to award two sole-source contracts to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for the next-generation OPIR constellation but the actual amount of the contracts were not revealed.

The announcement on Tuesday confirms that Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in Sunnyvale, California, will be responsible to manufacture three geosynchronous earth orbit space vehicles, to be completed by April 2021. Northrop Grumman was selected to develop the polar orbit satellites. That contract amount has not been announced yet. The next-generation OPIR will succeed the current Space Based Infrared System. The Air Force wants a new missile warning constellation that would be more survivable against counter space weapons being developed by China and Russia. (8/14)

Exos Aerospace Reschedules First Suborbital Launch (Source: Space News)
Exos Aerospace, a Texas company developing a reusable suborbital rocket, now plans to carry out a first flight of its vehicle in late August as it sets its sights on a follow-on orbital vehicle. The company said it’s planning a launch of its Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE, or SARGE, rocket Aug. 25 from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The vehicle is a reusable sounding rocket capable of carrying up to 50 kilograms to the edge of space and back, although the company didn’t disclose the payload for this initial “pathfinder” mission. (8/13)

NASA Awards Contract for Construction of New Research Support Building (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Walsh Construction Company II, LLC of Chicago to build a new Research Support Building (RSB) at the agency’s Glenn Research Center. This firm-fixed-price contract includes a base period that begins Aug. 10, followed by seven options that would extend the period of performance to June 9, 2020. The total potential value of this contract is approximately $32.7 million.

The two-story, 64,000-square-feet RSB will house approximately 164 employees and include open office areas, private offices, conference rooms, collaborative engineering rooms, and a cafeteria with supporting kitchen and dining spaces. (8/13)

How Many Humans Would it Take to Keep Our Species Alive? (Source: NBC)
Could we safeguard our species by sending a space ark to a new home, a la "Battlestar Galactica" or the movie "Passengers?" Frédéric Marin is among those who are doing the hard thinking. The University of Strasbourg astrophysicist has been focusing not on the engineering issues of interstellar travel (which lie beyond current technology) but on the biology side of the question: How many crew members would be needed for an interstellar voyage that might last dozens of generations?

In other words, what is the minimum number of people required to deliver and successfully plant a self-sustaining population of Homo sapiens on another Earth? The number Marin came up with is 98. Just 98 healthy people would be needed to operate the ship over many generations and to set up a healthy (non-inbred) population on another world, he estimates. That number holds even for his test case of a space ark mission lasting more than 6,000 years, although he allows for the population aboard the ark to grow over time — up to about 500, perhaps. (8/13)

Rocket Specialist OneSpace Raises $44 Million, Aims to Catch Up with SpaceX (Source: ECNS)
Chinese commercial rocket firm OneSpace Technology said on Sunday that it completed B round financing of 300 million yuan ($43.8 million). The move is a positive sign, given rumors that there is a shortage of capital in the industry, analysts said. They said the funding will also help advance the domestic commercial rocket sector and boost Chinese companies' confidence to catch up with world leaders such as U.S.-based SpaceX.

The funding was led by CICC Jiatai (Tianjin) Equity Investment Fund and followed by FinTrek Capital while its shareholders like China Merchants Innovation Investment Management Co increased investment, read a press release the firm sent to the Global Times. Founded in August 2015, OneSpace has secured four rounds of financing, raising about 800 million yuan. (8/13)

SpaceX Could Play 'Crucial Role' in Musk's Plan to Take Tesla Private (Source: CNBC)
Morgan Stanley is telling its clients Elon Musk's stake in SpaceX may be leveraged as a source of funding for his plan to take Tesla private. Musk is founder and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. Tesla shares surged 11 percent last Tuesday after he tweeted that he is considering taking the company private at a $420 per share price. In a blog post later that day, Musk said "the intention is not to merge SpaceX and Tesla."

Despite the comment, Jonas said SpaceX could invest directly in Tesla as part of a strategic partnership. "While we are in no position to dispute this statement on a merging of the two entities, we do not expect Elon Musk to rule out the potential for the involvement of SpaceX as a capital-providing strategic partner or the potential for the value of SpaceX equity held within Mr. Musk's trust to be considered in the financing of a potential Tesla buyout," Jonas said. (8/13)

Why We’re Heading for an Armed Space Race (Source: The National)
As a Trek fan who watched the Trumpian hordes wee their pants in glee at the prospect of Space Force, the comparisons between fiction and reality must be drawn. Trump’s throwaway mumble has effloresced into a sixth special branch of the U.S. military, taking responsibility from the Air Force that currently oversees space operations. The difference illustrates a point of departure from what space exploration has long represented: a peaceful endeavour for the benefit of humanity.

To clarify: I don’t think we should be worried about Space Force. As much as some would love to have astronaut marines conducting zero-gravity laser battles, we’re a long way off yet. Plus, an organization whose logo looks like a toddler’s potato print isn’t something we need to waste our time on. What does concern me is what it represents; what the context of Trump establishing it and the intended message sent by doing so.

