December 3, 2018
Space Florida in Deal with Small Rocket Company Could Bring New Launch Business and Jobs to Spaceport (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida is getting closer to completing a deal with a secret rocket launch company that will bring an estimated 239 jobs to the Space Coast. Space Florida’s Board of Directors approved a request to finalize negotiations with an undisclosed company under code name “Project Maricopa” Tuesday. Because of the competition involved in the deal, Space Florida will not reveal the name of the company until terms are complete.
Under the planned deal, the Florida Dept of Transportation will reimburse 50% of what the company spends on common infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, up to $18.9 million. In exchange, the company will invest $52 million in Florida. The 239 jobs will have an average wage of $70,000, plus benefits. The deal would include launch services at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport’s launch complex 20 and a manufacturing facility at Exploration Park, the state-run complex near Kennedy Space Center. (11/28)
Florida's Once-Struggling Space Coast Booms from Aerospace, Defense Firms (Source: UPI)
The economy of Florida's Space Coast is getting a boost from space and defense companies that are bringing back high-paying tech jobs to an area hit hard by the 2008 recession and the 2011 retirement of NASA's space shuttle program. The shuttle retirement resulted in the loss of nearly 10,000 jobs. The economic hemorrhage came at a time when Brevard County was still reeling from the 2008 recession. When the final shuttle, Atlantis, was retired, unemployment in Brevard County was about 12 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 9.1 percent. All economic indicators showed a significant downturn, including drops in home-building and consumer spending.
However, over the past few years, Brevard County has seen all those downturns reverse. Between October 2010 and September 2017, 49 new private projects were announced on Florida's Space Coast, according to data from the Space Coast Economic Development Commission. The EDC estimates that total investment came up to $1.68 billion with an economic impact of nearly $2.5 billion, which led to 8,718 new jobs, as well as more than 7,000 retained jobs. Although government agencies like NASA gave the Space Coast its moniker, it is largely private space companies and defense companies with lucrative government contracts that have accounted for the current growth.
Vehicle manufacturing, as well as satellite and missile production, has been carried out by a slew of companies, ranging from American defense giant Lockheed Martin to German aerospace firm RUAG, leading to a more diverse aerospace economy than in the past. Dale Ketcham at Space Florida said diversifying the area's aerospace economy away from a reliance on government agencies was a "conscientious effort" by state and federal delegations ever since the announcement of the shuttle retirement in 2004. Click here. (11/26)
Lockheed Martin's Growth Frenzy in Orlando Bodes Well for Local Economy, Smaller Firms (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Lockheed Martin expects to grow in Orlando at a rapid rate within the next five years, adding hundreds of workers -- an increase expected to create a ripple effect in the region. Orange County commissioners on Nov. 13 approved a $5.2 million incentive agreement for Lockheed Martin to create 750 jobs paying an average annual salary of $92,848 at its Missiles & Fire Control facility in southwest Orlando. (11/16)
Maine Considers Spaceport (Source: AP)
Maine is the latest state to show an interest in developing a spaceport. The concept under study by the Maine Technology Institute and the Maine Space Grant Consortium would turn the former Loring Air Force Base into a launch site, with mission control across the state at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. The facilities would focus on launches of small vehicles, and ongoing studies will examine the feasibility of such a spaceport and the market for it. "It does sound crazy, but why not?" asked Terry Shehata of the Maine Space Grant Consortium. "Why not see if people can get excited about investing in a new space economy that would be the tide that raises all boats?" (11/26)
FCC Application Reveals SpaceX Plans at Texas Launch Site (Source: Space News)
An FCC license application has offered new insights into plans by SpaceX to test its next-generation launch vehicle. The application for an experimental communications license, filed by SpaceX with the FCC last week, discussed plans to test an unnamed vertical takeoff, vertical landing vehicle at its South Texas launch site under development. The tests would involve a mix of low-altitude tests, flying to no more than 500 meters before landing, and high-altitude tests, where it would go to as high as 5,000 meters. SpaceX is also seeking an experimental permit from the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation for the flights. The application doesn't name the vehicle, but SpaceX previously said it plans to perform "hop" tests of what it now calls Starship at its Texas site starting late next year. (11/26)
Report Recommends New Approach for FAA Launch Licensing (Source: Space News)
A report recommends that the FAA adopt a streamlined approach to launch licensing. The report by APT Research Inc. suggests the government could attain the same level of public safety it achieves today through hundreds of pages of federal regulations by auditing a company's own safety program. That concept puts the onus on the applicant to prove their planned operations offer the same level of public safety as the prescriptive approach. The FAA is currently working on proposed rules for streamlining launch regulations, with a Feb. 1 deadline for publishing that draft set by Space Policy Directive 2. (11/26)
Former Air Force Space Wing Commander Appointed to Lead FAA Space Office (Source: FAA)
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao today announced Wayne R. Monteith has been appointed to the position of Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the FAA. Monteith’s appointment is effective January 20, 2019. Monteith is a proven aerospace leader with nearly 30 years of planning and managing activities to integrate Department of Defense, civil, commercial, and intelligence community space capabilities. Monteith is a recently retired US Air Force Brigadier General who previously served as the Commander, 45th Space Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida and led operations for the busiest and most successful spaceport in the world. (11/29)
Branson Says Virgin Galactic Will Take People to Space Before Christmas (Source: CNN)
Richard Branson says Virgin Galactic is on the verge of a major achievement: It will send astronauts into space by Christmas. The billionaire entrepreneur told CNN Business' Rachel Crane this week he is "pretty confident" his space tourism venture can achieve its milestone by the end of the year. "We have a brilliant group of astronauts who literally believe 100% in the project, and give it their everything," he said.
