|August 21, 2017
TDRS Launch on ULA Atlas Marks End of an Era (Source: Space News)
The successful launch of a NASA communications satellite Aug. 18 is the final flight of the current generation of data relay spacecraft as well as for a venerable satellite bus.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 401 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:29 a.m. Eastern. The launch was delayed by 26 minutes because of an issue with the temperature on the Centaur upper stage detected during the standard T-4 minute hold.
The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) M spacecraft separated from the Centaur in a geostationary transfer orbit nearly two hours after liftoff. In a statement, NASA confirmed TDRS-M was in good health and in contact with controllers after separation. (8/18)
ULA Hits 120 Successful Missions with NASA Satellite Launch (Source: Denver Business Journal)
A United Launch Alliance rocket launched a NASA communications satellite into orbit Friday, completing its 120th consecutive successful mission. The Centennial-based company's Atlas V rocket blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 8:30 a.m. and just under two hours later delivered NASA's Tracking DATA and Relay Satellite-M into orbit. The TDRS-M satellite is part of a fleet of NASA orbiters that relay phone calls and data traffic for the International Space Station and other space hardware. (8/18)
Orbital ATK Prepping Minotaur for Cape Canaveral Spaceport Debut (Source: Aviation Week)
Orbital ATK is preparing for its first Minotaur launch from Florida, aiming to put a gap-filler space surveillance satellite into orbit for the U.S. Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) office. Comprising three rocket motors from decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBMs and a pair of Orion 38 second stages, the Minotaur IV is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 46 (LC46) during a 4-hr. launch window that opens at 11:15 p.m. EDT Aug. 25. (8/16)
Assembly Complete for Minotaur Launcher at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Using industrial cranes at a no-frills launch pad on the eastern tip of Cape Canaveral, a team of Orbital ATK and U.S. Air Force technicians have fully stacked a modified Cold War-era missile set for launch next week with a $49 million satellite built to track other objects in orbit.
The Minotaur 4 rocket, made up of five solid-fueled stages, is scheduled to fire into space from pad 46 at Cape Canaveral next Friday night, Aug. 25, at 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT on Aug. 26). The mission has a four-hour window to lift off, or else wait until another day. (8/19)
Space Florida Transforms SLC-46 for New Launch Capabilities (Source: Space Florida)
On August 25, Orbital ATK is scheduled to launch its Minotaur 4 rocket from Space Florida’s Space Launch Complex (SLC) 46 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The launch of the ORS 5 mission for the US Air Force (USAF), will be the first launch from the pad since 1999, as well as the first since Space Florida renovated the complex.
“Over time, Space Florida has managed SLC-46 through a significant transformation, making the facility one of the most capable and adaptable at the Cape,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “The Orbital ATK launch means that every U.S. vertical launch provider now has operations at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. We are excited to see the pad reignite with activity, and look forward to hosting Orbital ATK and other launch providers as we enter a new season of life for this historic facility.” (8/18)
1st ASTS Provides Critical Support for Minotaur Launch at Cape (Source: AFSPC)
The 1st Air and Space Test Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base will be assisting with the first ever Minotaur IV launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The 1st ASTS team coordinated the transport for the first three stages of the engine to Cape Canaveral AFS where they will provide support through the day of launch. The Minotaur IV is an expendable launch system derived from an old Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. (8/17)
Air Force Prepping Mysterious X-37B Space Plane for September Launch (Source: Space.com)
The US Air Force's X-37B program is readying its next robotic mini-shuttle for launch, this time atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The liftoff is scheduled to take place in early September, according to media reports.
Capt. Annmarie Annicelli, a U.S. Air Force spokeswoman, told Inside Outer Space: "At this time, I do not have the launch date to release." The upcoming X-37B mission — which is known as Orbital Test Vehicle-5 (OTV-5) — will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (8/17)
|Space Station Managers Push Back Next Virginia Cygnus Cargo Flight to November (Source: Spaceflight Now)
NASA and Orbital ATK have agreed to schedule the launch of the next Cygnus supply ship for Nov. 10 from Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a delay of a month from the mission’s earlier target launch date to allow the flight to carry more cargo to the International Space Station. The new launch date also will allow time for station astronauts to complete three spacewalks in late October and early November to swap out a latching end effector on the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm and complete other maintenance tasks, according to Dan Hartman, NASA’s deputy space station program manager. (8/16)
Dragon Arrives at ISS (Source: NASA)
A Dragon cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station early Wednesday. Astronauts used the station's robotic arm to grapple the Dragon spacecraft at 6:52 a.m. Eastern, and will berth it to the station later this morning. The Dragon, launched Monday, is carrying more than 2,900 kilograms of scientific investigations and cargo for the station. (8/16)
SpaceX Lands Another One of its Falcon 9 Rockets on Solid Ground (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX has landed yet another one of its Falcon 9 rockets after launching the vehicle into space this afternoon. The rocket took off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport at 12:31PM ET, bound for the International Space Station. Around eight minutes after takeoff, the majority of the vehicle landed back on solid ground at the spaceport. It marks the 14th successful rocket landing for SpaceX, and the sixth time a Falcon 9 has successfully landed on solid ground post-launch.
In fact, SpaceX has yet to lose a rocket during a ground landing. The company has lost a few vehicles during ocean landings, when the rockets attempted to touch down on autonomous drone ships at sea. But all six Falcon 9s that have landed on solid ground have touched down just fine at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 — a ground-based landing site at Cape Canaveral. (8/14)
Time for NASA to Stop Playing Favorites with Elon Musk's SpaceX (Source: The Hill)
In the Trump era, one of the few things that both sides of the aisle can agree on is distaste for cronyism, especially when it is the government picking winners and losers. Ironically, one of the biggest offenders is NASA, a bipartisan agency that is generally loved by Americans. One big beneficiary of the agency is Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX.
In June 2015, SpaceX cost taxpayers $110 million when one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. The company received all but 20 percent of the payment it would have received for completing the mission successfully. Though two years have since passed, the cause of the rocket’s failure remains unclear.
NASA assured the public that the agency would release a public summary of the results from its investigation by this summer. But just weeks ago, NASA announced that it will no longer to do so. “NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary since it was an FAA licensed flight,” a spokesman claimed. Yet for some reason, the agency has been known to treat other companies differently. Click here. (8/14)
A GIF of Every Successful — and Failed — SpaceX Falcon 9 Landing Attempt (Source: The Verge)
SpaceX has been successfully landing its Falcon 9 rockets for more than a year now. It’s a goal that CEO Elon Musk has talked about since founding the company 15 years ago, and yet it still feels like SpaceX achieved it at lightning speed. The company even relaunched a landed rocket for the first time ever in March, paving the way to real rocket reusability. Here’s a GIF recap of all the successes and failures. (8/15)
NASA May Finally be Getting a Leader—Oklahoma Pilot Jim Bridenstine (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA may finally be close to getting some clarity about its leadership during the Trump administration. On Tuesday, NASA Watch reported that the President will nominate US Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) as administrator and Aerojet Rocketdyne Vice President John Schumacher as deputy administrator. Both men have been rumored to be nominated for these posts in recent weeks, but there have been no official confirmations as yet.
