October 23, 2017
NASA Awards Launches to ULA, SpaceX (Source: NASA)
SpaceX and ULA split a pair of NASA launch contracts Thursday. SpaceX won a $97 million contract for the launch of the Sentinel-6A satellite on a Falcon 9 in November 2020. Sentinel-6A, also known as Jason-CS, is the latest in a series of joint NASA-European missions to study ocean topography. ULA received a $153.8 milion contract for the Atlas 5 launch of Landsat 9 in mid-2021. Landsat 9 will continue the decades-long series of Landsat missions for Earth observation. (10/20)
NASA Selects ULA's Reliable Atlas V Rocket to Launch Landsat 9 (Source: SpaceRef)
NASA's Launch Services Program announced today that it selected United Launch Alliance's (ULA's) proven Atlas V vehicle to launch the Landsat 9 mission, the ninth in the satellite program providing the longest continuous global record of Earth's surface. This award resulted from a competitive Launch Service Task Order evaluation under the NASA Launch Services II contract. (10/19)
Iridium Opts for Pre-Flown Falcon 9s to Preserve Schedule (Source: Space News)
Mobile satellite services provider Iridium will use previously flown Falcon 9 first stages for its next two launches in order not to miss its mid-2018 goal for completing the Iridium Next constellation.
The first Iridium mission with a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage will take place Dec. 22 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, according to an Iridium statement. That launch, its fourth with SpaceX overall, will be followed by the second pre-flown mission early next year.
That will leave just three launches for Iridium and SpaceX to complete by the middle of next year. In an Oct. 19 tweet, Iridium chief executive Matt Desch said using previously flown boosters brings “more schedule certainty to complete 5 more launches over next 8 months.” (10/19)
Spacecom Returns to SpaceX for One, Possibly Two Launches (Source: Space News)
Israeli satellite operator Spacecom has agreed to launch its next satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX in 2019, and will likely launch a second satellite on another Falcon 9 in 2020. Spacecom said it “will use full credits from AMOS-6’s unfulfilled September 2016 launch to fully cover AMOS-17’s launch fees.” Another statement, given to the Israeli stock exchange the same day, said the 2019 mission could launch on a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket.
Amos-6 was destroyed when its Falcon 9 launcher exploded during preparation for a static fire test two days before liftoff. Spacecom agreed to have the satellite atop the rocket to save time between testing and launch. Amos-17, an Africa-focused telecommunications satellite being built by Boeing Satellite Systems International to last 19 years, is a replacement for a different satellite — Amos-5. Spacecom lost the ISS-Reshetnev-built Amos-5 satellite in 2015 to a power glitch just four years into its mission. (10/18)
SpaceX Adds Mystery “Zuma” Mission, Iridium-4 Aims for Vandenberg Landing (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
In what has already been a busy year for SpaceX, the commercial launch provider is adding one more mission to its jammed-packed end-of-year schedule. A mysterious mission codenamed “Zuma” will launch No-Earlier-Than Nov. 10 from LC-39A. Meanwhile, CRS-13 is slipping at least one week, and the Iridium NEXT-4 mission from Vandenberg has received permission to debut RTLS landing of the Falcon 9 booster back at SLC-4W.
Northrop Grumman is the payload provider for Zuma through a commercial launch contract with SpaceX for a LEO satellite with a mission type labeled as “government” and a needed launch date range of 1-30 November 2017. Zuma represents a likely rapid launch response from SpaceX for the satellite’s operator.
Under the recently realigned launch manifest, Koreasat-5A (on a brand new Falcon 9) is targeted to leave LC-39A NET Oct. 30. Meanwhile, nearby LC-40 will be “flight ready” by the end of November after extensive repairs and modifications. (10/16)
Air Force Now Open to Using Flight-Proven (Re-Used) Rockets (Source: Bloomberg)
An Air Force general said he is open to using reused rockets like those already being flown by SpaceX. Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, said in an interview that "we'd be dumb not to" take advantage of reusable rockets given market trends. That will require the development of a certification process for reused boosters, which he suggested is already in development. SpaceX has launched three commercial missions using previously flown first stages, including a communications satellite for SES and EchoStar last week. (10/16)
SpaceX Mum About November Mystery Launch (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
While the Nov. 10 date has been bandied about, that’s only a “no-earlier-than” date and not a hard date. On Oct. 17, SpaceX released a launch announcement for the Zuma mission. The company, however, provided no details about the launch other than it is targeting no earlier than November.
In an update to its original report, NASASpaceflight.com confirmed that Northrup Grumman is the payload provider for Zuma. The mission is labeled as “government” and will be sent to low-Earth orbit. (10/20)
|Blue Origin Fires Up New Engine for New Glenn, Vulcan Rockets (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin conducted the first successful test of its BE-4 engine, a major milestone for both the company’s launch vehicle plans as well as for ULA. The BE-4 is an engine that uses liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas propellants and is capable of generating 550,000 pounds-force of thrust. The engine was developed in-house at Blue Origin primarily with its own funding, with some support from ULA.
Blue Origin plans to use the BE-4 on its New Glenn vehicle that the company announced last year. The first stage of the rocket will use seven BE-4 engines, with the second stage using a single BE-4. That rocket will be able to place up to 45 tons into low Earth orbit and 13 tons into geostationary transfer orbit. The BE-4 is also under consideration by ULA for its next-generation Vulcan rocket. (10/19)
NASA Fires Up Old Engine for SLS Rockets (Source: NasaSpaceFlight)
The RS-25 test team at Stennis Space Center hot-fired an untested flight engine on the A-1 Test Stand Thursday to help complete certification of design changes to fly on the Space Launch System (SLS). The test is another step toward the flagship test firing of all four engines on the B-2 Test Stand. Engine 2063 was assembled at Stennis from the hardware inventory inherited from the Space Shuttle Program. (10/19)
First SLS Flight in Late 2019 (Source: Aviation Week)
The first flight of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is slated to put an unmanned Orion capsule into orbit around the Moon for Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), is now targeted for launch in late 2019, according to a Lockheed Martin program director. (10/17)
Air Force Adds More Than $40 Million to SpaceX Raptor Engine Contract (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has provided SpaceX with an additional $40.7 million to support continued development of the company’s Raptor engine. The contract announcement Oct. 19 stated that the Air Force was modifying an existing agreement with SpaceX, originally awarded in January 2016, by providing the company with $40.766 million “for the development of the Raptor rocket propulsion system prototype for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.”
The statement didn’t include additional information about the nature of the work other than that it would be completed by the end of April 2018. The work, according to the announcement, would be carried out at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, which hosts engine testing for the Raptor, as well as SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California and Los Angeles Air Force Base, home to the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center. (10/21)
Bezos Presents New Competition for Musk (Source: Quartz)
The BE-4 is designed to lift the huge New Glenn rocket Blue Origin wants to fly in 2020. It is also the leading contender to be the main in engine in a new rocket being built by ULA. But the biggest threat here is to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which was the last private company to develop and fly a liquid-fueled rocket engine in the US. SpaceX’s low-cost liquid-fueled Merlin engine has powered its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket and reusable first stage, rapidly taking huge swathes of the launch market.
Now, the company is working on larger rockets like the Falcon Heavy, expected to fly for the first time this year, and the BFR, a longer-term vision for planetary exploration that also uses a natural gas engine. If Blue or ULA can get their heavy rocket off the ground first, SpaceX could find itself leap-frogged. The sea change here is that US space firms like SpaceX and Blue Origin are designing and building their own rocket engines, not building designs created by government agencies. (10/20)
ARCA's Revolutionary Aerospike Engine Completed and Ready for Testing (Source: New Atlas)
ARCA Space Corporation has announced its linear aerospike engine is ready to start ground tests as the company moves towards installing the engine in its Demonstrator 3 rocket. Designed to power the world's first operational Single-Stage-To-Orbit (SSTO) satellite launcher, the engine took only 60 days to complete from when fabrication began.
