July 22, 2019
Bridenstine: Detailed Artemis Costs Estimate Ready Next Year (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told senators Wednesday that a detailed cost estimate for the Artemis program likely won't be ready until early next year. Bridenstine said at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that the agency is working with the administration on its fiscal year 2021 budget request, which will include a detailed estimate of the cost of returning humans to the moon by 2024. That budget request, though, won't be released until February 2020. Bridenstine said the total cost could depend on the size of commercial contributions to elements like the lunar lander, but warned development of the lander could be jeopardized if NASA starts the 2020 fiscal year this fall on a continuing resolution. (7/18)
Bridenstine: Personnel Changes Linked to Need for Speed (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in an interview Friday that the urgency in getting humans back to the moon by 2024 led him to make changes in the leadership of its explorations. Bridenstine said NASA doesn't have "a lot of time to waste" and thus he decided last week to reassign to top officials, including associate administrator for human exploration and operations Bill Gerstenmaier, in order to keep the program on track. Bridenstine, in the same interview, said he believed that commercial partners could reduce the estimated $20–30 billion cost of the Artemis program through 2024, but also raised doubts about whether commercial crew vehicles will be ready to fly NASA astronauts by the end of the year. (7/15)
An Exploration Shakeup (Source: Space Review)
As NASA and the nation prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the agency got caught up last week in issues involving its effort to return humans to the Moon. Jeff Foust reports on the shakeup that led NASA to reassign two top officials in its human spaceflight program. Click here. (7/15)
This Inflatable Space Habitat Could Help NASA Return To The Moon (Source: CNBC)
Sierra Nevada Corporation is one of the private sector companies trying to help NASA get us to the moon. The company is developing what it calls the ‘Large Inflatable Fabric Environment” at Johnson Space Center. Sierra Nevada hopes NASA will use the habitat in its new Artemis program, which will lead the U.S. back to the moon and, eventually, Mars. Sierra Nevada’s habitat is competing with prototypes from Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Bigelow Aerospace and NanoRacks. Each company has proposed its own habitation prototypes. NASA began testing the prototypes on the ground in March. The space agency says those tests should last several months. Click here. (7/19)
NASA Chief Bridenstine on Harvesting Rare-Earth Metals From the Moon (Source: CNBC)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said harvesting rare-earth metals from the surface of the moon will be possible in “this century.” Rare-earth minerals have been a key sticking point in the trade war between the U.S. and China. More than 80% of U.S. rare-earth imports come from China, and the resource has become increasingly valuable. The element is used in cellphones, batteries for electric cars, military equipment, fluorescent lights and more.
Getting these metals from the moon in the decades ahead is becoming realistic because of “the investments that the space community is making,” Bridenstine said. He called out Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Sir Richard Branson by name in this regard, praising the progress their funds have made. Bezos, Musk and Branson are the founders of space companies Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, respectively. (7/18)
Michael Collins Disagrees with NASA's Planned Moon Return (Source: Fox News)
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins wants NASA to aim its sights squarely on Mars for future space exploration. Collins, however, said he thought NASA should be focusing its efforts on the Red Planet. “The current plan has been well thought out, but I disagree with it, we should shoot directly for Mars,” he said. “Twenty-some years ago, I even wrote a book, a whole boring book, on a mission to Mars and I have always been a believer in Mars.” (7/18)
Bridenstine Hopes Moon Mission Can Accelerate Mars Missions (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says he won't rule out a first human mission to Mars in 2033. Bridenstine said in a call with reporters Monday that the agency is studying how its accelerated return to the moon can pull forward plans for human missions to Mars. An independent report earlier this year concluded that a 2033 Mars mission, a goal set by some in the space community and in Congress, was not feasible, but Bridenstine said the report's assumptions, which used NASA's exploration architecture, may not be accurate. NASA has placed a new emphasis on its long-term Mars plans since a tweet by President Trump in June that appeared to criticize NASA for talking too much about going back to the moon. (7/16)
How Much Will It Cost to Travel to Mars? (Source: CNN)
It’s being billed as the largest event ever dedicated to human exploration to Mars: From May 9 to 11, leading scientists and engineers will gather in Washington for the Humans to Mars Summit. Among the headline speakers will be Buzz Aldrin,William H. Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate at NASA; and Pascal Lee, the director of the Mars Institute, an international non-profit research organization partially funded by NASA.
The Apollo lunar landing program cost $24 billion in 1960s dollars over 10 years. That means NASA set aside 4 percent of U.S. GDP to do Apollo. To put things in perspective, we also spent $24 billion per year at the Defense Department during the Vietnam War. So basically, going to the moon with funding spread over 10 years cost the same to run the Department of Defense for one year in wartime. Now, 50 years, later, today’s NASA budget is $19 billion a year; that’s only 0.3 percent of GDP, so that’s less than 10 times less than what it was in the 1960s.