Two sources familiar with Washington, DC, space politics confirmed the choices to Ars, but one of them offered a caveat. "I have heard same from multiple sources, but this is Trump world," one DC-based source said. A formal announcement has been in the works for September, but a date and location have not yet been set. "To the best of my knowledge, there have been no White House announcements on this subject matter at this time," NASA's associate administrator for communications, Jen Rae Wang, told Ars on Tuesday evening. (8/15)
Brooks Loses Bid for Alabama Senate Seat (Source: Politico)
An Alabama congressman active on space issues missed out in his bid to become a senator. Rep. Mo Brooks finished third in the Republican primary for the special election to fill the seat formerly held by Sen. Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become U.S. attorney general. Former state supreme court judge Roy Moore and Luther Strange, appointed to fill the seat on an interim basis, finished first and second and will go on to a runoff next month. Brooks, whose district includes NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, serves as vice chair of the House space subcommittee. (8/16)
26 Years Ago, Florida Launched a Rocket at a Total Eclipse (Source: SPACErePORT)
The solar eclipse of July 11, 1991 featured a point of maximum totality in Nayarit, Mexico, just south of Mazatlan. At high noon, at the moment of perfect eclipse, the Spaceport Florida Authority (now known as Space Florida) launched a Super Loki Viper suborbital rocket toward the sun. It was an eerie sight to behold as the bright daylight turned to night and a lightning-fast column of flame shot skyward.
The rocket carried an 'imaging radiometer' developed by a researcher at the Florida Institute of Technology. As the rocket's non-propulsive payload stage approached its ~200,000 foot apogee, a small charge ignited to push two staves forward on either side of the radiometer instrument. The staves sheared two pins and pushed the nosecone away, exposing the radiometer instrument to the sun's glowing corona. Here’s the mission patch.
The Nayarit launch site became an adjunct facility for Florida's Spaceport Authority, hosting one other launch as the state agency tried to work through a large inventory of surplus Super Loki rockets. Other Super Loki missions were conducted at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, Cape San Blas on Florida's Gulf Coast, and at Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (8/15)
Central Floridians Eagerly Await Eclipse (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The eclipse’s “path of totality” cuts generally southeast through the U.S. from Salem, Ore., to Charleston, S.C. In Central Florida, eager eclipse watchers will see about 85 percent to 88 percent of the sun blotted out when the eclipse reaches its peak. In Orlando, that’s about 2:51 p.m.; the moon will start to pass in front of the sun at about 1:19 p.m., with the eclipse lasting until 4:14 p.m. (8/18)
How Will California's Solar Grid React to the Eclipse? (Source: WIRED)
With thousands of rooftop solar panels and big desert solar farms, California will be hardest hit, according to Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the California Independent System Operator in Folsom. The state generates more than a quarter of its electricity from solar farms and rooftop panels.
So even though no Californians will experience full totality—the eclipse’s path intersects with the west coast in Oregon—a partial eclipse will be enough to drop solar power supplies by 6,000 megawatts during the entire two and a half hours of the eclipse. (8/17)
Solar Eclipse Will Cost America Almost $700 Million in Lost Productivity (Source: NBC)
Add next week's total eclipse of the sun to the list of worker distractions that cost U.S. companies hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity. American employers will see at least $694 million in missing output for the roughly 20 minutes that outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates workers will take out of their workday on Monday to stretch their legs, head outside the office and gaze at the nearly two-and-a-half minute eclipse. (8/18)
Key Things to Watch for During the Total Solar Eclipse (Source: Mashable)
As the moon passes in front of the sun on August 21, bringing the first total solar eclipse to the contiguous United States since 1979, people around the country are going to be treated to one of the biggest scientific moments of the year. And everybody can take part. Click here. (8/15)
American Marketing Casts Its Shadow (Source: The Atlantic)
Earlier this month, cylinder-shaped packages containing posters depicting a solar eclipse arrived at the desks of several journalists. In the illustration, the black disk of the moon obscures most of the sun, leaving a curved slice of sunlight shining against the darkness. There, smack in the middle of the yellow crescent, is a familiar blue sticker usually worn by grocery-store produce. Chiquita had turned the upcoming eclipse into an ad for bananas. Click here. (8/18)
The Americans are Testing a Superfast Rocket (Source: Mice Times)
The American company Generation Orbit Launch Services in the near future will begin a series of tests of a prototype advanced hypersonic missile carrier Launcher 1, which will allow you to display different payload on a suborbital trajectory. As written by Aviation Week, will soon begin test firing of the rocket, and then flight tests on the aircraft carrier. These inspections will be conducted at the site of the air base, the U.S. air force “Edwards” in California.
Currently, the us developers don’t have tools that would allow a broad range of research in the field of microgravity and high-speed atmospheric flight. Prior to 1968, such research in the USA was conducted using the experimental rocket plane X-15, originally engineered for space flight with the carrier aircraft. Before closing the program X-15 rocketplane with different equipment were used for studies whose data was used, including in the development of the American space program. (8/17)
Options Grow for Smallsats Seeking Secondary Payload Opportunities (Source: Space News)
As the number of small satellites seeking launch continues to grow, new opportunities are emerging fly those satellites as secondary payloads on other launches as well as tools to identify those opportunities.
The latest entrant in the field is Precious Payload, a company that seeks to provide a global reservation service for smallsat secondary payloads analogous to booking airline tickets or hotel rooms.
Andrey Maksimov, the company’s founder, said in an Aug. 6 interview that he decided to pursue the venture after talking with people developing smallsats who found it difficult and expensive to find accommodations for their spacecraft. “When I started to engage with different companies, I easily recognized that the bottleneck, the biggest problem for them, is actually to find a space launch,” he said. (8/17)
Smallsat Developers Propose Self-Regulation to Address Orbital Debris Concerns (Source: Space News)
As the number of cubesats and other small satellites grows, experts advise that some degree of industry self-regulation will be needed to avoid collisions that could lead to more restrictive government regulations. Representatives from across the smallsat community said that while the odds of a collision involving a smallsat remained low, such an event could trigger an overreaction of government regulations if the community isn’t prepared. (8/15)
Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Moon Express to Hire 800-plus for Florida High-Tech Jobs (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
With all of the rocket, missile and spacecraft development activity happening in Central Florida, high-tech and advanced manufacturing jobs are not in short supply.
Nearly three times a month, rockets are blasting off from Florida's Space Coast and more companies are wising up to the idea of either building rockets here or refurbishing them for launch again — saving time and money. And while rockets are shaping up on the coast, other space-related companies are building space capsules and rovers for space exploration and mining. Meanwhile, defense companies are landing military contracts to develop parts and design missiles. Click here.
Editor’s Note: There’s a larger list of aerospace companies growing and hiring in Central Florida, including Northrop Grumman, OneWeb, Blue Origin, Ruag, Embraer, Thales, Harris, and Orbital ATK. It’s crazy! (8/17)
ASRC Federal Takes $319M NASA KSC IT Contract (Source: Washington Technology)
ASRC Federal has won a potential five-year, $319 million contract to help run the IT infrastructure, applications and communications environment of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. NASA competed the Kennedy Infrastructure, Applications and Communication contract for 8(a) small businesses only. KIAC covers two base years followed by one two-year option and an additional option year.
This award unseats incumbent Abacus Technology Corp., which was awarded the predecessor contract in 2008 for a potential seven-year, $944 million value. NASA has to-date spent approximately $673 million on the KSC Information Management and Communication Support contract, which Deltek says expires on Sept. 30. (8/16)
SoCal Aerospace Company Cuts Nearly 100 Jobs, SpaceX Spinoff Could Bring 300 Jobs (Source: Daily Breeze)
One longtime Torrance defense contractor is shedding almost 100 jobs, while a SpaceX spin-off that could create up to 300 jobs within three years is in talks to move to the South Bay’s largest city, company and municipal officials have confirmed.
Chemring Energetic Devices, which makes missile components, radar detection systems and other defense-related products, has notified the state Employment Development Department as required by law of its plans to lay off 93 of its workers as manufacturing winds down there by mid-2018. However, in a move demonstrating the cyclical nature of the aerospace industry, a SpaceX startup officials would not name was in discussions to move to Torrance and hire as many as 200 employees within three years.
