May 27, 2017

Is Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life Out There? (Source: Daily Nonpareil)
I have no idea as to how long the question regarding the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence has been going, but it’s been a very, very long time, as you might imagine. The question will probably continue to be asked: “Do they exist?” There has never been a direct answer — only supposition.

Imagine the TV news, newspapers, internet and all other forms of mass communication pouring out stories and comments about these newly discovered “beings.” A question that immediately comes to mind is: do we really want to see an extraterrestrial life form?

It might be devastating, for instance, to see a creature completely different from a human being but 100 times more intelligent.You have to remember that our bodies are built and suited to no other planet but Earth, and it is only because of our atmosphere and environmental circumstances that we exist by breathing oxygen, hydrogen and other gases in this atmosphere. These factors may not be the same elsewhere. (5/26)

Our Next World War Might Be Fought in Outer Space (Source: New Republic)
There’s plenty to criticize about Donald Trump’s plans to massively expand the U.S. military. His requested $54 billion increase in defense spending, combined with his bellicose rhetoric, seems tailor-made to lead America into more violent conflicts. And aside from Trump’s obsession with owning “the best” of everything, it’s not clear that the U.S. needs to boost military spending by 10 percent—particularly when Trump campaigned on a pledge to avoid foreign entanglements.

Yet there’s one area of national security where America might benefit from more spending: outer space. In recent years, China has demonstrated its ability to shoot down satellites that the U.S. relies on for everything from processing credit card transactions and balancing the power grid to collecting intelligence and directing troops on the battlefield.

China is not the only country that poses a threat. Russia has launched satellites that intentionally bumped into their own rocket stages—demonstrating that seemingly benign pieces of scientific equipment can be turned into weapons, sent to crash into enemy targets. North Korea, meanwhile, has developed technology to jam GPS signals. Sophisticated ground-based lasers can now blind satellite cameras and fry electronics, while malicious viruses can wreak havoc on satellite systems. (5/26)

The Future of Zero-Gravity Living Is Here (Source: Smithsonian)
If the new-wave space entrepreneurs manage to radically change the economics of space travel as they promise to do, kids in high school today could spend a slice of their careers working in space, not as astronauts but the way a young diplomat or banker today might take a posting in London or Hong Kong. By 2030, it’s possible that many dozens of people at a time will be working and living in space. (These days, typically, there are six people.)

The zero gravity era will mark the moment when you no longer have to be special to go to space. You might be a scientist or an engineer or a technician (or a journalist); you might be going for a one-time, two-week research effort or rotating in for your usual six-week posting. But in the zero gravity era, going to space will be no more dramatic than helicoptering out to an offshore oil rig. Exotic, specialized and more dangerous than staffing a cubicle—but not rare or restricted.

A constellation of commercial outposts will be serviced by a fleet of reusable spaceships. A rocket could go to orbit every day, compared with just 85 launches worldwide in 2016. Those rockets could carry dozens of people, and head to laboratories, factories and tourist resorts a few hundred miles up in low-Earth orbit, or they could be stationed farther out, between the Earth and the Moon. Eventually, they will service outposts on the Moon itself (a three-day trip) and possibly Mars. (5/25)

Star Wars Turns 40 and it Still Inspires Our Real Life Space Junkies (Source: The Conversation)
When I took spacecraft design courses at university in the late 1980s (as part of my undergraduate degree), I did not dream that fellow Star Wars fans might one day be influential enough to actually design real spacecraft. We were taught that bringing a rocket back to Earth from space was impossible. I now realise that my lecturers were probably not Star Wars fans.

The billionaire inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk is one of those millions of mega Star Wars fans. He says that Star Wars was the first movie that he ever saw, and from that he has had an obsession with space travel and for turning humans from a single planet species into a multi-planet civilization. (5/26)

Fort Hood claims responsibility for loud booms heard Wednesday (Source: KVUE)
The loud booms heard in Central Texas Wednesday night were from Fort Hood, according to a spokesperson. Late Wednesday night, Temple Police confirmed officers were alerted to exercises at both Fort Hood and SpaceX, fueling the confusion about the root cause of the loud noise. (5/26)

Aerojet Wins Part of Spaceplane Project (Source: San Fernando Valley Business Journal)
Aerojet Rocketdyne has been chosen to supply the main propulsion system for an experimental spaceplane being developed by Boeing Co. and the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Engineering work on the engines for the XS-1 program will be done at Aerojet’s facility in Chatsworth.

