May 20, 2019
Florida Officials Feel Misled by DoD About Opportunity to Host US Space Command Headquarters (Source: Stars & Stripes)
In a meeting room at Orlando International Airport just last week, dozens of state leaders spoke with certainty of Florida's chances to host the newly formed U.S. Space Command, the nation's 11th combatant command which would coordinate space-related activities across the military services. "Where else would you put a headquarters than the place that lives space?," proclaimed Chip Diehl, a member of the Florida Defense Support Task Force. The Air Force's response came Tuesday: Not in Florida.
At the Orlando summit, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez said "The game is wide open, and Florida is absolutely in it." But the Air Force has since confirmed it was sticking to a previously released shortlist of six bases, four in Colorado, one in Alabama and one in California. Florida thought otherwise because U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, R-St. Augustine, was told the Air Force would follow a "strategic basing process," meaning it would determine what criteria it was looking for in a base, make that information public and then decide on a shortlist. Waltz sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
But Dale Ketcham, vice president of government and external relations at Space Florida, said it appears that information was incorrect. "As I understand it right now, the Air Force Legislative Liaison office has misled a number of members of our delegation as to what the process was, and that's not a good thing," Ketcham said on Tuesday. "This is the worst-case scenario because now Florida is not just disappointed _ it's pissed off." Florida began mounting an aggressive campaign earlier this year to clinch the new Space Command headquarters. The Pentagon has estimated it would cost about $84 million to set up the unit, which would be comprised of about 1,200 personnel. (5/14)
Air Force Announces Candidate Sites for US Combatant Command for Space (Source: USAF)
The secretary of the Air Force selected six locations as candidate bases to potentially host the headquarters for United States Space Command. This combatant command was approved by the U.S. Congress in 2018 and in December 2018 the President of the United States directed its establishment as the eleventh functional Unified Combatant Command.
The candidate locations are: Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado; Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado; Peterson AFB, Colorado; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Schriever AFB, Colorado; and Vandenberg AFB, California. The next step will be to complete site surveys and analysis of each candidate location for its ability to meet mission requirements, capacity, environmental impact and cost criteria. The Air Force expects to approve the preferred location during the summer of 2019, which will be followed by an environmental analysis.
Editor's Note: So there is a 'strategic basing process' underway, but only for the already-shortlisted sites. Was the Florida delegation misled or did they misunderstand what the Air Force told them? Someone's mistake got a lot of Florida officials spun-up, with a lot of money spent. (5/14)
House Appropriators Withhold SDA Funding (Source: Space News)
House appropriators would block funding for the Pentagon's Space Development Agency (SDA) in their draft of a 2020 spending bill. The bill, to be marked up in a closed session today, would withhold funding for the agency until 90 days after the Defense Department submits a detailed plan for the new agency. The language reflects concerns voiced by lawmakers in recent hearings about the lack of specifics about the SDA's role and responsibilities, including how the SDA fits into the larger landscape of military organizations that develop space technologies. The bill also includes $15 million to continue studies of a Space Force, rather than the $72 million requested by the Pentagon to begin establishing the service. (5/15)
Ted Cruz Warns Space Force is Needed to Battle Space Pirates (Source: Yahoo News)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, issued a dire warning about space pirates Wednesday in support of appropriations to fund Space Force, President Trump’s proposed off-planet expansion of the U.S. military. “Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors,” said Cruz, adding, “Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.” (5/15)
Air Force Space Launch Funds Reprogrammed to Pay for Trump's Border Wall (Source: Space News)
The Air Force space budget is taking a hit as a result of the Pentagon reprogramming $1.5 billion from fiscal 2019 funds to pay for President Trump’s wall along the U. S-Mexico border. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the transfer. The Pentagon announced on Friday that the reprogramming was needed to handle the “crisis along our southwest border” and a need to “deny drug smuggling activities.”
The $1.5 billion was pulled from multiple accounts — $681.5 million from two Overseas Contingency Operations funds appropriated for war efforts and $818.5 million from DoD’s fiscal year 2019 appropriations. Shanahan’s move has infuriated Democrats on the appropriations committees who see this action as an end run around Congress’ power of the purse.
Funds are being reprogrammed from personnel and procurement accounts, including $209.7 million from the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program (recently renamed National Security Space Launch) that funds satellite launches. DoD says the funds are available because of the cancellation of the Space Test Program (STP-4) mission. The transfer includes $44.9 million from the EELV Launch Capability accounts (funds paid directly to ULA to support Air Force requirements) and $164.8 million from the account designated for EELV launch services. (5/14)
19 Former GOP Lawmakers Back Suit Against Trump’s Grab For Border Wall Funding (Source: HuffPost)
Nineteen former Republican representatives have filed a friend of the court brief backing a lawsuit that challenges Donald Trump’s unilateral decision to fund his border wall without the support of Congress. The amicus brief, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, supports a suit by Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit challenging Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S. southern border in February and his demand for funding to erect a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“I could do the wall over a longer period of time ― I didn’t need to do this,” Trump said in a televised speech at the time. “But I’d rather do it much faster.” The former GOP representatives filed the brief just after the Pentagon, under orders from Trump, informed Congress this week that it would redirect some $1.5 billion earmarked for retirement accounts, a missile defense system and the war in Afghanistan to pay for a section of the border wall. That’s on top of an earlier $1 billion wall commitment from the Pentagon.
“The separation of powers is fundamental to our democracy,” noted the amicus brief, adding that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to appropriate funds. “The president’s emergency declaration is an unconstitutional attempt” to usurp that power, and “would deprive Congress of its most basic constitutional duty,” the brief argued. “The framers considered ‘the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, judiciary, in the same hands’ to be the ‘very definition of tyranny,’” the brief continued. (5/17)
How the Trump Administration is Helping Some Space Spy Tech Go Commercial (Source: Politico)
More space technologies that were long only available in the defense and intelligence communities are beginning to break into the commercial market -- in part because of the Trump administration’s willingness to consider such transfers, according to Melanie Corcoran-Freelander, the chief technology officer at Ursa Space Systems, which uses synthetic aperture radar to provide companies intelligence on things like ship movements or oil pipelines.
“In the last three years, [the administration has considered] things that they previously would have rejected flat out,” Corcoran-Freelander says. Ursa gets its images in part from foreign synthetic aperture radar satellites because the U.S. has no commercial satellites with this capability. That, however, is about to change. Corcoran-Freelander said there are at least five domestic companies preparing to launch SAR satellites. (5/10)
Air Force Space Personnel Get Improved Career Track (Source: Space News)
The Air Force may make it easier for officers in the space field to win promotion. Under the proposed system, announced by outgoing Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson Thursday, space officers would only compete against other space officers for promotions. Currently, space officers compete with most other Air Force officers, an approach some have criticized since pilots are promoted at higher rates than other professionals. A final decision on the new promotion system is expected in October. (5/16)
Air Force's Space 'Think Tank' Studies Future of Conflict Beyond Earth (Source: Military.com)
Within the Air Command and Staff College here resides a unique task force that has one core mission: to be America's think tank for space. Lt. Col. Peter Garretson is deputy director of the Schriever Scholars program, as well as the director of the Space Horizons Task Force at the college. Garretson teaches a number of space courses for the scholars program. The space horizons course specifically looks at the long-term strategic perspective of space and information policy, feeding into a broader, university-wide space research task force.
"We're trying to take the best space operators and tacticians and turn them into the world's best strategists," Garretson said during an interview in his office. "We're also interested in, how does great power competition evolve over time? How do we ensure a balance of power favorable to our allies and our goals? How do we attempt to set the norms that mitigate conflict? And of course, if we fail … what do we need to be thinking about to ensure we would prevail." The Schriever Scholars program is the first of its kind. Its inaugural class began last August, with students -- mostly majors -- scheduled to graduate next month. (5/17)
Lockheed Martin Breaks Ground on Alabama Missile Production Facility (Source: AL.com)
Lockheed Martin began construction today on its new 225,000-square-foot missile facility in Pike County, targeting a 2021 opening. Production of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) should ramp up in the second half of 2022, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield attended today’s groundbreaking. The company says the new facility, combined with the current cruise missile production factory, will provide the necessary space to meet the U.S. Air Force’s objectives. (5/16)
NASA To Put Woman On Moon By 2024; Commercial Space Will Play Major Role (Source: Forbes)
At the end of Ron Howard’s film “Apollo 13,” Tom Hanks intones with a final, rueful quiver, “I look up at the Moon and wonder, when will we be going back? And who will that be?” Let’s hope that will be in five short years. As for who? NASA astronauts, at least one man and one woman, exploring our Moon’s South Pole.
Today, NASA made that goal a bit more tangible by announcing a $1.6 billion lunar amendment to President Trump’s 2020 budget. Of course, Congress has to sign on to this; and, as yet, there are no official estimates for total costs for this proposed 2024 surface mission. But with last week’s unveiling of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander in Washington, D.C., Amazon founder Jeff Bezos provided a shot of new hope that NASA would soon use his new lunar craft for real.
Even so, the key to all of this is making human-rated spaceflight sustainable both technologically and economically. Although the Soviet Union’s early successes in space certainly caught the world by surprise, as historian Douglas Brinkley points out in his new book, “American Moonshot,” the Soviet culture of secrecy may have ultimately worked against them. As Brinkley argues, it may have been NASA’s ability to put it all on the line in an open and honest way that enabled the Americans to outpace their Soviet counterparts in the race to the lunar surface. (5/14)
Trump Adds $1.6 Billion to NASA Budget Request to Kick Start ‘Artemis’ Moon Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The Trump administration is adding an additional $1.6 billion to NASA’s $21 billion 2020 budget request to kick start plans to return American astronauts to the moon in 2024, four years earlier than previously planned, NASA announced. In a surprise announcement, agency Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the revitalized moon program will be named Artemis after the Greek goddess of the moon.
“The first time humanity went to the moon it was under the name Apollo,” he said. “The Apollo program forever changed history. … It turns out that Apollo had a twin sister, Artemis. She happens to be the goddess of the moon. Our astronaut office is very diverse and highly qualified. I think it is very beautiful that 50 years after Apollo, the Artemis program will carry the next man — and the first woman — to the moon.” President Trump announced the administration’s supplemental budget request in an afternoon tweet, saying “we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars. I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!”
NASA, of course, is already in space in a big way with ongoing operations aboard the International Space Station, development of new crew ferry ships to carry U.S. astronauts to and from Earth orbit and ongoing work to develop a new super rocket — the Space Launch System — and Orion crew capsules to carry astronauts back to the moon. (5/13)
Is $1.6 Enough for Artemis? Can NASA Change? (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA was asked how much funding it needed to accomplish a crewed landing on the Moon, and the answer was a lot ($6b-$8b a year, per sources). What was the White House response to this? Naturally, they said that is way too much, and Congress will never support it. This was the point at which Pence's intervention was needed. He said NASA would reach the Moon "by any means necessary." This would include either a) a lot more funding or b) a new direction using cheaper rockets and more low-Earth orbit assembly.
But Pence has been MIA, at least publicly. The $1.6 billion figure NASA cited Monday is a pittance if you're going to do this mission with SLS, Gateway, Orion, and a three-stage lunar lander. It's not even a down payment. It's kicking the can down the road. The affordable doable option is B - FH/Orion and Blue Moon. For that the SLS and probably the gateway need to die. Slow Soviet-esque bureaucratic turf wars are preventing the logical from being done.
From a NASA employee Q&A: "Funding aside, December 31st, 2024 is ~5.7 years away. Gateway and Human Lunar Landers aren't likely to have their Systems Definition Reviews until 2020, and Preliminary Design Reviews until 2021. Assuming PDRs on Jan 1st, 2021, that leaves only 4 years to deadline. Can you point to any reassuring historical analogs that match our current timeline?" (5/14)
NASA Looking at SLS Certification Schedule Changes in ‘Drive to EM-1’ (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA is looking at deferring some programmatic certification activities until after the Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) flight in addition to its other initiatives to shorten the schedule to the inaugural launch. The goal remains to find ways to move the launch date back into late 2020 from the current Spring 2021 forecast. This would move the full certification of the design into preparations for Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), which will be the first crewed ESD mission.