Meanwhile, the Department of Defense gets $400 billion a year. So the number I find believable, and this is somewhat a matter of opinion, a ballpark figure, doing a human mission to Mars “the government way” could not cost less than $400 billion. And that was going to the moon. This is going to Mars, so you multiply that by a factor of 2 or 3 in terms of complexity, you’re talking about $1 trillion, spread over the course of the next 25 years. (5/2017)
How Virtual Reality Might Help NASA Sell America on Space Again (Source: Bloomberg)
Felix Lajeunesse, a Canadian and co-founder of a Montreal-based cinematic virtual reality (VR) studio, hopes to be part of the solution to NASA’s problem. The 38-year-old is the creative force behind a VR documentary effort aboard the ISS, working with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), which manages the U.S. National Laboratory aboard the station, and Time.
While NASA has participated in many documentaries over the years and maintains a significant footprint on social media, this latest collaboration aims to leverage cutting-edge media technology at a time when the space program needs it most. The hope is to accomplish through cinematic VR what in 1969 was left to grainy television broadcasts. (7/17)
How HoloLens is Helping Advance the Science of Spaceflight (Source: Engadget)
AR headsets haven't exactly caught on with the general public -- especially after the Google Glass debacle. Mixed reality technology has garnered a sizable amount of interest in a variety of professional industries, though, from medicine and education to design and engineering. Since 2015, the technology has even made its way into aerospace where NASA and its partners have leveraged Microsoft's HoloLens platform to revolutionize how spacecraft are constructed and astronauts perform their duties while in orbit.
Microsoft and NASA's partnership began on June 28th, 2015 as part of Project Sidekick when a SpaceX supply rocket docked with the ISS and delivered the headsets to the waiting astronauts. "HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station," Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA said in a 2015 press release. "This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars." (7/20)
Colonizing Space Will Require Gear that Doesn't Exist Yet. But They're In the Works (Source: Big Think)
Humanity has been openly flirting with cosmic destiny for centuries. From the early reaches of our science fiction literature to the astounding feats of manned space exploration. We're getting anxious still wading on the earthen shores. The vast expanse of space is calling. It's time we finally left the planetary womb and started strutting our stuff permanently amongst the stars.
But, in order to do that, we are going to need some serious new inventions for space colonization. The likes of which will allow us to reach our most ascendent of aspirations — the conquering of the stars. Whether it's getting to the moon first, crafting new terraformed sands of Mars, or spinning through self-sustaining colonies — the end result will be the same. We're leaving the sandbox and these are some of the tools we'll use to do it. Click here. (7/12)
Fifty Years of Apollo Technologies in Your Life (Source: NASA)
In 1969 when NASA astronauts took one small step on the lunar surface, the feat resulted in a giant leap forward in innovations for humanity. The many challenges NASA overcame on the way to the Moon led the agency and its partners to devise new inventions and techniques that spread into public life, and we are still reaping the benefits of those technology developments today. As with the many spinoffs from the Apollo era, the technologies we’re building for today’s missions to the Moon and on to Mars will transform our lives for generations to come. Click here. (7/18)
UAE Astronauts Try Out Spacesuits and Customized Seats (Source: Gulf News)
In preparation for the launch of the first Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS), both UAE astronauts, Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi, tried out their customized ‘Sokul’ spacesuits and Soyuz chairs at Zvezdza in Moscow on Friday. After a thorough and grueling examination of the two astronauts, Al Mansouri was chosen as the first astronaut from the UAE to take off to the ISS on September 25 while Al Neyadi will continue to be the backup astronaut. Al Mansouri will be launched into space aboard a Soyuz MS 15 spacecraft for an eight-day stay on the ISS before returning to Earth aboard a Soyuz-MS 12.
A team of engineers from the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos designed two custom Soyuz MS-15 seats for Emirati astronauts. The final checks are being carried out to make sure the space suits and the special seats are indeed the right fit for the two astronauts. The two astronauts returned to Moscow after completing their training at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Cologne, Germany and have less than 75 days for the take off of their mission into the International Space Station. (7/12)
To Return to the Moon, Astronauts Need New Spacesuits (Source: Space Daily)
Space engineer Pablo de Leon has designed two spacesuit prototypes for the Moon and for Mars, and knows how long development takes. If NASA wants to meet its own deadline of returning to the Moon by 2024, it needs to get a move on. "NASA still doesn't have a suit because the decision was taken suddenly," explained the Argentine engineer, who is the director of a lab at the University of North Dakota financed by NASA and dedicated to crewed space flight.
