May 25, 2017

Rocket Lab Reaches Space, But Not Orbit, on First Electron Launch (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab, a U.S.-New Zealand company developing the Electron small launch vehicle, declared success on its first launch May 25, although the rocket failed to reach orbit. In a statement, the company said the Electron lifted off from its private launch complex on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 12:20 a.m. Eastern (4:20 p.m. local time.) The rocket reached space on an apparent suborbital trajectory three minutes later.

“It was a great flight. We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said. “We didn’t quite reach orbit and we’ll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program, deliver our customers to orbit and make space open for business.” (5/25)

Schiaparelli Mars Landing Investigation Completed (Source: Space Daily)
The inquiry into the crash-landing of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module has concluded that conflicting information in the onboard computer caused the descent sequence to end prematurely. Around three minutes after atmospheric entry the parachute deployed, but the module experienced unexpected high rotation rates. This resulted in a brief 'saturation' - where the expected measurement range is exceeded - of the Inertial Measurement Unit, which measures the lander's rotation rate.

The saturation resulted in a large attitude estimation error by the guidance, navigation and control system software. The incorrect attitude estimate, when combined with the later radar measurements, resulted in the computer calculating that it was below ground level. This resulted in the early release of the parachute and back-shell, a brief firing of the thrusters for only 3 sec instead of 30 sec, and the activation of the on-ground system as if Schiaparelli had landed. The surface science package returned one housekeeping data packet before the signal was lost.

In reality, the module was in free-fall from an altitude of about 3.7 km, resulting in an estimated impact speed of 540 km/h. (5/25)

Russia Launches Military Satellite on Soyuz (Source: Tass)
A Soyuz rocket launched a Russian military satellite Thursday. The Soyuz-2.1b rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 2:34 a.m. Eastern time. Russian media described the rocket's payload as a "new generation military spacecraft," which had previously been identified as an EKS missile-warning satellite. (5/25)

NASA Re-Embraces the Worm (Source: CollectSpace)
The "worm" is back in at NASA — sort of. Twenty-five years after the space agency unceremoniously retired the worm, its simple but iconic logotype, in favor of returning to its original 1958 graphic insignia, the retro logo has fallen back into NASA's good graces, at least when it comes to its use on merchandise. The agency quietly started approving designers' requests in 2016, but it was not until last month that it amended its published merchandising regulations to include the worm. Before then, NASA restricted products to using its first and current insignia, dubbed the "meatball" for its ball shape. (5/25)

Boom CEO Sees Market for 1,000 Supersonic Passenger Jets by 2035 (Source: ATW)
Denver-based Boom Technology founder and CEO Blake Scholl believes the company’s first supersonic passenger aircraft can enter commercial service as soon as 2023 and there is a market for as many as 1,000 supersonic airliners to be delivered by 2035.

Speaking at the IATA Wings of Change conference in Miami, Scholl said $33 million in funding secured in late March—bringing Boom’s total financing to $41 million—removes monetary obstacles for the company, enabling it to build and flight test the “Baby Boom” prototype that will be a precursor to the full-size Boom aircraft. The full-size aircraft will be able to seat up to 55 passengers in an all-business class configuration, according to Scholl.

The Baby Boom’s first flight is targeted for 2018, and the full-size Boom aircraft’s first flight is targeted for 2020 with a 2023 FAA certification goal. The Baby Boom, which is being built now, will be a third of the size of the planned full-size Boom aircraft. (5/3)

Six Spaceport Infrastructure Projects Included in Space Coast Transportation Plan (Source: SPACErePORT)
Florida's Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) has released a draft of their FY-2017-2022 five-year planning document for regional transportation infrastructure spending. The TPO has opened a 30-day public comment period for the plan, which includes six spaceport infrastructure projects representing over $288 million in state, federal and private sector investment, past and planned.