With the Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage Green Run still on the schedule, analysts continue to comb through the work details looking for ways to streamline that and other downstream activities. ESD, which oversees the Exploration Ground Systems (EGS), Orion, and SLS programs and is responsible for cross-program systems integration, is now also looking at moving some design-level certification work of the SLS vehicle that will fly EM-1 until after the test flight. (5/16)
Parachute Issues for Both SpaceX and Boeing on Commercial Crew Capsules (Source: Space News)
Developing parachutes for commercial crew vehicles has been a major challenge, and so has figuring out what constitutes an anomaly during testing. On Friday, Boeing released a video of the latest parachute test of its Starliner spacecraft, two days after NASA revealed at a congressional hearing that there had been a problem during a tests of SpaceX's Crew Dragon parachutes during a test last month. Boeing said its test, in February, was a success, as had been all previous tests. However, issues with Boeing's tests had been raised at earlier meetings of an independent safety advisory panel. Boeing said that while there had been minor problems during some prior tests, they had not prevented the tests from being successfully completed. (5/13)
Could Trump Really Make It to the Moon in 2024? (Source: The Atlantic)
“Under my administration, we are restoring NASA to greatness,” Trump said in a tweet on Monday night. The tweet, resolute and sprinkled with capital letters, exuded confidence and determination. The administration would like this projected mission to be treated, in advance, as a historic event: The mission has been named Artemis—the sister of Apollo—because, officials say, it will put the first woman on the moon. In Trump’s telling, the moon mission sounds inevitable, and success guaranteed.
They’re not. By space-exploration measures, 2024 is right around the corner. To make that goal, NASA would need to launch astronauts inside a crew capsule (that is still being tested) on a giant rocket (that has never flown before) to a floating station around the moon (that doesn’t yet exist) and drop them to the surface in lunar-specific spacesuits (that don’t exist either). In Greek mythology, Artemis and Apollo are twins, but while the Apollo-era missions were fed with a massive budget, this new Artemis mission is off to a smaller start. (5/14)
Trump Targets Pell Grant Money for NASA’s Budget Boost (Source: AP)
The Trump administration wants to shift money for Pell Grants for college education to fund new spending, including a $1.6 billion bump for NASA to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024. Under a budget amendment sent to Congress Monday evening, the administration would use an additional $1.9 billion in surplus Pell Grant money to fund other budget priorities, including an infusion of new cash for NASA “so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” President Donald Trump tweeted.
A series of proposed changes reverses some of the most controversial cuts Trump’s administration had proposed, including slashing funding for the Special Olympics. The White House can send such requests, called “rescissions,” to Congress to clawback unspent money the administration views as wasteful or unnecessary. Congress, however, must approve. Officials insisted the re-allocation of the Pell Grant money would have no impact on those currently receiving grants, which help low-income students pay for college.
“This does not cut any spending for Pell Grant programs as the budget continues to ensure all students will get their full Pell Grant and keeps the program on sound fiscal footing,” Office of Management and Budget spokesman Wesley Denton said in a statement. With declines in enrollment, the program has a surplus of nearly $9 billion, according to the budget office. The administration proposed a similar cancellation of unobligated Pell grant money for 2019, but later backed off the idea. (5/13)
Groups Oppose Trump's Pell Raid for NASA Funding (Source: Express News)
The American Council on Education said the Pell Grant cuts "would hurt students and make college more expensive." ... "We strongly oppose this proposal and urge Congress to instead provide the necessary increase to Pell funding in the House appropriations bill," the council wrote. Laura Seward Forczyk, founder and executive director of Georgia Space Alliance, also opposed the move. "Cutting education now cripples the space workforce later," she said on Twitter. "Is this the future we wish to create?"
Nearly 415,000 students in Texas received Pell Grants in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Statewide, the University of Texas System had the largest number of students attending who had received Pell Grants — nearly 70,000 students. Houston Community College had the largest among individual colleges and public universities, with 17,486. The University of Houston was second among individual four-year universities with 14,742, behind the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley with 15,306.
"More than 40 percent of our students system-wide rely on Pell Grants to make college education more affordable and transform their lives," UH System officials said in a written statement. "As a longtime partner, we recognize the importance of NASA, but encourage Congress and the Administration to examine alternative funding sources for space exploration." (5/14)
Federal Spending Sets Record Through April (Source: CNS)
The federal government spent $2,573,708,000,000 in the first seven months of fiscal 2019 (October-April), setting an all-time record for real federal spending in the first seven months of a fiscal year. Prior to this fiscal year, the most that the federal government had ever spent in the first seven months of a fiscal year was in fiscal 2011, when it spent $2,476,257,690,000 in constant April 2019 dollars (adjusted using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator).
But even with the April boost in tax revenue, this fiscal year's real total tax revenues, real individual income tax revenues, and real corporation income tax revenues have lagged behind last year's numbers. In the first seven months of this fiscal year, the Treasury collected $2,042,838,000,000 in total taxes. In the first seven months of last year, it collected $2,047, 528,550,000 (in constant April 2019 dollars). (5/13)
House Appropriators Take a Pass on NASA Budget Amendment (Source: Space News)
House appropriators released a spending bill Thursday that increases funding for NASA but largely ignores a budget amendment that sought a bigger increase. The commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill includes $22.32 billion for NASA for fiscal year 2020, nearly $1.3 billion more than what the administration originally requested.
The bill, though, provides little in the way of increases to exploration programs, with much of the additional funding going to the agency's science programs. Neither the bill nor a statement by the House Appropriations Committee mentions the budget amendment released earlier this week that sought $1.6 billion in additional funding to support the agency's 2024 lunar landing goal. The CJS appropriations subcommittee will mark up the bill 9:30 a.m. Eastern this morning. (5/16)
Amid the Talk About Moon Missions, Mars Fans Push for a Share of the Space Spotlight (Source: GeekWire)
As NASA shifts the focus of its space exploration effort to the moon, the advocates of Mars exploration and settlement have a message for future lunar explorers: Don’t get too comfortable. “I do think the moon should be included in the plan for human expansion into space,” Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society and author of a new book titled “The Case for Space,” told GeekWire. “But we don’t want it to become an obstacle for further human expansion into space.” Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, takes a similar stance. “If we spend years and years and years getting there, and then we decide we’re going to stay there for a long time, it could delay Mars by decades,” he said. (5/13)
Will NASA's Rush to Land Astronauts on the Moon Get Us to Mars Any Faster? (Source: Space.com)
A mission to the moon may be a good "steppingstone" for sending humans to Mars, but the experts are divided over whether NASA's new push to put humans on the moon in 2024 will help get the agency to Mars by the 2030s. The agency has said that it plans to land astronauts on Mars in the 2030s, following President Obama's request in 2016. The following year, Trump requested a nongovernmental, independent report about the possibility of launching humans to Mars in 2033 in his NASA Authorization Act of 2017.
Although Bridenstine has said that NASA wants to achieve a landing in 2033, he hasn't offered a new timeline for Mars based on the moon mission just yet. In February, the independent report from the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) concluded that NASA will not be able to land astronauts on Mars until the late 2030s — regardless of how much funding is available. That report was published before Pence announced NASA's accelerated timeline, and it doesn't account for the newly adjusted budget request. But according to the report, no amount of money can put astronauts on Mars by 2033, because there simply isn't enough time to develop, build and test all the technologies needed for that kind of a mission.
Despite the findings of that report, however, Hoppy Price, chief engineer of NASA's robotic Mars exploration program, said here at the Humans to Mars Summit that he still thought a crewed lunar landing in 2024 could lead to human mission to Mars in 2033 "if sufficient funding was available." Price suggested NASA could build an infrastructure in Mars orbit similar to the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway that the agency intends to put in orbit around the moon. That gateway could serve as a "home base" for the first human missions to Mars, and astronauts would complete only short-duration missions to the surface using a separate ascent/descent vehicle. (5/17)
Lunar Goldrush: Can Mining the Moon Become Big Business? (Source: Telegraph)
Amid the recent boom in extraterrestrial exploration, a new frontier for private companies and space agencies appears to have emerged: mining the moon for precious resources. Once thought to be a beautiful but largely barren rock, the moon is now believed by some to be a treasure trove of rich materials that could play a vital role in the Earth’s future.
For instance, space agencies hoping to mine the moon say oxygen in its regolith – or lunar soil – could be used to power life support and fuel rockets in space, while rare metals could be ferried back to Earth to be used in everything from gadgets to construction. What has got the industry most excited, however, is the Helium-3 isotope that is blanketing the lunar surface. (5/16)
Protect Solar System From Mining 'Gold Rush', Say Scientists (Source: The Guardian)
Great swathes of the solar system should be preserved as official “space wilderness” to protect planets, moons and other heavenly bodies from rampant mining and other forms of industrial exploitation, scientists say. The proposal calls for more than 85% of the solar system to be placed off-limits to human development, leaving little more than an eighth for space firms to mine for precious metals, minerals and other valuable materials.
While the limit would protect pristine worlds from the worst excesses of human activity, its primary goal is to ensure that humanity avoids a catastrophic future in which all of the resources within its reach are permanently used up. “If we don’t think about this now, we will go ahead as we always have, and in a few hundred years we will face an extreme crisis, much worse than we have on Earth now,” said Martin Elvis, a senior astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Once you’ve exploited the solar system, there’s nowhere left to go.”
Fledgling space mining companies have set their sights on trillions of pounds worth of iron and precious metals locked up in asteroids, along with valuable minerals and trillions of tonnes of water on the moon. In Britain, the Asteroid Mining Corporation hopes to send a satellite into orbit in the coming years to prospect for nearby asteroids. Precious metals such as platinum and gold could be ferried back to Earth, but much of the mined material would be used in space to build habitats on the moon and make rocket fuel. (5/12)
Moon Mining Could Actually Work, with the Right Approach (Source: Space.com)
Earth's moon taunts. A growing chorus of experts views this "eighth continent" as a nearby world of natural resources sitting there at the edge of Earth's gravity well, ready for the picking. Visionary zeal aside, clarity is step one. Wanted is the right combination of vision, gobs of moon moolah, make-it-happen technologies and the political willpower to unlock the moon's wealth.
A recent report — "Commercial Lunar Propellant Architecture: A Collaborative Study of Lunar Propellant Production" — has cut to the chase, detailing what's needed and what happens next. This appraisal by industry writers, NASA, lunar scientists and space lawyers focused on extracting water from the moon's permanently shadowed regions for use as rocket fuel. The report explains that, combined with reusable upper stages and landers, a space-based supply of propellant has long been seen as the key that could enable cost-efficient access to much of the inner solar system.
Moreover, the recent confirmation of lunar polar volatiles provides an access point to a supply line of in-space propellant. Refueling can "linearize" the rocket equation, the study suggests. Thanks to the moon's shallow gravity well, the paper argues, those water-derived products can be exported to fuel entirely new economic opportunities in space. (5/15)
NASA NextSTEP Funds 11 Companies' Lunar Lander Concepts (Source: Space News)
NASA announced Thursday awards to 11 companies for initial studies and prototype development of lunar lander concepts. The awards, part of the NextSTEP program for exploration technology development, have a total value of $45.5 million, with each company required to contribute at least 20 percent of the total cost of each project. The six-month efforts focus on descent stages, transfer vehicle and refueling elements of lunar lander systems. NASA plans to issue a separate solicitation this summer for development of integrated lunar lander systems. (5/16)
Accelerated NASA Moon Landing Plan Doesn’t Need Canadian Robotic System (Source: SpaceQ)
During the teleconference Bridenstine and other NASA officials taking part in the call including Bill Gerstenmaier, the Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, emphasized that the international community was wanted, needed and would be an important part of the plan. The new plan with respect to the Lunar Gateway has been modified. In the documents provided to media, it was made clear that changes to the Gateway were coming.
In its summary NASA said “focusing Gateway development on capabilities needed to support a lunar landing of 2024 allowed a scope reduction of $321 million. This budget amendment shifts potential development of additional Gateway capabilities into the future.”