Over the past 60 years, space launches have become pretty routine. The first stage ignites, the rocket lifts slowly and majestically from the launch pad before picking up speed and vanishing into the blue. Minutes later, the first stage shuts down and separates from the upper stages, which ignite and burn in turn until the payload is delivered into orbit. Click here. (9/21)
Relativity Space Opens Up on 3-D Printed Rocket Plans (Source: Bloomberg)
A secretive launch startup has offered a first look inside its factory where it plans to make rockets with 3-D printers. Relativity Space is developing large 3-D printers that it claims will be able to build entire launch vehicles at lower costs, and with far fewer moving costs, than existing rockets. The company is planning its first launch of a rocket capable of placing nearly a ton into orbit in 2021. The 14-person company has raised $10 million to date from several investors, including billionaire Mark Cuban. (10/17)
Vector Space Plans Three Orbital Launches from Virginia's Spaceport (Source: CNBC)
Rocket company Vector will conduct three commercial missions from Virginia Space's mid-Atlantic regional spaceport at NASA's Wallops launch center. This is the first orbital contract with a spaceport for Vector, the next major step toward the company's goal of launching more than 100 times per year, chief executive Jim Cantrell said. "These will go all the way into orbit with satellites onboard," Cantrell said. "We need to break the classic handcuffs on the costs of launching, and that requires people thinking differently."
The Vector-R vehicle is a low-cost rocket intended to meet the growing demand from the microsatellite sector, which is expected to become a $7.5 billion industry in five years. At less than $3 million per launch, Vector is aiming for a 20th the cost of a SpaceX Falcon 9. An additional advantage for Vector, Cantrell said, is its mobility. Vector requires minimal infrastructure to launch its rockets — as little as a concrete pad. Vector is targeting its first Wallops launch for July, with two or three more in the second half of the year. The contract includes an option for five more launches.
The only issue with the spaceport, both leaders noted, is the difficulty of using it to launch vehicles into polar orbits, which are necessary for some satellites. Cantrell said Vector would likely consider other locations, like Alaska Aerospace's on Kodiak Island. Cantrell called the next three launch vehicles "prototypes," meaning that they will be built by hand. (10/19)
Virginia Spaceport Signs Another Customer for Orbital Launches (Source: Daily Press)
Virginia Space has finally signed another customer to use the state-owned spaceport on the Eastern Shore to launch orbital missions. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Tucson-based Vector Space Systems, a nanosatellite launch company, will make three commercial missions to low-Earth orbit from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA Wallops Flight Facility over the next two years, with an option for five more.
The governor and other state officials heralded the agreement for furthering Virginia’s commercial space ambitions. McAuliffe is a big booster for Virginia as a major hub for the multibillion-dollar commercial launch business. MARS was built at a cost of nearly $150 million to enable Dulles-based space transportation company Orbital ATK to launch resupply missions from Virginia to the International Space Station under a $1.9 billion commercial contract with NASA. Orbital is set to launch its latest mission from MARS next month. (10/20)
NASA Wallops Preps for ISS Resupply Mission (Source: WMDT)
NASA Wallops is again gearing up another launch, this time to resupply the International Space Station. NASA and Orbital ATK officials showed off the Cygnus spacecraft that astronauts at the space station are relying on to keep them supplied. The spacecraft will be taking astronauts food, supplies, and experiments so they can continue their research.
With 3 weeks left until the scheduled launch date, NASA and Orbital ATK have a series of tests to do before take off. "We run our final system tests where we trick the rocket and the spacecraft into flying the sequence that we are going to run , so a lot of double checks an re-checking," says Eberly. (10/19)
OneWeb and Blue Origin on the Hunt for Space Coast Workers (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
OneWeb LLC, whose new $85 million, 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant is under construction at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport's Exploration Park, isn't waiting for the building to be finished in March 2018 to start hiring. OneWeb has four types of jobs available for its work on Florida's Space Coast: civil engineers, antenna engineers, RF design engineers and manufacturing associates.
OneWeb first announced its plans to build a facility on the Space Coast in April 2016. The satellite manufacturing plant will create at least 250 jobs by 2025 paying an average annual salary of $65,579. Blue Origin will provide a rocket and launch services for OneWeb when it is ready to send its satellites to space. Blue Origin also is hiring for its center in Exploration Park. The company is looking for a launch vehicle stage integration manager, instrumentation and controls engineer, subsystem integration manager and tank production manager. (10/16)
Former 45th Space Wing Commander Supporting Georgia Spaceport Effort (Source: Spaceport Camden)
A proposed Georgia spaceport has added a retired Air Force general to its steering committee. Spaceport Camden announced Monday that Maj. Gen. Robert Dickman will join the committee, providing advice to the spaceport near the Atlantic coast that is seeking an FAA spaceport license. Dickman's career included service as head of the 45th Space Wing and Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral, overseeing 20 launches there. He also served in military space leadership positions at the Pentagon and, later, was executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He now lives in Camden County, Georgia. (10/16)
Sprouting the Seed of Georgia's Space Community (Source: Astralytical)
Georgia Space Alliance is state-wide, not just focused on Atlanta. It’s an alliance of the existing groups, companies, organizations, and individuals. It’s not meant to replace or compete with any existing space-related effort. Its goal is to unify, to bring people together, to encourage communication and collaboration, to promote what is already happening and what is to come. Even the word “space” is meaningful. Georgia already has a very strong aerospace industry and aerospace community, aerospace primarily meaning aviation. The focus of Georgia Space Alliance is not aerospace – it’s space –the much smaller but growing branch of aerospace in the state. Click here. (10/18)
Dream Chaser Gets Popular Science Accolade (Source: SNC)
Popular Science magazine has selected Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft for the 2017 “Best of What’s New” award. This recognition from the world’s largest science and technology magazine celebrates technologies that will “change our world.”
“We're certainly proud to be recognized like this," said Eren Ozmen, SNC's owner and president. "And we're even more excited about the future of Dream Chaser. This is America's spaceplane -- it has the best engineering and technology and represents our national pioneering spirit,” added Ozmen.
The Dream Chaser is a re-usable and versatile spacecraft that will go the International Space Station starting in 2020 to resupply critical items for NASA. The spacecraft has the capability to carry more than 12,000 lbs of food and water, science experiments, supplies, or satellites to low-Earth orbit, and can fulfill a variety of missions for organizations around the world. (10/18)
Starliner Spacesuit Tops PopSci's "Most Incredible Aerospace Inventions" List (Source: Popular Science)
Boeing's Starliner spacesuit topped the Popular Science list of the 10 "most incredible aerospace inventions" list for 2017. The Kratos UTAP-22 Mako, Aireon's space-based ADS-B and Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser also made the list. (10/17)
XCOR Running Out of Time to Find Investor (Source: Space News)
XCOR Aerospace has only weeks to find a new investor or partner, or else face liquidation, the company's CEO warns. In an interview, Michael Blum said XCOR has had talks with companies and investor groups interested in a deal, but that those negotiations have been going slowly. XCOR, which suffered a financial setback earlier this year with the loss of a contract, laid off all its employees, hiring a few back as contractors. Blum said the company likely has until early November to reach a deal to rebuild the company or else will likely have to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation. (10/20)
Stratolaunch Fires Up Its Engines (Source: Robb Report)
Stratolaunch, which is on track to be the world’s largest airplane, with a wingspan of 385 feet, has completed its first phase of engine testing, the company has announced. This puts the aircraft “one step closer to providing convenient, reliable, and routine access to low Earth orbit,” the company said. All six of the aircraft’s second-hand Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, which previously powered Boeing 747s, were started up and tested.
The engineering team has checked the fuel system, confirming that all six of the airplane’s fuel tanks operate properly. They also have started work on testing the flight-control system. They will continue testing the engines, using more power and a variety of configurations, until they’re ready for taxi tests, which are expected to start by the end of the year. First flight is expected in 2019, and the airplane should start operations by 2020. (10/21)
Branson Reveals Virgin Galactic's Latest Launch Plans (Source: NBC)
Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, which includes spaceflight company Virgin Galactic, on Wednesday said that he expects the company to send its first astronauts into space “in about four months.” This comes after a more optimistic statement by Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight last week. He said that he hopes for Virgin Galactic “to be in space by the end of this year.” (10/20)
Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, and Finding My Virginity (Source: Space Review)
It’s been 13 years since the last suborbital flight of SpaceShipOne, and Virgin Galactic is still at least months away from flying people into space on SpaceShipTwo. Jeff Foust examines what company founder Richard Branson had to say about the company’s progress and setbacks in his new autobiography. Click here. (10/16)
The 2 Steps Richard Branson is Taking to Prepare for His Trip to Space (Source: NBC)
Self-made billionaire Richard Branson recently said he expects to be in space in six months or else he'll be disappointed. Leading up to his upcoming travel with Virgin Galactic, a business he created to provide commercial flights to space, Branson said he's actually been taking two steps to make sure he's prepared for his trip: exercising on a daily basis and doing centrifuge training to simulate gravity.