The administration has told NASA to get us to Mars – while simultaneously funding a new military body. If space is the ocean, the International Space Station is a pebble on the shore. We’ve barely dipped our toes in, yet we’re watching America wading out in combat boots. This is a dick-swinging contest in space. Space was once the prompt that stretched human creativity and ingenuity beyond the realms of the possible, yet half a century on it’s increasingly becoming the backdrop to displays of force. (8/13)

Space Force ‘Not the Way to Go,’ Says Key Democrat (Source: Defense News)
The White House’s push to create a new armed service for space has a key opponent in Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Although Reed did not say he would block the effort, he could be an obstacle if the administration proposes legislation for 2020 as planned. The Senate and House Armed Services committees and their annual defense policy bill represent a likely avenue for such a sweeping reorganization.

“I think we have to reorganize our space forces because our threats are now in multiple dimensions. But I think creating a separate service with all of the infrastructure and the bureaucracy is not the way to go,” Reed, of Rhode Island, said on “Fox News Sunday.” (8/13)

Researchers Find Source of Strange 'Negative' Gravity (Source: Live Science)
Sound has negative mass, and all around you it's drifting up, up and away — albeit very slowly. That's the conclusion of a paper submitted on July 23 to the preprint journal arXiv, and it shatters the conventional understanding that researchers have long had of sound waves: as massless ripples that zip through matter, giving molecules a shove but ultimately balancing any forward or upward motion with an equal and opposite downward motion.

That's a straightforward model that will explain the behavior of sound in most circumstances, but it's not quite true, the new paper argues. A phonon — a particle-like unit of vibration that can describe sound at very small scales — has a very slight negative mass, and that means sound waves travel upward ever so slightly, said Rafael Krichevsky, a graduate student in physics at Columbia University. (8/10)

Ghana is Looking to Outer Space. It Needs the Law to Match (Source: The Conversation)
African countries are becoming increasingly aware of the potential benefits of space. According to Euroconsult, the space budgets of just five African states amounted to over $900 million between 2009-2012 and the continent’s evolving space sector is reportedly worth $400 billion today.

In 2014 Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa combined spent more than $140 million on non-military space programs. Others expanding their space agenda include Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya. Ghana is trying to catch up. The Ghana Space Science & Technology Institute has been established to train specialists in these fields and to convert space research into commercial applications. The government has made a bid to host the African Union’s planned Space Agency. It’s also a participant in the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope project. (8/13)

Sierra Nevada Competes Key Step for NASA Space Travel Study (Source: SNC)
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) completed a NASA study for the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), which is the first module planned to be launched for NASA’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The study was performed under one of SNC’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) contracts. SNC plans to submit a bid to win the NASA contract when the agency issues its formal solicitation for the element later this year.

“Our design provides pressurized volume in addition to the capabilities NASA requires,” said Steve Lindsey, vice president of SNC’s Space Exploration Systems and former NASA space shuttle commander. “We are providing significant mission flexibility for transportation and operations from low-Earth orbit to lunar orbit.”  Lindsey flew on five space shuttle missions for NASA and commanded three assembly and test missions to the International Space Station. He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2015.

The study included a comprehensive look to determine the operational uses of the PPE, if it fits NASA’s needs, and the opportunity for multiple commercial applications.  SNC was one of five companies selected for the study. (8/9)

Documentarian's Space Vision to Put Apollo 11 Crew Statue at Kennedy Space Center (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A documentary filmmaker is pushing to bring a statue of the Apollo 11 astronauts to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Steven C. Barber has made six documentaries since 2009, and now his focus is on the moon, or specifically the three men who trekked more than 220,000 miles from Earth to make history on July 20, 1969. He wants to bring a $750,000 bronze statue of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the Space Coast. Click here. (8/14)

Apollo 11 Medallions Reproduced for Anniversary (Source: CollectSpace)
Medallions flown on Apollo 11 will be recreated for the mission's 50th anniversary. The Robbins Company minted several hundred gold and silver medallions that flew in the crew's personal kits, later becoming gifts for family and friends. Asset Marketing Services, working with the astronauts' families and Sunshine Mint, plan to mint new medallions using dies created from the originals, with modifications to note the 50th anniversary. The new copper and silver medallions went on sale this week at a coin show and will become more widely available for sale next month. (8/14)