The first few trips to space will be flown by test pilots without anyone else on board. Branson says he will be the first passenger. Eventually, paying tourists will also make the trip. "I'm not allowed up until the [test pilots] have broken it in a few times, first," he said. "I would love to have gone on this very [first] flight, but [pilots] are incredibly brave people." (11/30)
Virgin Galactic to Launch Crewed Flights to Space Out of Spaceport America (Source: KVIA)
Virgin Galactic, the main tenant at Spaceport America in New Mexico, may be flying humans into space before Christmas. The spaceport sits north of Las Cruces and has seen hundreds of vertical launches but no commercial flights yet from Virgin Galactic. The remaining 2018 flights will be crewed, but it won’t be tourists yet. They’re still moving forward with their testing phases before commercial flights take off from Spaceport America.
Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Galactic, said Friday morning the company was on track to send humans to space, but it will still be test pilots running operations out of the Mojave Spaceport in California. “They’ll finish their performance flights, their reliability flights out of Mojave, they’ll finish all their testing they need to do there and get their certification from the FAA to take humans into space,” said Dan Hicks, the Spaceport America CEO. (11/30)
| Morgan Stanley Says 2019 Could 'Be the Year for Space' (Source: CNBC)
Many on Wall Street are busy publishing 2019 market estimates but Morgan Stanley's added an outlook on the space industry. "We expect industry / technological milestones and capital formation will up the ante starting in 2019," Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas wrote in a note to investors. Jonas, along with other Morgan Stanley analysts, repeated the firm's previous stance that the majority of investors "view the space economy as having little, if any, relevance to their portfolio," he said. But Morgan Stanley has been telling clients to pay attention to space companies and will be hosting a "Space Summit" next month to prepare investors. (11/30)
Small Satellites Flying High with $37 Billion Market and 6,500 Satellites to Launch by 2027 (Source: NSR)
A new study forecasts the market to yield $37 billion in cumulative revenues from smallsat manufacturing and launch services by 2027, with 6,500 smallsats set to launch during this time. Constellations will be the dominating factor of this growth, making up over 70% of the total market. While growth is anticipated across all applications, communications will drive the largest share of revenues, with some of the largest constellations planned in this segment. (11/28)
Dedicated Microsat Rideshare Falcon 9 Launch Raises Satellite Tracking Concerns (Source: Space News)
As SpaceX prepares to launch a Falcon 9 carrying dozens of small satellites, some experts are worried that it will be difficult to track and identify the satellites once in orbit. The Falcon 9 flying the SSO-A mission for Spaceflight Industries is currently scheduled to launch Dec. 2 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch, once scheduled for Nov. 19, was delayed first by additional inspections of the Falcon 9 and then by poor weather at the launch site.
The number of satellites on the mission has changed, with the company reporting earlier this year more than 70 satellites would be on the mission. Christie Melby, a spokesperson representing Spaceflight, confirmed the payload for the mission changed from 71 to 64 satellites. “Manifests can change leading up to the launch for a variety of reasons, including payloads not being ready, the right licensing not being secured, etc.,” she said Nov. 27, adding the company had no plans to publish a final manifest of payloads on the launch. (11/30)
India Plans to Launch 30 Microsatellites Along with HysIS Satellite (Source: PTI)
India plans to launch a cluster of small satellites late Wednesday. A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is scheduled to launch at about 11 p.m. Eastern Wednesday from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. The primary payload is HysIS, a hyperspectral imaging satellite. It is also carrying 30 small satellites as secondary payloads, including small satellites for Planet, Spire and other companies. (11/27)
India Launches 31 Satellites on PSLV (Source: PTI)
India successfully launched 31 satellites overnight. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) lifted off on schedule from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 11:28 p.m. Eastern. It initially deployed its primary payload, the HysIS hyperspectral imaging satellite, then maneuvered to a lower orbit to deploy 30 smallsat secondary payloads, including satellites for BlackSky, Planet, Spire and a number of other smallsat startups. (11/29)
Fewer Variants for Newer Rockets (Source: Space News)
Launch companies are reducing the number of vehicle options to lower their costs. United Launch Alliance once offered 41 different versions of its Atlas and Delta rockets, changing the payload fairing, upper stage and number of strap-on boosters. The company has reduced that number to 18, and will ultimately have only four versions of the Vulcan Centaur when it enters service in the 2020s. Blue Origin, meanwhile, will fly only a single version of its New Glenn rocket, saying that the cost savings through such standardization makes it worth even launching the rocket half-empty. (11/29)
Small Launch Vehicle Industry Entering Key Period (Source: Space News)
The next two years will be a key period for the small launch vehicle industry as several companies prepare for first flights of their vehicles and try to find their niche in a market of uncertain size. During a panel discussion at the SpaceCom Expo here Nov. 27, representatives of three small launch vehicle developers said they expected to carry out their first orbital launches in the next year with hopes of quickly scaling up to meet demand they expect from government and commercial customers.