"On the one hand, there's this order to get to the Moon by 2024, and on the other, we haven't developed new spacesuits since 1977," de Leon said. The suits currently worn by American astronauts on the International Space Station -- which aren't suitable for surface exploration -- were designed in the 1970s, and patched up since. Only a few remain in working condition. For the time being, NASA is focused on the development of the rocket, capsule and lander to take astronauts to the lunar surface. The suit will come later. (7/19)
The Improbable Story of the Bra-Maker Who Won the Right to Make Astronaut Spacesuits (Source: Fast Company)
It’s easy enough to make a tank-like suit that will protect a person from the rigors of space. But making a suit that does that, and also moves with something like grace and ease—that turned out to be brutally difficult. The company that managed to figure out how to solve the problem was Playtex, the famous maker of bras and girdles of the 1950s and 1960s whose Cross Your Heart bra, introduced in 1965, was an icon of the era. Playtex—part of a company with the corporate name International Latex Company (ILC)—was an unlikely choice. Click here. (7/15)
Spacesuits Have Been Bulky Since Before Apollo 11. A Skintight Design May Change That (Source: USA Today)
For 50 years the spacesuit used by American astronauts hasn't changed drastically from the ones used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11. But futuristic spacesuit designs may soon change that. The Apollo 11 spacesuit, called the A7-L, was a marvel of engineering: It sustained human life outside of Earth, but it also allowed for astronauts to walk around, bend over, move their arms in space and navigate space nearly as well as they did when they were earthbound.
The future of spacesuits will theoretically allow even more motion by using a skintight design, according to MIT researcher and aerospace engineer Dava Newman. Newman's proposed BioSuit designs use elastic and polymers for stretch and nickel-titanium coils that pressurize the suit when heated. The big breakthrough, she explained at an event in Washington, D.C., is nucleated boron minitubes spun into thread and sewn into these stretchy suits — effectively protecting the human body from space radiation.
As a result, these skintight suits will also allow for humans to walk on the moon — and possibly elsewhere. An added bonus, Newman pointed out: Since these suits are custom-made, there will be no risk of running out of space suits, as was the case with the all-woman spacewalk that was planned and scrapped in March. "Astronauts frequently suffer from shoulder and elbow injuries from fighting pressurized suits," said Lewis. "Astronauts, by and large, are middle aged people who have been athletic all of their lives. That is what has motivated Dr. Newman's work — so that they don't have to be subject to these injuries." (7/19)
Moon-Landing Technology May Help New Transportation Take Flight (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The Apollo program spawned a host of well-known spinoffs in the decade following its last moon mission in 1972. Examples range from materials that insulate against the cold of space to the Dustbuster cordless vacuum cleaner. But even as some of the commercial offshoots remain in use today, more cutting-edge technologies derived from the Apollo program are now being harvested for the next generation of transport and travel. Click here. (7/14)
American Kids Would Much Rather be YouTubers Than Astronauts (Source: Ars Technica)
The Apollo program's effect of inspiring America's children to pursue careers in STEM fields is one of the most powerful lasting legacies of the Moon race. Unfortunately, this effect seems to be coming to an end. On the eve of the Apollo 11 anniversary, LEGO asked The Harris Poll to survey a total of 3,000 children in the United States, China, and the United Kingdom about their attitudes toward and knowledge of space. The results reveal that, at least for Western countries, kids today are more interested in YouTube than spaceflight.
Asked what they would like to be when they grow up, about 3 in 10 American and British children replied that they wanted to be YouTubers or Vloggers—careers making videos on the Internet for fame and fortune. Lesser preferences included becoming a teacher, professional athlete, or musician. Becoming an astronaut ranked last, at 11%. Only in China did children have a clear preference for being an astronaut—or rather, a taikonaut—over other potential professions. Children in China were also much more interested in going into space and had higher expectations for human settlement of space in the decades to come. (7/16)
America is Losing the Second Space Race (Source: CNN)
Today, the space industry is largely an extension of the government itself and massively inefficient in how it allocates capital to promote commercial growth. Instead of encouraging free-market innovation and private investment, current government policy discourages commercial-type competition, reinforces incumbency and opposes reforms to improve. While expedient in the near term to win the technology race of the Cold War, this narrowminded approach has ultimately inhibited innovation, and we are now falling behind.