NASA Turns to Freelancers to Design Arm for ISS Free-flying Robotic Assistant (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA and announced three of the winners of the ongoing Astrobee Challenges Series, the latest crowdsourcing contest held by NASA via In recent years, NASA has used to hold several crowdsourcing campaigns in order to find innovative solutions to engineering problems they come across. This time the Astrobee Challenges Series encouraged participants to design a robotic arm for a project on the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA sought candidates to design alternatives for an attachment and orientation arm for Astrobee, the flying robotic assistant that will provide support to astronauts on the space station ISS. Three of the winners have already been selected: Nino Wunderlin, from South Africa; Myrdal Manzano, from the Philippines; and Amit Biswas, from India, who entered the competition with his company Triassic Robotics. (8/14)

India Plans Human Spaceflight by 2022 (Source: NDTV)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans Wednesday to carry out the country's first human spaceflight mission by 2022. In a speech marking the country's independence day, Modi announced that "by 2022, when India completes 75 years of independence, or before that, a son or daughter of India will go to space." Such a mission would involve a launch of a capsule on the country's GSLV Mark 3 rocket. The Indian space agency ISRO has been testing some technologies needed for human spaceflight, such as a pad abort test of the capsule's emergency escape system in July, but the country has in the past deferred significant spending on human spaceflight programs. (8/14)

Report: NASA Making Good Planetary Progress, But Needs Mars Mission, Europa Vetting (Source: Space News)
A recent report praised the progress NASA has made on planetary science programs, but raised concerns about several elements of the overall effort. The report by a National Academies committee performing a midterm assessment of the planetary science decadal said that NASA "has made impressive progress" implementing the goals of the decadal survey despite suffering budget cuts early in the decade.

The report, though, recommended that NASA develop a more robust Mars exploration program as there are no official missions on the books after the Mars 2020 rover mission, with initial planning for only a Mars sample return effort. It also recommended that a proposed Europa lander mission, which was not a top priority flagship mission in the decadal survey but is being funded by Congress, "be vetted within the decadal survey process" given its potentially large cost. (8/14)
Despite Being Cut Short, SLS Engine Test Declared a Success (Source:
NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne considered the latest static fire test of an RS-25 engine a success despite an early ending. The test Tuesday at the Stennis Space Center, witnessed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, was scheduled to run for 500 seconds, but was aborted after 319 seconds because of what was called a "facility issue" and not a problem with the engine itself. The test was the first of nine to certify a set of upgrades and "affordability changes" to the engine, which will be used on the Space Launch System. (8/14)

Chinese Companies Moving Toward Commercial Launches (Source: Space News)
As one commercial Chinese launch company raises more funding, another is preparing for its next launch. Expace, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, announced it will launch its second Kuaizhou-1A solid-fueled rocket before the end of September. The launch will carry the Centispace-1-S1 satellite, about which little is known, into a sun-synchronous orbit. The Kuaizhou-1A made its debut in January 2017 and is capable if placing up to 200 kilograms into sun-synchronous orbits. The announcement comes as Chinese launch company OneSpace raised an additional $43.6 million for its small launch vehicles. (8/14)

NASA Helps Fund Southern Hemisphere Telescopes (Source: Nature)
NASA will help fund the development of two telescopes to help search for near Earth objects. The agency will provide $3.8 million over four years to build two additional Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) telescopes in the southern hemisphere, augmenting the two existing ATLAS telescopes in Hawaii. The new ATLAS telescopes will provide better coverage of asteroids in southern skies not visible from Hawaii. One of the new ATLAS telescopes will be located in South Africa, but a site has not been announced yet for the second. (8/14)

August 14, 2018

What It’s Like to Fly a Billion-Dollar Satellite on the US Air Force’s Largest Plane (Source: Quartz)
The California heat is stifling as we climb the 14-foot ladder into the passenger compartment of the C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane flown by the US Air Force. I had been told to expect a cold flight, and wore four layers of clothing. Now, sweat drips down my face. Everyone wears ear protection to drown out the engulfing noise of the four van-size jet engines hanging from the wings. A passing airman’s backpack bears a patch with the slogan “Embrace the Suck.” Good advice.

This flight is not built to suit passengers. Below, in the belly of the aircraft, sits 35 tons (32 metric tons) of equipment—an ultra-secure military communications satellite, and all the gear to transport such a spacecraft on earth. The satellite is encased in a white container custom-built to fit this aircraft. The entire cargo is valued at $1.3 billion. (8/12)

The ISS Is Actually a Claustrophobe's Nightmare – This Video Shows You Why (Source: Science Alert)
We all know that the International Space Station (ISS) is not a huge space. It's no palace, but there's six people living on it right now, so it has to be at least liveable, right? Well, you might not agree after you see this insane video by Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, who took YouTube through the longest route on the ISS.

The video is only a minute and a half if that gives you any clues to how long the longest route actually is, but what's even worse is just how tight some of the squeezes are to get from room to room. Click here. (8/10)

Digging Into the Details of Orion’s EM-1 Test Flight (Source:
As NASA continues to analyze and refine the profile for the Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) test flight, more information about the multi-week mission is beginning to be detailed. The Orion spacecraft will fly into orbit around the Moon before returning to Earth in a shakedown mission before the first crew flies in Orion on Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2).