“We see the next two years as being really critical for this industry,” said Stephen Eisele, vice president for business development at Virgin Orbit. “2019 is going to be a year where we’re going to finally start seeing these commercial smallsat dedicated launch vehicles come to the fore and start launching more regularly, proving business cases for the smallsat market.” Click here. (11/28)
Firefly, Vector, Virgin Orbit Plan 2019 Orbital Launch Debuts (Source: Space News)
Three small launch vehicle companies say they're planning first orbital launches next year. During a panel session at the SpaceCom Expo Tuesday in Houston, representatives of Firefly Aerospace, Vector and Virgin Orbit said they expected to make their first launches to orbit in 2019, ranging from early in the year for Virgin Orbit to December 2019 for Firefly. The companies argued that, amid concerns about too many launch vehicles chasing too few satellites, that their vehicles are complementary, serving different parts of the smallsat market. They are also exploring other ways to differentiate themselves, from suborbital launch services to the development of an orbital transfer vehicle. (11/27)
Russia Launches Rockot Rocket (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
A Russian Rockot rocket launched three military satellites Thursday night. The Rockot lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia at 9:27 p.m. Eastern and placed three Rodnik communications satellites into low Earth orbit. The launch is expected to be one of the last for the Rockot, a converted SS-19 ICBM. (11/30)
South Korea Tests Small Launcher Engine (Source: Yonhap)
South Korea successfully tested an engine to be used on a small launch vehicle it is developing. The engine powered a suborbital rocket that lifted off Wednesday from the Naro Space Center. The engine fired for 151 seconds, exceeding the goal of 140 seconds, and sent the rocket to a peak altitude of more than 200 kilometers before splashing down nearly 430 kilometers downrange. The engine tested on that flight will be used on South Korea's KSLV-2 launch vehicle, expected to make its first flight in 2021. (11/29)
Spain's PLD Plans Larger Small Rocket (Source: Space News)
A Spanish startup has made a small launch vehicle it is designing a little bigger. PLD Space said its Miura 5 rocket, formerly known as Arion 2, will now be able to place 300 kilograms into a sun-synchronous orbit, double its original capacity. The change came as a result of an ESA review of the vehicle, part a 300,000-euro contract awarded to the company by the agency. PLD Space says Miura 5 will perform its first launch in the third quarter of 2021. (11/29)
2019 Shaping Up to be a Big Year for SpaceX (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
SpaceX is on pace to break its activity record this year with 20 total launches, two more than 2017. But if you think this year was a big deal for SpaceX, 2019 will be huge -- and Florida's Space Coast will benefit from that added work. The company launches from the Space Coast more than anywhere else, helping the egion secure a bigger slice of the $330 billion global space industry.
Two Falcon Heavy launches are planned in 2019 in Florida. SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule will launch twice, once in an uncrewed January test and then with astronauts in June. And SpaceX plans to begin sending its Starlink satellites into space next year. (11/26)
Falcon 9 Booster Could Be First to Launch From All 3 Company Pads (Source: Teslarati)
A week after its original launch target, SpaceX launch engineers and technicians appear to have completed an additional suite of preflight checks that triggered an unusually long delay from November 19 to November 28. As a sort of happy accident, the mission – a Spaceflight Industries rideshare carrying ~64 satellites – will not only be the first time SpaceX has launched a given Falcon 9 booster three times, but it will also become the first time SpaceX has launched the same Falcon 9 booster from all three of the company’s orbital launch facilities.
Likely a matter of caution over expediency, that extra time was used to make sure that the mission’s twice-flown Falcon 9 B1046 booster is as ready as possible for its third launch, a subtle but absolutely critical milestone for Falcon 9 reusability. More importantly, from an operational standpoint, this is something that the company has simply never attempted, meaning that while it’s similar in concept to the numerous booster reuses SpaceX engineers and technicians have already pulled off, every aspect of B1046’s refurbishment and preparation for another launch is new territory for all. (11/27)
SpaceX Fairing Recovery Vessel Mr. Steven’s Owner Abruptly Files for Bankruptcy (Source: Teslarati)
The legal owners of SpaceX’s sole fairing recovery vessel are in dire financial straits, signaled by business owner Steven Miguez’s decision to file for bankruptcy as a last chance of protecting Seatran Marine, a company which owns and leases eight utility vessels known as crew boats.
Mr. Steven, leased by SpaceX in late 2017, is one of those crew boats, although he has since been dramatically modified to support a series of consecutively larger arms, nets, and other various components in hopes of eventually catching Falcon 9 payload fairings out of the air. While there is most likely no serious risk of SpaceX actually losing access to Mr. Steven, this development still raises the question of what will happen to the ship in the near and more distant future. (11/29)
How SpaceX Will Conduct an Inflight Abort Test for Crew Dragon (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The FAA has published its draft environmental assessment for issuing a launch license for SpaceX’s upcoming in-flight abort test for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The abort test is currently scheduled for 2019. The abort test would involve observation, photography, and debris management associated with the breakup of the Falcon 9 first and second stages.
The launch scenario where an abort is initiated during the ascent trajectory at the maximum dynamic pressure (known as max Q) is a design driver for the launch abort system. It dictates the highest thrust and minimum relative acceleration required between Falcon 9 and the aborting Dragon. As the in‐flight abort would occur during the first stage portion of the launch trajectory, the second stage of Falcon 9 would be simplified.
The abort test would start with a nominal launch countdown and release at T-0. The Falcon 9 with the Dragon attached would follow a standard ISS trajectory with the exception of launch azimuth to approximately Mach 1. The Falcon 9 would be configured to shut down and terminate thrust, targeting the abort test shutdown condition (simulating a loss of thrust scenario). Dragon would then autonomously detect and issue an abort command, which would initiate the nominal startup sequence of Dragon’s SuperDraco engine system. (11/28)
NASA Program to Launch Astronauts to Space Station Facing Delays But 2019 Still On Target (Source: USA Today)
NASA Administrator James Bridenstine said he still expects astronauts will fly from U.S. soil to the International Space Station by the end of next year even though an uncrewed test flight scheduled for Jan. 7 now could slip into the spring.
Bridenstine's acknowledgment that January is a "very low probability" window is the first time the agency has publicly cast doubt on the timing of the scheduled launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The test flight of the SpaceX rocket and capsule is a key step in NASA's efforts to resume U.S. transport to Earth's orbit nearly a decade after the space shuttle was mothballed.