Torrance is benefiting from a tighter commercial office market and higher lease costs in cities like El Segundo. Indeed, a trio of small aerospace companies— including Microcosm Inc., and Scorpius Space Launch Co. — recently relocated to Torrance from Hawthorne, bringing about 25 jobs, Fulton said. They were displaced from a building soon to be occupied by the headquarters of Urth Caffe. (8/15)
Still No Countdown for Spaceport Certification in Kona (Source: Hawaii Tribune-Herald)
The Office of Aerospace Development, a division of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, has worked for years to obtain a spaceport certification for Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport. If the airport is granted the certification, tourists in Kona could become quasi-astronauts for a day, boarding a space plane that, propelled by a rocket engine, would lift the aircraft into suborbit before returning to Kona roughly an hour later.
Jim Crisafulli — former state Office of Aerospace Development director, who recently retired — was hopeful an environmental assessment to clear the way for the burgeoning industry in West Hawaii might be completed by summer 2016. But a year later, the assessment is still underway with no firm end in site. “The timetable for completion of the Environmental Assessment document depends on the community, the State Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration,” DBEDT Deputy Director Mary Alice Evans wrote in an email.
She did not provide an approximate date. “The FAA is trying to be as thorough as possible,” he said. The flights would result in sonic booms, though it is not assured they’d be heard on the island. After the assessment is complete, public meetings would be scheduled. The last such meetings about this issue occurred in 2013. (8/18)
Could Georgia Become the Next Launchpad for Space Startups? (Source: Hypepotamus)
Camden County is located close to the Florida border in the southeastern corner of Georgia. Its population is a little over 50,000, about twice the size of the Georgia Tech student population.
Vector is just one of hundreds of startups capitalizing on the growth of the private space industry. The global space economy is already over $300 billion. The federal government left a gap with NASA’s exit from the shuttle launch business; all cargo going to and from the Space Station is outsourced to private companies. Space tourism is becoming an attainable prospect. All this opens up opportunity for private space startups. Click here. (8/15)
New Mexico Company to Provide Internet for Space Tourists (Source: KRQE)
At a small workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Solstar Space CEO M. Brian Barnett and VP Gary Ebersole hover over an empty microwave sized black carbon-fiber box. On top of the box is an electronics assembly, an assortment of electrical components and wires that make up the prototype of the Solstar Space Communicator. They need to install the communicator in the box so it can be bolted inside a space capsule for a journey 70 miles above the earth.
“We want to provide commercial internet services to people and experiments that are flying into space,” said Barnett. The former NASA scientist, now entrepreneur, has already successfully sent the first text messages to a spacecraft during a launch of an Up Aerospace rocket from New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
Now, he and Ebersole are ready to test their prototype space communicator designed to provide full WiFi and internet service wherever needed above the planet. The first Blue Origin spacecraft will blast-off soon from a site near Van Horn in West Texas, on a mission to test the capsule’s escape system. Solstar’s internet device will ride along. “We’ll be testing that our WiFi connections and internet connection is going well for future astronauts and experimenters in space,” said Barnett. (8/16)
GAO Study Updates Government Position on Using ICBM Assets for Commercial Launches (Source: GAO)
The DOD could use several methods to set the sale prices of surplus ICBM rocket motors that could be converted and used in vehicles for commercial launch if current rules prohibiting such sales were changed. One method would be to determine a breakeven price. Below this price, DOD would not recuperate its costs, and, above this price, DOD would potentially save. GAO estimated that DOD could sell three Peacekeeper motors—the number required for one launch, or, a “motor set”—at a breakeven price of about $8.36 million and two Minuteman II motors for about $3.96 million.
Editor's Note: Orbital ATK is under contract to the US military to put these ICBM rocket motors to use in their Minotaur rockets for launching Government payloads. Changes to law and policy would be required to allow them to be used for commercial launches. Orbital ATK is rumored to be seeking such changes to allow Minotaur rockets to launch commercial microsatellites.
The decades-old argument that releasing these ICBM assets into the commercial marketplace would negatively impact commercial launch vehicle development seems to have been bourne out. Without the 'subsidized' Minotaurs serving the microsatellite launch market, a growing number of small launch vehicles is being developed by purely commercial competitors. Click here. (8/15)
How Three Recent Launches Signaled New Leaps in North Korea’s Missile Capabilities (Source: Washington Post)
The missile tested in May was an intermediate-range projectile that on a more horizontal trajectory could probably reach Guam, according to physicist David Wright, co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program. The missiles tested in July were the ones the world had been dreading: two-stage Hwasong-14 ICBMs that appeared quite capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. A two-stage rocket has a second fuel supply that takes over when the first burns out, allowing it to fly farther than a single-stage rocket.
Wright calculated that, depending on fuel, the weight of a warhead and the rotation of Earth, the first ICBM would have been able to reach Alaska. Much of the continental United States would be in range of the second one, he said, including New York and Boston. Washington, D.C., probably would be just outside it. Click here. (8/10)
Did Ukrainian Rocket Engines Power North Korean ICBMs? (Source: New York Times)
North Korea’s success in testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that appears able to reach the United States was made possible by black-market purchases of powerful rocket engines probably from a Ukrainian factory with historical ties to Russia’s missile program, according to an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies. Analysts who studied photographs of the new rocket motors concluded that they derive from designs that once powered the Soviet Union’s missile fleet. The engines were so powerful that a single missile could hurl 10 thermonuclear warheads between continents.
But since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was removed from power in 2014, the state-owned factory, known as Yuzhmash, has fallen on hard times. The Russians canceled upgrades of their nuclear fleet. The factory is underused, awash in unpaid bills and low morale. Experts believe it is the most likely source of the engines that in July powered the two ICBM tests, which were the first to suggest that North Korea has the range, if not necessarily the accuracy or warhead technology, to threaten American cities.
“It’s likely that these engines came from Ukraine — probably illicitly,” Mr. Elleman said in an interview. “The big question is how many they have and whether the Ukrainians are helping them now. I’m very worried.” Editor's Note: Yuzhmash developed the Zenit rockets formerly used by Sea Launch, is marketing the Cyclone-4 for use at a proposed Canadian spaceport, and first-stage portions of Orbital ATK's Antares rocket. I suggested last year that the U.S. should embrace Ukraine and Yuzhmash/Yuzhnoye as a manufacturer of rocket engines to rival the Russian RD-180. Instead, with Russia having cut off most of its legitimate business, it appears Yuzhmash engines might be heading to North Korea. (8/14)
North Korea Puts Spotlight on U.S. Space-Based Missile Defense (Source: Space News)
North Korea’s threat to strike Guam with a salvo of ballistic missiles has raised the stakes for a U.S. missile shield some see as compromised by potentially exploitable seams in its all-important space layer. Years of program changes, delays and cancellations have created gaps in parts of the space-based layer of the missile defense shield meant to protect the United States and some allies from ballistic missile attacks, say military space analysts, although U.S. missile defense officials dispute such claims.
“The biggest deficiency in current U.S. missile defense plans is the absence of a satellite constellation for reliably tracking ballistic threats during the midcourse of their trajectory,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer and space analyst for the Lexington Institute think tank based in Washington. “Once boosters burn out and warheads are coasting through space, their signatures become difficult to detect — especially if an attacker is using penetration aids like decoys to confuse defenders,” he said.