"I wake up every morning and play a hard game of singles tennis and maybe go kite surfing," he said. "I play tennis again in the evenings." Even at 67, Branson's penchant for daily exercise not only prepare him for space travel, but it's also his trick to being more productive every day. Along with other activities like running and cycling, Branson has said working out helped him get where he is today.
The other step Branson said that he has been taking to prepare for his trip is centrifuge or "high-G" training. A human centrifuge spins at a high enough speed to simulate the feeling of gravity during a space mission and helps prevent future bodily damage. In 2009, he was seen training at the NASTAR Center, even pumping his fist while doing so. (10/18)
Bigelow and ULA Plan Lunar Orbit Habitat (Source: Space News)
Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance said Tuesday they have an agreement to jointly develop a habitat around the moon, provided NASA is willing to help pay for it. The companies said their "lunar depot" would use a Bigelow B330 module launched on a ULA Vulcan rocket and placed into a low orbit around the moon by an ACES upper stage as soon as 2022.
Bigelow Aerospace President Robert Bigelow said the companies could develop it in partnership with NASA, with the agency providing $2.3 billion in addition to the "hundreds of millions" already being spent on the companies to develop their technologies. Bigelow said the companies had briefed several "key" government officials about the concept and have received a good reaction. (10/17)
Here’s Bigelow Plans to Build an Orbiting Space Station for the Moon (Source: Washington Post)
The moon — that cold, gray outpost that NASA last visited 45 years ago — is hot again. The vice president says so. So do Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. And as the Trump administration sets its sights on the lunar surface, a growing number of companies say they are ready for the challenge. The latest is Bigelow Aerospace, the Las Vegas-based maker of inflatable space habitats.
Bigelow is hoping to send one of its space stations, the B330, to lunar orbit by 2022 in partnership with ULA. If NASA goes for it, the $2.3 billion mission would go something like this: The habitat would launch on ULA’s Vulcan rocket into low Earth orbit, where it would stay for a period of months, receiving supplies and cargo, while it underwent testing to make sure everything was working properly.
Then a space tug would ferry it from Earth orbit to lunar orbit, where it would essentially become a space station for the moon. The Trump administration is looking for a first-term coup, and, Bigelow said, this “can actually be done within one administration.” NASA also needs a destination for the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft it has been developing for years and at great expense, he said. (10/17)
Google Moon Shot Stands to Give Industrial 3-D Printing a Boost (Source: Bloomberg)
In what promises to be one small step for space travel, and one giant leap for the next generation of manufacturing, an Israeli startup is planning to land a vehicle on the moon that has crucial parts made using 3-D printing technology.
SpaceIL is among five teams vying for Google Inc.’s $30 million in prize money to get a spacecraft to the moon by the end of March. One of the startup’s suppliers, Zurich-based RUAG Space, advised turning to 3-D printing to manufacture the legs of its unmanned lunar lander. With financial stakes high and a tight deadline, SpaceIL engineers were at first deeply skeptical, according to RUAG executive Franck Mouriaux. They finally acquiesced after a lot of convincing. Click here. (10/21)
Commercial Lunar Companies Seek NASA Roles (Source: Space News)
Companies developing commercial lunar capabilities are looking for roles in NASA's plans for a return to the moon. At meetings last week, four companies with plans for commercial lunar landers expressed interest in doing business with NASA, either through the use of public-private partnerships to develop those capabilities or flying payloads through arrangements similar to launch services contracts. Some, though, caution that Congress may be reticent to put commercial providers on the "critical path" for a human lunar return. (10/16)
Scientists Just Found the Perfect Spot to Build an Underground Colony on the Moon (Source: Gizmodo)
For years, scientists have wondered if dark, crater-like features on the lunar surface might be entrances to giant caverns carved long ago by flowing lava. Researchers from Japan and the United States have uncovered new evidence to prove that these features actually exist—which is good news for future lunar colonists looking for a convenient and safe place to live.
New research published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that several pits located near the Marius Hill region of the Moon are large open lava tubes, and that these ancient caverns have the potential to offer, in the words of the researchers, a “pristine environment to conduct scientific examination of the Moon’s composition and potentially serve as secure shelters for humans and instruments.” The team, which included scientists from NASA and Japan’s space agency, JAXA, combined radar and gravity data to make the finding.
No doubt, these caverns would be perfect for aspiring lunar colonists. Inside these large holes, humans would be protected from the Sun’s dangerous rays, and other hazards. The Moon has no atmosphere to speak of, so these “instant” shelters would be extremely advantageous. (10/18)
City-Size Lunar Lava Tube Could House Future Astronaut Residents (Source: Space.com)
A city-size lava tube has been discovered on the moon, and researchers say it could serve as a shelter for lunar astronauts. This lava tube could protect lunar-living astronauts from hazardous conditions on the moon's surface, the researchers said. Such a tube could even harbor a lunar colony, they added.
Spacesuits can't substantially shield astronauts from these dangers over long periods of time, but a lava tube could potentially help protect any space travelers, the researchers said. Lava tubes are channels that form when a lava flow cools and develops a hard crust; this crust then thickens and makes a roof over a still-flowing lava stream, they explained. Once the lava stops flowing, the channel sometimes drains, leaving behind an empty tube. (10/20)
Why We Go to the Moon (Source: Air & Space)
First we must consider the activities encompassed by a human return to the Moon, beginning with a transportation system that permits access to and from the Moon for people and cargo. Once on the Moon, we must protect ourselves from the hostile environment with such a degree of utility and comfort as to permit the performance of useful work. This protection includes life support, shielding from radiation, habitation, mobility, maintenance and continuous, daily operations. Finally, we must identify a series of activities that yield long-term societal value and contribute to the enhancement and furtherance of our spacefaring capabilities.
I suggest that all of these activities are summarized in the following mission statement: We go to the Moon to learn how to live and work productively on another world. It is not enough to simply get there—once on the Moon, we must accomplish some significant goals. It is not enough to simply live on the Moon—we must learn the skills and acquire the technologies necessary to support human life indefinitely, making use of local resources to support this effort. Click here. (10/17)
Back to Back to the Moon (Source: Space Review)
With a statement by the vice president at the National Space Council meeting, NASA is back in the business of returning humans to the Moon. Jeff Foust reports on what that means for agency plans, including potentially greater roles for international and commercial partners. Click here. (10/16)
National Space Council: What's Next? (Source: The Avion)
After the initial speech, the council meet-up continued with expositions from the rest of the members. At the end of the event, the Vice President’s closing remarks included setting a specific 45-day timespan to work out the recommendations to officially deliver to the president. Whether his words were just part of the game of politics or an actual prelude to significant changes in NASA’s human space exploration focus, we will find out very soon. (10/15)
Some Commentary About the National Space Council’s Inaugural Meeting (Source: Space Review)
The first meeting of the National Space Council earlier this month is, to many, a good start for the administration’s focus on space policy. Mike Snead offers some recommendations for the council’s upcoming activities in the first of a two-part report. Click here. (10/16)
The New Space Race: NASA, Private Companies, and The Fight to Settle Mars (Source: Wesleyan Argus)
It is perhaps no surprise that there are various individuals and organizations working on ways to leave this planet and find something more. One of the major players in this arena is, of course, NASA, but they’re not alone. In the United States, there are a number of private companies—SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, and Virgin Galactic, to name a few—dedicated to the exploration of space. And as such, a significant amount of tension exists between NASA and various American private companies when it comes to impending plans for missions into space, and more specifically, to Mars. The relationship is an intricate and murky one. Click here. (10/16)
Want To Go To Mars? The Risks May Not Be Worth It, Says UNLV Prof (Source: KNPR)
Elon Musk says that's where he wants to go next, planning to send astronauts to the red planet in the coming years. He's even said he wants to die on Mars. But, new research from UNLV suggests … that could come sooner than Musk may like. Frank Cucinotta is a professor at UNLV and co-author of a new study about the health effects of a trip to Mars. Click here. (10/13)
Confession Of A Planetary Scientist: 'I Do Not Want To Live On Mars' (Source: NHPR)
I am a planetary scientist and once astronaut candidate finalist (read: space nerd). But I have something to confess: I do not want to live on Mars. While certainly interesting scientifically (e.g., seasonally-varying polar caps; transient methane plumes; permafrost), Mars is not particularly compelling as a long-term human destination. But there is another place in our solar system where conditions are right for a self-sustaining, long-term human settlement: Saturn's moon Titan. Why Titan?