The administrator attributed the delay to challenges with several components, including landing parachutes. Some of those systems could be tested without flying them on the initial flight. It's a matter of determining "what configuration are we willing to accept as an agency and are we willing to waive certain items (and) how do we test those items," Bridenstine told reporters at NASA headquarters. (12/1)
Bridenstine Ordered Commercial Crew Safety Review After Musk Tokes (Sources: The Atlantic, Space Policy Online)
Bridenstine also says he personally ordered the safety reviews at Boeing and SpaceX revealed last week. He said the appearance by SpaceX's Elon Musk on a podcast where he briefly smoked marijuana and drank whiskey "was not helpful, and that did not inspire confidence," arguing that the leaders of companies need to set an example given the importance of their job launching NASA astronauts. He added, though, that he planned to seek a safety review even before Musk's podcast, saying safety issues in general were on his mind after reading the accident investigation reports for Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia. (11/30)
Bridenstine Casts Doubt on SpaceX Jan. 7 Target for Dragon Test Flight (Source: USA Today)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is skeptical SpaceX will be able to fly its first commercial crew demonstration mission in January. While NASA announced last a week a target date of Jan. 7 for the uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, Bridenstine told a small group of reporters Thursday that the mission could slip until spring because of issues with the spacecraft's parachutes. Despite the potential delay, he said he still expected SpaceX and Boeing to be able to perform their uncrewed and crewed test flights before the end of the year. (11/30)
Karika Picked as NASA Chief of Staff (Source: Twitter @JimBridenstine)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has selected a new chief of staff. Janet Karika is a former Air Force officer with extensive expertise in space transportation and space policy, including work supporting NASA's Launch Services Program and serving on the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. She succeeds Tom Cremins, who had been serving as acting chief of staff as well as associate administrator for strategy and plans. He will now be associate administrator for strategic engagement and assessments. (11/28)
NASA Chief Says US Within 10 Years of Continuous Manned Presence on Moon (Source: The Hill)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says the U.S. is within 10 years of having a continuous manned presence on the moon, which will lay the groundwork for expanding space exploration to Mars. “Right now we’re building a space station, we call it ‘Gateway,’ that’s going to be in orbit around the moon — think of it as a reusable command module where we can have human presence in orbit around the moon. From there we want reusable landers that go back and forth to the surface of the moon,” Bridenstine told Hill.TV’s Jamal Simmons and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”
“We think we can achieve this in about 10 years, the idea being prove the capability, retire the risk, prove the human physiology and then go on to Mars,” he continued. Bridenstine joined “Rising” to detail NASA’s plans to partner with nine U.S. companies to travel to the moon, a key component of NASA’s plan to extend human space exploration. The administrator said he hopes to drive innovation by creating a commercial marketplace called the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program (CLIPS). (11/29)
Cabana: How We're Going Back to the Moon (Source: Florida Today)
It’s time to go back to the moon. Why? Because the moon is the first small step in exploring Mars and beyond. What we learn on the moon is essential to the future of space exploration. The moon provides an opportunity to test new tools, instruments and equipment that could be used on Mars. That includes human habitats, life support systems, and technologies and practices that could help us build a permanent self-sustaining presence off Earth.
Kennedy Space Center is the world’s preeminent launch complex for government and commercial access to space, enabling the world to explore and work in space. Missions to and beyond the moon will launch from the Space Coast. As a multi-user spaceport, Kennedy offers the infrastructure and services to accommodate a myriad of space industry partners. Click here. (11/30)
NASA Announces 9 Private Partners for Return to the Moon (Source: Inverse)
NASA is launching a new effort to encourage private businesses in the United States to get into space. In Washington D.C. Thursday, leaders at the space agency announced that nine privately owned companies will be able bid on contracts to deliver supplies to the moon. And industry sources tell Inverse that this news is just the start of something much larger.
The space companies announced Thursday are: Astrobotic Technology, Pittsburgh; Deep Space Systems, Colorado; Draper, Massachusetts; Firefly Aerospace, Texas; Intuitive Machines, Houston; Lockheed Martin Space, Colorado; Masten Space Systems, California; Moon Express, Cape Canaveral, Florida; and Orbit Beyond, New Jersey. (11/29)
China Prepares for Lunar Launch on Dec. 7 (Source: GB Times)
A Chinese tracking ship has left port to support the upcoming launch of China's next lunar mission. The Yuanwang 7 space tracking vessel is headed to a point in the Pacific to provide downrange communications during the launch of the Chang'e-4 spacecraft, expected to take place Dec. 7. That robotic spacecaft will travel to the moon and attempt a landing on the lunar farside around the beginning of 2019. (11/27)
Russia Plans Moon Base by 2040 (Source: TASS)
Russia's long-term plans for lunar exploration include a base on the moon by 2040. The plan, discussed at a meeting Wednesday between Roscosmos and the Russian Academy of Sciences, involves first testing technologies on the International Space Station and robotic missions to and around the moon. The first Russian landing on the moon with people would take place "after 2030" with development of a base to follow after 2035. Roscosmos did not disclose an estimated cost of the plan. (11/29)
There Are No Russians There… (Source: Space Review)
Russian plans for a series of lunar missions, including sample return, have faced delays, even as other countries press ahead with their own lunar ambitions. Dwayne Day describes how this is a sign of the implosion of the Russian planetary exploration program. Click here. (11/26)
Russia's Roscosmos Space Agency Suffers 'Systemic Legal Violations' (Source: TASS)
Russian prosecutors said they've found "systemic legal violations" by the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos. A spokesman for the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said investigations have turned up 1,700 violations in 2017 and the first half of 2018. The violations include issues regarding procurement and improper conduct of research and development work. That investigation has resulted in 16 criminal cases, but no specific Roscosmos officials were identified as having violated laws. (11/27)
All Systems Go as Russia's Soyuz Aims to Erase Space Failures (Source: BBC)
Soyuz launch number 138 should be as routine as it gets for space flight. The next crew are due to lift off on Monday heading for the International Space Station (ISS) from the same launch pad Yury Gagarin used in 1961 on his historic first flight into orbit. But two months ago an accident on the last Soyuz launch sent the Russian and American astronauts hurtling back to Earth.