The document offers only general descriptions of the six projects, avoiding the identification of specifics that might reveal which companies or launch programs might be the beneficiaries. The six projects are listed as: Horizontal Launch Cargo Processing ($17.2M), Launch Complex Improvements ($102M), Processing & Range Facility Improvements ($67.8M), Common Use Infrastructure ($28M), Launch Complex Improvements & Passenger/Cargo ($34M), and Horizontal Launch/Landing Facilities ($47.8M). Click here to view the document. (5/24)

500 New Space Startups by 2025? The Foundation Institute Wants to Make That Happen. (Source: Space News)
The Founder Institute plans to attract would-be space entrepreneurs to its worldwide network of incubators with generous financial incentives and mentorship from industry veterans. “This is an international call for anyone working in space or passionate about space to launch a company,” said Adeo Ressi, co-founder and chief executive of the Founder Institute, a business incubator based in Palo Alto, California. “Our goal, which admittedly might be a bit of a stretch goal, is to have 500 new space and space-exploration companies launched by 2025.”

Since it was founded in 2009, Founder Institute has established operations in 180 cities and become one of the world’s largest incubators for technology startups, helping to establish nearly 3,000 companies. How many have been space-related? “Zero,” Ressi told SpaceNews.  “There is definitely a pipeline problem in space entrepreneurship today. We want to fix it with these incentives.” (5/24)

U.S. Air Force Seeks $1.3 Billion Increase for Space Programs (Source: Space News)
The White House is asking Congress to provide $7.75 billion for military space systems in 2018, a $1.3 billion increase over what the Pentagon sought for 2017. The space portion of the Defense Department’s 2018 budget request includes $4.33 billion for research, development, testing, and evaluation, and $3.42 billion for procurement, according to Air Force officials.

The numbers reflect the scope of defense space operations, with most programs under the purview of the Air Force, but includes outlays for other national security agencies including the National Reconnaissance Office. Here’s how some of the major Air Force space programs fared in the budget request. (5/24)

High Fashion Meets Vintage NASA in New 'Coach Space' Collection (Source:
NASA is having a fashion moment. Or, perhaps more accurately, fashion is having a NASA moment. Hot on the heels of Chanel's interstellar-themed fashion show and mock rocket launch in March, Coach is showcasing a cosmically inspired collection of its own. An ode to "American dreamers and explorers who believe that anything is possible," the luxury brand's pre-fall "Coach Space" capsule collection features an array of purses, accessories and ready-to-wear clothing plastered with retro-futuristic iconography, including NASA's old "worm" insignia and space shuttles — lots of space shuttles. (5/24)

Mars Rover 2020: Here's What NASA's New Red-Planet Car Will Look Like (Source:
NASA has unveiled some cool new concept art for its next Red Planet robot, the Mars 2020 rover, and it looks awesome. If the Mars 2020 rover concept art, which NASA released yesterday (May 23), looks familiar, don't worry; you're not seeing things. The rover's basic design was influenced by NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, which has been exploring Mars since 2012. Click here. (5/24)

Cool Spacewalk, Right? Get Ready for More—ISS Will Need Fixin’ (Source: WIRED)
When astronaut Peggy Whitson pushed out of the International Space Station’s airlock on Tuesday morning, she was floating into history. Stipulated, Whitson was already a badass. But this extra-vehicular activity—an EVA, NASAspeak for a spacewalk—was Whitson’s 10th. That ties her for the American record. A PhD biochemist before she became an astronaut, Whitson has now spent more time in space outside a spacecraft than all but two other human beings.

Whitson was also floating into the future, though, and it seems sure to be filled with more urgent repairs like this one. The spacewalk was a “contingency EVA,” which—NASAspeak again, etymologically derived from Testpilot High Laconic and Scientific Detach-ese—means “serious emergency.” No one knows yet why a box full of computer boards called a Multiplexer-Demultiplexer failed, but NASA started building the ISS in 1998. The station is entering its third decade of life in orbit. More and more pieces are going to start breaking. (5/24)

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