To start with, let's make clear that Titan is a moon that, in many ways, acts more like a planet. It has a thick atmosphere, with about 1.5 times the surface pressure of Earth's atmosphere. None of the 177 other moons in the solar system has such an atmosphere. Plus, Titan is the only place in the solar system, other than Earth, with stable surface liquids: Titan has lakes and seas on its surface. So Titan is a remarkable, and very Earth-like, world.
Titan's thick atmosphere is beneficial, because it means that you don't have to wear a bulky pressure suit while you're out and about on Titan. But the main reason I like it is simple: Titan's atmosphere will help us stay alive. Out in space, radiation is deadly. Energetic particles from the sun, and especially galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), penetrate human tissue, causing cancer and cognitive disorders. Click here. (10/16)
No, Human Space Exploration is Not a Dead End (Source: Washington Post)
For Post columnist David Von Drehle, NASA’s renewed focus on human space exploration is “unnecessary” and “a dead end.” I fundamentally disagree with this assessment. I was excited to see President Trump ensure that the United States remains the leader in space by reestablishing the National Space Council. Under the leadership of Vice President Pence, the council held a meeting last week for the first time in nearly 25 years, announcing a distinct objective: promote a clear U.S. space policy and enact the reforms necessary to strengthen American leadership in space.
Von Drehle’s argument against human space exploration boils down to three main questions, and I’d like to address each of them. First, why send humans into space when we can just send robots? The second question: Is space exploration worth the risk and cost? This gets at a more fundamental question: Why bother sending people to explore space at all? Click here. (10/13)
Why Should We Go? Reevaluating the Rationales for Human Spaceflight (Source: Space Review)
A perennial struggle for space advocates has been developing rationales for human spaceflight that can be sustained over the long term. Cody Knipfer argues that now is the time to reexamine those arguments, particularly given the rise of commercial human spaceflight. Click here. (10/16)
NASA Chooses Not to Tell Congress How Much Deep Space Missions Cost (Source: Ars Technica)
This week, the US Government Accountability Office reported on progress the space agency is making to prepare the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and launch systems at Kennedy Space Center for future missions. NASA is making progress on these complex integration activities, the report finds, but the space agency has a long ways to go to make a test flight in late 2019 or early 2020.
One surprise in the report is that NASA still has not provided Congress (or anyone else) with cost estimates for the first crewed mission of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, which could occur in 2023 or later. This "Exploration Mission 2," which would entail flying a crew of four into deep space and possibly delivering the first component of a space station into lunar orbit, would mark the first human mission after 12 years of development of the rocket and nearly two decades of work on Orion. (10/20)
The Interplanetary Political Football of Space Exploration (Source: Scientific American)
In light of the NSC's checkered history, it's perhaps not surprising that the messaging during its inaugural meeting was so mixed. Pence’s first (leading) question to the civilian space industry panel asserted that the US lags behind in space, essentially putting the panel members in the position of contradicting the Vice President if they were to answer directly. The panelists, along with those of the second civilian panel, parried this assertion in turn like synchronized swimmers, with Gwynne Shotwell of SpaceX even countering that "there is a Renaissance underway in space.”
On the tails of their optimism came the defense panel. Here the message was dark, and fear-driven: we are vulnerable to our enemies, and coordinated efforts to be fearsome are the only way to prevent having to defend ourselves from both state or non-state actors moving against us. Much like the NSC's relationship to policy makers, the historical interface between the military and the NSC is a curious one—defense uses of space are typically the purview of the National Security Council, which carries out its own, independent agenda, unperturbed by the opinions of the National Space Council.
From the broader perspective of the current administration's priorities, the Moon makes a lot of sense: not because the Moon holds great scientific potential, but because of its potential as a strategic outpost for national security, or as a place to obtain material resources (e.g. via mining operations). It's straightforward to see those priorities reflected in the makeup of the two panels: one on national security, two from private industry. It is telling (but not surprising) that the discussion didn't include science except in the broadest of brushstrokes—science is not a priority for this administration. (10/16)
Bridenstine Wins a Democrat's Support for NASA's Top Job (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Jim Bridenstine has been nominated to lead NASA as its 13th administrator. It is my honor to support his nomination. NASA’s mission is to go where no one has gone before, explore the unknown, and reveal the secrets of the universe for the benefit of America and the world.
Jim Bridenstine is well-equipped to lead NASA as it develops return missions to the moon, sends astronauts to Mars, explores distant planets and their moons, looks into deep space from the Hubble and soon-to-be launched James Webb Space Telescopes, and assists with understanding the sun and both short- and long-term weather patterns.
I serve with Bridenstine on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. My first real interaction with him occurred a number of years ago when he visited Colorado to meet with scientists, engineers and technicians from a number of our universities, national laboratories and aerospace companies. I found him to be a good listener and well adept at understanding a lot of technical jargon. (10/20)
Survey: Americans Support Entrepreneurs in Space But Want Improvements on Earth (Source: Brodeur Partners)
Americans want private companies to seize opportunities in space –but they want that to translate into better life on Earth. That's the upshot of the Brodeur Space Entrepreneur 2017 Survey. The new poll of more than 600 Americans' attitudes toward business in space was conducted earlier this month by the Brodeur Partners' Space Group. The new survey found that Americans:
Still see national security as the top space activity; At the same time, they support private sector activity in space; However, they want some degree of government regulation, especially privacy protection; They expect space development to directly benefit Earth; And Think the U.S. is a leader, if not the leader, in space technology. Click here. (10/19)
Interplanetary Players: a Who’s Who of Space Mining (Source: Financial Times)
Mineral extraction is going to be crucial for the survival of colonies on Mars or the moon, dreamt up and financed by the likes of entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. But such is the prohibitive fuel economy of space travel that it is unclear when, if ever, bringing resources such as iron and platinum back to Earth will be commercially viable. Click here. (10/19)
US and Luxembourg Frame Laws for New Space Race (Source: Financial Times)
The moon rocks collected by the Apollo missions more than 40 years ago were brought back to Earth without much controversy. Several are on display in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
Had they been gathered now, they would probably have provoked much more debate. Over recent decades, moon rocks have come to symbolize something altogether different: space mining and a potential multibillion dollar market. For years, companies investing in technology to extract water, precious rocks and metals in space have operated in a regulatory grey zone under the aegis of a treaty written in the cold war, which makes no mention of property rights.
But when former US president Barack Obama fired the starting gun on regulatory changes in 2015, by guaranteeing private companies rights to own, sell and profit from resources extracted from asteroids and other “celestial bodies”, other countries scrambled to follow suit. Click here. (10/19)
Who Owns Space? (Source: Axios)
We're standing at the starting line of a new space race, one that could trigger a gold rush-like hunt for resources. Companies are lining up to launch space mining missions, and countries are passing laws to allow them. There's just one problem: Under some interpretations of the 50-year-old Outer Space Treaty, which was signed by almost 100 countries, none of this is legal.
The bottom line: In the past, the answer to the question "who owns space?" was easy: everyone and no one. Soon, that might not be true. Goldman Sachs thinks we should prospect asteroids for platinum. Companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries hope to launch space mining missions before 2030. Luxembourg passed a law legalizing such operations this past summer, as did the United States in 2015. Click here. (10/19)
What NASA's Simulated Missions Tell Us About the Need for Martian Law (Source: Space Daily)
Space law has always supported the position that objects and stations placed on celestial bodies are to remain under national ownership, jurisdiction and control. Private companies or other entrepreneurs cannot therefore have legitimacy or mine these bodies for resources unless they exercise lawful control through a sovereign state.