Shortly before that, the crew on the ISS had discovered a mysterious hole - located after air pressure on the Station began to drop, and successfully plugged. Both incidents have raised questions about the state of Russia's space industry - once the great pride of a Superpower - and the future of cosmic co-operation with the US.
Investigators have pinned the blame for the failed launch on a faulty sensor on the Soyuz. The head of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, told the BBC it was damaged during assembly when "two cranes collided". "Our task is to take steps to ensure that doesn't happen again," said Dmitry Rogozin. He and his NASA counterparts say they are confident in the coming mission. (12/1)
SpaceX Has a Bold Timeline for Getting to Mars and Starting a Colony (Source: Inverse)
Elon Musk wants to send humans to Mars, and it could happen as soon as 2024. The SpaceX CEO has outlined a plan to get people to the red planet, with bold visions of refueling rockets to “planet hop” and explore the furthest reaches of the solar system.
Many plans for a Mars settlement expect a community in matters of decades. The United Arab Emirates aims for a city of 600,000 by 2117. Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell told Inverse last month that “while the first human mission to land on Mars will likely take place in the next two decades, it will probably be more like 50-100 years before substantial numbers of people have moved to Mars to live in self-sustaining towns.” SpaceX is aiming for a much, much faster timeframe. Click here. (11/28)
Small Steps for Space Settlement (Source: Space Review)
Advances in space transportation have given some space advocates renewed hope about the prospect of permanent space settlements. Jeff Foust reports on a recent meeting that eagerly tackled the technical issues while offering fewer insights on the economics or rationales for living in space. Click here. (11/26)
3D Printed Body Parts Being Studied for Future Astronauts (Source: Room)
It is now becoming increasingly commonplace to build rockets from parts made from additive manufacturing, but could a different type of 3D printing involving the human body soon be the new normal for keeping astronauts alive on long duration flights beyond low Earth orbit? Heading to the International Space Station (ISS) in December, is an experiment that gives body-building a whole new meaning.
Due for delivery onboard a Soyuz MS-11 manned transportation spacecraft set for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, is a copy of an Organ-Avt bioprinter – a device used to grow living tissue. The printer, a version of which could one day 3D print organs, is part of an experiment devised by a Russian start-up bio-technical research laboratory known as 3D Bioprinting Solutions and it will be the world's first experiment on printing organ tissue in space.
The experiment was bound for the ISS last month, but the aborted launch of the Soyuz-FG booster that was carrying it, resulted in the printer coming to an abrupt end as it was jettisoned from the habitation module before the spacecraft plummeted back to Earth. The original program was comprised of 56 experiments, including the growth of small 2-3 millimeter samples of human cartilage tissue and the thyroid gland of a rodent from a hydrogel-based material. (11/23)
There's Drug-Resistant Bacteria in the Space Toilets, Guys (Source: Space.com)
Cleaning a toilet in space is no more fun than cleaning one on Earth, but it can lead to more interesting surprises. Case in point: NASA scientists have discovered four previously unknown strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria lurking in the loos aboard the International Space Station (ISS). In a new study published Nov. 23 in the journal BMC Microbiology, a team led by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California analyzed several bacterial samples collected from around the ISS in 2015.
That included four samples from the lavatory's waste and hygiene compartment. In these four space-toilet samples, plus one sample taken from the foot platform of a piece of resistance-training exercise equipment, the researchers identified five previously unknown strains of Enterobacter bacteria — a genus with high resistance to antibiotics that often infects hospital patients who have compromised immune systems. (11/30)
Embry-Riddle Student-Designed Spacecraft Aims to Aid Planetary Exploration (Source: ERAU)
A self-directed spacecraft rotates on a platform inside a glass enclosed test chamber in the Engineering Physics Propulsion Lab in the College of Arts & Sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Nearby, a student wearing a virtual reality headset maneuvers a 3D digital version of the spacecraft through a simulated Martian atmosphere.
This fully autonomous, early-stage spacecraft prototype is just one of the projects under development in the lab, which is funded by industrial sponsor Jay D’Amico, CEO and owner of several industrial companies in Louisiana and Texas and through grants from the College of Arts & Sciences (COAS) and the College of Engineering at the Daytona Beach Campus. A recent NASA subcontract also has students studying steam-powered propulsion for near–planet spacecraft. Click here. (11/30)
Asteroid-Sampling Mission Zeroes In on Tiny Space Rock (Source: Nature)
For the second time this year, a spacecraft is about to partner with an asteroid in an intimate dance. In June, the Japanese mission Hayabusa2 arrived at the 1-kilometer-wide asteroid Ryugu, from whose dusty surface it aims to scoop a sample early next year. On 3 December, the NASA spacecraft OSIRIS-REx will reach an even tinier space rock, named Bennu, in pursuit of the same goal.