At best, the government-funded space industry loiters, with NASA and national security space programs spending billions of unnecessary dollars on obsolete technologies while keeping outdated satellite architectures on life support. Over 20 years of this downward trend has left this part of our space industry unprepared to lead or even be competitive for the next 50 years. If we lose the second space race that is already underway, the consequences will be actually far worse than if we had lost the first. This race is not about bragging rights or national prestige — it's about commercial economic growth and national security. (7/18)
Bezos: I Spend My Billions on Space Because We're Destroying Earth (Source: CNBC)
Amazon boss Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world with a current net worth of $125 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index. And he’s investing much of his Amazon fortune in the development of space technologies through his aerospace company Blue Origin. Why? “Because I think it’s important,” Bezos tells Norah O’Donnell of “CBS Evening News” in an interview which aired Tuesday. “I think it is important for this planet. I think it’s important for the dynamism of future generations. It is something I care deeply about. And it is something I have been thinking about all my life.” (7/18)
An issue with the same component has delayed launched of United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets. ULA said Wednesday the Delta 4 launch of a GPS satellite, which was scheduled for July 25, had been postponed to at least Aug. 22. The company earlier delayed an Atlas 5 launch of the AEHF-5 military communications satellite from mid-July to Aug. 8. ULA said that the delays were due to an anomaly with an unspecified component during testing at a supplier, and the company later confirmed it was the same component in the upper stages of each rocket. Both rockets use the RL10 engine in their upper stages, but engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne said the problem with not with the engine itself. (7/18)
Amazon’s Rising Stock Gives Jeff Bezos ‘Financial Muscle’ in Outer Space Equal to Whole Countries (Source: CNBC)
Jeff Bezos is better known for building the e-commerce empire of Amazon than his entrepreneurial work at rocket-builder Blue Origin — but Morgan Stanley says that may change. “We believe investors may want to pay far more attention to another emerging force for the advancement of efforts in Space that has both the will and, increasingly, the financial muscle to put to work. That force is Jeff Bezos,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said in a note Thursday. “Investors may want to take notice.”
Bezos pours about $1 billion of his Amazon stock into his space venture each year, with Blue Origin expected to begin competing directly with Elon Musk’s SpaceX in 2020. Morgan Stanley estimated Bezos’ Amazon shares are worth about $160 billion — in other words, “equal to around 16 years’ worth of NASA expenditures on Space exploration,” the firm said. Morgan Stanley advised its clients to take note of that comparison as Bezos’ wealth continues to grow.
“As the value of Jeff Bezos’s Amazon stake approaches $200 billion, his ability to influence private, commercial, and even government efforts in space grows, potentially accelerating capabilities and capital formation,” Jonas said. Amazon shares briefly passed $1 trillion in market cap for the first time on Sept. 4, joining Apple as the only publicly traded U.S. company above the benchmark. Analysts cite the company’s ever-diversifying portfolio as a value driver. Bezos has said publicly that Blue Origin is “the most important work” he’s doing, Morgan Stanley noted. (7/13)
They Choose to Avoid the Moon: Anti-Space Event in Seattle Urges Bezos and Others to Focus on Earth (Source: GeekWire)
Daniel Smith is over the moon. As in, he’s kind of done hearing about it and the hype surrounding Saturday’s 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. Smith isn’t a conspiracy theorist bent of proving that man never actually set foot on Earth’s closest celestial neighbor. Rather, he’s one of the organizers behind this weekend’s Salish Sea Anti-Space Symposium in Seattle, an event aimed at resisting the fervor of space conquest.
The free, all ages event starts tonight at Pipsqueak, a gallery and community space in Seattle’s Central District, and runs through Sunday, featuring a variety of speakers, musical performances and art. As Americans get caught up in the celebration of what happened on July 20, 1969, Smith and friends want July 20, 2019, to serve as a wakeup call about how the real challenges of our own planet are being ignored in the race to settle the moon and beyond. (7/19)
Hundreds of Protesters Refuse to Budge on Eve of Hawaii Telescope Project Launch (Source: NPR)
About 300 demonstrators are trying to halt construction on the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope, developers of which are supposed to break ground on Hawaii's Big Island this week. Before the sun came up on the summit of Mauna Kea, the island's tallest mountain, a group of about half a dozen protesters chained themselves to a grate in the road at the base of the dormant volcano in an attempt to block workers from accessing the only paved road onto the what they say is a sacred site. (7/17)
Corvettes, Astronauts and the Future of the Former Shuttle Runway (Source: ClickOrlando)
Since 2015, the Florida space port authority has operated the runway, now called the Launch and Landing Facility, as private use airport, but begin obtaining launch and re-entry site operator licenses through the Federal Aviation Administration to host new spacecraft landings and launches. In the meantime, while Space Florida prepares to host commercial more launch companies, technology and automotive companies are utilizing the unique space. Click here. (7/3)
Space Tourism: Brevard Tourism Chief Unveils $7M Plan to Market Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Brevard County new tourism director is proposing a $7.15 million promotion and advertising campaign for the coming budget year to market the Space Coast to potential visitors. Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis said he is using his experience working for Visit Orlando to help craft his plan for Brevard County for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. Cranis was vice president of global consumer and convention marketing for Visit Orlando from 1999 to 2016.