EM-1 will be the first flight of Orion’s European Service Module, also pairing it with the Crew Module for the first time, with hundreds of test objectives to be evaluated during the mission. Orion will fly on EM-1 for the first time with all of its primary spacecraft elements. The European Service Module (ESM) will make its first flight, connected to the second crew module (CM) unit by a crew module adapter (CMA) making its first flight. Click here. (8/13)

How a Space-traveling Squirrel Monkey Helps Kids Learn Science in Peru (Source: CASIS)
Rossana Chiarella teaches pre-kindergarten and coaches the Space-STEM (S-STEM) Club at Palm Springs North Elementary in Hialeah, a city near Miami, Florida. As the school’s Space Foundation Teacher Liaison Officer, she works to support and improve science education for young children. During her spring break in 2018, Chiarella traveled to Patapo, Peru, near the town where she grew up. She taught space science to pre-kindergarteners at Patapo School through hands-on activities and storytelling. (8/10)

Russia's New Cosmonauts Include Brother of ISS Crew Member (Source: CollectSpace)
Russia has announced a new class of cosmonaut trainees, including the younger brother of a crew member now on board the International Space Station. An interdepartmental commission selected the eight new candidates, including Yevgeny Prokopyev, the sibling of Expedition 56 flight engineer Sergey Prokopyev, who launched to the space station in June. The Prokopyevs are the first Russian siblings and second pair of brothers in the world to be chosen for a cosmonaut or astronaut corps.

Dmitry Rogozin, director of Russia's federal space agency Roscosmos, revealed the younger Prokopyev and seven other candidates' selection on Friday at a meeting in Moscow that also included former cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, now Roscosmos' executive director of human space programs, and Pavel Vlasov, head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center at Star City. (8/13)

August 13, 2018

How a Focused, Agile Australian Space Agency Can Succeed (Source: ABC Australia)
Despite being involved in space projects for so long, just two Australian astronauts have been into space. That's something Dr Clark is hoping to change. "We've been advising NASA on human space flight for over 40 years, and yet we haven't had one of our Australian doctors as head of one of those medical missions," she said. "So we do need to create those opportunities for the next generation and the generations after."

But parts, not people, are more likely to be Australia's first contributions. "We can certainly put Australian technology into shared missions," she said. "We don't have the budget of NASA, we're not NASA. But can we make sure, in those missions, we have the very best Australia has to put forward as part of that? Absolutely, we can do that."

The new agency is meant to be lean. It has just $41 million in funding to establish itself over the next four years. And it has wasted no time in getting down to business. "We've approved licences for an overseas launch for assets that will go into space," Dr Clark said. "And we have a pipeline for the next 12-18 months. This is more than what we've done for decades." (8/12)

Road to Mars Travels Through Louisiana (Source: The Advocate)
Louisiana doesn’t always come to mind when people think of America’s space legacy the same way that Texas and Florida do, but the most critical part of the road to space on NASA’s historic exploration programs has come through the Michoud Assembly Facility in southeast Louisiana for much of the past 50 years. When we think of the truly iconic moments in space, most were a result of the rockets built in Louisiana by NASA and its industry partners.

So this week, as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine visits the Bayou State, he will see that NASA’s Michoud facility is America’s rocket factory and produces NASA’s greatest space exploration systems. From the Apollo program’s Saturn V, to the space shuttle, and now America’s next great deep space rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), Michoud is where the vital parts of these rockets come together.

The SLS program has restored Michoud’s critical role in building America’s most powerful rockets and restoring U.S. leadership in deep space to transport astronauts further than ever before. Additionally, the SLS program is supporting hundreds of NASA, Boeing and supplier jobs at Michoud and other supplier companies across the state that are contributing critical manufacturing and components for this rocket. (8/12)

Trump's Space Force Among Topics at Las Cruces Space Travel Symposium (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
This fall, leaders and experts in the commercial space industry will gather in Las Cruces for the 14th annual International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight to discuss the progress in space travel technologies, investments and policies. This year’s group of speakers features the son of an Apollo 11 astronaut and a United States government official who will offer details into the proposed Space Force.

Jared Stout, the executive deputy secretary and chief of staff for the National Space Council, is expected to attend the symposium to discuss the Trump administration’s proposed sixth branch of the U.S. military that would be dedicated to national security in outer space. Stout’s visit to Las Cruces comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s announcement in June that he would direct the Pentagon to create the nation’s first Space Force. (8/12)

North Carolina-Made Compression Suits May Fly on Orion Missions (Source: Winston-Salem Journal)
Astronauts face tremendous G forces at blast off and then weightlessness in space. But what happens when astronauts return home? Their homecoming not only involves returning to friends and family, but also a reunion with gravity. This change can cause orthostatic intolerance (OI), which is the inability to stand upright without experiencing an increased heart rate, low blood pressure and/or lightheadedness after being in a weightless environment, according to the NASA website.