Of mounting concern, said John Pike, military analyst for GlobalSecurity.com, is the possibility that North Korea or Iran will “get more serious” about their submarine-launched ballistic missiles. If that happens, he said, “the whole thing will require a complete rethink.” (8/15)
Yuzhnoye Denies Link to North Korean ICBM Engines (Source: Space News)
Ukrainian rocket designer Yuzhnoye issued a strongly worded rebuttal to claims that North Korea had furthered its missile program by gaining rocket technology through Ukraine. In an Aug. 15 post on the company website, Yuzhnoye said the engines depicted in the New York Times Aug. 14 article "North Korea’s Missile Success Is Linked to Ukrainian Plant, Investigators Say" are not the RD-250, nor does Yuzhnoye have the production means to produce them today. (8/16)
Ukraine Changes Tactics on North Korea Engine Claims (Source: Space News)
In the days that followed Monday’s report in The New York Times that North Korea may have illicitly procured advanced Soviet-era rocket engines from Ukraine, the response out of the post-Soviet nation could best be described as trolling. Not long after the report was published, outraged Ukrainian social media users directed their outrage at the source of the allegations: Michael Elleman, a missile defense expert with the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Rather than challenge Elleman’s argument, Ukrainian social media users quickly made things personal. Freelance investigators scoured his Facebook and Twitter profiles to find evidence that Elleman was a Russian agent peddling propaganda. Click here. (8/18)
Roscosmos Denies Cooperation with North Korea in Missile Technologies (Source: Tass)
Russia’s government-run corporation Roscosmos denies charges of its alleged cooperation with North Korea in missile technologies. "Roscosmos and its affiliates do not carry out interaction with the DPRK...in their activity they strictly comply with Russian legislation, international rules of control of weapons and non-proliferation, including the control of missile technologies and strictly abide by instructions and restrictions (sectoral measures) imposed by the UN Security Council," Roscosmos said.
Ukrainian National Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Turchinov said Ukrainian defense and aerospace industries had not supplied any weapons or military technologies to North Korea. Ukrainian enterprise Yuzhmash disclaimed any connection with North Korea’s missile programs. After that Kiev claimed Moscow might have been behind rumored supplies of Ukrainian missile engines to Pyongyang. (8/18)
Zenit Could Fly Again on Sea Launch Platform (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's S7 Space Transportation Systems company plans to start launching Zenit-3SL rockets from the Sea Launch floating platform and continue until 2023. "Work is underway to end the conservation of the complex and to restore launch activities with the use of Zenit carrier rockets in the current configuration until 2023," the company said.
Sea Launch was formed in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the U.S., and was initially managed by Boeing. The company was purchased by Russia's S7 Group in September 2016. The only rocket that could be launched from the pad is Zenit-3SL, manufactured by the Ukrainian Yuzhmash construction bureau and using Russian RD-171 engines produced by the NPO Energomash manufacturer. The last Zenit launch from the Sea Launch was carried out in 2014. In April, Yuzhmash and S7 Sea Launch Limited signed a deal on supply of 12 Zenit-3 SL rockets. (8/15)
Iran Threatens To Quit Nuke Deal Unless US Sanctions Stop (Sources: Law 360, DW)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened Tuesday to pull out of a 2015 agreement to halt Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the easing of certain international sanctions, if the U.S. does not stop imposing new sanctions on Iran. Each side has accused the other of violating the spirit the 2015 deal, which saw the world's leading power agree to lift sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program and caps on its uranium enrichment levels.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly lambasted the nature of the deal, once describing it as the "worst deal ever." Iran, meanwhile, has carried out a series of ballistic tests in recent weeks, prompting the US to respond by imposing sanctions against individuals and companies alleged to be supporting Iran's missile program. That, in turn, has only spurred the Iranian regime to ratchet up military spending by more than half a billion dollars to fight Washington's "adventurism." Rouhani admitted that he would prefer to stick to the nuclear agreement, but warned that this was not the "only option." (8/15)
India: Space Flights, Nuclear Power and a Missile Shield (Source: Frontline)
If India is one of the top players in the world in space, nuclear power and missiles despite embargoes and technology-denial regimes heaped on it, a large share of the credit should go to the founding fathers of these programs, Vikram Sarabhai, Homi J. Bhabha and Air Vice Marshal V.S. Narayanan respectively.
Those who came after them built on this foundation to make the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) institutions that earned the respect of the world. Click here. (8/18)
Russian Government Allocates $39 Million for Vostochny Spaceport Operation (Source: Tass)
The Russian government has instructed the Finance Ministry to transfer 2.3 billion rubles ($39 million) to the State Space Corporation Roscosmos for the operation of the Vostochny spaceport, according to the government’s resolution posted on the legal information web portal on Friday. The sum has been allocated from the funds set aside for outer space exploration, the materials say. (8/18)
Russia Seeks Increased Launch Rate at New Spaceport (Source: Tass)
Russia wants to double the number of launches from the new Vostochny Cosmodrome in 2018. The new spaceport in Russia's Far East has not hosted a launch yet this year, but two Soyuz launches are planned there in December. Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said he would like to see four or five launches from Vostochny in 2018, and later growing to 10 launches a year. Komarov said four to six launches a year are required to maintain normal spaceport operations. (8/15)
Proton-M Launches Russian Defense Satellite from Baikonur (Source: Tass)
A Proton-M carrier rocket with a military satellite has been launched from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan.The rocket was launched under control of commander of the space troops and deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian aerospace forces, Colonel General Alexander Golovko. (8/17)
Russia Could Launch Spektr-RG Space Observatory with German Telescope in 2018 (Source: Space Daily)
Russia could launch the Spektr-RG (Spectrum Roentgen Gamma) space observatory with the German eRosita X-ray telescope in October 2018, a spokesperson of the Lavochkin Research and Production Association aerospace company told Sputnik on Monday.
The Spektr-RG observatory is supposed to be placed at Lagrange point L2, an orbital location where gravitational forces of the Moon and Earth would balance out a centrifugal force of a smaller third body, such as a space observatory, stabilizing it. (8/16)
Japan Launches Navigation Satellite After Week-Long Delay (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Japanese H-2A rocket soared away from a launch pad on a rocky overlook on the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, hauling into orbit the country’s third Michibiki satellite to join a constellation of navigation aids to improve positioning services across the country.
The third satellite to join Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System took off Saturday, eight days later than originally scheduled. Weather pushed back the mission’s initial Aug. 11 launch date, and a leaky helium pressurization system scrubbed a launch attempt Aug. 12, forcing ground crews to roll the rocket back to its hangar for repairs.
The 174-foot-tall (53-meter) H-2A launcher, powered by a hydrogen-fueled main engine and four strap-on solid rocket boosters, headed east from the Tanegashima Space Center, a spaceport built on an island at the southwestern edge of the country. (8/19)
Ruins of UK Space Program - We Could Have Led World But We Gave it Away (Source: Express)
The immutable sandstone launch blocks, where scores of massively powerful rocket engines were tested and perfected, stand as a shaming monument to political short-sightedness, scientific penny-pinching and the decline of British standing in the world. In the immediate post-war period Britain was a serious player in three-horse race with Russia and the USA in the battle to perfect rocket technology.
The driver of course was not pure science. The world had just witnessed the terrible power of nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the imperative military goal was to team a thermonuclear device with a dependable targetable, rocket. The Americans had sneaked arch-Nazi and architect of the V2 bomb Werner von Braun to the US and the Russians had collected what was left of his missile team. But Britain still had the home-grown brains and technological clout to punch above its weight in the race to space. Click here. (8/14)
Space Exploration Will Send UAE Economy Into Orbit (Source: The National)
The UAE’s space program drew skeptical responses from some quarters in the beginning. To others, space exploration has always seemed like a waste of resources. This is a profoundly misplaced view. It is a catalyst for technological innovations; in addition to making hugely important discoveries in space, it gives rise to unexpected inventions on earth that benefit us all. John F Kennedy understood this; as, in our own day, does Sheikh Mohammed.