OSIRIS-REx will spend the next few weeks buzzing over Bennu’s poles and equator, gathering information to estimate its mass. On 31 December the probe will move even closer to its target — and the 500-meter-wide, diamond-shaped Bennu will become one of the smallest planetary objects ever orbited by a spacecraft. In July 2020, OSIRIS-REx will lower itself all the way to Bennu’s surface, stick out a robotic arm and suction up at least 60 grams of asteroid dirt to bring home. If the dirt arrives on Earth in 2023 as planned, it will be the largest planetary sample retrieved since the last Apollo astronauts departed the Moon in 1972. (11/29)
Mars: A Case Study in Space Law (Source: Space Review)
The second season of the television series Mars pits scientists against private interests on the Red Planet. Dennis O’Brien says the new series offers an opportunity to examine issues in space law raised by that clash. Click here. (11/26)
NASA Curiosity Rover Investigates Shiny Object on Mars (Source: C/Net)
Mars is a dusty place, so when something shiny shows up, it stands out. NASA's Curiosity team posted an update to its mission blog on Wednesday with a lovely look at a shiny lump sitting on the planet's surface. The target of Curiosity's curiosity is nicknamed "Little Colonsay" and it looks like a small nugget. The rover's ChemCam captured a close-up view of the object on Monday. "The planning team thinks it might be a meteorite because it is so shiny," writes Curiosity team member Susanne Schwenzer. "But looks can deceive, and proof will only come from the chemistry." (11/29)
InSight Lands on Mars After Another 'Seven Minutes of Terror' (Source: Space News)
NASA's InSight spacecraft successfully landed on Mars Monday. The spacecraft landed in the Elysium Planitia region near the Martian equator at 2:53 p.m. Eastern. Confirmation that the spacecraft's two solar arrays had unfolded and were generating power came about seven hours after landing. The spacecraft is in good condition, officials said, and in a location that appears to be ideal for its scientific mission. Spacecraft controllers will spend the next few months scouting out locations near the spacecraft to place its two main instruments, a seismometer and heat flow probe, and then deploy them. InSight has a two-year prime mission to study the structure and composition of the interior of Mars. (11/27)
MarCO Success Validates Use of Cubesats on Deep Space Missions (Source: Space News)
The success a pair of cubesats achieved in relaying telemetry from NASA’s InSight Mars lander demonstrates that such spacecraft can play increasing roles in future deep space missions, spacecraft designers believe. The twin Mars Cube One, or MarCO, cubesats launched as secondary payloads with the InSight spacecraft in May and flew by Mars as InSight landed on the planet. The cubesats, intended primarily as technology demonstrations, were designed to provide a realtime relay of telemetry from InSight during landing, without which it would have been hours before controllers knew if the spacecraft had landed successfully. (11/26)
|Trump Claims He Has 'Reawakened' NASA After Years-Long Mars Mission Makes Landing (Source: Space.com)
President Trump mentioned the InSight landing, and Space Force, at a campaign rally Monday. Trump, in Mississippi to campaign for Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) ahead of a runoff election Tuesday, mentioned the landing in a rally. "They were celebrating at NASA. We have reawakened NASA, and that's a good thing," he said. Trump also mentioned plans to create a Space Force and his support of private sector efforts to develop new rockets. "Just make sure you have an American flag on the rocket." (11/27)
White House Considers Space Force Alternatives (Source: Defense One)
The White House is reportedly studying alternatives to an independent Space Force. In a memo a month ago, the White House requested the Pentagon look at not just establishing a Space Force as an independent military branch but also the "Space Corps" concept, which would remain a part of the Air Force but, in one option, incorporate space-related elements of the Army and Navy. The memo may have been triggered by White House concerns that Congress would reject creating a standalone Space Force. Vice President Mike Pence and Patrick Shanahan, the deputy secretary of defense, are expected to discuss this issue at a meeting today. (11/29)
Space Force Plan Moving Ahead with White House Memo (Source: Politico)
Another White House memo suggests the administration is moving ahead with plans for a Space Force. A draft directive, dated Nov. 19, calls for the formation of a Department of the Space Force within the Defense Department on an equal standing with other military branches. The Space Force would include parts of the Air Force and other services that handle space activities, but not the National Reconnaissance Office. The creation of a Space Force would require congressional approval, and some members of Congress have expressed skepticism that a Space Force is the best approach. The news of the memo comes a day after another report, citing an earlier memo, suggested the White House was examining alternatives to the Space Force. (11/30)
Space Force Proposal Could Create a Broader Military Department for Both Air and Space (Source: Space News)
During a White House meeting on Thursday, Pentagon and administration officials discussed the possibility of establishing a Space Force under a larger Department of the Air and Space Force. A DoD spokesman confirmed to SpaceNews that a team of Pentagon officials led by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan floated this idea to Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the administration’s space reorganization efforts.
Shanahan is overseeing the drafting of a legislative proposal that will be submitted to the White House in the coming weeks and, once approved, will be sent to Capitol Hill with the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2020. The Space Force under this proposed organization would not include the National Reconnaissance Office or any other element of the intelligence community.