Current rules say the establishment of a space station and the area required for its operation should be notified to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. These would then be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the state where the spacecraft is registered or the state bringing the component parts of the station.
In many ways, this makes sense - it is difficult to see how a permanent station on Mars may be maintained without some form of tenure of the ground. The same goes for tenure over areas around the station sufficient for its maintenance (such as creating fuel from nearby resources). In fact, the closest practical analogies to a future Mars station in current jurisdictional terms would be the Antarctic stations maintained by Antarctic claimant states. Click here. (10/16)
An Apollo Astronaut's Anger at NASA's Lost Decades (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Most of the Apollo astronauts, at one time or another, have voiced grievances at how slowly the American manned spaceflight program has advanced. Why wouldn't they? Since the end of the focused, breakneck race to the moon during the 1960s and early 70s, NASA lost its ambitious mandate to send humans to explore other worlds. Each new presidential administration had a new plan that required scrapping the old one. And America still hasn't sent astronauts back to the moon, much less set foot on Mars.
Tom Stafford may have more reason to complain than most. He witnessed the rise and fall of American human spaceflight from the inside, and he's the one who wrote the original plan to use the moon as a stepping-stone to Mars. At 87, Stafford still has a gleam in his eye as he talks about manned spaceflight. But over the years, his plan has been repeatedly picked up and abandoned as administrations changed. The Trump administration and its Space Council is now talking up the moonshot once more. (10/20)
America Is Finally Starting to Take Space Seriously (Could It Lead to Star Wars?) (Source: National Interest)
Sustainment of US space capability implies a number of key developments. First, the US needs not only to protect existing space capabilities, but also to be able to rapidly reconstitute lost capabilities. That demands an effective launch capability, and an ability to exploit new ‘Space 2.0’ technologies as a surge capacity for launching replacement satellites quickly in a crisis.
The commercial space launch sector, with players such as SpaceX and Blue Origin using innovative reusable rocket technology, is well placed to contribute. SpaceX recently launched the US Air Force’s X-37B on its latest highly classified mission. The emphasis on space control—the use of offensive and defensive counter-space capabilities—continues a trend begun under Obama in response to Chinese and Russian anti-satellite (ASAT) activities, including testing of ASATs and delivery systems in 2007 and 2014.
Obama initially adopted a policy of strategic restraint on space weapons, instead relying on legal norms and dissuasion through space situational awareness to prevent the weaponization of space. It kept offensive space control in its back pocket in case softer methods failed to work. Well, they didn’t work, and the Trump administration must now wrestle with this issue. Click here. (10/19)
Mattis Opposes Space Corps (Source: Space Policy Online)
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has told Congress he opposes a plan to establish a Space Corps. In a letter to House and Senate conferees hashing out differences in their respective defense authorization bills, Mattis said he opposed creating a Space Corps that would result in "additional organizational layers" as a time the Pentagon is seeking to reduce overhead. The House version of the defense bill includes language creating a Space Corps, while the Senate bill does not. Mattis is also opposed to a provision in the Senate bill establishing a Chief Information Warfare Officer. (10/20)
GPS Satellites Will Be Prized Targets (Source: Space News)
Dean Cheng predicts GPS satellites will come increasingly under threat. Their billion-dollar price tags and their value to modern society make them attractive targets. The U.S. needs to consider alternatives, he says. “It might be worth looking into this.” For instance, a team of researchers at the University of California has developed a navigation system that exploits signals such as cellular and Wi-Fi, rather than GPS. The technology can be used as a standalone alternative to GPS, or complement current GPS-based systems. (10/17)
DOD Pushing Forward For Commercial Radar Satellite (Source: Space News)
A Defense Department unit plans to press ahead with supporting commercial radar satellite initiatives despite a funding setback. Congressional appropriators rejected a request to transfer $50 million to the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) for support of commercial synthetic aperture radar efforts. DIUx has already provided funding to a "handful" of companies developing satellites or analysis tools for radar imagery. The Pentagon is examining other ways to continue to support the program. (10/16)
With Commercial Satellite Imagery, Computer Learns to Quickly Find Missile Sites in China (Source: Space News)
According to a new study, there is one area where deep machine learning algorithms can definitely help the government, and that is to analyze satellite imagery. Officials from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency have called on the private sector to bring forth machine learning tools to automate repetitive and time-consuming image analysis tasks. They want to free up skilled analysts to spend more time on hard intelligence problems that can’t be turned over to a computer.
Researchers from the Center for Geospatial Intelligence used a deep learning neural network to assist human analysts in visual searches for surface-to-air missile sites over a large area in southeastern China. The results showed that the computer performed an average search time of only 42 minutes for an area of approximately 90,000 square kilometers. By comparison, North Korea is about 120,000 square kilometers. (10/19)
Culberson Wary of China's Military Space Goals (Source: Huntsville Times)
A key congressman warns that China is building an "unfriendly navy" in space. In a speech earlier this month, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA, warned against cooperating with China in space. "The Chinese are aggressively building a navy in space, and we need to be aware that it's not friendly," he said. Another congressman at the same event, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), agreed, and also warned of cooperating further with Russia in space. (10/17)
China Confidently Develops Independent Space Technology (Source: Global Times)
China's achievements in the aerospace industry in the past five years prove the nation can independently develop its own space strategy, and Western countries which used to prevent cooperation with China may think twice, experts said.
They said the breakthroughs in the aerospace industry include the heavy-lift rocket, lunar exploration, BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, and Micius quantum satellite and space station. (10/20)
"These breakthroughs prove that China can develop its own independent space strategy and it's shortening the gap with the other two major space powers, US and Russia. In some areas China has even surpassed them," Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the PLA Rocket Force, told the Global Times on Sunday. (10/21)
China Expanding Rocket Fleet, Including Super Heavy Lift (Source: GB Times)
Chinese engineers are developing a new series of Long March rockets, including one comparable to the Saturn 5. At a conference earlier this month, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology said it will soon formally begin development of the Long March 9, a rocket nearly 100 meters tall and 10 meters in diameter, with a payload capacity similar to the Saturn 5. China plans to use that rocket to support future human expeditions to the moon and other exploration missions. In the near-term, China plans to develop the Long March 5B, a variant of the Long March 5 for missions to low Earth orbit; and the Long March 8, a new medium-class rocket. (10/19)
China Great Wall Industry Corp.: A ‘Bumpy’ Year for Satellite Launches (Source: Space Intel Report)
China’s Long March rocket series has suffered three at least partial failures in the past 10 months on three different rockets — the small Long March 2D, the commercial-geostationary satellite Long March 3B and the new heavy-lift Long March 5. (10/16)
Strange Sensor Russia Sent to the ISS Is Baffling US Military Experts (Source: Motherboard)
A Russian spacecraft on a routine supply mission to the International Space Station apparently carried a surprise payload: a secretive sensor that experts said could be related to a controversial military initiative. Progress MS-07 carried a mysterious sensor, which Russian officials described as part of a "one-time scientific experiment." They otherwise declined to comment on the device's purpose. (10/20)
No Plans to Turn Kapustin Yar Testing Range Into Space Center (Source: Tass)
Russia has no plans to turn its Kapustin Yar training range into a space launch center, the facility's chief Maj. Gen. Oleg Kislov has said. Kislov said the project will require time and money, and appears unfeasible as Russia already has the Vostochny space center in the Far East, the Plesetsk space center in Northern Russia and the Baikonur space center it leases from Kazakhstan.
"Earlier, tasks similar to those of a space launch center, were indeed carried out at the testing range, but still it was designed with a purpose to test missiles and military equipment. The testing range can be used as a launch center, but it would require financial expenditures to create the required infrastructure, and, of course, it will take time," he said. (10/18)
Russia Plans to Increase Launches from Baikonur in 2018 (Source: Tass)
The Roscosmos state corporation plans more launches from the Baikoinur Cosmodrome in 2018, Roscosmos Deputy Director General Sergey Savelyev said at the international forum dubbed "Kazakhstan’s path to space: realities and prospects - 2017."