So with NASA deferring elements of the Gateway not needed for the new plan, comes the question of whether Canada’s robotic system is needed to as part of the revised 2024 plan. In a follow-up email with Gerstenmaier, SpaceQ asked, with the updated moon plan and the revised architecture, is the expected Canadian contributed robotic arm (Canadarm 3) one of the capabilities needed to support a lunar landing in 2024? Gerstenmaier replied that “at this point in our planning the robotic arm is not required for the 2024 landing.” (5/14)
Russia Mulls Sending Anthropomorphic Robot to the Moon (Source: Sputnik)
Russia's lunar rover, which is projected to be delivered to the Moon by the Luna-29 spacecraft, will be controlled by an anthropomorphic robot, a space industry source told Sputnik. The launch of the Luna-29 mission is scheduled in 2028. Another source in the space industry told Sputnik on Saturday that the Luna-29 spacecraft with a 1.3-tonne lunar rover is planned to be launched from Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome using the Angara-A5B launch vehicle with the oxygen-hydrogen booster.
"The lunar rover delivered by Luna-29 will be controlled by an anthropomorphic robot", the source said. According to the source, this idea had emerged quite recently. He added that in the future, such moon rovers will be controlled by cosmonauts. Russian space agency Roscosmos did not comment on this information. In 1971-1972, the United States brought astronaut-operated rovers to the Moon during manned flights of the Apollo-15, Apollo-16 and Apollo-17. In 1970-1973, the Soviet spacecraft Luna-17 and Luna-21 delivered lunar rovers to the Earth's natural satellite. (5/12)
PTScientists and ArianeGroup Agree on Far-Reaching Cooperation for Lunar Missions (Source: PTScientists)
PTScientists and ArianeGroup have today agreed in Berlin on a far-reaching cooperation. The contract governs the cooperation between the two companies for future Moon missions such as the planned ISRU mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and beyond. Against the background of intensifying international competition in the field of lunar missions, the agreement underlines the will and ambition of PTScientists to position itself as a globally leading European provider of lunar surface transport services for private and institutional customers, with the support of ArianeGroup as the European space transport provider towards the lunar orbit. (5/9)
China’s Rover Finds Mysterious Minerals on the Far Side of the Moon (Source: Engadget)
China's Chang'e-4 lunar lander and its rover, Yutu-2, may have detected the first signs of lunar mantle material. If the minerals it found prove to be part of the moon's mantle, the discovery could help scientists better understand how both the moon and the Earth formed. Chang'e-4 intentionally landed inside the moon's Von Kármán crater, one of the largest known impact structures in the solar system. If scientists are going to find lunar mantle material anywhere, that's a good place to look. Yutu-2 reportedly found two minerals: low-calcium (ortho)pyroxene and olivine. Those align with predictions of what the moon's upper mantle might contain. (5/17)
Israel's SpaceIL Secures $1 Million for Second Moonshot (Source: Jerusalem Post)
SpaceIL has secured a $1 million prize to support work on a second lunar lander. The Genesis Prize Foundation provided the funds to support initial work on Beresheet 2, a follow-up of the Beresheet lander that crashed while attempting to land on the moon last month. Backers of the project announced shortly after the failed landing they would try again, although they have not disclosed details on the mission or its projected cost. (5./15)
NASA Dives Into Habitation Prototypes Testing (Source: Interesting Engineering)
NASA is getting serious about returning to the moon. Earlier this week they asked for more money from Congress to keep developing the required vehicle technology and this week they kick off several months of testing of deep space habitat prototypes. The space agency will test five unique designs presented by private enterprises. The prototypes offer an insight into what life might be like aboard The Gateway, the spaceship intended to orbit around the moon. The testing won’t result in a single design being picked and developed further, rather NASA says it plans to use the testing of the five designs as a way to evaluate the design standards and possible risks heading into deep space might present. Click here. (5/18)
NASA, Northrop Grumman Finish Testing Cislunar Habitat Mockup (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
As Northrop Grumman’s NG-11 Cygnus spacecraft flew high above in low Earth orbit, NASA astronauts at JSC completed evaluation of the company’s full-scale cislunar habitat mockup. It is designed to test the ergonomics, feature layout and functional compatibility with basic “day-in-the-life” astronaut tasks for potential long-term use as a part of the future Lunar Gateway in cislunar space.
The habitat mockup necessarily incorporated all core elements that would eventually be needed by a four-person Orion crew: sleep stations, a galley, crew exercise equipment and of course accommodations for science, a robotics workstations and life support systems. In particular, the modules evaluated included a 14-foot wide habitat, a 10-foot wide habitat and an airlock/tunnel mockup.
Formal testing was performed by future Gateway flight operators and four members of the NASA astronaut corps, two with flight experience from the Shuttle and ISS era, and two astronaut candidates who represented the as-of-yet unflown next generation. Informal feedback and input was also obtained through Northrop Grumman’s network of veteran astronauts and prior program workers. (5/15)
Mayo Clinic Aerospace Medicine Experts Look Ahead to Long-Term Human Space Presence (Source: Mayo Clinic)
"Historically, Mayo Clinic has been closely involved in aerospace medicine," says Jan Stepanek, M.D., director of Aerospace Medicine at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus. "Former Mayo staff members set up the first testing of the seminal astronaut corps, and Mayo researchers did a lot of work for the moon and space shuttle missions. … Our involvement goes back to the beginning of the U.S. space program and continues to the present day."
The growth of commercial spaceflight has opened the door to new research and opportunities for space medicine. Alejandro Rabinstein, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic's Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit, is among Mayo researchers working with NASA to learn more about the effects of extended space travel such as a long trip to Mars, on the human body. Dr. Rabinstein has been investigating the feasibility of putting astronauts into a hypothermic torpor for extended space travel, which could limit metabolic demands on the body and make the trip more psychologically tolerable.
Among other Mayo aerospace research underway is a stem cell study that has been aboard the International Space Station since December 2018. Abba Zubair, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic specialist in transfusion medicine and regenerative medicine, says that Mayo Clinic and NASA hope to learn more about the long-term effects of cosmic radiation on humans in space. The study will remain in orbit for about a year. Dr. Zubair led a previous stem cell study that was aboard the Space Station for a month in 2017. That experiment investigated the genetic effects of extended time in space and the findings will report on chromosomal changes and the impact on DNA. (5/15)
Scientists are Grappling with Our Biggest Limitation in Spaceflight: Our Own Bodies (Source: Vox)
The human body has evolved, for hundreds of thousands of years, to thrive on the surface of the Earth. But what happens when you take such an earthbound body and put it in the weightlessness of space? Things get weird. Click here. (5/14)
Blue Moon and the Infrastructure of Space Settlement (Source: Space Review)
Blue Origin held an event last week in Washington where founder Jeff Bezos discussed the company’s Blue Moon lunar lander. Jeff Foust reports on the literal unveiling of the lander and Bezos’ vision of humanity’s future in space. Click here. (5/13)
Bezos Is Promising the Moon — But There Are Plenty of Reasons to Doubt Him (Source: TIME)
For one thing, there’s the “this vehicle is going to the moon” part. It’s not. It can’t. That’s because it’s not a vehicle, but a mockup. It may go back to the prop shop where it was built, but that’s all. Bezos’ phrasing is no small thing, because the company’s own press material keeps echoing it, speaking of the spacecraft in the present, existing tense: “Blue Moon is a flexible lunar lander delivering a wide variety of small, medium and large payloads to the lunar surface.” No, but it might be one day. “The Blue Moon lander provides kilowatts of power to payloads using its fuel cells.” Not yet it doesn’t.
Much of the media echoed the be-here-now phrasing, which compounded the problem. NASA, for all of the dilatory drift of its post-Apollo era, is at least honest about the prospective nature of so many of its projects. Indeed, one good way to handicap the likelihood of any of the space agency’s ongoing projects actually reaching completion is to apply the Count the Conditionals rule: The more times a NASA press release describes what a planned spacecraft could or would do, the less likely it is that it will actually do anything at all.
Then there’s the business of Bezos’ supposed three-year head start on NASA: It’s a very good point, but only as long as you’re willing to overlook the 60-year head start NASA has on him. There’s a lot to be said for the confidence and even arrogance that made Amazon the behemoth it is, but building rockets is a whole lot harder than selling merch. When you’ve never launched a human being on so much as a suborbital flight, implying that you’ve got edge on an agency that sent 24 people to the moon is not a good look. Click here. (5/11)
Amazon’s Boss Reckons That Humanity Needs an HQ2 (Source: The Economist)
Jeff Bezos wants humans to live in space. On May 9th the founder and boss of Amazon, who also runs Blue Origin, a private rocketry firm, unveiled plans for a lunar lander. “Blue Moon”, as it is called, is just one phase of a bold plan to establish large off-world settlements. It is a vision ripped directly from 20th-century science fiction. Having persuaded people to take other leaps of faith, from shopping online to placing his firm’s always-on listening posts in their homes, he could be just the person to convince millions to leave Earth. But it will take a unique economic pitch.
Unless Mr Bezos obtains the state-like power to order masses of people around, his plans will require emigré Earthlings to leave voluntarily. Their motives need not be entirely economic. The Puritans left Britain for America in search of freedom from religious persecution. Mr Bezos might well find recruits among unhappy minorities—or deeply devoted believers in his vision for humanity. He is not an entirely implausible cult figure. (5/14)
O’Neill Colonies: A Decades-Long Dream for Settling Space (Source: Astronomy)
Last week, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos revealed his spaceship company’s new lunar lander, dubbed Blue Moon, and he spelled out a bold and broad vision for humanity’s future in space. Faced with the limits of resources here on Earth, most fundamentally energy, he pointed to life in space as a solution. “If we move out into the solar system, for all practical purposes, we have unlimited resources,” Bezos said. “We could have a trillion people out in the solar system.” And while colonies on other planets would be plagued by low gravity, long distances to Earth (leading to communication delays), and further limits down the road, those weaknesses are avoided if the colonies remain truly in space.
To that end, Bezos instead suggested people consider taking up residence in O’Neill colonies, a futuristic concept for space settlements first dreamed up decades ago. “These are very large structures, miles on end, and they hold a million people or more each.” Gerard O’Neill was a physicist from Princeton University who teamed up with NASA in the 1970s on a series of workshops that explored efficient ways for humans to live off-world. Beyond influencing Bezos, his ideas have also deeply affected how many space experts and enthusiasts think about realistic ways of living in space.
“What will space colonies be like?” O’Neill once asked the Space Science Institute he founded. “First of all, there’s no point in going out into space if the future that we see there is a sterile future of living in tin cans. We have to be able to recreate, in space, habitats which are as beautiful, as Earth-like, as the loveliest parts of planet Earth — and we can do that.” Of course, neither O’Neill nor anyone since has actually made such a habitat, but in many ways, the concepts he helped developed half a century ago remain some of the most practical options for large-scale and long-term space habitation. (5/17)
Jeff Bezos Has Plans to Extract the Moon’s Water (Source: The Atlantic)
Robotic missions to the moon have found evidence in the past decade that water exists on the moon, in the form of ice. Pence, along with the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, have insisted that exploiting that precious resource would make long-term outposts on the moon possible. It’s far easier than bringing along giant watercoolers from Earth. Future lunar explorers, they say, could feed the water ice into life-support systems, or split it into hydrogen and oxygen and turn it into rocket fuel. “Ultimately, we’re going to be able to get hydrogen from that water on the moon, and be able to refuel these vehicles on the surface of the moon,” Bezos said. (5/10)
Blue Origin Upgrading NASA Test Stand in Alabama (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Blue Origin and NASA announced an agreement that would allow the company to test two of its new rocket engines in Alabama. On April 17, 2019, the U.S. space agency announced that Blue Origin is planning to upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670 at the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Blue Origin is expected to use the stand to evaluate its BE-4 and BE-3U engines.
“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector—commercial space,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard in a news release. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector.” Blue Origin is currently building a rocket engine factory in Huntsville. The use of the test stand would allow Blue to test its engines without having to truck them to its existing test facility in West Texas, near the town of Van Horn. (5/13)
Will Blue Origin Build Moon Lander in Brevard County? (Source: WESH)
A new moon-landing vehicle, unveiled Thursday by Jeff Bezos, could be built in Brevard County if the state space agency, Space Florida, gets its way. The moon lander could carry NASA astronauts to the moon in five years. Some of that road-building starts on the Space Coast, not only where the launch pads await, but where Bezos has built a rocket factory to create some of the largest rockets ever made. Blue Origin is a private enterprise, but at an invitation-only event Thursday, Bezos hinted it could all be part of NASA's five-year plan to get to the moon. (5/10)
A Second SpaceX Starship Prototype is Being Developed in Florida (Sources: Teslarati, Ars Technica, Brownsville Herald)
SpaceX is building a second Starship prototype, this one in Florida. Recent images showed that second prototype of the company's next-generation launch vehicle under construction on Florida's Space Coast. Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter that the company is doing "simultaneous competing builds" of Starship prototypes in Florida and Texas. At the Texas site, SpaceX is preparing for another round of testing.