The plan also incorporates input from members of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council's Marketing Committee, which held a two-hour workshop on the topic last month. Cranis sees this as the first year of a three-year campaign to build more brand awareness of the Space Coast to potential tourists. Tourism is a $2.1 billion-a-year industry in Brevard County, and is responsible for about 26,000 jobs. So the tourism marketing plan is a crucial component of local economic development. (7/15)
Pensacola MRO Training Center Gets Funding (Source: GCAC)
The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration is investing $12.25 million in the city of Pensacola to help establish a new aircraft maintenance training facility at Pensacola International Airport (PNS), officials said Thursday. The money will be matched by more than $36 million in local and state funds. The new facility, a 175,000 square foot hangar, will be used for commercial and technological aviation and will create 400 jobs. ST Engineering says the new facility will have state of the art technology including robotic delivery systems.
The building will be able to withstand winds of 170 mph. Mayor Grover Robinson says this is a part of "Project Titan," which will eventually include four hangars, the one already operating, the one announced Thursday and two more at the PNS campus. The new hangar will be similar to the first, but a significant difference will be the attachment of a l65,000 square-foot support services center. “The Support Services Center will enclose all of our customer reps’ offices; it will have our engineering areas, it will have our procurement, our logistics management will be there,” said Bill Hafner. (7/18)
Blue Origin Fires Blue Moon Engine at Full-Duration (Source: GeekWire)
Blue Origin says it's tested the engine it is developing for its Blue Moon lander for a full-duration burn. A company executive said Thursday that the BE-7 had completed a six-minute burn at a test stand at the Marshall Space Flight Center recently, one he described as a full-duration burn. The BE-7, which uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, is being developed by Blue Origin for the Blue Moon lander that the company unveiled in May. (7/19)
SpaceX Glitch With Raptor Test on Starhopper (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
A static fire test of SpaceX's Starhopper vehicle last night didn't appear to go as planned. Observers of the test at SpaceX's South Texas site noted that, after the Raptor engine on the vehicle fired, the vehicle was then engulfed in flames briefly. There was no obvious damage to the vehicle, but an investigation into that incident will delay the vehicle's first free flight, which was scheduled for as soon as Wednesday. (7/16)
Little Damage to Starhopper After Test Glitch (Source: Brownsville Herald)
SpaceX says its Starhopper vehicle suffered little damage during a static-fire test Tuesday. The vehicle, a prototype of the company's next-generation Starship vehicle, was engulfed in a fireball after the test at SpaceX's South Texas test site. That postponed its initial free flight, which had been scheduled for Wednesday. Elon Musk said the fireball was from a post-test fuel leak that caused only minor damage, and that the hover test had been rescheduled for next week. (7/18)
SpaceX's Response to Crew Dragon Explosion Unfairly Maligned by Head of NASA (Source: Teslarati)
In a bizarre turn of events, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has offered harsh criticism of SpaceX’s response to Crew Dragon’s April 20th explosion, suffered just prior to a static fire test of its eight Super Draco abort engines. The problem? The NASA administrator’s criticism explicitly contradicts multiple comments made by other NASA officials, the director of the entire Commercial Crew Program, and SpaceX itself.
Lest all three of the above sources were either blatant lies or deeply incorrect, it appears that Bridenstine is – intentionally or accidentally – falsely maligning SpaceX and keeping the criticism entirely focused on just one of the two Commercial Crew partners. The reality is that his initial comments were misinterpreted, but an accurate interpretation is just as unflattering. Ultimately, Bridenstine responded to a tweet by Ars Technica’s Eric Berger to correct the record, noting that the criticism was directed at his belief that SpaceX’s “communication with the public was not [good]”, while the company’s post-failure communication with NASA was actually just fine. (7/14)
SpaceX Reveals Cause of Crew Dragon Explosion (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
SpaceX held a test of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft on April 20, 2019 which ended with an explosion at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Today, SpaceX released what it believes to have caused the accident. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, Kathy Lueders and Hans Koenigsmann SpaceX’s Vice President of Mission Assurance discussed how the explosion occurred during a battery of tests of Crew Dragon’s propulsion systems. “We went through the evidence and the debris and through the telemetry data and have a conclusion at this time,” Koenigsmann said.