"The Baikonur Cosmodrome is one of the world’s most actively operating cosmodromes. Eleven space rockets were launched in 2017 [there,] and three more are to be launched before the end of the year. There are plans to increase the number of launches starting the next year," Savelyev reported. (10/19)
New Zealand Establishes Legal Framework for Launches (Source: Stuff.co.nz)
A new space law is set to go into effect in New Zealand later this year. The Outer Space and High-altitudes Activities Act, passed by the country's parliament in July, takes effect in December to provide a legal framework for space launches from the country. The law was prompted by Rocket Lab, which launches its Electron rockets from the country and is planning its second launch in the "next couple of months." (10/16)
Post-Brexit UK Hopes to Remain Engaged with European Satellite Program (Source: Space News)
Britain hopes to stay involved in the European Copernicus program of Earth science satellites even after it exits the European Union. Jo Johnson, the British minister whose portfolio includes space, said at an event last week for the launch of the Sentinel-5P satellite that the British government is working to demonstrate the value of continued collaboration on the program even after the country leaves the EU. That will depend on the outcome of negotiations between the British government and the EU about the terms of its exit, which has left some British space companies concerned about their ability to participate in programs like Copernicus. (10/17)
NASA Plans Cooperation with Russia on Simulated Space Mission (Source: Tass)
NASA and a Russian institute will cooperate on a simulated space mission later this year. NASA and the Institute of Biomedical Problems have approved plans for a 17-day simulated mission in a Moscow facility, with a crew of Russian and German participants. The simulated flight, designed to test biomedical and psychological issues of long-duration spaceflight, is the first in a series that will build up to a year-long simulated mission in 2020. (10/16)
U.S. Detector Flaw Will Delay Europe’s Euclid Telescope (Sources: Aviation Week, Space News)
The launch of Europe’s Euclid telescope, designed to explore the universe’s accelerating rate of expansion, will be delayed due to a newly found flaw in U.S.-built detectors. “The detector systems that we had been developing for delivery for ESA has been failing in their characterization testing before delivery,” Paul Hertz said at a meeting of the Astrophysics Advisory Committee. The problem, he said, is with an electronics package that malfunctions at the cold temperatures it will operate at on the mission. That problem did not appear in earlier qualification tests of the system. (10/18)
China, France Plan to Launch First Joint Oceanic Satellite in 2018 (Source: Xinhua)
The first satellite jointly developed by the Chinese and French space agencies will be launched from China in the second half of 2018. The China-French Oceanic Satellite is being tested in a Beijing-based assembly testing center of the China National Space Administration. The 700-kilogram satellite will be primarily used for waves forecast and monitoring, as well as research in floating ice, polar glacier and ocean dynamics. (10/20)
Chinese Space Module Will Fall to Earth Within Months (Source: Guardian)
A defunct Chinese lab module will reenter some time in the next several months. The Tiangong-1 module, launched in 2011, is no longer active and is headed for an uncontrolled reentry some time in the next six months, according to the Chinese government. Most of the spacecraft will burn up on reentry, although pieces as large as 100 kilograms could make it to the ground. The odds that any debris would cause injury or damage remain remote, however. (10/17)
Soyuz Suffered Partial Pressure Loss During Crew Re-entry (Source: Space News)
A Soyuz capsule returning to Earth earlier this year suffered a partial loss of pressurization during descent, although not endangering the crew. The incident took place during the deployment of the main parachute on the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft in April, when a buckle in the parachute system struck a welding seam on the spacecraft. Thomas Stafford, chairman of NASA's ISS Advisory Committee, said at a committee meeting this week that while some air escaped the capsule as a result, the crew was in pressure suits and not threatened by the incident. (10/17)
NASA To Test Fission Reactor For Space Missions (Source: Aviation Week)
For the first time since the SNAP (Space Nuclear Auxiliary Power) program of the 1960s, NASA will test an atom-splitting fission reactor, a potential power generator for planetary surface missions and spacecraft. The test, scheduled to begin on Nov. 6 at the Nevada National Security Site, is the culmination of a three-year technology development project, known as Kilopower, which has the goal of demonstrating a full-scale nuclear-fission power system capable of producing 1 kW of electricity. (10/17)
SpaceFab Plans Public Use Commercial Space Telescope (Source: Parabolic Arc)
SpaceFab.US is a new space startup company working on space telescope satellites, asteroid mining, and space manufacturing. The company, also known as SpaceFab, is designing and building its first space telescope, scheduled for launch in late 2019.
The satellite, called the Waypoint space telescope, will be available to the general public to take astronomical or Earth observation pictures, making it the world’s first dual purpose commercial space telescope. It can be used for astronomy when orbiting over the night side of Earth, and used for Earth observation when orbiting over the daylight side, about 40 to 50 minutes on each side. (10/16)
Google Maps Out Moons and Planets Across the Solar System (Source: New Atlas)
Google Maps is both amazing and a little terrifying at times. Starting from your own front porch, close enough to read the numbers on the letterbox, you can then zoom right out to see your neighborhood, then the suburb, city, state, country, and eventually the entire planet with a quick scroll of a mouse wheel. Not content to just map out almost every corner of the Earth, Google has now added the ability to explore 12 other worlds in our little corner of the galaxy.
Google Maps has already allowed us to explore the Moon, Mars, and the Universe for a few years, but now the list has been extended to a range of other planets and moons in our Solar System. That includes the planets Mercury and Venus; dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto; Jupiter's moons Io, Europa and Ganymede; and Saturn's moons Mimas, Enceladus, Dione, Rhea, Titan and Iapetus. Along with those worlds, curious Earthlings can now take a tour of the International Space Station as well. (10/16)
These Headsets are Made for Walking Over Mars (Source: Space Daily)
When NASA scientists want to follow the path of the Curiosity rover on Mars, they can don a mixed-reality headset and virtually explore the Martian landscape.
Starting today, everyone can get a taste of what that feels like. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, collaborated with Google to produce Access Mars, a free immersive experience. It's available for use on all desktop and mobile devices and virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) headsets. That includes mobile-based virtual reality devices on Apple and Android.
The experience was adapted from JPL's OnSight software, which assists scientists in planning rover drives and even holding meetings on Mars. Imagery from NASA's Curiosity rover provided the terrain, allowing users to wander the actual dunes and valleys explored by the spacecraft. (10/20)
World View Flight Tests Groundbreaking Altitude Control Technology (Source: SpaceRef)
Long-duration stratospheric research missions could allow scientists to collect vast amounts of data continuously for their payloads. Such missions could benefit NASA by maturing future space technology as well as allowing for Earth observations, such as storm monitoring and forest fire tracking.
Previously, technological challenges have limited the duration of balloon flights in the stratosphere due to the lack of trajectory control necessary for longer flights. Now, a system developed by World View Enterprises promises the capability to perform large altitude changes to achieve meaningful trajectory control of balloon flights in the stratosphere.
World View's novel altitude control technology was selected to receive funding through NASA's Research Announcement: Space Technology - Research, Development, Demonstration, and Infusion (REDDI) 2016 solicitation. This summer, the company performed flight tests that demonstrated this system's capability, which put World View one step closer to shifting the status quo of lack of altitude control. (10/19)
Bringing Back Supersonic Flight, with Quieter Sonic Booms (Source: CBS)
This past weekend, at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the U.S. Air Force celebrated the 70th anniversary of Captain Chuck Yeager becoming the first pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound. Yeager, now 94, was there to commemorate the event.
The only commercial passenger plane that flew faster than sound on a regular basis was the now-retired Concorde back in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. But the Concorde was only allowed to go that fast over the ocean, because supersonic flight creates a disturbing side effect -- a loud explosion of energy called a sonic boom.
Today, NASA engineers are working to lower the boom, so airlines can quietly hit those speeds and cut travel times for everyone in half -- seven decades after Yeager's historic achievement. (10/16)
Delivery by Rocket Could Change the Game for UPS, FedEx (Source: CNBC)
Airplanes and Panamax cargo ships redefined the parcel service in the 20th century, but those days may be fading quickly. Morgan Stanley believes the SpaceX plan for the Big Falcon Rocket as a reusable mode of Earth transportation could change the game for United Parcel Services and FedEx.
"The freight transportation business — especially parcel delivery — is on the cusp of transformation from multiple new transportation modalities," a team of Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note Thursday. "Elon Musk recently announced a new option that could potentially have the biggest impact of all — rockets."