"Both sites will make many Starships," Musk shared on Twitter. "This is a competition to see which location is most effective. Answer might be both." This will not be a strict A/B test, a randomized experiment. Rather, Musk added, any insights gained by one team must be shared with the other, but the other team is not required to use them." Editor’s Note: I saw the prototype at its fabrication site in Cocoa; seems it will be a challenge transporting it to the spaceport. (5/15)
SpaceX Considering SSTO Starship Launches from Pad 39A (Source: NASASpaceFlight.com)
As SpaceX continues to make steady progress on multiple Starship test vehicles at their Boca Chica launch facility, the company’s CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that they are also constructing a Starship vehicle in Florida. The Florida-based Starship is expected to launch from one of SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral based facilities, as opposed to the company’s launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. One facility under serious consideration is historic Launch Complex 39A at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.
SpaceX hopes to use the Starship spacecraft to return humans to the moon and colonize Mars. Multiple sources have indicated that the company is hoping to perform orbital test flights of the Starship prototypes. What level of testing remains an open question, as Elon Musk noted on Twitter that using SSTO (Single Stage To Orbit) test launches – where just the Starship launches without the Super Heavy booster – wouldn’t allow the vehicle to be reusable. This leaves the Starship launches solely for testing the vehicle, as they are planning from the Boca Chica site.
At LC-39A, Starship may also be able to capitalize on existing ground infrastructure including the LOX tanks at the pad. However, Starship will use methane instead of kerosene like Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Therefore, the installation of methane tanks will be a requirement. There is room for such hardware including the area once used to store hydrogen for the Space Shuttle. (5/18)
SpaceX’s Starship Could Launch Secret Turkish Satellite (Source: Teslarati)
According to SpaceX COO/President Gwynne Shotwell and a Turkish satellite industry official, Starship and Super Heavy may have a role to play in the launch of Turksat’s first domestically-procured communications satellite. Per Shotwell’s specific phrasing, this comes as a bit of a surprise. Built by Airbus Defense and Space, SpaceX is already on contract to launch Turksat’s 5A and 5B communications satellites as early as Q2 2020 and Q1 2021, respectively.
The spacecraft referred to in the context of Starship is the generation meant to follow 5A/5B: Turksat 6A and any follow-on variants. Turksat’s 6-series satellites will be designed and manufactured domestically rather than procured from non-Turkish heavyweights like Airbus or SSL. However, the Turksat 6A satellite’s current baseline specifications would make it an extremely odd fit for a launch vehicle as large as Starship/Super Heavy. (5/14)
Florida Space Coast Bouncing Back with Help From SpaceX, Boeing and Blue Origin (Source: Washington Post)
A host of companies have laid claim to the old government launchpads. Buildings left vacant have been torn down or rebuilt. And the Cape is once again on the verge of sending humans back to space for the first time since 2011, the crescendo of a new, reinvigorated space age that many hope will restore the flag-waving pride of a bygone era.
As new life is being breathed back into this venerable coastline, the resurrection is coming in fits and starts, and in an entirely new form that is far more unstable and unpredictable than the one infused by government cash in the 1960s. Today, the new space age is built on the fortunes of private enterprise, subject to the whims of the economy. And like the next chapter of America’s grand adventure in space, the future of the Space Coast is far from guaranteed.
Having seen the devastation that can come when a town reliant on a single industry buckles, local leaders have gone to great lengths to try to diversify their economy. They’ve put in special taxing districts and offered incentives to woo all sorts of businesses to create a better sense of stability. At the peak of the recession, the unemployment rate in Brevard County, where the Space Coast is largely based, spiked to 12 percent. The real estate market plunged. The median price for single-family homes fell from nearly $250,000 in 2007 to less than $100,000 by 2011. Click here. (5/16)
SpaceX Sues the Federal Government but Asks to Keep Details Under Wraps (Source: GeekWire)
SpaceX filed a lawsuit against the federal government, apparently protesting a contract bidding process — but asked the court to keep the proceedings under seal and covered by a protective order. The company said the details had to be kept out of the public eye because they include “confidential and proprietary information and source selection information not appropriate for release to the public.” This isn’t the first time SpaceX has filed a bid protest against the federal government: The best-known case came in 2014 when SpaceX sued the government over the Air Force’s decision to order 36 rocket cores from ULA. Editor's Note: Bid protests are not unusual, and though they technically are "suing the government" they are often an anticipated part of the process for complex, closely competed and high-value procurements. (5/18)
SpaceX Delays Launch of Starlink Satellites, Its Heaviest-Yet Payload (Sources: Orlando Sentinel, Ars Technica)
SpaceX twice postponed its scheduled launch of 60 Starlink satellites, first for high winds and then because of a technical issue. The technical delay was because it wanted to "update satellite software and triple-check everything again." The next launch opportunity will be in about a week, the company announced.
The 60 satellites on the rocket are the beginning of a constellation of thousands that will provide broadband internet access globally. With a mass of 18.5 tons, this will be the company's heaviest launch to date for either the Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rocket. The rocket will boost 60 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO). Each satellite weighs 227kg. (5/17)
SpaceX Static Fires Falcon 9 with Satellites On Board for the First Time in Years (Source: Teslarati)
SpaceX completed a Falcon 9 static fire ahead of Starlink’s first dedicated launch, breaking a practice that dates back to Falcon 9’s catastrophic failure in September 2016. Around nine minutes before a planned static fire test, an explosion completely destroyed the rocket and the Amos-6 communications satellite payload, severely damaging Launch Complex 40 too. Since that fateful failure, all 42 subsequent Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy satellite launches have been preceded by static fire tests without a payload fairing attached.
This process typically adds 24-48 hours of work to launch operations, an admittedly tiny price to pay to reduce the chances of a rocket failure completely destroying valuable payloads. With Starlink v0.9, SpaceX is making different choices. The only exceptions since Amos-6 are the launch debuts of Falcon Heavy – with a payload that was effectively disposable and SpaceX-built – and Crew Dragon DM-1, in which Falcon 9’s integration with Dragon’s launch abort system had to be tested as part of the static fire. Every other SpaceX rocket launch since September 2016 has excluded payloads during each routine pre-flight static fire.
In 2016, supercooled liquid oxygen ruptured a composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) in Falcon 9’s upper stage. The resultant explosion posed a serious threat to the livelihood of the payload's owner, Spacecom. Posed with a question of whether saving a day or two of schedule was worth the potential destruction of customer payloads, both customers, SpaceX, and their insurers obviously concluded that static fires should be done without payloads aboard the rocket. With Starlink, SpaceX is both the sole payload/satellite stakeholder and launch provider, meaning that nearly all of the mission’s risk rest solely on SpaceX’s shoulders. (5/14)
Musk Says SpaceX Starlink Internet Satellites are Key to Funding His Mars Vision (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk explained on Wednesday how the company’s Starlink satellite network will serve as the company’s key money-maker, unlocking his vision of sending astronauts to Mars. For the first time, Musk spoke to the network’s timeline and gave details about how the company’s satellites work. Musk also confirmed that SpaceX has the capital required to complete the project’s first major phase.
Starlink represents the company’s ambitious plan to build an interconnected internet satellite network, also known as a “constellation,” to beam high-speed internet to anywhere on the planet. The full Starlink network would consist of 11,943 satellites flying close to the planet, closer than the International Space Station, in what is known as low Earth orbit. “We see this as a way for SpaceX to generate revenue that can be used to develop more and more advanced rockets and spaceships,” Musk said. “We believe we can use the revenue from Starlink to fund Starship.” (5/15)
Musk Provides Tech Details for Starlink Satellites (Source: Space News)
Musk said SpaceX views 1,000 satellites as the point when Starlink becomes economically viable. Limited service could begin with as little as 420 satellites, or seven launches, with 12 Starlink launches enough to ensure coverage of the United States. Musk said each launch will deploy a terabit of "usable capacity," far more than existing geostationary satellites. The Starlink satellites will communicate with ground terminals the size of a "small to medium pizza" using phased-array antennas, but he did not disclose the cost of those terminals. (5/15)
SpaceX's Starlink Could Cause Cascades of Space Junk (Source: Scientific American)
Nine companies total—including SpaceX, Amazon, Telesat and LeoSat—have been licensed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to launch such constellations. SpaceX alone plans to launch nearly 12,000 satellites by the mid-2020s, which will operate either at an altitude about 500 kilometers in low-Earth orbit (LEO) or a higher altitude of roughly 1,200 kilometers in nongeostationary orbit (NGSO). It is the first company of the nine to launch any fully functional satellites of its constellation.
OneWeb, the next front-runner, has plans for a 650-strong constellation in NGSO. Six of its test satellites were launched this past February, and its first proper launch of three dozen or so satellites are planned for later this year. Monthly launches of 30 to 36 satellites will follow, with the service coming online in 2021. Every other company has similar plans for incrementally launching hundreds to thousands of satellites of its own.
Whenever debris or a defunct spacecraft gets too close for comfort to an active satellite—typically when a collision risk rises to one part in several thousand—the satellite’s operator must perform a collision-avoidance maneuver. The International Space Station, for example, is moved when the chance of a collision is greater than one in 10,000. Click here. (5/15)
An FCC Role in Orbital Debris Mitigation? (Source: Breaking Defense)
The FCC's approval of an Earth observation constellation has triggered new debate about its role in mitigating space debris. The FCC announced last week that it approved a license for a constellation of 120 synthetic aperture radar satellites proposed by Theia, a stealthy startup, contingent on the company providing a more detailed orbital debris mitigation plan.
The approval comes as the FCC is weighing changes to its existing regulations on orbital debris, and questioning if the agency has the appropriate expertise to handle the topic. One commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, issued a statement wondering why, if the FCC was weighing its role in orbital debris mitigation, it nonetheless was moving to "rubber stamp" constellations that could place thousands of satellites into orbit. (5/13)
Senators Debate Space Traffic Management Roles (Source: Space News)
At a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee's space subcommittee, members debated which agency — the Commerce Department or the FAA — should take the lead in civil space traffic management work, although witnesses agreed that the Air Force should be relieved of its current responsibility in providing space situational awareness information to satellite operators. (5/15)
As Commercial Spaceflight Takes Off, the Aviation Industry Gets Protective of Airspace (Source: The Verge)
Getting new technology in the hands of the FAA is something that the aviation industry agrees with, too. But aviation lobbyists also want to take things a step further. Right now, commercial space is regulated under Title 51 in the United States Code, which doesn’t require the same regulatory and safety standards as aviation. But the aviation industry wants commercial space to be subjected to the same safety regulations as the airlines —under Title 49 — giving the FAA full authority over rocket licensing and safety as if they were airplanes.
“For the time that commercial space occupies the National Airspace System, we want them to be subject to the full authority of the Federal Aviation Administration to regulate them for safety and efficiency,” said Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy at Airlines for America.
Commercial space advocates say that would be extremely limiting to an industry that has not been around as long as commercial aviation. And the rules and regulations that guide airplanes could conflict with how rockets are developed. “We’re not aviation. We’re commercial space transportation,” Jim Muncy, founder of PoliSpace, a space policy consulting agency, tells The Verge. “If you put us under aviation law, you’re basically saying we have to meet potentially conflicting sets of regulations and conflicting sets of goals.” (5/16)
Oklahoma Spaceport Still Holding Onto Hopes Launched 20 Years Ago (Source: KOCO)
Twenty years after announcing plans for a spaceport, Oklahoma officials remain hopeful about attracting customers. The Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority operates a former air force base in the town of Burns Flat that has an FAA spaceport license. The state, though, struggled to attract companies to launch from the spaceport. Rocketplane Global signed up to fly its suborbital spaceplane from the spaceport, but the venture later filed for bankruptcy. The authority says it remains hopeful about attracting users and notes that the spaceport is self-funded through revenue from aviation users, but local residents are skeptical any launches will ever take place there. (5/16)
Spaceport America Vision at the Edge of Paying Off Big (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
They sealed the deal 14 years ago with a handshake in the New Mexico desert. Sir Richard Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson had flown by helicopter to a site marked with a scaffolding pole at what is now Spaceport America, about 50 miles north of Las Cruces. “Build us a world-class spaceport and we’ll bring you a world-class space line,” Branson recalled telling Richardson. It was a huge gamble for both men – one Branson says was based on vision and trust. New Mexico’s side of the deal carries a price tag in excess of $220 million, while Branson and other investors have pumped more than $1 billion into the effort.