The president has been insistent that a Space Force should be a completely independent military department. A draft policy directive has been in the works for weeks. According a Nov. 19 version of the policy, the Pentagon would be directed to propose a Space Force as a separate military branch with its own civilian leadership. The White House said the Nov. 19 draft is “subject to change, and the Space Council continues to work with the departments and agencies responsible for carrying out President Trump’s direction to establish the U.S. Space Force as a sixth armed service.” (11/30)
Space Force Idea Lacks Public Support, Survey Reveals (Source: Space News)
President Donald Trump’s calls for a new military branch for space win loud cheers at his political rallies. But the American public at large is not sold on the idea, according to a new survey by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. The survey shows a deep partisan divide over the Space Force and other national security issues. “President Trump’s proposal to create a new U.S. Space Force lacks broad public support,” the foundation reported. “Americans are split down the middle on the idea, with Republicans favoring the idea over Democrats by 2:1.” (11/30)
Defense Budget Cuts Could Impact Space Strategy (Source: Space News)
Projected defense spending cuts raise questions about how the Pentagon will carry out its space strategy. The White House has directed the Pentagon to lower its requested overall budget for fiscal year 2020 from $733 billion to $700 billion. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that some key efforts, like space, will be shielded from the effects of budget cuts, but it raises questions about how the Pentagon will save money elsewhere and how Congress will respond next year. Experts said those cuts could affect plans for a separate Space Force as well as new space-based missile defense programs. (11/26)
Telesat Wins DARPA Blackjack Study for LEO Constellations (Source: Telesat)
Telesat has won a contract as part of DARPA's Blackjack program for studying low Earth orbit satellite constellations. The award, announced this week, will explore the military applications of spacecraft based on those Telesat plans to use for its LEO satellite constellation, and having those military spacecraft link to Telesat's constellation using laser communications. Blackjack is a DARPA program to explore the use of LEO smallsat constellations for military applications previously reserved for larger spacecraft. (11/29)
Cyber Threats Taken More Seriously by Ground Station Operators (Source: Space News)
Teleport operators are taking cybersecurity more seriously. Those facilities, which provide the link between satellites and ground networks, are taking stronger measures to protect their networks and satellites from attack through measures ranging from keeping important systems disconnected from the internet to improved physical security. The satellite industry has so far managed to avoid a high-profile cyber attack, something experts attribute both to the industry's vigilance and how oblivious much of the world is to the magnitude of the services it provides. (11/29)
Amazon Joins Lockheed Martin to Provide Ground Station Services (Source: Space News)
Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Lockheed Martin are joining forces to offer ground stations as a service to space startups. The joint venture, called AWS Ground Station and announced Tuesday, combines a network of Lockheed ground stations called Verge with AWS data centers, allowing customers to access the network on a "pay-as-you-go" basis similar to other AWS cloud computing services. The companies state that the service will make it easier and cheaper for startups to communicate with and gather data from their satellites. (11/27)
Brexit: UK to Build Own Satellite System After May Rules Out Using EU's Galileo Project (Source: Sky News)
The UK must build its own satellite system after Theresa May confirmed the country will not be involved in the EU's Galileo project post-Brexit. The prime minister said Britain would explore other options to build its own system that can guide military drones, run energy networks and provide essential services for civilian smart phones.
Experts have predicted it will cost an estimated £3bn to £5bn, and it is unclear whether the UK will get back the £1.2bn it sunk into the Galileo project. The UK will also work with the US to continue accessing its GPS system. Sky News reported on Thursday that government plans to build Britain's own system could hit the buffers because other countries have already claimed signal space. (12/1)
UK NavSat Initiative Could Suffer Spectrum Shortage (Source: Sky News)
British plans to develop its own satellite navigation system post-Brexit could be stymied by a lack of spectrum. The British government announced plans earlier this year to study the feasibility of building its own satellite navigation system if it is unable to work out an agreement with the EU regarding access to parts of the Galileo system once the country leaves the EU next year. However, one expert noted that the available spectrum for satellite navigation systems has already been allocated to other systems, forcing Britain to undertake complex negotiations with those countries at the International Telecommunication Union to access that spectrum. (11/29)
UK Science Minister Quits Over Brexit Deal as UK Ends Galileo Talks (Source: Politico)
U.K. Science Minister Sam Gyimah quit late Friday over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, after the government pulled out of “frustrating” talks on the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system which offered “only a foretaste of things to come.” Gyimah, who served in the Education Department and did not have Cabinet rank, is the seventh minister to quit since May presented the Brexit deal negotiated by the British government and the EU to Cabinet two weeks ago. He said he would vote against the agreement in the House of Commons.
The government on Friday abandoned efforts to remain within the satellite project and is likely to forego the £1.2 billion it has already invested in the scheme. "The PM is right to call time on a negotiation that was stacked against us from the very beginning. But Galileo is only a foretaste of what’s to come under the Government’s Brexit deal,” he said. (12/1)
Crofters May Take Scottish Spaceport to Court (Source: The Herald)
Despite a recent vote by landowners, plans for a Scottish spaceport may still face a legal dispute. Members of the Melness Crofting Estate voted recently to approve construction of a spaceport on their land, but the minority who opposed the deal may take the case to the Scottish Land Court. Resolving a dispute there could take years, delaying development of the launch site. (11/27)
Private Companies Building a Spaceport in Japan (Source: Ars Technica)
All Nippon Airways operator ANA Holdings and trading house Marubeni will set up a spaceport in Japan as early as 2021, Nikkei reports. The launch site will be used for private space travel and feature 3km runways for craft that take off horizontally like airplanes. A newly formed company named "Spaceport Japan" is advancing the project.
No site yet ... The company has not chosen a site yet. Overall, Spaceport Japan apparently wants to secure a foothold in the international space-business race by building Asia's first space travel hub for private spacecraft launched from airplanes, such as Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity. It is not known whether Spaceport Japan has contracted with any space-tourism companies. (11/30)
Will Canada Boldly Join the Next-Generation Space Station Project? (Source: Globe and Mail)
Members of Canada’s space community including academic and business leaders are currently engaged in an urgent dialogue that’s highlighting how the window may be closing on Canada’s opportunity to play a leadership role in the development of the global space economy, as well as the next steps in the exploration of space.
The impetus for this timely conversation is the nascent Lunar Gateway, an international project being coordinated by NASA that would empower human expansion across the solar system. In collaboration with public and private partners, the Lunar Gateway imagines the design and construction of a small station that would be sent into orbit around the moon within the next decade. From there, astronauts would build and test systems to advance lunar exploration, conduct a host of deep-space experiments, enhance satellite communications and stage future missions to more distant destinations including Mars. (12/1)
Luxembourg Unfazed by Space Investment Losses (Source: Luxembourg Times)
The head of Luxembourg's space agency said he's not fazed by the loss the country took investing in an asteroid mining startup. Luxembourg had invested 12 million euros in Planetary Resources, but lost essentially all that money when the company was sold last month to ConsenSys, a blockchain technology firm. Marc Serres, CEO of the Luxembourg Space Agency, said that such losses should be expected as only a small fraction of startups will be successful. He said a new fund that will start investing next year will do so on the expectation that only few will succeed. (11/27)
European Space Telescope Slated For 2019 Launch (Source: Forbes)
By this time next year, CHEOPS will be in space. The new telescope’s launch window—now official—lasts a month, from October 15 to November 14, 2019. Sometime during those 31 days, CHEOPS will blast off on a Soyuz rocket from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, a coastal town on the Atlantic side of South America.