“There are two propulsion systems on Crew Dragon and they use the same propellant…it’s a bi-propellant that consists of NTO nitrogen tetroxide on one side, that’s the oxidizer, and monomethylhydrazine, that’s the fuel. When you put those two together they basically react immediately... We know that we had a leaky component on the system that allowed oxidizer or NTO to cross over to the pressurization system and we believe that we had a liquid slug of that oxidizer in that pressurization system... We think that this slug was driven back into the check valve... at significant force and that destroyed the check valve and caused an explosion.”
“In this case we learned a lot, maybe more than we wanted,” Koenigsmann said. Leuders echoed this sentiment, stating that the accident occurred during a ground test and not a flight test and was, in some ways, “…a gift.” April’s accident placed the timing of the Demo-2 crewed test flight to the International Space Station in question. The flight had been slated for this month (July). With several critical testing milestones requiring completion, it’s unlikely Demo-2 will take place this year. (7/15)
Technical Issue Sidelines Atlas V, Delta IV Boosters (Source: Aviation Week)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) is delaying a pair of upcoming U.S. military space launch missions to address a potential problem with an undisclosed component in the boosters’ upper stages. The company, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, said July 17 that the upcoming launch of a Delta IV rocket with a GPS III satellite will be retargeted for no earlier than Aug. 22 to allow time for technicians to replace and retest a faulty component. (7/17)
ULA Delta IV with GPS III SV02 Launch Delayed (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The flight of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ (4,2) rocket tasked with sending the GPS III SV02 satellite to orbit has been delayed. ULA stated that “an anomaly” that occurred during component testing with another supplier. While not directly related to the rocket itself, the company stated that there was a “cross-over concern.”
ULA stated that it has decided that, after further evaluation, more time was required to “replace and retest the component on the launch vehicle.” The contract of the GPS III system has been estimated to be worth as much as $7.2 billion. As such, ULA’s caution would appear to be understandable. As such, ULA has decided to postpone the launch until no earlier than Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. (7/18)
Alphabet-Backed Space Launch Company Wins Pentagon Contract (Source: Yahoo Finance)
Is there anything Google can't do? From internet advertising to search to finding you a good deal on a plane ticket to Jamaica, Google -- and its parent company Alphabet -- have remade the internet in their image. Google's ventures even extend into the high-tech physical world, testing driverless cars, laying fiber to make gigabit internet a reality on the ground, and operating satellites in orbit around the Earth. One thing Alphabet can't do, though -- at least not yet -- is launch those satellites into orbit on its own. For that, Alphabet invests in other companies.
For instance, Google won itself a lot of headlines when, in early 2015, the company teamed up with Fidelity to invest $1 billion in Elon Musk's SpaceX -- a 10% stake that's more than tripled in value since. But even that may not be enough to satisfy Alphabet -- which is where SpinLaunch comes in. How exactly does SpinLaunch differ from other space launch companies?
In contrast to traditional launchers such as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, which load a satellite aboard a rocket, "light that candle," and blast into orbit -- and to companies like Northrop Grumman and Virgin Orbit, which fly airplanes to high altitude and launch rockets from there -- SpinLaunch emphasizes a "ground-based kinetic energy" approach. Specifically, it proposes to use a centrifuge-like device to spin a rocket round and round like a slingshot, building up momentum, and then hurtling it into the sky at hypersonic speed. Once at altitude, a chemical rocket then ignites, boosting the rocket the rest of the way into orbit. (7/20)
Virgin Orbit Signs Agreement to Launch Small Satellites for the UK’s Royal Air Force (Source: TechCrunch)
Virgin Orbit, the small satellite launch company backed by billionaire Richard Branson, has signed an initial agreement to develop small satellite launch capabilities for the U.K.’s Royal Air Force (RAF). The deal, which is part of the RAF’s Artemis project, will see Virgin Orbit aim to launch hardware provided by Guildford, U.K.-based Surrey Satellites in a demo mission.
This is in keeping with Virgin Orbit’s stated hope to bring spacecraft launch capabilities to the U.K. The closest the U.K. has come is when it launched a British satellite aboard a British rocket in 1971 — but that took off from a launchpad in Australia. Virgin Orbit announced a deal to build a new Spaceport in Cornwall, from which its modified 747 launch aircraft will take off, with a target open date of early next decade. (7/19)
Virgin Has a Space Torpedo -- and Northrop Grumman Should Be Worried (Source: Motley Fool)
When will that first operational Virgin Orbit test flight take place? Virgin won't say, exactly. There are still "a rigorous series of checks and rehearsals leading up [to LauncherOne's] first launches to space later this year," according to the company. On the other hand, Virgin did say "later this year." And it did say "launches" -- plural. This suggests that, assuming Virgin follows standard operating procedure for new space companies -- which means conducting one completely successful test and then shifting immediately into commercial operations -- Virgin Orbit could test fire its rocket within the next few months.