That gamble may be on the verge of paying big dividends. Branson, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced this month the company is ready to move the rest of its flight operations – another 100 personnel including engineers, mechanics, flight crews and pilots – from Mojave in California to New Mexico. The time is right, Whitesides says, because after successful test flights of Virgin Galactic’s mothership and spaceship Unity in December and February, the company is ready to take the final steps to launching civilian tourists into space.
“New Mexico is becoming the first place to regularly launch humans into space on flights conducted by a private company,” Branson said. While Whitesides emphasizes the difficulty of the task and says there is still “work to do,” there are hints the initial flight could take place within a year. If and when it happens, it will be a historic event with the entire world focused on New Mexico. The opportunities to capitalize on this and take long-term, game-changing steps to restructure our economy are unlimited. Lujan Grisham gets it, and it will be up to her and others to ensure we take advantage. (5/18)
Space Tourism Steps Closer to Commercial Flight Reality (Source: Voice of America)
Billionaire Richard Branson is moving Virgin Galactic’s winged passenger rocket and more than 100 employees from California to a remote commercial launch and landing facility in southern New Mexico, bringing his space tourism dream a step closer to reality. Branson said Friday at a news conference that Virgin Galactic’s development and testing program has advanced enough to make the move to the custom-tailored hangar and runway at the taxpayer-financed Spaceport America facility near the town of Truth or Consequences.
Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said a small number of flight tests are pending. He declined to set a specific deadline for the first commercial flight. An interior cabin for the company’s space rocket is being tested, and pilots and engineers are among the employees relocating from California to New Mexico. The move to New Mexico puts the company in the “home stretch,” Whitesides said. The manufacturing of the space vehicles by a sister enterprise, The Spaceship Company, will remain based in the community of Mojave, California. (5/10)
ULA to Carry Inflatable Heat Shield for NASA as Secondary Atlas Payload (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA has found a ride for a demonstration of an inflatable heat shield. NASA and United Launch Alliance said recently they're now planning to fly the LOFTID technology demonstrator as a secondary payload on the Atlas 5 launch of NOAA's JPSS-2 weather satellite in late 2021 or early 2022. NOAA agreed to allow LOFTID on its launch after concluding it posed no significant risk to the mission. LOFTID will deploy an aeroshell six meters in diameter, testing a technology that could be used on future Mars missions. ULA is also interested in the technology for recovering engines from future launches of its Vulcan rocket. (5/14)
Cost of Delta 4 Heavy Launches is Down But the Real Price is a Secret (Source: Space News)
The Air Force announced May 9 it awarded ULA a $149 million contract modification for a Delta 4 Heavy launch of the National Reconnaissance Office mission NROL-68, the second of three missions awarded to ULA under the Launch Vehicle Production Services contract. Under the $449.8 million LVPS contract, ULA in October 2018 was awarded three NRO missions — NROL-91, NROL-68, and NROL-70 — projected to launch in fiscal years 2022, 2023 and 2024 respectively.
The announcement drew some reaction on social media, mostly from space industry watchers who know that Delta 4 Heavy launches in recent years have commanded a price tag of about $350 million. To observers, the $149 million price for one mission or $449.8 million for three Delta 4 Heavy missions did not make any sense. For perspective, the Air Force in June awarded SpaceX a $130 million contract for a Falcon Heavy launch in 2020 of the Air Force AFSPC-52 payload. The explanation is that there is more to the story.
The Air Force’s $449.8 million contract for three Delta 4 Heavy launches is one portion of what the government would actually pay to launch the NRO missions — launches that are funded through multiple contracting vehicles. Although the Air Force says the cost of Delta 4 Heavy launches has come down, it certainly has not dropped by half. (5/14)
United Launch Alliance, UAW Employees Ratify New Contract (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) was notified today that employees represented by United Auto Workers (UAW) in Harlingen, Texas, have voted to accept the company’s new five-year contract offer. Represented employees at the Harlingen facility build structural components for the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.
The collective bargaining agreement will take effect on May 13, 2019, and covers nearly 60 employees from UAW Local No. 2346 at ULA’s production operations facility. Negotiations began on May 6 and concluded on May 9, with the union voting May 10. The vote to ratify the collective bargaining agreement came roughly a week after ULA signed a five-year lease extension with the Harlingen Airport Authority for continued use of the manufacturing facility. (5/10)
LightSail 2 Set to Launch Next Month Aboard SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket (Source: Planetary Society)
The Planetary Society's LightSail 2 spacecraft is ready to embark on a challenging mission to demonstrate the power of sunlight for propulsion. Weighing just 5 kilograms, the loaf-of-bread-sized spacecraft, known as a CubeSat, is scheduled to lift off on 22 June 2019 aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Once in space, LightSail 2 will deploy a boxing ring-sized solar sail and attempt to raise its orbit using the gentle push from solar photons. (5/13)
DARPA Hosts Rocket Contest for Speedy Space Deliveries (Source: Cheddar)
Three space launch firms, Vector Launch, Virgin Orbit, and one anonymous company, will soon race to launch parcels into space faster than ever. The competition is hosted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Defense's research arm, and signals that the military has its eye on commercial space launch startups.
The rules are simple. The competing teams will learn the location of the launch, to be somewhere in the U.S., a few weeks before it’s scheduled, but what they’re launching ー and where it’s headed ー they’ll only know with a few days’ notice. The three companies then will each launch the small payloads into a low orbit of Earth. The goal is to make the launch of relatively light parcels, such as small satellites, more flexible, resilient, and mobile. Each team will attempt two launches, which are anticipated to happen in early 2020. The top prize is $10 million. (5/13)
Pentagon’s ‘On-Demand’ Space Launch Challenge Presents Host of Challenges (Source: Politico)
Some of the biggest challenges facing the Pentagon’s effort to enlist companies to demonstrate they can launch satellites on demand may be on Earth -- such as a mountain of licensing paperwork and figuring out logistics with short notice of the launch site. DARPA is interested in developing on-demand launch because it will allow the military to quickly replace satellites that are damaged or destroyed.
"Getting paperwork in to the FAA for five licenses for five different spaceports simultaneously is a herculean task,” says Robert Cleave, the chief revenue officer at Vector, an Arizona-based small launch company founded in 2016. “We have two people dedicated to doing this with support staff of a couple more.” Another big challenge they are facing is transporting the rocket when the companies will only learn the location of their launch site a few weeks ahead of time, added Cleave, who previously worked at Lockheed Martin.
"As we go from a startup to a grownup, we need to instill processes… We don’t want to have the processes of a 50-year-old legacy company because that doesn’t make sense for us. We still need to be nimble. But we want to increase the operational efficiency of the company and processes tend to help if you do them properly. The third is behaving more like … a company that’s expected to make profits for its investors." Click here. (5/17)
The Changing Assumptions of the Small Launch Market (Source: Space News)
Small satellites, launch providers say, are growing larger as satellite operators add more capable cameras, sensors and other payloads to new missions. It’s no surprise, then, to see so many new launch companies modifying their designs to accommodate larger missions. Two launch startups changed their designs in the past six months alone — PLD Space in Spain chose to double the lift capacity of its future Miura 5 rocket to 300 kilograms, and ABL Space Systems of El Segundo, California, increased the lift capacity of its planned RS1 rocket by a third to 1,200 kilograms.
According to Alexandre Vallet, chief of the International Telecommunication Union’s Space Services Department, more than 1,100 non-geosynchronous satellite systems have been proposed since 2013. Of that total, around 200 are telecommunications systems — the type of satellite intended to comprise most publicly known megaconstellations. Predicting which constellations will come to fruition may be just as unpredictable as figuring out which of the 120-plus documented small launcher efforts will actually lift off. But successful constellations are certain to influence the launch segment.
Do small launcher companies need megaconstellation business to survive? How should they approach a market that sometimes feels like its changing faster than the rockets themselves? Five launch companies discussed these topics March 13 at a Washington Space Business Roundtable discussion moderated by SpaceNews. Click here. (5/14)
Small Launchers Getting Bigger (Source: Space News)
Small launch vehicles are getting bigger. Small satellites, launch providers say, are growing larger as satellite operators add more capable cameras, sensors and other payloads to new missions, leading startups to revise their vehicle designs to accommodate heavier payloads. Some launch vehicle developers also said that feedback from potential national security customers led them to increase their payload capacity. (5/14)
ESA Commits to Vega Procurement (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency has committed to buying several Vega launches during the transition to the Vega C vehicle. Giulio Ranzo, CEO of Avio, manufacturer of the small launch vehicle, said the same ESA meeting last month that provided the guarantees needed to start mass production of the Ariane 6 also provided a similar guarantee for the Vega. That guarantee covers eight launches from 2020 through 2023 of ESA, European Commission and other national European spacecraft. However, production of the Vega C, to be introduced next year, was not at risk because commercial demand was sufficient for Avio to confidently move forward with launcher production. (5/13)
ESA Funds Ariane 6 Upper Stage Prototype (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency has agreed to fund development of a prototype of a next-generation upper stage for the Ariane 6. ESA awarded contracts this week to ArianeGroup and MT Aerospace to develop Prototype of a Highly Optimized Black Upper Stage (PHOEBUS), an upper stage made of lightweight carbon composite materials. That could lead to development of an upper stage for the Ariane 6 called Icarus intended to increase the rocket's payload capacity. Icarus could be ready by the mid-2020s if fully funded at the ESA ministerial meeting later this year. (5/16)
China Develops New-Generation Rockets for Upcoming Missions (Source: Space Daily)
China has developed a number of new-generation carrier rockets to take the country's space industry to the next level. These include the Long March 7, Long March 9, and Long March 11. Click here. (5/17)
China's Long March-3C Lofts Beidou-2G8 (GEO-8) (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
A new navigation satellite was successfully launched by China on Friday. The launch of Beidou-2G8 (GEO-8) took place from the LC2 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan province, using the Long March-3C/G2 (Y16) launch vehicle. Launch time was 15:48 UTC. Also designated Beidou-45, the satellite is part of the GEO component of the 2nd phase of the Chinese Beidou (Compass) satellite navigation system, using both geostationary satellites and satellites in intermediate orbits.
The satellites are based on the DFH-3B Bus. This bus has a payload increased to 450 kg and payload power to 4,000 W. The spacecraft feature a phased array antenna for navigation signals and a laser retroreflector and additionally deployable S/L-band and C-band antennas. With a launch mass of 4,600 kg, spacecraft dimensions are noted to be 2.25 by 1.0 by 1.22 meters. (5/17)
China's LandSpace Completes Engine Assembly (Source: Space News)
Chinese private launch firm LandSpace has completed assembly of a liquid methane-liquid oxygen rocket engine for its new Zhuque-2 launch vehicle. The Tianque-12 engine, designed to produce 80 tons of thrust, will have its first hot fire test by the end of June. The engine will power the Zhuque-2 (Vermillion Bird-2) medium-lift launch vehicle, capable of placing up to 4,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit, with a first launch planned in 2020. The company also announced two agreements with UK-based Open Cosmos and D-Orbit of Italy related to launch services using the Zhuque-2 rocket. (5/16)
Japanese Space Startup Wants to Compete with US Rocket Rivals (Source: New York Post)
A Japanese startup that launched a rocket into space earlier this month plans to provide low-cost rocket services and compete with American rivals such as SpaceX. Interstellar Technology Inc. founder Takafumi Horie said a low-cost rocket business in Japan is well-positioned to accommodate scientific and commercial needs in Asia. While Japan’s government-led space programs have demonstrated top-level technology, he said the country has fallen behind commercially due to high costs.