To aid astronauts who experience the condition, NASA scientists and researchers set out to find a wearable compression garment or system to slowly reintroduce astronauts’ bodies to Earth’s gravity. NASA found what it was looking for right here in Catawba County. Previously known as BSN Medical, Essity produces compression garments for people with conditions such as lymphedema, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and other vascular conditions. The business has operations in Conover and Hickory. (8/12)

Stratolaunch Venture Rolls Out World’s Biggest Airplane for Weekend Tests (Source: GeekWire)
Stratolaunch, the launch venture created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, took the world’s biggest airplane out of its hangar this weekend at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port and revved up its engines in preparation for the next step toward shooting rockets into space from midair. The rocket-launching part is still a year or two away, but Stratolaunch is aiming to put the 385-foot-wide, twin-fuselage plane through its first test flight within the next couple of months.

In order to do that, the test program calls for flying five on-the-ground runway taxi tests at increasing speeds. Two of those tests have been done already, and in a tweet on Friday, Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd hinted at a third runway race. The taxi test didn’t end up happening this weekend, but Stratolaunch’s team did put the plane through a couple of days’ worth of fueling operations. full-power engine tests and communication tests. And folks in Mojave got a good look at the monster plane (which has carried the nickname “Roc” in honor of the giant bird of Eastern mythology). (8/12)

India Planning January Lunar Mission (Source: IANS)
ISRO is planning an early January launch of its Chandrayaan-2 lunar lander. ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said the launch of the mission on a GSLV Mark 3 rocket is now scheduled for Jan. 3, but with a window that extends into March. The mission was to launch in October but was postponed by technical issues. ISRO also announced that the Chandrayaan-2 lander will be named "Vikram" in honor of Vikram Sarabhai, the father of the Indian space program. (8/12)

General Warns of Significant Costs for Space Force (Source: Space News)
A top general warns that the formation of the Space Force as a separate military branch will carry potentially significant costs. Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday there is a misconception that creating the Space Force from parts of the Air Force and other services will be "absolutely resource neutral" and that everyone involved needs to be "wide-eyed" about the potential costs. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said last week that cost estimates for establishing the Space Force have not been completed yet. (8/12)

DOD Chief Changes Tune on Space Force (Source: AP)
Secretary of Defense James Mattis defended his apparent change of opinion regarding the Space Force. In a letter to Congress last year, Mattis argued against creating a separate military branch for space "that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations." Mattis, though, says he is on board with the creation of a Space Force, and denied he was ever really opposed. "What I was against was rushing to do that before we could define the problem," he told reporters Sunday while on a visit to Brazil. (8/12)

Griffin (Potential Space Force Chief) Urges Improvements for Space Tech Development (Source: Space News)
Mike Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, called on industry for greater urgency when working on military space programs. Government programs are "mired in process" and take far longer to develop. China, he said, is making much faster progress on technologies like hypersonic weapons because they "are not consulting a lot of people that plain just do not need to be consulted." He noted he was concerned that he might not get everything he wanted done in the next two and a half years without process improvements. Griffin, in his comments last week at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium, did not touch on the Space Force, even as his name comes up for roles within that new military branch if it is created. (8/12)

Virgin Galactic's Rocket Man (Source: New Yorker)
Virgin Galactic is one of three prominent startups that are racing to build and test manned rockets. Its rivals are Blue Origin, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon; and SpaceX, which is owned by Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla. Musk has said that he hopes that all this rocket building will “inspire the public to get excited about space again.” Branson recently told CNN, “I hope that Virgin Galactic will be the first of the three entrepreneurs fighting to put people into space to get there.”

The companies have different visions for the journey. Virgin Galactic plans to take half a dozen passengers on a “suborbital” flight, cresting at more than fifty miles above the Earth. Blue Origin has a similar altitude goal for its first manned flights, but it is developing the kind of vertical-launch system that one associates with nasa rockets. SpaceX is perhaps the most ambitious: Musk wants to colonize Mars. Click here. (8/13)

Trump’s Space Force Logos are Just as Dumb as Space Force (Source: Fast Company)
According to astronaut Mark Kelly and plenty of other experts, Donald Trump’s Space Force is, simply put, a pretty dumb idea. Nonetheless, last night the president’s reelection campaign released a slew of possible Space Force logos--and they’re right in line with the stupefyingly bad design Trump’s team is known for.