The booster system BFR is a 42-engine rocket capable of holding around 100 people – and yes, the code name connotes more than just "Falcon" to those inside SpaceX. With a payload capacity of 150 tons, BFR would be nearly 10 times the capacity of the flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket and five times that of the soon-to-be-tested Falcon Heavy rocket. (10/13)
Scott Kelly: Don't Doubt Elon Musk (Source: CNBC)
Elon Musk is racing to land SpaceX on Mars in five years, a vision he unveiled late last month at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress. One man not among Musk's critics is Scott Kelly, a retired astronaut who set the record in 2015 for total accumulated days in space, during the single longest mission by an American.
"When Elon Musk said he was going to launch his rocket and then land the first stage on a barge, I thought he was crazy," Kelly told "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. "And then he did it. I'm not going to ever doubt what he says, ever again." (10/17)
Space Science Could Get Private-Funding Boost (Source: Space.com)
First, NASA needs to say in a steady stream of messaging that the agency desires private investment in space science missions. This message has been trumpeted for human spaceflight and space technology development, but for space science is generally an afterthought, sometimes mentioned as part of Q&A responses during advisory committee meetings, or is missing altogether in agency presentations.
The NASA budget blueprint released in March 2017 boldly states in the very first sentence that the proposed budget "supports and expands public-private partnerships as the foundation of future U.S. civilian space efforts." That would seem to include space science, but it is difficult to see how the space science portfolio is making such a transition. (10/19)
Space: Marketing's Final Frontier (Source: Ad Age)
Hollywood has long tapped into the world's interest in space, but now, industries from beauty and fashion to design and music are following suit, opening up massive opportunities for ad agencies and brands, according to a new Sparks & Honey culture report.
Through the research, Sparks & Honey found that 36 percent of Americans are more likely to buy a product if it was inspired or created by technology developed for outer space exploration. A combined $4.2 billion in venture capital investment has poured into Space 2.0 ventures in the last two years and astronaut applications are up three times this year compared to NASA's last call for new hires in 2011, the report states. Click here. (10/19)
How Fit Will Astronauts Be After Years in Space? (Source: Space.com)
After spending months or years in space during future long-term missions, returning to Earth can be challenging for astronauts — and one set of researchers is finding out just how challenging using a life-size spacecraft model. Using a mock-up of NASA's Orion spacecraft, scientists monitored the health and fitness levels of "astronauts" as they performed emergency escape maneuvers, simulating what crews undergo during their return to Earth.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft is designed to take astronauts to asteroids, Mars and other faraway space destinations. However, living in the microgravity environment of space can cause muscle loss and dramatically decrease an astronaut's overall fitness. And when crews return to Earth, they need to be able to climb out of the space capsule that has landed in the ocean and is being tossed around by waves.
"Our goal is to provide information on how fit an astronaut needs to be when they leave so that when they get to the destination or when they return to earth, they will be strong enough to perform mission tasks, even after several months in a zero-gravity environment," Thomas Barstow, professor of exercise physiology at Kansas State, said in the statement. (10/18)
Space Gardening May Treat Astronauts' Blues (Source: Space.com)
Many people step into their home gardens for a bit of DIY therapy. A new study suggests that astronauts could also reap the psychological benefits of gardening. In short, space missions are stressful. In addition to suffering the physical effects of living in microgravity, astronauts spend long periods of time in close quarters to one another and isolated from the rest of the world.
The weightless environment turns common activities — like eating, sleeping and using the restroom — into perpetual challenges. Meanwhile, extended periods of inactivity can lead to flat-out boredom. These factors will be even more pronounced for astronauts on extended missions beyond low Earth orbit, where the International Space Station is located.
Numerous studies and reviews have borne out the psychological benefits of gardening. Master's student Raymond Odeh and horticulture professor Charles Guy at the University of Florida, Gainesville, reviewed the literature of plant-human interactions and concluded that gardening could bring astronauts the same peace of mind on long space missions that it does back on Earth. (10/19)
Astronomers Have Captured Images of "the Greatest Fireworks Show in the Universe" (Source: Washington Post)
This is the story of a gold rush in the sky. Astronomers have now seen and heard a pair of dead stars collide, giving them the first glimpse of what they call a “cosmic forge,” where the world’s jewels were minted billions of years ago.
The collision rattled space-time and sent a wave of fireworks across the universe, setting off sensors in space and on Earth on Aug. 17 as well as producing a long loud chirp in antennas designed to study the Einsteinian ripples in the cosmic fabric known as gravitational waves. It set off a stampede around the world as astronomers scrambled to turn their telescopes in search of a mysterious and long-sought kind of explosion called a kilonova.
After two months of underground and social media rumblings, the first wave of news is being reported Monday about one of the least studied of cosmic phenomena: the merger of dense remnants known as neutron stars, the shrunken cores of stars that have collapsed and burst. Click here. (10/16)
What the New Gravitational Waves Discovery Means for the Future of Astronomy (Source: Washington Post)
In August, for the first time ever, scientists witnessed the electromagnetic lightning and gravitational gusts from the stormy collision of two neutron stars in a distant galaxy. The cosmic cataclysm created a “kilonova” — a phenomenon that had never been seen before — and the observations by both traditional telescopes and gravitational wave detectors heralded a new era for science. In the years to come, astrophysicists will use two “messengers” to understand the universe: electromagnetism and gravity.
Those discoveries are just the beginning: “This is opening a new brand of research and science,” Eleonora Troja, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland, said Tuesday. Here are just two of the ways the kilonova's detection will likely shift the course of astronomy. Click here. (10/18)
Neutron Star Merger: a New Way to Make a Black Hole (Source: PSU)
For the first time, scientists worldwide have detected both gravitational waves and light shooting toward our planet from one massively powerful event in space — the birth of a new black hole created by the merger of two neutron stars. All the previous gravitational-wave detections since the first in September 2015 had been the result of two merging black holes – objects much more massive than a neutron star — which have left only gravitational waves as fleeting clues of their merger.
"The evidence that these new gravitational waves are from merging neutron stars has been captured, for the first time, by observatories on Earth and in orbit that detect electromagnetic radiation, including visible light and other wavelengths," said Chad Hanna. NASA's Swift, Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer missions, along with dozens of ground-based observatories, later captured the fading glow of the blast's expanding debris. (10/16)
Cyberattack Prevents Neutron Star Event Observation (Source: ABC)
Astrophysicists at WA's Zadko telescope had just learned about the detection of a monumental deep space event involving two neutron stars colliding — which they had been hoping to find for years — when they came under sustained cyber attack. At the critical and fleeting moment, they could not move their telescope to track the gigantic explosion 130 million light years away. (10/16)
Filling the Early Universe with Knots Can Explain Why the World is Three-Dimensional (Source: Space Daily)
The next time you come across a knotted jumble of rope or wire or yarn, ponder this: The natural tendency for things to tangle may help explain the three-dimensional nature of the universe and how it formed. An international team of physicists has developed an out-of-the-box theory which proposes that shortly after it popped into existence 13.8 billion years ago the universe was filled with knots formed from flexible strands of energy called flux tubes that link elementary particles together. (10/17)
NASA Gives Dawn Mission Second Extension (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres since March 2015, has just been given a second mission extension, which will be used to bring the probe into the closest orbit yet around the dwarf planet. Mission scientists will study Ceres’ surface layer of ice as the dwarf planet approaches its April 2018 perihelion, the closest position to the Sun in its elliptical orbit.
In a challenging maneuver, mission engineers will spiral the probe to an elliptical orbit just 120 miles (200 kilometers) above the surface, a move they are still currently refining. The closest Dawn has ever been to the dwarf planet’s surface so far is 240 miles (385 kilometers). Once the spacecraft reaches its new low altitude, its visible light cameras will photograph Ceres’ surface geology. (10/21)
Underwater Civilizations Might Be Out There (Source: Science)
We may not be hearing from alien civilizations because they're trapped within icy worlds. In a conference presentation this week, Alan Stern argued that the prevalence of icy ocean worlds in our solar system suggests that most life beyond Earth might live in oceans kilometers below the surface, and thus aren't transmitting radio waves that would be detected by SETI efforts. For those civilizations, he said, the equivalent of a "space program" might be drilling through that icy crust to reach the surface. (10/20)
As Paris Climate Goals Recede, Geoengineering Looms Larger (Source: Space Daily)
90 percent of projections in the UN climate science panel's most recent report that would keep the planet under the 2 C threshold depend heavily on such "negative emissions". (The others assume greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2010, when in fact they are still climbing.)