“In Japan, space programs have been largely government-funded and they solely focused on developing rockets using the best and newest technologies, which means they are expensive,” Horie told reporters in Tokyo. “As a private company, we can focus on the minimum level of technology needed to go to space, which is our advantage. We can transport more goods and people to space by slashing costs.” Horie said his company’s low-cost MOMO-3 rocket is the way to create a competitive space business in Japan.
Horie said his company plans to launch its first orbital rocket — the ZERO — within the next few years and then it would technologically be on par with competitors such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and New Zealand engineer Peter Beck’s Rocket Lab. The two-stage ZERO would be twice as long and much heavier than the compact MOMO-3, which is about 10 meters (32 feet) long and 50 centimeters (1.5 feet) in diameter and weighs about 1 ton. It would be able to send satellites into orbit or carry payloads for scientific purposes. (5/16)
Japanese Probe Aborts Asteroid Marker Drop (Source: Jiji Press)
Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft aborted a maneuver Thursday to drop a target marker in a crater on the asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft was descending towards a crater that it created with an explosive device last month, but automatically aborted the descent at an altitude of 50 meters without dropping the marker. The cause of the aborted maneuver wasn't reported. The marker is intended to help the spacecraft target the crater in a later maneuver where it would descend to the surface to collect material excavated by it. (5/16)
Russia's Switch to Angara Seems More Expensive (Source: Interfax)
Roscosmos will pay more money to switch from a Soyuz to an Angara rocket for the launch of a set of communications satellites. Roscosmos said it will launch three Gonets-M store-and-forward communications satellites on an Angara-1.2 rocket in 2021 for about $31 million. Roscosmos will launch two other trios of Gonets-M satellites on Soyuz-2.1b rockets prior to the Angara launch, paying about one-third less for each Soyuz. (5/16)
Roscosmos Chief to Hold Talks with NASA Official (Source: TASS)
Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin will hold telephone talks with NASA's Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier in the near future. The parties plan to discuss cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS). Roscomsos earlier received an official letter from NASA, signed by Administrator Jim Bridenstine, saying that NASA had rescinded an invitation to the Roscosmos chief to visit the United States. The visit had been scheduled for February 2019. Bridenstine told the Washington Post that the invitation had been cancelled due to the position of US senators. (5/16)
Should India Pursue a Space Force? (Source: Space Review)
As the United States weighs developing a Space Force, the March test of an anti-satellite weapon by India has some there thinking about its military space plans. Ajey Lele discusses why India should develop its own space force to give military space capabilities the attention they need. Click here. (5/13)
Hermeus Announces Plan to Build the Fastest Aircraft in the World (Source: Ars Technica)
A new aerospace company has entered the race to provide supersonic commercial air travel. On Monday, a US-based company named Hermeus announced plans to develop an aircraft that will travel at speeds of up to Mach 5. Such an aircraft would cut travel time from New York to Paris from more than 7 hours to 1.5 hours. Hermeus said it has raised an initial round of funding led by Khosla Ventures, but it declined to specify the amount. This funding will allow Hermeus to develop a propulsion demonstrator and other initial technologies needed to make its supersonic aircraft a reality, said Skyler Shuford.
The announcement follows three years after another company, Boom Supersonic, declared its own intentions to develop faster-than-sound aircraft. As of January 2019, Boom had raised more than $140 million toward development of its Overture airliner, envisioned to travel at Mach 2.2, which is about 10 percent faster than the Concorde traveled. Officials with Boom Supersonic have said its planes could be ready for commercial service in the mid-2020s, and they added that Virgin Group and Japan Airlines have preordered a combined 30 airplanes.
The type of vehicle Hermeus seeks to develop will travel considerably faster, but Shuford said it will rely mostly on existing technology and materials. "We aren't getting into anything too miraculous," Shuford said. "We want to do engineering, not science." Primary materials will include titanium, and the propulsion system will be powered by a turbine-based, combined-cycle engine. Over the next five years, the company plans to work toward a demonstrator vehicle that travels at Mach 5, before developing aircraft for commercial service eight to 10 years from now, Shuford said. (5/13)
OneWeb Gears Up To Produce Two Satellites Per Day (Source: Aviation Week)
As OneWeb’s first six satellites reach their operational orbits, a factory in Florida is stockpiling flight hardware and fine-turning software, robotics and equipment to prepare for the start of spacecraft production on June 3. The factory, a partnership of OneWeb and Airbus, draws heavily on experience gleaned from manufacturing the first 10 satellites at Airbus’ Toulouse facility. Click here. (5/13)
Orbital Insight Opens Its Satellite Network to the Masses (Source: Bloomberg)
Google’s long-running quest has been “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This corporate mantra focuses, for the most part, on arranging and analyzing data produced by humans, be it websites, books, calendar appointments, or the location of businesses around a city. But what if instead of gathering the world’s information from the ground up, you could begin organizing all of that data from above by looking down at Planet Earth itself? This has been the mission of Orbital Insight.
Founded in 2013, Orbital pulls in images snapped by satellites and uses them to watch and analyze human activity. It can monitor the number of cars in Walmart parking lots across the U.S. to see how busy the back-to-school shopping season is, the number of new homes going up in Houston, the amount of oil in China’s storage tanks, or the production activity at Tesla’s auto factory. Traditional economic data also measure these types of things, but Orbital says its images are more accurate indicators of what’s happening on Earth. “What we are selling is truths about the world,” says James Crawford, its founder and chief executive officer.
To pull useful information out of thousands upon thousands of images, Orbital built a complex software system infused with artificial intelligence. It’s spent years holding the hands of hedge funds, government agencies, and other customers to teach them how the software works and how to customize analysis, acting almost like a consultant. On May 15 the company released Orbital Go, a product it’s billing as more of a self-service application that lets customers hunt for fresh insights on their own. It’s part of a mission to make the technology widely available to businesses, governments, and other organizations, allowing anyone to interrogate the planet. (5/15)
NOAA Envisions Distributed Sourcing for Weather Data (Source: Space News)
NOAA is planning for a future where a variety of satellites may contribute data for weather forecasting. NOAA says it's studying concepts for future systems that look far different from the current ones, particularly in low Earth orbit where small satellites of various sizes could gather targeted observations. In geostationary orbit, replacements for the GOES-R series of satellites, needed starting around 2030, could include a number of satellites that provide imagery and other data, rather than just a few big spacecraft. (5/14)
Iceye Inks SAR Imagery Deal with Asia Pacific Satellite (Source: Space News)
Iceye has an agreement with a South Korean company to deliver synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery. Under the memorandum of understanding with Asia Pacific Satellite Inc., Iceye will provide SAR images from its planned constellation of smallsats, which will be used by government and commercial customers in the country. Iceye launched its second satellite, Iceye-X2, last December and expects to have up to five more satellites in orbit by the end of this year. (5/16)
Olis Robotics Wins $50K from Air Force to Study Options for Satellite-Servicing Robots (Source: GeekWire)
Seattle-based Olis Robotics says it has received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Air Force to lay out a plan for using its AI-driven software platform to control satellite-servicing robots in orbit. The initial SBIR grant could set the stage for as much as $1.5 million in future Air Force funding, depending on how the plan is received. Olis is a five-year-old spinout from the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. It specializes in the development of semi-autonomous control software that’s suitable for underwater remotely operated vehicles as well as space robots. (5/17)
Blockchain and Space: the Companies (Source: SpaceQ)
The most prominent player in space-based blockchain and cryptocurrency is Singapore-based SpaceChain. SpaceChain was created in 2017 by Zheng Zuo, Jeff Garzik and funder Tim Draper as a way to “bring blockchain technology to outer space”. Draper has previously invested in SpaceX and Tesla. SpaceChain aims to resolve a perceived issue with space commercialization: that “space technology is traditionally closed off and highly guarded behind government doors”. While progress is being made, the fact remains that access to space-based infrastructure is incredibly expensive. SpaceChain’s founders believe that this is impeding innovative ideas for space-based networking and computing applications and software, and that it may even detrimental to space exploration.
Blockchain can help. Due to the decentralization of blockchain tech, SpaceChain believes that they can help resolve this issue. They are launching a series of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites which will serve as blockchain nodes, creating a reliable spaceborne platform that (in theory) cannot be disrupted, censored, hacked or controlled. And, instead of simply handling transactions, the network will be focused on exploiting the blockchain for a variety of purpose: data processing, transmission, application development and even space-based data storage. The SpaceChain satellite network provides these capabilities using its own open-source operating system (SpaceChain OS) — allowing for application development, testing, and deployment — built on top of Ethereum’s Smart Contract platform. Click here. (5/13)
It Isn’t Easy Finding Something Smaller Than a Human Hair from 22,000 Miles Away (Source: Harris Corp.)
The space industry is mostly focused on designing, launching and managing unmanned spacecraft – weather, communications, GPS and other satellites. And unless you follow the industry closely, you might not know that it isn’t entirely unusual for these spacecraft to encounter problems. That was the situation our engineers found themselves in last year when the Harris-built main instrument on a newly launched weather satellite wasn’t working as designed. This was the second in a new series of weather satellites that sit 22,300 miles above Earth, called the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S).
The satellite launched one year after GOES-R, which had already proven itself by delivering on the promise of better and faster data to support improved weather forecasts to save lives and property. NOAA had high expectations for the satellite. But during the checkout phase before it became operational, the team discovered that its main instrument, the Advanced Baseline Imager, wasn’t working as expected. ABI is responsible for the lion’s share of the satellite’s data, so it was a big deal.
Imagine trying to figure out why the high-definition television in your living room is only showing black and white images. Now imagine trying to figure that out from your backyard. Our engineers and others from NASA and NOAA were trying to diagnose what was preventing 13 of ABI’s 16 spectral channels from working – from 22,300 miles below the orbiting satellite. When there’s no human to talk with, engineers systematically run through tasks to troubleshoot issues and can sometimes resolve them by sending software updates. But mechanical issues are a different story. Click here. (5/15)
It Only Took A Few Months For This Satellite To Get Ready For Space (Source: Forbes)
A startup company's new flexible-path spacecraft system is doing well during its first few weeks in orbit. York Space Systems announced May 16 that its S-CLASS spacecraft bus passed initial testing or commissioning. All the more remarkable: the timeline from first hardware to launch site delivery took less than 3.5 months. The S-CLASS is a three-axis stabilized platform that is designed for payloads of 188 pounds or less. York plans to move forward with "rapid production of its platform."
The first paces for the spacecraft all completed smoothly, including communicating with the ground, deploying the solar arrays and connecting with York's secure private network from several in-field mobile locations. The company announced the commissioning success less than two weeks after the satellite's launch May 5 from New Zealand, aboard a Rocket Lab Electron booster.
It's a key first step for a company that is looking to hop on the growing smallsat trend and while making high customization available to customers. The eventual goal is to offer the S-CLASS platform in either a standard configuration, or to allow it to include different platforms or to fly to different orbits as customer needs dictate, the company said. (5/17)
Axiom Space Tests Acrylic Sample on ISS in Alpha Space's MISSE Facility (Source: Axiom)
A pair of private American companies brought a key material sample for an upcoming space station from simple concept to testing in space in only six months, in a sign of the burgeoning commercial space industry's responsiveness and agility. Axiom Space and Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance (Alpha Space), both based in Houston, released photos on Wednesday of a specially formulated acrylic sample belonging to Axiom flying on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) in Alpha Space's MISSE Flight Facility. It was one of more than 400 samples contained in seven MISSE carriers launched Nov. 17 on the Northrop Grumman NG-10 ISS resupply mission.