Let’s take a moment to breathe, because these logos aren’t official in any way. They weren’t created by anyone at the Pentagon, NASA, or any other federal agency. They were created by the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign PAC. And, as Parscale notes, they’re going to be used to “commemorate” the Space Force with a new “line of gear.” In other words, this is for merch. Ultimately, this is just a poor attempt to distract Trump supporters from the president’s legal troubles–and a way to sell more campaign merch. Click here. (8/10)

Military Space Plane Wings Toward Year in Earth Orbit (Source: Inside Outer Space)
The U.S. Air Force X-37B mini-space plane has winged past 340 days of flight performing secretive duties during the program’s fifth flight. Labeled the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-5), the robotic craft was rocketed into Earth orbit on September 7, 2017 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On this latest clandestine mission of the space plane, all that’s known according to Air Force officials is that one payload flying on OTV-5 is the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader, or ASETS-11. Developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), this cargo is testing experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipes for long durations in the space environment. (8/13)

August 12, 2018

Parker Solar Probe Launches From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A spacecraft designed to unlock the mysteries of the Sun was sent on its way early Sunday in a fiery liftoff from Cape Canaveral. United Launch Alliance sent the $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe into the night sky, setting it on a voyage that will bring it within 3.8 million miles of our Solar System’s star at the highest speeds ever attained by a human-made device. The Delta IV Heavy lit the sky over Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on time at 3:31 a.m., engulfing the launch pad with flames as it slowly took flight. (8/12)

August 11, 2018

Trump Wants a Space Force — But We Have an Air Force Space Command (Source:
President Donald Trump's administration is pushing to form a U.S. Space Force, a new military branch, but how would that agency differ from the Air Force Space Command, which already oversees much of the country's defense assets in space?

In 1982, the U.S. Air Force established the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) to provide "space capabilities" for spaceflight missions, navigation, satellite communications, missile warning and space control. The AFSPC has units at Air Force bases all over the United States. These units provide space capabilities including "services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of DOD, NASA and commercial launches" of satellties, according to AFSPC's website.

But if the AFSPC is already dedicated to space, why do we need a Space Force? Michael Dodge, an assistant professor in the Department of Space Studies at the University of North Dakota, likened the creation of a Space Force with the birth of the Air Force in the 20th century. The early version of the U.S. Air Force existed as the U.S. Army Air Corps, an aerial warfare sector of the U.S. Army. But as planes continued to advance technologically and find their way into mainstream travel, "Congress decided they needed to have a new branch of the military," Dodge said. (8/10)

Space Force Logo Push Smells Like Trump Steaks (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Trump Administration rolled out plans Thursday for the creation of Space Force, a new military branch deigned to keep us from getting blasted into submission by Russian or Chinese satellites. To drum up support, the PAC behind getting Trump re-elected is asking Americans to vote for the logo and offered six candidates.

I’m all for prevailing in an intergalactic war, but something smells funny here. Six designs were sent out via email to supporters by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee. I don’t know enough Space Force and future of intergalactic defense needs to have an opinion. I do find it amusing that, like Trump Steaks and Trump University, the president is turning space defense into a marketing ploy. It’s so… Trumpian. (8/10)

NASA Awards $2.3 Million in Grants to Minority Serving Institutions to Expand STEM Education (Source: NASA)
NASA's Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP) Aerospace Academy (MAA) has selected seven Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) for cooperative agreement awards totaling nearly $2.3 million. The grants will be used to build the interest, skills and knowledge necessary for K-12 students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

These selections will increase the participation and retention of historically underserved and underrepresented youth in grades K-12 through hands-on STEM activities. Awardees will receive up to $325,000 for a two-year period. MUREP investments enhance the academic, research and technological capabilities of MSIs through multiyear grants. The MUREP Aerospace Academy provides opportunities for participatory and experiential learning activities in formal and informal education settings to connect learners to unique NASA resources. (8/10)

Rocket Lab Chooses RUAG Space as Preferred Supplier (Source: SpaceRef)
Today, Rocket Lab of Huntington Beach, Calif., an independent developer and manufacturer of small launch vehicles, and RUAG Space, a leading product supplier for satellites and launchers, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) creating a new agreement in the small launcher market, in support of flying RUAG separation systems on the Electron Launch Vehicle.

Rocket Lab, the developer of the world’s first fully carbon composite orbital launch vehicle, Electron, powered by 3D printed, electric pump-fed engines selected RUAG Space as its preferred supplier to provide a 15” microsatellite separation system for future missions of its Electron Small Launch Vehicles (SLV). These adapters connect satellites and rockets during the launch, and ensure a smooth separation in orbit. The new partnership was announced at the 2018 SmallSat Conference in Logan, Utah with representatives from both companies coming together to celebrate the agreement. (8/9)

New Horizons Spacecraft Sees Possible Hydrogen Wall at the End of the Solar System (Source: Gizmodo)
As it speeds away from the Sun, the New Horizons mission may be approaching a “wall.” The New Horizons spacecraft, now at a distance nearly four billion miles from Earth and already far beyond Pluto, has measured what appears to be a signature of the furthest reaches of the Sun’s energy—a wall of hydrogen. It nearly matches the same measurement made by the Voyager mission 30 years ago, and offers more information as to the furthest limits of our Sun’s reach.