If all goes well, Virgin might even put its first paying customer(s) in orbit before the year is out. This could pose a problem for investors in Northrop Grumman, however. With the recent bankruptcy of Stratolaunch, Northrop Grumman is now the only other company in the world routinely launching satellites from airplanes in flight. This niche area of the space-launch market looked safe for the Northrop division then known as Orbital ATK. But Virgin Orbit has advanced by leaps and bounds and now looks well-placed to challenge Northrop in this market -- and perhaps even win it away. Virgin, however, has been advertising launch costs as low as $10 million for similar-sized payloads.
Editor's Note: Northrop Grumman also happens to own Scaled Composites, the company that built the Stratolaunch aircraft and the spacecraft and carrier aircraft operated by Virgin Galactic. (7/19)
Investors Don't See Virgin Galactic Deal as Model for Space Industry (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic’s merger with a publicly-traded investment company is likely a one-off event based on the company and people involved, and not a sign of more fundamental changes in the industry, investors argue. Virgin Galactic announced July 9 it would merge with Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), a special purpose acquisition company, with SCH taking a 49 percent stake in the combined entity. The deal would provide $800 million in capital for Virgin Galactic and allow the company to be publicly traded once the deal closes.
A panel of investors at the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2019 conference were doubtful the deal was a harbinger of either other large deals involving space startups, or the use of special purpose acquisition companies — which raise money on the public markets for the sole intent of acquiring another company — as an alternative to a more conventional initial public offering (IPO) of stock. (7/18)
Smallsats are the Wild Card in $250 Billion Launch Market (Source: Via Satellite)
An increase in U.S. government and military spending on launch services, combined with a sharp spike in small satellite activity and the emergence of commercial space travel and tourism will create a total space economy worth approximately $350 billion, according to Sheila Kahyaoglu, satellite equity analyst at Jefferies, and author of a recent report, “The Evolving Space Launch Market: Ready for Take-Off.” The commercial market accounts for about 75 percent of that total market value ($258.7 billion).
In the report, Kahyaoglu wrote that demand for launch vehicles are being driven by a number of sources, including commercial launch customers and domestic and international governments. “In total, the space economy is estimated to be roughly $345 billion. Within the broader space economy, launch vehicles help deliver satellites that support services such as television, satellite radio, and broadband services,” she said. “Approximately 75 percent of the space economy is commercial, with the remainder from government budgets. Within the sub-segment of the economy an estimated $12 billion of revenue is from launch services, including government.” (7/15)
FAA to Extend Comment Period Again for Revised Launch Licensing Rules (Source: Space News)
The FAA plans to further extend the public comment period for a proposed revision of commercial launch and reentry regulations that’s faced significant industry criticism. Kelvin Coleman, deputy associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the FAA, said the agency would soon announce it was extending the deadline for submitting comments on the proposed regulations by 20 days.
That extension would push back the deadline for responding to the proposed rule from July 30 to Aug. 19. That extension comes after the FAA announced in May it was extending the deadline from June 14 to July 30 in response to industry requests for more time to review and comment on the regulations. With this latest extension, Coleman noted that the FAA will have provided about four months for industry to formally comment on the proposed rules, which were published in the Federal Register April 15. The FAA released a draft version of the rules in late March. (7/17)
House Committee Members Skeptical of NASA LEO Commercialization Plans (Source: Space News)
Members of a House committee took a skeptical view last week of NASA's low Earth orbit commercialization plans. At a hearing of the House space subcommittee, members raised questions about whether plans to allow commercial activities on the station would save NASA any money, and whether that was the best use of the station's resources as NASA also uses the station to conduct research needed for missions to the moon and Mars. NASA defended the strategy, noting that commercial activities take up on a small fraction of ISS resources and that it's part of an effort to eventually transition to commercial stations. (7/15)
House Passes Defense Bill, Including Launch Competition Provisions (Source: Space News)
The House passed its version of a defense authorization bill Friday, retaining a number of space launch reforms. The National Defense Authorization Act passed on a party-line vote, with no Republicans voting in favor of the bill. The final version of the bill included provisions sought by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, that are intended to open up national security launches to greater commercial competition. The Senate's version of the bill does not include those provisions, which the White House also opposes. (7/15)
House Nixes Funding for Pentagon Space Development Agency (Source: Space News)
The House declined to allocate funding for the Pentagon's Space Development Agency, citing ongoing turmoil at the agency. The chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee denied earlier this month a Pentagon request to reprogram $15 million in fiscal year 2019 to the SDA. Committee leadership said it was concerned about "the abrupt resignation of the director and the apparent change in direction for this proposed program." According to DoD sources, troubles at the SDA had been brewing and were accelerated by the sudden resignation of the agency's champion, Patrick Shanahan, as acting secretary of defense. (7/16)