Axiom is developing a privately-owned space station that will succeed the ISS. When complete, Axiom Station will serve as the primary platform in low Earth orbit for astronauts, in-space research and manufacturing, and deep space exploration systems demonstration. Alpha Space's commercial, turn-key services give customers like Axiom the opportunity to test materials and equipment in the space environment through the privately-owned MISSE facility. MISSE allows experimenters to expose samples to the extreme cold, heat, and vacuum of space, plus unfiltered sunlight, atomic oxygen, radiation, and potentially micrometeoroid strikes. (5/13)
Regulatory Challenges for Eutelsat's Africa Service (Source: Space News)
Eutelsat's efforts to develop a satellite broadband business in Africa are off to a slow start. The company's Konnect Africa started service in late 2018 using leased capacity on Emirati operator Yahsat's Al Yah 3 satellite, and was live in 19 countries as of February. The company, though, has run into a number of regulatory and logistical issues, including the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo shutting off internet access during elections in December. The company expects "no material revenues" from Konnect Africa this year as a consequence of those challenges, but remains optimistic about future demand for the service. (5/15)
FAA Approves Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband-Safety for Aviation Safety (Source: Aviation Week)
Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband-Safety (SB-S) satellite communications (satcom) service has received final FAA approval for use in air traffic services applications, the company announced May 7. The approval validates SB-S for controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC) and follows evaluation of the internet protocol (IP)-based satellite communications service by Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines on 25,000 flights between June 2015 and July 2018. (5/7)
Inmarsat Takeover Approved by Shareholders (Source: Space News)
Shareholders have approved a private-equity takeover of Inmarsat. More than three quarters of shareholders voted on Friday in favor of the proposed acquisition by private equity firms Apax and Warburg Pincus and Canadian pension firms CPPIB and OTPP, which valued the company at $3.3 billion. The deal comes after Inmarsat twice rejected offers from U.S. satellite operator EchoStar, saying the offers of up to $4.25 billion undervalued the company. Analysts said that this deal won favor because of a higher per-share price and the all-cash nature of the offer. Inmarsat expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter of 2019. (5/13)
Inmarsat Shareholders Back $3.4 Billion Takeover (Source: Reuters)
Investors in Inmarsat voted on Friday to sell the British satellite firm to a private equity-led consortium for $3.4 billion following a recommendation from the company’s board that the offer was fair and reasonable. Nearly 79 percent of shares voted supported a so-called scheme of arrangement for the takeover by a consortium comprising UK-based Apax Partners, U.S.-based Warburg Pincus and two Canadian pension funds, Inmarsat said.
Inmarsat’s board recommended the $7.21 per share cash offer in March, saying that although it was confident in the long-term prospects of the company, it would take time for the investment needed in its satellite networks to deliver returns. The consortium said it was attracted by Inmarsat’s long-term contracts to supply communications to governments and other customers, such as major shipping companies, and it saw considerable potential for Inmarsat’s growing business providing broadband connections to airlines. (5/10)
Aeolus: Wind-Mapping Space Laser is Losing Power (Source: BBC)
Europe's Aeolus satellite was launched last year to gather data to improve weather forecasts, and its observations have unquestionably proved their worth. However, the laser is now degrading and has already lost half its power. Engineers plan to switch Aeolus to its back-up light source in June to see what difference this could make. If the same issues arise, the UK-assembled spacecraft may not be able to complete the minimum three years expected of the mission. "That's the bad news; the good news is that despite the degrading laser, the quality of the wind data is fantastic." (5/13)
University of Hawaii Satellite Chosen for NASA Space Mission (Source: Space Daily)
A satellite designed and developed by researchers and engineers at the University of Hawai'i (UH) at Manoa is among 16 small research satellites from 10 states that NASA has selected to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in the next three years. In August 2018, the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) in the UH Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) received $3.9M from NASA in support of a two-year project to develop the Hyperspectral Thermal Imager (HyTI) CubeSat. (5/16)
Embry-Riddle Students Construct and Hot Fire Liquid Rocket Engine (Source: ERAU)
Mission accomplished! Composed of seven Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University engineering students, Team Tiber Designs has successfully fired the Prescott campus’ first liquid rocket engine inside a brand new test facility as part of their senior capstone project in the College of Engineering. The project was named Janus and Testcell 3.
“Hot firing for the first time was literally the greatest accomplishment of my life,” added Kurtz. “We went from the conex box being delivered to successfully hot firing Embry-Riddle’s first liquid rocket engine in exactly 90 days.” Although this group of team members are graduating, the project is set for a new team of students to continue forward. The next step is to qualify the engine for flight with a 10-second hot fire. (5/15)
NASA Awards $106 Million to US Small Businesses for Technology Development, Eight in Florida (Source: NASA)
Managing pilotless aircraft and solar panels that could help humans live on the Moon and Mars are among the technologies NASA is looking to develop with small business awards totaling $106 million. In all, NASA has selected 142 proposals from 129 U.S. small businesses from 28 states and the District of Columbia to receive Phase II contracts as part the agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Eight Florida projects are among those selected, including: Orlando's BEAM for Broadband Vector Vortices for High Contrast Coronagraphy; Miami's City Labs for 5 Watt per Kilogram Tritium Betavoltaic; Gainesville's Interdisciplinary Consulting for Capacitive Vector Skin Friction Measurement Systems for Complex Flow Fields; Jacksonville's Made in Space for Precision In-Space Manufacturing for Structurally Connected Space Interferometry, and Glass Alloy in Microgravity; Winter Springs' Pegasense for 4.3 GHz Passive Wireless Sensor System; Palmetto's R Cubed Engineering for Independent Authentication of ADS-B And Transponder Equipped Aircraft Location; and Gainesville's Streamline Numerics for High Performance Solver for Coupled Cavitation and Fluid-Structure Interaction in Cryogenic Environments. (5/15)
Florida Tech Elected to Universities Space Research Association (Source: Florida Tech)
Florida Tech was recently elected a member of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), the 50-year-old nonprofit research corporation that utilizes in-house and university-based expertise to advance space science and technology. The Council of Institutions at USRA, the Columbia, Maryland-based non-profit organization, unanimously elected Florida Tech at USRA’s annual meeting April 23.
“Given our space heritage, STEM focus and ongoing student and faculty success in tackling the most important space and technology challenges before us, we are excited and honored to join an organization that will help us achieve even more, together,” said Florida Tech Senior Vice President for Research Gisele Bennett, Ph.D.
USRA was founded in 1969, driven by the vision of James Webb, the NASA administrator from 1961 to 1968, and Frederick Seitz, the president of the National Academy of Sciences from 1962 to 1969. They recognized that the technical challenges of space exploration would require an ongoing and strong collaboration between NASA and the university research community. (5/14)
NASA Administrator to Speak at Florida Tech Space Event on May 23 (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will deliver remarks and speak to media Thursday, May 23, at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. The remarks will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. Florida Tech is hosting a space technology event to engage students, research faculty, regional institutions and local businesses, and discuss NASA opportunities and America’s plan to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024. See the link in my calendar section below. (5/16)
NASA Awards Florida Researchers $1.7M Grant to Develop Tools to Help Florida Water Utilities Allocate Resources (Source: FSU)
Researchers from Florida State University, in partnership with a network of scientists and stakeholders from throughout the state, have been awarded a $1.7 million grant from NASA to develop cutting-edge climate prediction tools that could benefit Florida water supply utilities. FSU climate experts and their collaborators will use NASA Earth Science satellite and modeling products to provide actionable, localized climate information to regional water utilities in order to aid them as they make critical decisions about water resource allocation.
These new tools will provide improved insight into climate’s effect on systems and operations essential to state water utilities, such as the flow of rivers and streams and the storage and recovery of water in aquifers. University of Florida Water Institute affiliate faculty will spearhead the initiative. Professor of Meteorology Vasu Misra will lead FSU’s efforts on the project, “Integrating NASA Earth Systems Data into Decision-Making Tools of Member Utilities of the Florida Water and Climate Alliance.” (5/15)
Florida Panel Increases Sea Rise Projection (Source: Tampa Bay Times)
A group of local scientists has been working on and off for months to come up with Tampa Bay-area projections for sea level rise. Their verdict: the problem is getting worse. The Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, a group of climate scientists that formed in 2014, presented its findings to a Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council committee Monday. They found that the region is likely to face between 1.9 and 8.5 feet of sea level rise by the year 2100. The projections are the group's second round of local sea level rise predictions. The current forecasts are 12 to 18 inches higher than their 2015 estimates on average. (5/14)
New Water Cycle on Mars Discovered (Source: Space Daily)
Approximately every two Earth years, when it is summer in the southern hemisphere of Mars, a window opens: only there and only in this season can water vapor efficiently rise from the lower into the upper atmosphere. There, winds carry the rare gas to the north pole. While part of the water vapor decays and escapes into space, the rest sinks back down near the poles.
Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany describe this unusual Martian water cycle in a current issue of the Geophysical Research Letters. Their computer simulations show how water vapor overcomes the barrier of cold air in the middle atmosphere of Mars and reaches higher air layers. This could help to understand why Mars - unlike Earth - has lost most of its water.
Billions of years ago, Mars was a planet rich in water with rivers and even an ocean. Since then, our neighboring planet has changed dramatically: today, only small amounts of frozen water exist in the ground; in the atmosphere, water vapor occurs only in traces. All in all, the planet may have lost at least 80 percent of its original water. In the upper atmosphere of Mars, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun split water molecules into hydrogen (H) and hydroxyl radicals (OH). The hydrogen escaped from there irretrievably into space. (5/10)
This is Why Mars is Red and Dead While Earth is Blue and Alive (Source: Forbes)
What MAVEN saw was that Mars loses, on average, about 100 grams (¼ pound) of atmosphere to space every second. During flaring events, where the solar wind becomes much stronger than normal, that increases to about twenty times the typical value. When the atmosphere was much denser, though, the same level of solar wind would strip it away much more quickly. Timescales of merely ~100 million years would be sufficient to transform a Mars-sized world, without any protection from the solar wind, from having an Earth-like atmosphere to one akin to what we find on present-day Mars.
After perhaps a billion years with liquid water precipitating and flowing freely on the Martian surface, a tiny slice of cosmic history was enough to blow the habitable prospects of Mars completely away.
Both Mars and Earth had early atmospheres that were heavy, massive, and extraordinarily rich in CO2. While Earth's carbon dioxide got absorbed into the oceans and locked up into carbonate rocks, Mars was unable to do the same, as its oceans were too acidified. The presence of sulfur dioxide led to Martian oceans that were rich in sulfuric acid. This led to geology of Mars we've discovered with rovers and landers, and pointed to a different cause — the solar wind — as the culprit in the mystery of the missing Martian atmosphere. (5/14)
Our Shrinking Moon (Source: Scientific American)
The moon is shrinking, causing moonquakes in the process. Scientists reanalyzed data collected by Apollo-era seismometers, and found that a number of quakes were located in the vicinity of faults seen on the surface in images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Those quakes, scientists said, are likely caused as the moon's interior cools and shrinks, causing the crust to break. (5/13)
Apollo Rocks Showed How the Moon was Made, and Now They’re About to Solve More Mysteries (Source: Washington Post)
With less than 10 minutes to go before the end of his moonwalk, Armstrong used tongs to pile about 20 rocks into a specialized collection box. Deciding it wasn’t full enough, he scooped an additional 13 pounds of lunar soil into the container. Today, a tablespoon of that soil sits in a sealed dish in a locked and windowless lab at Johnson Space Center in Houston. It is a prized piece of the Apollo program’s greatest scientific legacy: nearly 850 pounds of moon rocks.
For 50 years, research on these rocks has transformed our understanding of the moon, revealing the circumstances of its birth and the reasons for its mottled face. Now, NASA has decided to release three new samples for analysis — samples that no scientist has touched. The upcoming experiments, on vacuum-sealed cores and a long-frozen rock, can be performed only once, at the precise moment the samples are opened. That’s why the materials have been held back since they were retrieved from the moon, said Ryan Zeigler, who curates the Apollo rocks collection. NASA was waiting for the right scientists, with the right technologies, at the right time. (5/13)
A Bizarre Form of Water May Exist All Over the Universe (Source: WIRED)
one of the world’s most powerful lasers blasted a droplet of water, creating a shock wave that raised the water’s pressure to millions of atmospheres and its temperature to thousands of degrees. X-rays that beamed through the droplet in the same fraction of a second offered humanity’s first glimpse of water under those extreme conditions. The x-rays revealed that the water inside the shock wave didn’t become a superheated liquid or gas. Paradoxically—but just as physicists squinting at screens in an adjacent room had expected—the atoms froze solid, forming crystalline ice. Click here. (5/12)
A "Dense Bullet of Something" Blasted Holes in the Milky Way (Source: Futurism)
Scientists say that something mysterious punched gigantic, cosmic “bullet holes” in parts of the Milky Way. There’s a string of holes in a long stream of stars called GD-1 that suggests that some yet-undiscovered thing blasted its way through, according to research presented last month. Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Ana Bonaca, the scientist who discovered the cosmic crime scene, suspects that the gigantic “bullet holes” may have been carved out by invisible dark matter.