The Voyager probe measured a similar signature three decades ago. Recent re-analysis demonstrated that Voyager’s scientists probably overestimated the signal’s strength. But once the Voyager data was corrected, New Horizon’s results looked almost exactly the same.

Perhaps the signal is something else, said Gladstone, but the corroboration of the data at least adds credence to its existence, whether it’s coming from the hydrogen wall or some other feature. Scientists plan to observe the signal perhaps twice a year, according to the paper. (8/10)

Ex-Astronaut: Trump's Plan for a Space Force 'Redundant,' 'Wasteful' (Source: The Hill)
Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly says President Trump's plan for a military branch with jurisdiction over outer space is "redundant" and "wasteful." Kelly, who participated in several NASA missions to the International Space Station, said during an interview Thursday on MSNBC that Trump is the only person who thinks a "Space Force" is a good idea.

"The only person that I’ve heard say this is a fantastic idea is the commander in chief, the president of the United States," Kelly said. "Everybody else says it’s redundant, it's wasteful." ... "There is a threat out there," he added, "but it's being handled by the U.S. Air Force today, doesn't make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy in an incredibly bureaucratic [Defense Department]," he added. (8/9)

U.S. Would Need a Megaconstellation to Counter China’s Hypersonic Weapons (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon admittedly is already five to 10 years behind in the development of an anti-missile system to thwart advanced hypersonic weapons that are now being tested by China and Russia. The good news for the Defense Department is that the commercial space technology boom that is fueling the development of megaconstellations could help the military reach that goal.

The Pentagon is studying options to build a space-based surveillance network to fill blind spots in the nation’s current defenses — which were designed to counter ballistic missiles that fly on a predictable arch-shaped pattern. To detect and track hypersonic weapons — which fly into space at supersonic speeds and then descend back down to Earth directly on top of targets — the answer is a large constellation of small satellites. “Our response has to be a proliferated space sensor layer, possibly based off commercial space developments,” said Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin. (8/9)

New Space Camp for Adults Scheduled for Indiana (Source: Clinton County Daily News)
IN Space Adult Camp is your chance to play like a kid, but use your years of knowledge to create adult experiments to travel to the edge of space. This short, but fun camp starts on Friday evening, at 6 p.m. on August 24 with a BBQ Meet and Greet. Get to know your teammates and plan what you will launch. The day will end at 8 p.m. On Saturday, August 25, we meet again at 9 a.m. and begin predicting, building and launching your BalloonSat satellite. We finish the day at 5 p.m. having recovered the platform and evaluating our experiments. This event will be held at the Frankfort Municipal Airport. (8/8)

Trump’s Space Force Plan Is Already Making the Military Desperate and Dumb (Source: Daily Beast)
The Trump administration's plan to establish a separate branch of the U.S. military for space operations has experts scratching their heads in confusion. The proposal for a so-called Space Force also seems to have inspired a desperate scramble by the U.S. Air Force, which currently leads military space operations, to justify its manpower and funding.

To that end, Carlton Everhart — the general in charge of Air Mobility Command, which oversees the Air Force's transport planes — has proposed a frankly bizarre scheme to boost military supplies into orbit and then drop them to U.S. forces in distant war zones. Experts said the orbital supply runs would be enormously expensive and impractical. "It seems like an answer in search of a problem and willfully misunderstanding how orbital mechanics works," said Victoria Samson. (8/9)

Across the U.S., the Spaceport Race Is On (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Camden County, Ga., played a bit part in aerospace history as home to a 1960s plant that built and tested NASA rocket motors. Now, county leaders want to revive that heritage with a new commercial spaceport. “We can be part of the new space race in the 21st Century,” said Steve Howard, project leader and the Camden County administrator.

Companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are investing millions trying to lead the way in a space gold rush. The Trump administration has emphasized a growing role for the private sector in space exploration and this week presented a plan for a sixth military branch dedicated to space. Local and state officials across the U.S. are trying to get in on the action.

There are now 10 licensed commercial spaceports in the U.S., from Alaska to Florida, double the number in 2004. Some of them grew out of existing government launch sites. At least two other proposed spaceports are under federal review: Spaceport Camden and Spaceport Colorado. Despite the enthusiasm, the commercial sector is still nascent. Some facilities have hosted only a few launches, or none at all. “I would caution against irrational exuberance,” said Frank Slazer. Click here. (8/11)

The GPS Satellite Praised by Mike Pence for Space Force Is Delayed Yet Again (Source: Bloomberg)
Announcing plans for a new U.S. Space Force on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence singled out the Pentagon’s “new generation of jam-resistant GPS and communication satellites” as a harbinger of the push to “secure American leadership in space.” But the advanced satellite has been hobbled by four years of delivery delays. And now the launch the first of the new satellites -- originally planned for April 2014 -- has slipped once again, according to the Air Force.