One of two broad categories under the geoengineering umbrella, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) schemes include "enhanced weathering" of rocks that soak up CO2; large-scale production of charcoal from organic waste; sequestering CO2 cast off from burning biofuel plants; and sucking carbon dioxide directly from the air with high-tech machines.
Even the massive planting of trees -- which store CO2 as they grow -- is seen as part of the "CDR" arsenal. The other, far more controversial approach to climate engineering, known as solar radiation management, would deflect enough sunlight back into space to cool the planet a degree or two. (10/16)
Satellite Data Show Largest CO2 Increase Comes From Earth’s Tropics (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Data collected by NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, launched in 2014 to measure changing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) worldwide, indicates that Earth's tropics have been the largest sources of recent CO2 emissions.
OCO-2 measured record CO2 increases in 2015 and 2016, which coincided with one of the largest ever El Niño events. El Niño is a cyclic phenomenon in which a band of warm ocean water develops in the central and eastern equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean and impacts weather globally. (10/16)
Satellite Access Needs Policy Attention Too (Source: Space News)
The president of a rideshare company says that U.S. policy needs to support not just the launch industry but the satellite industry as well. In an interview, Curt Blake, president of Spaceflight, said that policy debates have to avoid protecting the U.S. launch industry at the expense of the U.S. small satellite industry, which has often struggled to find rides to orbit. These debates involve access to India's PSLV rocket, which has become a major player in the smallsat secondary payload market, but for which U.S. companies need a regulatory waiver. The company says that the development of dedicated smallsat launchers will be good in the long run, providing additional options for its customers. (10/17)
Florida Republican Candidate Believes Aliens Abducted Her at 7 Years Old, and Still Talk to Her (Source: Newsweek)
A Republican congressional candidate in Florida claimed in a 2009 interview she was abducted by aliens who revealed to her stunning secrets about Earth and still communicate with her telepathically. The candidate, Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, is aiming to follow Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, in representing Florida’s 27th congressional district. As has been the case with other politicians, some of her past words and actions are coming under scrutiny.
She said she encountered three aliens who resembled the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. They told her that a cave in the country of Malta contained 30,000 skulls that were not human and that the world’s “energy center” lies in Africa. Rodriguez Aguilera is now attempting to dispel potential damage to her campaign by saying former leaders and highly intelligent people have made similar claims. (10/16)
Close Encounters With Congress? (Source: NPR)
A congressional candidate in Florida drew a little ridicule this week. Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, one of the Republicans in the crowded field in Florida's 27th Congressional District, said in 2009 that she was taken aboard a spaceship when she was 7 years old. She does not mean at Disney World.
Aguilera says she met three beings aboard the ship, two women and a man, all blond and tall, which sounds a little like the Swedish pop group ABBA. She says that their arms were outstretched, like the Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio, and that the beings have communicated with her ever since, telepathically. (10/21)
From Skylab to Shuttle to the Smithsonian (Source: Space Review)
When NASA transitioned from the Skylab program to the space shuttle, once piece of Skylab hardware almost found new life. Dwayne Day describes studies on adapting instrument hardware for the shuttle, and how that hardware made its way instead to the National Air and Space Museum. Click here. (10/16)
Discovery Plans Space Documentary for NASA Anniversary (Source: RealScreen)
A member of the Kennedy family is producing a documentary about NASA in time for the agency's 60th anniversary. Rory Kennedy, daughter of Ethel and Robert Kennedy, will produce and also narrate Above & Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow, a documentary looking at both the history of NASA and its future plans. Kennedy, whose previous work includes the Oscar-nominated Last Days of Vietnam, said this film is "more of a personal essay, which allows me and thereby the viewer to jump around some of the extraordinary highlights of NASA." Discovery plans to air the film next June. (10/17)
Lego’s Official ‘Women of NASA’ Set Goes On Sale November 1 (Source: TechCrunch)
Lego has a new set that originated by a member of its Lego Ideas fan-sourced creation platform: The Women of NASA, a package that includes NASA pioneers Nancy Grace Roman, Margeret Hamilton, Sally Ride and Mae Jamison, as well as a space shuttle model, the Hubble telescope and display stands for all. The Lego set was originally proposed by MIT News deputy editor Maia Weinstock on the Ideas platform last year, and quickly made its way to the 10,000 mark needed for official project approval by Lego. (10/18)
Snelling Helped Finance Commercial Spaceport at VAFB California (Source: Santa Maria Times)
Alaska senator Ted Stevens had put $10 million into the 1994 Air Force budget to encourage the development of commercial space programs. Our team won a $2.35 million grant to start our spaceport at Vandenberg. But we had to have $450,000 in our possession to receive this award.
Bill said he would lend us that from his bank under certain conditions, and the Air Force office agreed that it would satisfy their requirements for private investment - so for two minutes I had a check for $450,000 in my hands and then sent that amount to my subsidiary, the for-profit California Commercial Spaceport Inc. development company to be headed by Earl Severo. Click here. (10/18)
54 Years Since the First Cat in Space (Source: EuroNews)
Fifty-four years ago today, the first cat set paw in space. Félicette was launched from a base in the Sahara desert aboard the rocket Véronique AVI – V47. After a 12 minute flight, including five minutes of weightlessness she returned to earth, safe and sound not far from the launchpad.
Her history is much less well known than that of Laïka who became the first dog in space in 1957. Félicette was chosen from a cohort of around a dozen astrocats after a rigorous session of training and tests including a spin in a centrifuge. Just a few days after the launch an attempt to repeat the experiment ended in tragedy when the lone feline occupant of another rocket died when the craft crashed to earth shortly after takeoff. (10/18)
Moon Express Hires Government Affairs VP (Source: Moon Express)
Moon Express has hired Ben Roberts as its Vice President of Government Affairs. Roberts will oversee legal, policy, regulatory, and compliance functions for the company. He brings over nine years of experience working for the Executive Office of the President, including roles at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Roberts was most recently the Assistant Director, Civil and Commercial Space, for OSTP, where he led the design and implementation of civil and commercial space policies and initiatives on behalf of the Executive Office of the President. (10/18)
Investors Say Orbital Withheld Info On $9.2B Northrop Deal (Source: Law360)
Stockholders of aerospace and defense contractor Orbital ATK Inc. filed a putative class action Monday in Virginia federal court to stop a proposed $9.2 billion sale of the company to Northrop Grumman, saying shareholders have been left in the dark regarding key aspects of the sale. (10/17)
Google Says a Third of C-Band Dishes Registered with the FCC Aren’t Used (Source: Space News)
Earth-observation data shows that one in three C-band satellite dishes registered with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission either don’t exist or aren’t in use, a spectrum official at Google said last week.
The number of unregistered C-band dishes dwarfs that of registered dishes, according to fleet operator Intelsat, but the paucity of hard data on how heavily C-band is truly used is a recognized irritation to the FCC and other telecom regulatory agencies.
Presenting information that could factor heavily into the commission’s decision-making on how to expand the use of C-band, Andrew Clegg, spectrum engineering lead at Google, said Oct. 13 that the company found numerous dishes were absent at database-listed coordinates, either having been removed or having never existed in the first place. (10/19)
Some Support at FCC for C-Band Sharing (Source: Space News)
An FCC commissioner has offered support for an industry proposal for sharing C-band spectrum between satellite and terrestrial users. At a conference Friday, Michael O'Rielly said the joint proposal by Intel and Intelsat was "very beneficial" and "provides one mechanism to look at closely." That proposal would allow satellite operators to clear out parts of C-band spectrum desired by terrestrial wireless companies for 5G services on a case-by-case basis, with the wireless providers compensating the satellite operators for moving customers to different bands. (10/16)
Will General Dynamics Buy Harris? (Source: Space News)
Speculation has swirled around the industry for a while. General Dynamics has a lot of cash and Harris Corp. is one of the few remaining mid-cap, pure-play defense companies focused on defense electronics and space. Strategically it does make some sense. But financially it doesn’t, at least not now. Harris at this moment is too expensive. GD executives have publicly commented about “not doing dumb deals.” Things could change if Harris’ price drops. (10/17)
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