The computer microchip, the CAT scanner, the satellite television and the smoke detector – these are all among the dozens of technologies we now take for granted but which would not be available to us were it not for space research. As Dr Ahmad Belhoul, the UAE’s Minister of State for Higher Education and the Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, wrote last month, “space exploration is a necessity not only because of its tangible benefits to our everyday lives, but because of its potential to inspire and uplift mankind in ways we can only imagine”. It will, in short, drive the knowledge economy and ensure that our post-oil economy receives a necessary boost of rocket fuel. (8/15)
Welcome to the Second Space Race (Source: The National)
We are living in the second great age of space exploration. The first was born from the ashes of the Second World War and was fueled by the fight for supremacy between capitalism and communism, the defining struggle of the last century. It ended with American footprints on the Moon and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, unable to keep up the pace, both economically and technologically.
This second space race, like our world today, is more complex and multifaceted than the first. It is driven by many factors and many, many more players. Some are familiar faces. NASA, the United States government agency behind both the Apollo Moon missions and the space shuttle, still explores our solar system, but its budget is a fraction of the glory days of the 1960s and it is currently unable to send a human into orbit.
Russia retains its ageing Soyuz rockets as a kind of flying taxi service to the International Space Station, due to celebrate its 30th birthday next year. Its grander visions of rockets carrying the red star to other worlds decay and rust in corners of the cosmodromes in far-flung former satellite states of the USSR. Other nations still see space exploration as an expression of national pride and ambition. Click here. (8/15)
Risk Takers Are Back in the Space Race—and That’s a Good Thing (Source: Singularity Hub)
“In a fight between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who would win?” Peter Diamandis asked Blue Origin’s Erika Wagner to kick off a conversation with a panel of space entrepreneurs at Singularity University’s Global Summit this week in San Francisco.
“So, Peter, let me tell you about what we’re doing at Blue Origin,” Wagner answered rather diplomatically, eliciting chuckles from the audience. “We’re really looking towards a future of millions of people living and working in space. The thing I think is really fantastic…is that the universe is infinitely large, and so, we don’t need any fisticuffs.” Click here. (8/17)
Public-Private Space Ventures Need Oversight (Source: Daily News)
Public-private partnerships in space travel hold much promise, and greater cost-efficiency, but government should be transparent about the risks and inevitable failures. Public-private partnerships can be nerve-wracking for taxpayers.
In June 2015, a SpaceX Falcon 9 preparing to resupply the space station exploded on the launch pad during fueling for a pre-flight engine test. Last month, NASA announced that it would not publicly release the results of its investigation into the failure.
That was a reversal for NASA, which had earlier promised to release a summary of its investigation. Now the agency says it was “not required to complete a formal final report or public summary” because the flight was under the FAA’s jurisdiction. Click here. (8/15)
This German Startup Wants to Put a Mobile Phone Tower on The Moon (Source: Science Alert)
It's been a while since anyone standing on the Moon needed to communicate with Earth - the last crewed mission took place in 1971. But recently we've had renewed interest in lunar missions, especially since the Moon is viewed by many as a stepping stone on our way to Mars. And one German startup aiming for our rocky satellite has announced they will set up a kind of cell tower once they get there.
PTScientists, one of the companies that originally signed up for the Google Lunar X Prize competition, is planning to deliver two rovers to the Moon, using their ALINA (Autonomous Landing and Navigation) module. The rovers, developed in partnership with Audi, will have four-wheel electrical drive chains, rechargeable batteries, solar panels, and HD cameras. And they'll also need a way to transmit their data back to Earth. (8/11)
Google Lunar XPRIZE Extends Deadline, Offers In-Space Milestone Awards (Source: Business Wire)
XPRIZE and Google announce that $4.75M in additional Milestone Prize money will be available to Google Lunar XPRIZE finalist teams for achieving technological milestones along the way to the Moon. Teams can compete for one or both of the following prizes:
A $1.75M Lunar Arrival Milestone Prize requires the spacecraft to complete one orbit around the Moon or enter a direct descent approach to the lunar surface. A $3M Soft Landing Milestone Prize requires the spacecraft to transmit data proving it soft-landed on the lunar surface. The Milestone Prize purses will be evenly distributed between all teams who have achieved each milestone by March 31, 2018.
Earlier this year, XPRIZE announced the five finalist teams with verified launch contracts: SpaceIL (Israel), Moon Express (USA), Synergy Moon (International), TeamIndus (India) and HAKUTO (Japan). Additionally, XPRIZE established a mission completion deadline of March 31, 2018, regardless of the initiation date, in order for teams to win the Grand or Second-Place Prizes. (8/17)
Explore the Moon Using Augmented Reality (Source: WIRED)
For a brief, non-shining moment on August 21, the moon will be the most important object in the daytime sky. Not that you’ll get a good look at much besides its backlit outline. And sure, it is uncanny and cool that the moon sits at just the right distance from the Earth to blot out the sun. But real lunatics—er, luna-philes? Let’s go with moon fans—know the moon’s real calling card is its wild topography, visible almost nightly with the right telescope.
But maybe you’re not a fan of hunched-over squinting into a telescope's eyepiece amid swarms of nipping insects, while taking brief breaks to shine your red-filtered flashlight down at a reference guide. And most moon maps kind of suck—the lunar features get distorted by flattened projections, and it's really hard to orient yourself without familiar continents or other landmarks to guide your eye.
Or, you could buy a 3-D printed moonlet from AstroReality, and hold the moon in your hand. The San Francisco-based company also created a smartphone augmented reality app to work with it: Aim your phone’s camera at the model, and labels pop up over the craters, mare, and Apollo landing sites. Heck, you can even walk outside and hold it up in front of the sun, simulating your own personal eclipse (though, admittedly, you won’t get the eerie effects of totality). (8/18)
International Lunar Observatory to Offer a New Astrophysical Perspective (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Scheduled to be sent to the south pole of the Moon sometime in 2019, the International Lunar Observatory is expected to conduct the first astrophysical observations from the lunar surface. The mission managers hope that it will offer a brand new astrophysical perspective for scientists worldwide.
The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express have recently inked a deal for the landing of the first International Lunar Observatory on the Moon. Under this contract, the mission named ILO-1 would land on the Malapert Mountain – a 3.1-mile tall peak in the Aitken Basin region that is bathed in sunshine most of the time and has an uninterrupted direct line of sight to Earth.
ILOA states that the main goal of the mission is to “expand human understanding of the Galaxy and Cosmos through observation and communication from [the] Moon”. To achieve this, ILO-1 will be equipped with a set of instruments for radio and optical astronomy purposes. (8/12)
3-D Printing for Satellites? Harris Has a Plan (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The business of building satellites could get cheaper as companies turn to 3-D printing for their components. In Melbourne, Harris Corporation researchers say using that technology could cut the cost of producing small satellites — a specific and growing segment of the space industry — by up to $400,000 per satellite. Harris will for the first time research a new use for 3-D printers: creating circuit boards for satellites.
The firm plans to send 3-D-printed parts into space sometime during the next five years, an effort to demonstrate the technology’s viability to potential customers, officials with the defense and aerospace giant said.
The Harris project will be paid for through the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership program, a 4-year-old effort meant to pay for joint space-related research that comes from the U.S. and Israel. The $250,000 Space Florida grant will be allocated over two years and matched by Harris, Israeli company Nano Dimensions and the agency that governs Israel’s space program. That will bring the total funding for the project to $1 million. (8/14)
Made In Space Tests Space Printer (Source: Space.com)
A California startup has achieved a milestone in the development of robotic space assembly technology. Made In Space said it successfully tested a 3-D printer in conditions that mimicked the temperature extremes and vacuum of space. The printer is part of Archinaut, a concept the company is developing to use 3-D printers and robotic arms to assemble large structures in space. (8/15)
Yes, It Really Has Taken NASA 11 Years to Develop a Parachute (Source: Ars Technica)
Last week, NASA’s acting chief technologist, Douglas Terrier, visited one of NASA’s main contractors in the Houston area, Jacobs. Along with a handful of media members, he spent about an hour touring the company’s engineering development facility, where the company supports NASA programs from the International Space Station to the Orion spacecraft.