The service said earlier this year that it delayed the launch of the first GPS III satellite, part of a $5.4 billion program, to October at the earliest, from May. The service said it needed to complete final reviews of the upgraded rocket that Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to use to boost it into orbit. That schedule’s slipped again, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center said in a statement to Bloomberg News. The launch date “has been officially moved by mutual agreement” to December “to complete qualification testing and” one-time validation of SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 Block design, the command said. (8/10)

Expert Says Space Force Essential to Protect Our Way of Life (Source: KABC)
President Trump has officially directed the Pentagon to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military in space and says he expects it to be in place by 2020. It’s the administration’s third Space Policy Directive, and aims to protect our satellites and ensure American dominance in the final frontier. Retired US Navy Captain and vice president Jerry Hendrix, with the national security consultancy Telemus Group, says it’s absolutely needed to safeguard our way of life.

“United States economy runs through space. GPS, which is part and parcel of everything we do, from our cell phones and figuring out where we’re at, and the idea of the central timing, knowing what time it is, all these things runs through space. US military has been very defendant on space and our enemies, Russia and China recognize that the weak link in the way of war is space.” (8/10)

Why the Space Force Is Just Like Trump University (Source: The Atlantic)
Late Thursday morning, after playing a round of golf and firing off an angry missive about the Russia investigation, Donald Trump tweeted this: "Space Force all the way!" The tweet is a perfect synecdoche for the program in question: short, punchy, and memorable, but ultimately substance-free.

The Space Force and the White House’s rollout for it are the most focused exercises in Trumpian branding the nation has seen since the president took office, a project reminiscent of Trump University. Trump is selling the public one idea-—a glitzy, pathbreaking new wing of government—-and giving it instead a potentially kludgy reorganization of existing government functions.

Such salesmanship is not new for Trump. The branding of the Space Force resembles nothing so much as Trump University. In that program, Trump gussied up a series of drab, clichéd get-rich-quick real-estate seminars by giving it the name and crest of a full-fledged university and promising “handpicked” instructors. It was not a university, nor were the instructors handpicked. In depositions about the project, Trump proved far removed from any of the actual operations. (8/10)

Arrested Bureaucrat Admits to Accepting Bribes in JAXA Corruption Case (Source: The Mainichi)
The former Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology director-general for international affairs arrested on suspicion of taking bribes while on loan to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has largely admitted to the allegations, a related source has disclosed.

It appears that the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office special investigative unit will indict the 57-year-old bureaucrat Kazuaki Kawabata for receiving bribes as early as Aug. 15, when he reaches the limit for his detention period. According to the source, Kawabata denied all the allegations against him when he was arrested on July 26, which included taking bribes in the form of being wined and dined by a former company executive. (8/11)

To Train for Mars, Head to Hawaii (Source: The Verge)
The astronauts we send to Mars will be spending a lot of time together. Crews will travel for up to a year in a cramped vehicle to reach the Red Planet, stay on the surface of Mars for several months in a tiny habitat, and then spend up to a year to get home in the same spacecraft they came in. That means Mars astronauts will have to work incredibly well with the same group of people, and they’ll need to quickly overcome any disagreements to execute their mission. It’s going to be tough mentally as well as physically.

So how do you pick the right people who can handle the isolation and repetition of a mission to Mars? That’s where HI-SEAS comes in. Operated by the University of Hawaii, HI-SEAS is an analog Mars habitat located on the Big Island of Hawaii. It actually sits on the side of an active volcano, Mauna Loa, where lava has heavily shaped the terrain of the area. The volcanic rock sports various hues of red and orange, creating the feeling that the habitat exists on another world. Click here. (8/10)

Blue Origin Shows Off BE-3U Upper-Stage Rocket Engine as its Many Efforts Ramp Up (Source: GeekWire)
Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is sharing a short video clip featuring the lesser-known rocket engine for its orbital-class New Glenn rocket. The spotlight on the hydrogen-fueled BE-3U engine comes amid reports that Blue Origin is rapidly ramping up its New Glenn development program — and amid questions over whether Blue Origin can start launching New Glenn by the end of 2020, as originally planned.

The company's main priorities include getting New Glenn off the ground, which will require the completion of development and testing of the vacuum-rated, 150,000-pound-thrust BE-3U engine as well as the more powerful BE-4 first-stage engine, which is fueled with liquefied natural gas and should provide 550,000 pounds of liftoff thrust.

At last report, the BE-4 development effort was hitting its marks with engine qualification due by the end of the year. And in today’s posting to Twitter and Instagram, Blue Origin said the BE-3U has “completed over 700 seconds of test time” (8/10)