Unfortunately, the culprit of this celestial shooting seems to have gotten away with it — Bonaca told Live Science that there’s no evidence at the crime scene beyond the size of the gaps in the stellar stream. “We can’t map [the impactor] to any luminous object that we have observed,” Bonaca told Live Science. “It’s much more massive than a star… Something like a million times the mass of the Sun. So there are just no stars of that mass. We can rule that out. And if it were a black hole, it would be a supermassive black hole of the kind we find at the center of our own galaxy.” (5/16)
Women are Now in Charge of NASA's Science Missions (Source: Mashable)
When the next car-sized rover lands on Mars in 2020, the ultimate head of this extraterrestrial endeavor will be physicist Lori Glaze. She's leads NASA's Planetary Science Division. And she's not alone. For the first time in history, three of NASA's four science divisions are now run by women, a milestone announced by NASA on Friday.
"I am proud to say that for the 1st time in #NASA's history, women are in charge of 3 out of 4 #NASAScience divisions. They are inspiring the next generation of women to become leaders in space exploration as we move forward to put the 1st woman on the Moon," NASA's associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted Friday. If NASA is able to fulfill President Trump's ambitious (and still not funded) directive that the U.S. return to the moon by 2024, NASA has committed that the first women will land on the moon.
What's more, of the latest class of 12 astronauts, almost half, five, are women. Still, a woman has never led the entire space agency, as NASA's administrator. This is not surprising. Women still have a stark minority representation in the most powerful positions of U.S. government. Of the 21 members of President Trump's cabinet, four are women. Though females make up nearly 51% of the U.S. population, just 24 percent of Congress is represented by women. (5/11)
Single Mom Scores NASA Internship; Strangers Raise $8K to Help Her Go (Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
India Jackson was thrilled when she was accepted to a prestigious summer internship at NASA’s field center in Houston. But there was one big problem: the single mother and Georgia State University student had to pay for her own travel, housing and other living expenses. Jackson, studying for a doctorate in physics, said she wasn’t sure how she could afford the internship.
“I have to pay for rent in two places now, I have to rent a car, I have food, I have my child. What am I going to do?” she recalled thinking. Her cousin Dasha Fuller came up with the idea to try raising money for her on a GoFundMe page last week, with a goal of about $8,000. Within one day, strangers crowdfunded $8,510 for Jackson’s internship. (5/14)
It’s Hard for Women to Be Hired, Promoted or Taken Seriously in the National Security Establishment (Source: New York Times)
For women, people of color and transgender people, sexism, discrimination and harassment are often barriers to being hired, promoted or taken seriously in the national security bureaucracy — overseas and at home. While the numbers have improved in the Foreign Service, where women hold about 40 percent of all officer jobs, and the State Department, where 40 percent of the senior posts are held by women, they hold only 20 percent of senior civilian jobs at the Pentagon.
Women are particularly underrepresented in senior positions dealing with nuclear issues, according to a study by New America, part of a growing effort involving various groups and individuals to make the fields more welcoming to women. Part of the problem is the discipline itself, the study found. Policies involving the building, deployment, targeting and use of nuclear weapons have long been the province of an insular, innovation-averse group of men. (5/15)
Women in Kyrgyzstan are Fighting Sexism by Joining the Space Race (Source: WIRED)
In a small back office in a quiet suburb in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, a group of girls and young women nicknamed The Satellite Girls gather after school or work to huddle around computers to learn how to build the country’s first spacecraft. The Kyrgyz Space Program was started in March 2018 and has around ten full-time members who meet several times a week to study programming and physics, contact space experts and launch providers and practice soldering. Their aim is to construct and launch a small CubeSat satellite into space by 2021.
The Kyrgyz Space Program’s members are aged between 17 to 25 and training is led by 19-year-old Alina Anisimova, who started teaching herself engineering skills by dismantling computers at the age of six and following online tutorials. “You can teach yourself anything you want, and you can be whoever you want,” says Anisimova, who started teaching herself English online three months ago.
Camille Wardrop Alleyne, who works for NASA's lunar payloads team, is one of several mentors helping the Kyrgyz group with their project through her charity The Brightest Stars. It aims to encourage more girls to work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mechanics (STEM), especially those from less privileged backgrounds, and runs a Girls and CubeSats program. (5/13)
Aerospace Workforce Training - A National Mandate for the Future (Source: Space Daily)
As the aerospace workforce ages, technology advances and space operations become more contested it is imperative to continually train engineers and managers to refresh and advance their knowledge base in order to keep the U.S. competitive. This challenge is further complicated by the fact that over the past few years roughly 40% of U.S. skilled tradesman have retired.
Aviation Week recently reported that the average age of an aerospace employee was over 45, and only about 4% of all industry employees were between the ages of 22 and 25. This indicates that the demand for workforce training will remain high for at least the next several decades.
It has also been reported that the size of the aerospace workforce is slowly decreasing, requiring aerospace manufacturers to do more with fewer employees. This means productivity initiatives are even more important to maintain competitiveness. The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) has reported that "Companies will need to become even more efficient to stay competitive. (5/17)
Musk to Receive 2019 Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication (Source: Teslarati)
Elon Musk has been selected as one of the recipients of the 2019 Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication, an award created in honor of the legendary theoretical physicist for individuals who promote the public awareness of science. The SpaceX and Tesla CEO will be receiving the Stephen Hawking medal at the Starmus Festival this coming June in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication is a prestigious award in the scientific community, having been introduced back in 2015 at the Royal Society in London by a panel including the theoretical physicist himself. The medal honors individuals from three communities: the scientific community, the artistic community, and the film community. When he personally presented the medals at the Starmus Festival in June 2016, Hawking noted that the award “matters to me, to you, to the world as a whole.”
Elon Musk will be receiving the Stephen Hawking medal for the scientific community for his “astounding accomplishments in space travel and for humanity,” according to Starmus in a press release. Starmus founding member and PhD astrophysicist Brian May will be personally presenting the medal to Musk, who has been described by noted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins as a “hero for our times.” (5/13)
Blue Origin Kicks Off Kids' Space Club with Offer to Launch Postcards (Source: CollectSPACE)
The Amazon CEO and founder of Blue Origin on Thursday (May 9) announced that his private spaceflight company has created a new program to inspire today's youth to think about their future in space. To get them started, Bezos plans to launch and return 10,000 stamped postcards with students' visions for humanity beyond Earth.
"One of the things we have to do is inspire the future generations," said Bezos during a press event where he also unveiled his own far-reaching vision for space settlement, including Blue Origin's Blue Moon lunar lander. "So today, I am announcing that Blue Origin is founding the Club for the Future, whose mission is to inspire young people to build the future of life in space."
Billed as a "new kind of space club," Blue Origin's non-profit Club for the Future is open to students in kindergarten through high school, their parents and educators who are interested in efforts to preserve Earth and want to "unlock the potential of living and working in space." The Club will organize initiatives and campaigns that make use of Blue Origin's access to space. The Club's first activity is to send students' postcards on a suborbital flight aboard Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket and spacecraft. (5/11)
Apollo’s Shadow: the CIA and the Soviet Space Program During the Moon Race (Source: Space Review)
Throughout the 1960s, the CIA closely followed the Soviet space program to determine its capabilities and intent. Dwayne Day describes how one report from the late 1960s encapsulated what the CIA knew, and didn’t know, about Soviet efforts to go to the Moon. Click here. (5/13)
NASA Would Like You to Record Your Memories of the First Moon Landing (Source: The Verge)
If you remember where you were when astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon’s surface for the first time — or you know someone whose memory stretches back to the summer of ‘69 — NASA needs your help. The space agency is getting ready for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 on July 20th, and as part of its preparations, it’s asking the public to record their memories of that historical moment. NASA plans to use some of the recordings on its social media accounts and as part of a planned “audio series” relating to Moon exploration and the Apollo missions. (5/13)
Oreo to Commemorate Apollo with Cookie (Source: CollectSPACE)
Oreo will commemorate the Apollo 11 50th anniversary with a commemorative cookie. The "Marshmallow Moon" version of the famous cookie will feature designs of astronauts, rockets and the moon on the cookie, with a "purple marshmallow creme" inside. Oreo joins brands ranging from Budweiser to Zippo that plan to release versions of their products tied to the moon landing anniversary. (5/15)
Omega Celebrates 'Iconic Hours' of Apollo 11 with New Speedmaster (Source: CollectSPACE)
A new chronograph captures the time, 50 years ago, when the first wristwatch was worn on the surface of the moon. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin became the second human to walk on the moon — and the first to wear a watch while doing so. Now, half a century later, the maker of that well-traveled timepiece has included that detail on the face of a new, limited edition watch created to commemorate the mission's 50th anniversary. "The 9 o'clock subdial shows Buzz Aldrin climbing down onto the lunar surface." (5/18)
Baseball League Ballparks to Honor Apollo 11 (Source: CollectSPACE)
The National Air and Space Museum and Major League Baseball are teaming up to mark the Apollo 11 50th anniversary. Full-sized replica statues of Neil Armstrong's spacesuit will go display next month in 15 major league ballparks, based on a 3D-scan of the suit performed by the museum as part of a recent restoration. One team, the Washington Nationals, is planning an "Apollo Night" during a game in July. (5/15)
Space Tourism: Disney’s Epcot Space-Themed Restaurant Will Open This Year (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Walt Disney World visitors will be eating at Epcot’s space-themed restaurant in the near future, the company says. The experience, featuring virtual views above Earth, will be operating by the end of 2019, according to a post on the official Disney Parks Blog. The restaurant was initially announced in summer 2017. There has been no announcement about its name. And, so far, few details have shared about its menu or price point. It has “developed a menu that features internationally inspired cuisine, more than 1,000 bottles of the world’s finest wines and a wide selection of craft beer." (5/16)
Florida Breaks Tourism Record (Sources: Florida Trend, Florida Today)
Florida broke an all-time record for visitation during the first quarter of 2019 with 35.7 million people visiting the Sunshine State from January to March. This is a 5.8 percent increase from the first quarter of 2018. VISIT FLORIDA estimates that a record 31.6 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in Q1 2019, a 6.8 percent increase in domestic visitors over the same period last year.
Following VISIT Florida’s enhanced focus on attracting visitors from Canada through a cutting-edge marketing campaign, 1.4 million Canadian visitors came to Florida in Q1 2019, an increase of 1.3 percent from Q1 2018. Florida saw more than 2.6 million overseas travelers in Q1 2019. Total enplanements at 19 major Florida airports in Q1 2019 increased 6.8 percent over the same period in the previous year, with Orlando International Airport reporting the most enplaned passengers at more than 6.4 million. But the state is losing ground on tourists from out of the country. The state saw a 2.6 percent drop in international tourists.
Space tourism has been a factor. Space Florida’s 2018-19 budget included $1.5 million from the Legislature to market space tourism, as it has since 2013. The KSC Visitor Complex has been the primary beneficiary of that marketing, which helped reverse a drop in attendance after the shuttle stopped flying. The program produced the "We Are Go" website and app to promote launch viewing opportunities. An ad shows "vacationauts" building sand castles, splashing in a pool and meeting a spaceman character. (5/16)
Space Coast Symphony Honors Space Achievements (Source: Florida Today)
The Space Coast Symphony Orchestra closed its 10th Anniversary season by reaching for the stars with the multi-media “Cosmic Trilogy” concert. To celebrate the achievements of NASA, conductor and artistic director Aaron T. Collins conducted the orchestra in a program reprising highlights from the innovative film trilogy and partnership with NASA that began seven years ago with The Planets, Earth Odyssey, and most recently, The Cosmos. The Symphony program featured images of far distant galaxies, nebulae and other astronomical wonders as the audience was treated to selections from Holst's epic The Planets, Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, and Dvorak's popular New World Symphony. (5/15)
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