At one stop during the tour, Terrier learned about a new distiller that might more efficiently recover water from urine during long-duration missions. At another, he learned about new debris sensors that will go to the station to record micrometeorite and orbital debris impacts. And at yet another, he heard about the parachute system that Jacobs has helped develop for the Orion spacecraft.
The Jacobs engineer who talked about the contract said the company had partnered with several Houston-based firms and leveraged knowledge from the region’s large oil-and-gas economy. These partnerships, she said, had saved money for NASA over the course of the agency’s 11-year contract with Jacobs to design and build Orion’s parachutes. (8/17)
NASA Contracts Energy Firm to Refine Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Concepts (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
As the U.S. government continues to pursue plans for a crewed mission to Mars, NASA has contracted with BWXT Nuclear Energy Inc. of Lynchburg, Virginia, to advance concepts in Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP), which could drastically reduce travel times to Mars. This is part of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program, which takes ideas from academia and industry as well as NASA and other government programs, to advance new approaches to space technologies to accommodate the changing needs of U.S. space efforts.
NTP is not a new concept, but it was abandoned in 1972 when plans for a Mars mission were shelved. NASA conducted ground tests since 1955 to determine the viability of NTP and has occasionally been revisited as a conceptual part of Mars mission feasibility studies. (8/14)
Air Force Should Improve Nuclear Command and Control (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force needs to do more to improve nuclear command and control issues, according to a new report. The Government Accountability Office, in a report issued Tuesday, said that the service's nuclear command, control, and communications systems, which include satellites as well as terrestrial assets, face both short- and long-term issues. The Air Force, the GAO concluded, has not had the resources to focus on those long-term issues, including modernization of elements of the overall system. (8/15)
Air Force Space Command Initiative Destroys Barriers to Bolster Airmen Innovation (Source: AFSPC)
In a move to encourage Airmen to come forward with innovative thinking, a new decision panel will allow Airmen at all levels within Air Force Space Command to present ideas that could enhance the mission, save time, increase customer satisfaction, save the Air Force money, or anything that can improve the way things are done within the Air Force.
The new AFSPC Shark Tank-like panel is a rapid process method used to review ideas from Airmen at command staff and wing levels. “Our Airmen are the experts; this gives us an opportunity to hear directly from them,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, AFSPC commander.
Any Airman wishing to present an idea should prepare a simple bullet background paper that includes the proposal title, summary of improvements and an actionable decision for AFSPC leadership to review. When the proposal receives a wing commander or equivalent endorsement, AFSPC will provide an opportunity to the Airmen to bring their proposals directly to AFSPC leadership. (8/15)
Air Force Names Space Operations Officials (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has named Shawn Barnes to be assistant deputy chief of staff for space operations directorate, and Maj. Gen. Pamela Lincoln to be mobilization assistant to the deputy chief of staff for space operations.
The Air Force has yet to name the deputy chief for the new directorate, but Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein noted in June the job will be filled by a “a new three-star deputy chief of staff for space” who “will increase decision making speed and help ensure freedom from attack and freedom to maneuver,”
Barnes is now Air Force’s Legislative Liaison Directorate deputy director. He had served in the Air Force between 1985 and 2013, retiring as a colonel. Lincoln is the now mobilization assistant to the Commander, 14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic), Air Force Space Command; and commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Space, U.S. Strategic Command, Vandenberg Air Force Base. (8/17)
NASA Sends Mice to Space Station to Study Space Travel Health Risks (Source: Space Daily)
With Monday's SpaceX launch a success, a group of mice are en route to the International Space Station. The rodents are being sent to ISS as part of an ongoing effort by NASA to study the impacts of longterm space travel on human health. Mice are biological similar to humans, yet relatively simple, physiologically speaking, which is why they an ideal model for human health studies. (8/15)
Next-Generation Space Suits Could Allow Astronauts to Explore Mars (Source: The Verge)
Space suits are crucial for keeping crew members alive, and shielding them from the harsh vacuum of space during trips outside the International Space Station. And when we travel beyond lower Earth orbit — perhaps to the Moon or to Mars someday — suits will be a necessary tool. In the season premiere of Space Craft, we dove into the world of space suit design to find out what it takes to make an interplanetary ensemble. Click here. (8/15)
Outward Bound: Colonizing Mars (Source: Science & Futurism)
We begin the new Outward Bound series by discussing the Colonization of Mars, and survey all the colonizing and terraforming options from the early settlement days to the far future and a Green Mars. We will also look at alternatives to terraforming which might make more sense for Mars, like bioforming the people to the environment, rather than terraforming it to our environment. Click here. (8/17)
Space Dust Kills Satellites Like Tiny Atom Bombs (Source: The Economist)
How is a speck of dust like an atom bomb? It sounds like a child’s riddle. But the answer may explain the fate of many satellites that have failed prematurely in orbit over the years. For the riddle to work, the speck must be travelling at 70km a second, or thereabouts. If it is, the riddle’s solution is that both can generate an electromagnetic pulse capable of knocking out unprotected electronic equipment.
That, at least, is the hypothesis now being investigated by Sigrid Close of Stanford University. Dr Close came up with it in 2010, when she was shooting small particles at various types of spacecraft material placed inside a vacuum chamber at the Max Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany. These experiments suggested that when a micrometeoroid, to give such dust its technical name, collides with a satellite, it will not just do a small amount of mechanical damage. If traveling fast enough, it will also create a shock wave that vaporizes part of the spacecraft’s metallic skin. (8/17)
Asteroid to Shave Past Earth on Oct 12 (Source: Space Daily)
A house-sized asteroid will shave past our planet on October 12, far inside the Moon's orbit but without posing any threat, astronomers said Thursday. The space rock will zoom by harmlessly at a distance of about 44,000 kilometers (27,300 miles) - an eighth of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. (8/14)
Large Near-Earth Asteroid Will Sweep Past Us in September (Source: IBT)
Asteroid Florence will fly by Earth on 1 September at a safe distance of seven million km or "18 Earth-Moon" distances. Florence is about 4.4km wide and is known to be one of the largest near-Earth asteroids according to Nasa. Near-Earth objects are heavenly bodies that enter the Earth's neighborhood influenced by the gravity of nearby planets.
Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, stressed the significance of this event when he said, "Florence is the largest asteroid to pass by our planet this close since the NASA program to detect and track near-Earth asteroids began." (8/18)
AI Likely to Guide Future Space Probes (Source: Space News)
Artificial intelligence will play a greater role in future space missions as their complexity grows. NASA's next Mars rover, Mars 2020, will implement AI to allow it to be more autonomous, making better use of limited communications with Earth. The same will be true for more distant missions, like the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa, and even for commercial crew vehicles under development, reducing the time astronauts have to spend training to fly them. (8/15)
A New Way to Measure the Invisible Substances That Dominate the Universe (Source: The Atlantic)
In a much-anticipated analysis of its first year of data, the Dark Energy Survey (DES) telescope experiment has gauged the amount of dark energy and dark matter in the universe by measuring the clumpiness of galaxies—a rich and, so far, barely tapped source of information that many see as the future of cosmology.
The analysis, posted on DES’s last week and based on observations of 26 million galaxies in a large swath of the southern sky, tweaks estimates only a little. It draws the pie chart of the universe as 74 percent dark energy and 21 percent dark matter, with galaxies and all other visible matter—everything currently known to physicists—filling the remaining 5-percent sliver. (8/8)
CubeSat Could Find Out What Those Dark Streaks Are on Venus (Source: America Space)
Even though Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbor, it is still one of the most mysterious. Numerous landers and orbiters have visited this extremely hostile world, but there are still many unanswered questions to be resolved. Now, NASA is proposing a new mission using a small CubeSat, called CubeSat UV Experiment (CUVE), to further study Venus’ atmosphere and hopefully solve at least one of the more perplexing mysteries.