The main propulsion for the reusable spacecraft is based on the main engines of the Space Shuttle and will be assembled from parts that remained in both Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA inventories from early versions of the shuttle engine.

The shuttle main engines were developed and manufactured in the San Fernando Valley when Rocketdyne was under different ownership. The aerospace company was acquired by Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. in 2013. (5/24)

Trump Budget Eliminates NASA Space Grant, Education Programs (Source: NPR)
A program to prepare university students across the country for science and tech careers would be eliminated under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. NASA sponsors the program, called Space Grant. Acting agency administrator Robert Lightfoot told employees the agency will continue to "work with the next generation" despite eliminating its education activities.

Editor's Note: The Florida Space Grant Consortium, based at UCF, sponsors an annual research grant program with Space Florida that funds student and faculty space experiments statewide. FSGC also sponsors fellowships and internships that build the state's space industry workforce and diversifies the industry. (5/24)

Space Junk Blocks Our Way to the Stars (Source: Bloomberg)
Danger lurks in Earth’s orbit as thousands of rogue objects speed around the planet—and you can’t exactly call a guy with a truck to come sweep it all up. These aren’t stray pebbles—they’re bits and pieces of all the junk we’ve shot up there in the 60 years since Sputnik, from tiny specks of metal to larger, conversation-enders—all traveling thousands of miles per hour.

As government-sponsored space exploration slowly gives way to private industry, the business of tracking what’s already up there has gone commercial, too. Now, there are some companies contemplating ways to start clearing out our big garage in the sky.

Everyone who has thought about this problem for a few minutes agrees it’s atrociously expensive to launch satellites merely to intercept and nab junk. This nascent field of inquiry has at least two cardinal rules: Create no further debris and mind the budget. Most prefer to make the Earth’s atmosphere part of the solution by nudging space garbage into a fiery demise. Here are a few of the approaches to junk removal being studied. Click here. (5/25)

Who Will Build the World’s First Commercial Space Station? (Source: Scientific American)
Michael Suffredini has big business plans for low Earth orbit. After a decade as NASA’s program manager for the International Space Station (ISS) he retired from the agency in September 2015 to pursue opportunities in the private sector, convinced that a golden age of commercial spaceflight was dawning. Partnering with Kam Ghaffarian, CEO of SGT, the company that operates the ISS for NASA and also trains America’s astronauts, Suffredini co-founded Axiom Space in early 2016.

As Axiom’s president, Suffredini’s goal is simple: to build and fly the world’s first private space station, using the ISS as a springboard. The company is in talks with NASA to install a new commercial module on the ISS’s sole available unused docking port as early as 2020 or 2021, and is presently planning the module’s construction and flight with aerospace manufacturers and launch providers. Axiom’s module would be the foundation for a full-blown private space station that would debut after the ISS’s retirement, which is tentatively slated for 2024.

Detached before the ISS is deorbited to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, Axiom’s module would remain in orbit to serve as the private station’s first section. Axiom, however, is not alone in its bid for private piggybacking on the ISS. Another company, Bigelow Aerospace, is already occupying an ISS port with its bedroom-size Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, a test facility for its own line of proprietary “inflatable” commercial space stations. (5/26)

Rocket Lab ‘Well Ahead’ After Initial Launch Test (Source: Aviation Week)
Rocket Lab says that despite not reaching its intended orbit of between 300 and 500 km on its first test launch on May 25, the Electron vehicle performed nominally throughout most of the mission and successfully executed the majority of the test goals.

The company, which is developing the Electron for high-frequency launches tailored at cutting the cost of access to space for the small satellite market, is reviewing data from the flight which Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck estimates to have reached an apogee of around “250 km or more.”

Although the first test did not achieve orbit, Rocket Lab still expects to be able to clear the vehicle for the start of commercial operations by year’s end with two more test shots. “We are well ahead of where we need to be,” says Beck, who said the company’s ground operations, launch site and tracking station, based on Chatham Island, all performed to plan. (5/25)

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