The probe, a product of the European Space Agency, will orbit the Earth at 435 miles up (700 kilometers). Unlike NASA’s TESS spacecraft—or its predecessor, Kepler—CHEOPS is not a planet hunter. “That’s not the goal,” says Willy Benz, professor of astrophysics at the University of Bern in Switzerland. “We’re not trying to find hundreds or thousands of new planets.” (11/30)
Particles Crossing to Our World Could Open Portal to Dark-Matter Realm (Source: New Scientist)
Myriad dark-matter hunters have spent decades trying to trap their prime suspect. They may yet prevail. But their struggle has led a new wave of hunters to try a different approach. Rather than tailoring their search for a single candidate, they are embracing the possibility that dark matter consists of a panoply of particles and forces – an entire dark sector operating in parallel to our own.
This hidden realm would be accessible by only the faintest lines of communication: particles capable of carrying messages from the dark side to the world of familiar matter. Now the plan is to track those go-betweens as they pass messages through these dark portals, wiretapping them to learn about the universe on the other side. Click here. (11/28)
Astronomers Just Detected an Enormous Ancient Galaxy Orbiting The Milky Way (Source: Science Alert)
Just as moons orbit planets, planets orbit stars, and stars orbit galactic cores, galaxies can be orbited by other, much smaller galaxies. The Milky Way has several of these hangers-on, most notably the Large and Small Magellanic clouds, the only two of our galaxy's satellites visible to the naked eye. Now, thanks to Gaia data - the most comprehensive map of our sky ever compiled - astronomers have just found another one. And it's absolutely huge - as big as the Large Magellanic Cloud, or about one-third of the size of the Milky Way. (11/28)
Einstein's Theory of General Relativity Just Survived a Massive Crash in Outer Space (Source: LiveScience)
Gravity is big and weird and difficult to study. It moves through space as a wave, sort of like how light does. But these waves are subtle and difficult to detect. They occur in measurable amounts only after massive events, like the collision of black holes. Researchers announced that they found no evidence of "gravitational leakage." Scientists had thought it was possible for gravity to penetrate high dimensions (those beyond the four that humans experience — up/down, side to side, forward/backward, time) even though light does not. If that happened, the force of gravity would lose more of its energy than light does while passing through space.
But comparing the light and gravitational waves from that neutron star collision showed that this wasn't happening. All our dimension's gravity appears to be staying right where it belongs, as Albert Einstein predicted in his theory of general relativity. The researchers in the new study also analyzed gravitational waves to see whether the graviton — the theoretical particle that carries gravity — might have mass, like other particles do. If there was such a thing as a "massive graviton," gravitational waves would also have mass, and if these waves had mass, they would exhibit signs of momentum, unlike light particles, which are massless. That would also be a violation of general relativity. But, again, it didn't happen.
Overall, researchers found, Einstein's theories of gravity remain basically intact. The researchers also analyzed gravitational waves to see whether the graviton — the theoretical particle that carries gravity — might have mass, like other particles do. If there was such a thing as a "massive graviton," gravitational waves would also have mass, and if these waves had mass, they would exhibit signs of momentum, unlike light particles, which are massless. That would also be a violation of general relativity. But, again, it didn't happen. Overall, researchers found, Einstein's theories of gravity remain basically intact. (11/29)
Moon Rocks Fetch Big Bucks at Auction (Source: CollectSPACE)
While NASA was issuing contracts for commercial missions to the moon, a collector was buying rocks delivered by an old Soviet mission. Three tiny lunar samples, returned by the Luna 16 spacecraft in 1970, sold at auction Thursday for $855,000 to an unidentified "private American collector." The same samples, embedded in a plaque that was given to the widow of Soviet rocket designer Sergei Korolev, sold for $442,500 at another auction 25 years ago. (11/30)
New Leadership at ArianeGroup (Source: ArianeGroup)
ArianeGroup will have a new chief executive officer come January. Andre-Hubert Roussel, 53, will succeed Alain Charmeau, 62, effective Jan. 1, the company said Monday. Roussel, the head of operations at Airbus Defense and Space, joined the ArianeGroup board in July. Charmeau is expected to serve until March 31 as a special adviser to the new CEO of ArianeGroup, the Airbus-Safran joint venture that builds Europe's Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 rockets. (11/26)
Harris Corporation Delivering Its Largest Mirror Ever for Ground-based Telescope (Source: Harris Corp.)
Harris Corporation has shipped its largest mirror ever for a ground-based observatory that will produce the deepest, widest, views of the universe. Harris is part of the National Science Foundation team assembling the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) on the Cerro Pachón ridge in Chile.
The company is providing the 3.5 meter, 3,500-pound secondary mirror and associated ground support equipment. In addition, Harris is delivering the cell assembly that stabilizes the mirror to offset the effects of gravity during operation. LSST will conduct an unprecedented, decade-long survey of the entire visible sky, detecting billions of new objects and contributing to the study of dark matter and dark energy. Operations are scheduled to begin in 2022. (11/26)
United Technologies Splits Itself Into Three (Source: AP)
United Technologies is breaking itself into three independent companies after sealing its $23 billion acquisition of aviation electronics maker Rockwell Collins. The company's announcement Monday was the latest by a sprawling industrial conglomerate deciding it will be more efficient and focused as smaller, separate entities. The three companies will be United Technologies, which will house its aerospace and defense industry supplier businesses of Pratt and Whitney and Collins Aerospace Systems; Otis, the maker of elevators, escalators and moving walkways; and the Carrier air conditioning and building systems business. The separation is expected to be completed in 2020. (11/27)
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