The mission concept has now received funding from the agency’s Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3). Something in the atmosphere of Venus is absorbing ultraviolet light and scientists still don’t know what it is. When seen in visible light, Venus looks rather bland and featureless, with the thick, perpetual cloud layers obscuring the view of the surface.
But when viewed in ultraviolet light, unusual dark bands become clearly visible in the atmosphere. This indicates that something in the clouds is absorbing ultraviolet light. But what is it? “The exact nature of the cloud top absorber has not been established,” said CUVE Principal Investigator Valeria Cottini, a researcher at the University of Maryland. “This is one of the unanswered questions and it’s an important one.” (8/18)
Cosmic Magnifying Lens Reveals Inner Jets of Black Holes (Source: Caltech)
Astronomers using Caltech's Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO) have found evidence for a bizarre lensing system in space, in which a large assemblage of stars is magnifying a much more distant galaxy containing a jet-spewing supermassive black hole. The discovery provides the best view yet of blobs of hot gas that shoot out from supermassive black holes. (8/15)
We May Have Caught Supernova Debris Slamming into Neighboring Stars (Source: Ars Technica)
Supernovae are some of the most energetic events in the Universe, sending massive shock waves out into the interstellar medium. And there's every reason to think those shock waves run into things before they've had much of a chance to dissipate. Many stars have companions, either planets or other stars that orbit in reasonable proximity. In fact, there's an entire subtype of supernova that appears to require a nearby companion.
So what happens to these objects when the shock wave hits? With our improved ability to rapidly identify supernovae, we may be on the cusp of finding out. Several times recently, researchers have spotted an extra blue glow to the burst of light from a supernova. And, in the most detailed observations yet, they make the case this glow comes from the supernova debris slamming into a companion star. (8/17)
The Algae That Terraformed Earth (Source: BBC)
A planetary takeover by ocean-dwelling algae 650 million years ago was the kick that transformed life on Earth. That's what geochemists argue in Nature this week, on the basis of invisibly small traces of biomolecules dug up from beneath the Australian desert. The molecules mark an explosion in the quantity of algae in the oceans.
This in turn fueled a change in the food web that allowed the first microscopic animals to evolve, the authors suggest. "This is one the most profound ecological and evolutionary transitions in Earth's history," lead researcher Jochen Brocks told the BBC's Science in Action program.
The events took place a hundred million years before the so-called Cambrian Explosion, an eruption of complex life recorded in fossils around the world that puzzled Darwin and always hinted at some kind of biological prehistory.
Scattered traces of those precursor multi-celled organisms have since been recognized, but the evolutionary driver that led to their rise has been much argued over. (8/17)
NASA's Ambitious Plan to Save the Earth From a Supervolcano (Source: BBC)
Lying beneath the tranquil settings of Yellowstone National Park in the US lies an enormous magma chamber. It’s responsible for the geysers and hot springs that define the area, but for scientists at Nasa, it’s also one of the greatest natural threats to human civilization as we know it: a potential supervolcano.
Following an article we published about supervolcanoes last month, a group of NASA researchers got in touch to share a report previously unseen outside the space agency about the threat – and what could be done about it. Click here. (8/17)
China Denies It's Searching for a Foreigner to Run its Giant Alien-Hunting Telescope (Source: Shanghaiist)
Aspiring astronomers looking for a well-paid gig, we have some bad news. Despite media reports that China is desperately looking for a qualified foreigner to run its world's largest radio telescope, completed in the hilly hinterlands of Guizhou province last year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has denied that there is any such job search ongoing. (8/14)
Russian Cosmonauts on Spacewalk Deploy Nanosatellites to Honor Sputnik (Source: Collect Space)
Two cosmonauts stepped outside the International Space Station for a seven-hour spacewalk on Thursday (Aug. 17), in part to deploy three small satellites in tribute to the dawn of the space age 60 years ago.
Fyodor Yurchikhin, commander of the Expedition 52 crew, and Sergey Ryazanskiy, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, opened the hatch to the station's Pirs airlock at 10:36 a.m. EDT (1436 GMT), starting the extravehicular activity (EVA). Yurchikhin, perched on a ladder just outside of the airlock, deployed the first nanosatellite — one of three created by Russian college students to honor the 60th anniversary of the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, on Oct. 4, 1957 by the Soviet Union. (8/17)
The Question Dana Rohrabacher Should Have Asked NASA (Source: The Hill)
During a recent hearing before the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) posed a question to NASA scientist Ken Farley that has had social media popping ever since. “You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago. Is it possible that there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago?” Farley, appropriately deadpan, replied, “I will say that is extremely unlikely.”
Social media jumped on the question with both feet. While many scientists believe life may have existed on Mars billions of years ago, they are pretty sure that the Red Planet was, as it is now, an arid, desolate place with little or no life to speak of thousands of years ago. That is because Mars lacks a magnetic field to shield it from the solar wind, which stripped the planet of its atmosphere, causing whatever surface water it may have had to dry up.
The idea that Mars may have had life, not to speak of intelligent life, thousands of years ago, is ludicrous. The mockery that Rohrabacher received was merciless. A charitable interpretation of Rohrabacher’s question would conclude that he misspoke, saying “thousands” when he should have said “billions.” The congressman is not unintelligent. He has been a champion of space commercialization for many years and has sat on the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee for much of his career in Congress. (8/17)
No, a Map NASA Sent to Space Is Not Dangerous to Earth (Source: NatGeo)
Let’s be clear: The map to Earth that NASA sent into space aboard the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft is not dangerous. It certainly hasn’t “made it a lot easier for aliens to attack Earth,” it won’t “lead to extraterrestrials taking over” our planet, and no one is rethinking this “unintended ‘foolish’ act.”
These claims, which have been seeping through the news media over the past 24 hours, are based on a misinterpretation of a story we published about this map in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Voyager launches. That story describes how 14 known pulsars can be used as galactic signposts to help aliens find Earth, should the spacecraft bearing them across the cosmos be intercepted in the near future. (8/17)
Voyager's 'Cosmic Map' Of Earth's Location Is Hopelessly Wrong (Source: Forbes)
The Voyager Golden Record contains songs, images, and sounds of Earth. It was designed to be an information-laden cosmic time capsule, capable of being easily deciphered by any intelligent alien species to come upon it. On the cover of the record, a series of diagrams was emblazoned, including one very important one: a map of Earth's location in the galaxy.
Although the method used to locate Earth was very clever, it's now understood to be inherently flawed, meaning anyone receiving it will most likely be unable to track down exactly where our planet is, after all. Click here. (8/18)
Reaching for the Stars: NASA Science for Girl Scouts (Source: SETI Institute)
On August 21, as the shadow of the moon races across the continental United States at more than 1,000 miles per hour, Girl Scouts of the USA – councils, volunteers and girls – will be poised to safely view the solar eclipse and engage in the interactive astronomy event of the decade. The SETI Institute’s project, “Reaching for the Stars: NASA Science for Girl Scouts,” created activities and tools to prepare the Girl Scouts for the total solar eclipse.
We created ”Eclipse Boxes” featuring 14 activities for Girl Scouts of all ages, including chalk art, modeling magnetism, experimenting with light, scale modeling the solar system, and how eclipses work. Nine activities promote girls’ understanding of our place in the solar system, sun, Earth and moon. Five eclipse activities, resources and safe viewing instructions complete the guide. You can download a copy of the Eclipse Box Activity Guide here. To prepare for the eclipse, Girl Scouts also learned about the sun, Earth and moon at events and summer camps held by 90 Girl Scout councils across the nation. (8/17)
Meet Gwynne Shotwell, the Woman Who Could Take Us to Mars (Source: Marie Claire)
Few things about Gwynne Shotwell shout "rocket scientist." Sure, the president of aerospace startup SpaceX holds a mechanical-engineering degree and a master's in applied mathematics from Northwestern University, but she towers above the company's sea of T-shirts and sneakers in her black skinny jeans and sky-high platform heels, happily chats about her love of Chardonnay, and drives a bright-red Tesla Model S.
Yet she spends her days sending hulking pieces of metal into space. Debunking nerdy stereotypes about engineering is a favorite pastime of Shotwell's because it was, in fact, a sartorial choice that first piqued her interest in the subject. When she was a teenager growing up in Chicago, her mom planned a secret weekend activity: attending a Society of Women Engineers conference.
"She didn't tell me where we were going ahead of time because I would not have gone," Shotwell says. She begrudgingly sat in the audience, listening to panel after panel, when a certain speaker caught her eye. "Her shoes were marvelous, her bag matched, and she just made mechanical engineering accessible to me," Shotwell recalls. At the time, she didn't have a particular career in mind, and her mom was pushing her to pick a focus. "I left that event saying, 'Okay, I'll be a mechanical engineer,' because I thought she was cool." Click here. (8/17)
Q&A With "Astronaut Abby" at KSC (Source: Kira Kira)
I am an aspiring astronaut and astrobiologist currently working as an intern in a Mars lab at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and junior at Wellesley College. I have wanted to be an astronaut since as young as I can remember and as I grew older and began to focus on my goal more with more intention, I gained tremendous support from my family and community. Click here. (8/17)
Winnipeg Woman Puts $20K Toward Commercial Space Flight (Source: CBC News)
Judy Anderson has always wanted to be out of this world. Now the University of Manitoba biological sciences professor is on her way, after putting a $20,000 down payment on a flight with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic commercial space flights. The total cost of the trip will be $200,000.
"I always wanted to float in space, and see a pebble float, and see black space, and watch the Earth curve, and you know, watch the weather and the whole deal." Anderson said she heard about the trips in 2010 and decided to try. She said she's hopeful she will get to go. (8/15)
NASA Astronaut Jack Fischer Gets Attacked by Fruit Punch (Source: CNET)
Liquids behave very differently in microgravity than they do down on Earth. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer demonstrated a particularly odd and entertaining property of tropical punch in a video showing how to make a wet mess while floating around the International Space Station. Click here. (8/15)
Astronauts Showcase Space Art Created with Childhood Cancer Patients (Source: NASA)
Patients from around the world will have the opportunity to see a spacesuit art project they helped create. Astronauts currently living and working on the International Space Station will unveil the project at 10:25 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, Aug. 23. The 20-minute, Earth-to-space call will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Expedition 52 crew members will answer questions from international partner astronauts and several patients turned artists in Mission Control Houston. In the fall of 2016, spacesuit UNITY was created at cancer hospitals in Houston, Canada, Germany, Russia and Japan with collaboration from astronauts from NASA and its international partners ESA (European Space Agency), Roscosmos, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. (8/18)
Starship Enterprise: The Extended Mission (Source: Air & Space)
Fred C. Durant, a former rocket engineer and U.S. Navy test pilot who served as an assistant director at the Museum until 1980, corresponded with Roddenberry throughout the 1970s. Durant pointed out that rocket pioneers Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert H. Goddard, and Hermann Oberth all acknowledged the 19th century science fiction author Jules Verne as an influence on their work.
“The Star Trek series represents the same kind of invitation to imaginative thinking,” Durant wrote in a 1975 letter. To prove it, Air & Space asked a panel of scientists, astronauts, and influencers what it is that has made Star Trek live long...and prosper. Click here. (8/13)
18 Space Suits From Science Fiction, From Worst to Best (Source: The Verge)
Space suits are cool — and complicated. Earlier this week, my colleague Loren Grush launched her new series Space Craft by seeing what wearing one is like. The answer? Exhausting. Unsurprisingly, science fiction writers, movie directors, and prop-makers also love space suits — you’ll find them everywhere from Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Have Space Suit — Will Travel, to the latest Alien movie. But not everybody does their homework: for every fictional space suit that’s more than just a fancy costume, there’s one that’s impractical and nonsensical even in a fictional world.
There’s no such thing as an “ideal” space suit, because you need specific features for different environments. But we can answer a few basic questions. Is a fictional space suit safe and wearable for its characters? Does it perform its task well? And does it realistically look like it could perform that task? With that in mind, here are some of the greatest and most cringeworthy depictions, arranged from worst to best. Click here. (8/19)
Thrift Shop Bargain Hunters Find Rare NASA Flight Suits (Source: News6 Orlando)
Talia Rappa and Skyer Ashworth turned summer bargain shopping at a Titusville Thrift store closeout into the stuff of NASA collectors' legend when the central Florida college students paid 20 cents each for five rare NASA flight suits that experts say could be valued at $5,000 each or more. “They were kind of in a weird corner," Rappa told News 6. “He (Skylar) pulled them all out at first, then brought the whole handful over to me.”
The five blue NASA flight suits, along with a white “control suit,” were in the bottom of a plastic bin tucked under some forgotten winter sweaters. According to experts at the American Space Museum, the astronauts' names and flight dates on the white labels seem to match the time astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson, Robert A. Parker, and Charles D. Walker. They flew shuttle missions between 1983 and 1985.
Rappa, a junior at UCF studying astrophysics, told News 6 she has always been fascinated with space travel and would love to be part of the MARS mission. When the 20-year-old looked at the suits close up, she admits her “jaw dropped.” Ashworth, 24, who was recently accepted into a college aerospace program at Eastern Florida State College, told News 6 the space program is in his family DNA. (8/15)
UrtheCast Delays Constellation Plans for Standalone Satellite (Source: Space News)
UrtheCast will build a standalone radar satellite for an unnamed customer, pushing back a planned constellation. UrtheCast said this week that the unidentified customer signed a contract valued at more than $78 million for a single synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite. A second customer is in negotiations with UrtheCast for a similar deal. If the second deal is concluded, the two SAR satellites would launch together in 2021. That would delay the company's OptiSAR constellation of eight high-resolution optical-imaging satellites and eight SAR satellites by at least a year, to 2023, but also reduce technical and financial risks for that system. (8/15)
Wyler: OneWeb Ready to Solve the Ultimate Connectivity Problem (Source: Via Satellite)
As the recent failed merger with Intelsat shows, there are likely to be a few twists and turns as one of the most ambitious satellite projects finds its feet and aims to be a lasting force in the satellite industry. In many ways, OneWeb is a continuation of O3b Networks. O3b targeted the “other three billion” people on Earth who lack connectivity, and so I ask Wyler whether OneWeb is really just an amped up version of the older company. He says OneWeb will operate at a different scale. Click here. (8/17)
IAI Sees Demand in Earth Observation, but Few Opportunities in Telecom (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Fresh off the successful launch and initial checkout of two of its spacecraft earlier this month, Israel’s top satellite manufacturer sees a robust global market for new low-altitude reconnaissance payloads, but little international demand for its communications satellites. Israel Aerospace Industries built two satellites that launched together Aug. 2 on a European Vega rocket from French Guiana.
One of the payloads, named Optsat 3000, will collect high-resolution surveillance imagery for the Italian military, while the other satellite, named Venµs, is part of a French-Israeli project to track the health of vegetation.
The double launch symbolized IAI’s recent growth in the field of Earth observation satellites, particularly in the construction of satellites for foreign governments. The successful Vega liftoff with Optsat 3000 and Venµs came 11 months after the the last Israeli-built communications satellite — Amos 6 — was destroyed in the explosion of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket during a countdown rehearsal at Cape Canaveral. (8/18)
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