Impasse on Space Force Approach (Source: Space News)
Congress and the White House remain at an impasse about reconciling different visions of establishing a Space Force. Defense Department and Air Force officials leading Space Force negotiations have been engaged in talks with congressional staff, but at the most recent meeting Friday neither side was ready to compromise. Meanwhile, a group at Air Force Space Command, dubbed "Task Force Tang-O," has been working to contribute ideas on how the Space Force could be organized. Briefing charts developed by the task force call the Space Force the "Guardians of the Ultimate High Ground" and propose multiple options to build the headquarters and field organizations. (7/16)
Space Force or Space Corps? (Source: CSIS)
The most obvious difference between the SASC and HASC legislation is the name of the new service. SASC supports the name championed by President Donald Trump, the U.S. Space Force, while the HASC calls it the U.S. Space Corps. However, both envision the organization as a corps-like structure within the Department of the Air Force and a co-equal service to the U.S. Air Force. Neither supports elevating the organization to an independent military department, which is what President Trump originally suggested in June 2018. Click here. (6/27)
SecDef Nominee Supports Space Force (Source: Space News)
The nominee to be the next secretary of defense said he'll work with Congress to create a Space Force. Mark Esper said at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday he wants to work with the House and Senate "to come up with a right solution" for the Space Force, reconciling the different language in the House and Senate defense authorization bills with the administration's own proposal. He suggested in written testimony he had issues with the Senate bill that sets up a transition period for establishing a Space Force. He also said he supports the mission of the Space Development Agency, a newly created organization that has come under political fire because of leadership turmoil. (7/16)
Air Force to Begin Transferring Space Situational Awareness Data to Commerce Department (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Commerce Department is “imminently” close to receiving a repository of satellite and space debris tracking data from the Air Force, a Commerce official said. Kevin O’Connell, director of the Commerce Department’s Office of Space Commerce, said the repository, called the Unified Data Library, is the first step in the transfer of some space situational awareness responsibilities as requested by the White House last year.
President Donald Trump, in signing Space Policy Directive 3 in June 2018, directed the Defense Department to give the publicly releasable portion of its space situational awareness data to the Commerce Department. O’Connell said there is a growing urgency for the Commerce Department to begin handling that responsibility, driven particularly by the deployment of megaconstellations that could add thousands of new satellites in low Earth orbit. (7/19)
UK Cooperation With US Military on Small Satellites and Responsive Launch (Source: Space News)
The United States and the United Kingdom will cooperate more closely in the areas of small satellites and responsive launch. U.K. Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt announced Thursday that the U.K. will become the first international partner of Operation Olympic Defender, an effort started by U.S. Strategic Command in 2013 to strengthen deterrence against hostile actors in space.
The U.K. additionally will be investing nearly $34 million over the next year to launch a constellation of smallsats to provide "live high resolution video beamed directly into the cockpit of our aircraft providing pilots with unprecedented levels of battle awareness." To support the small satellite project, the Royal Air Force is partnering with Virgin Orbit, including assigning a Royal Air Force test pilot to the company. (7/18)
Facebook-Driven Area 51 Storming May Be Countered With Force, Says US Air Force (Source: Deadline)
Fun and games on Facebook may have serious consequences for the foolish. That was the message delivered by the US Air Force, who have responded to a Facebook’s group’s efforts to have 450,000 people storm a top secret military base. Conspiracy theorists have always believed that Area 51 in Nevada holds information about extra-terrestrial activities on our planet, possibly including actual alien remains and aircraft. That belief spawned a Facebook group suggesting that a wave of humanity could overwhelm the defenses at the base and discover the truth.
More than 400,000 people have joined a Facebook event page calling for storming Area 51, with many more indicating interest. The proposed event is scheduled for Sept. 20. (7/14)
Crew Ends Four-Month Russian Lunar Simulation (Source: TASS)
A crew has wrapped up a simulated four-month mission to the moon. The six-person SIRIUS crew spent four months in an isolated habitat at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Biomedical Problems, intended to simulate a trip to and long-term stay on the moon. The Russian space agency Roscosmos cooperated with NASA on the experiment, with plans for later simulated missions lasting 8 to 12 months. (7/18)
China is Setting the Stage for Next Space Race (Source: CNN)
As China just makes history by landing a probe on the far side of the moon, CNN's Matt Rivers looks at the future of the country's quickly-growing space program. Click here. (7/19)
China's Mars Mission (Source: TIME)
TIME gets a tour of a simulated Mars Base in China's Gobi Desert, a facility designed to educate a generation of hopeful astronauts as China makes a big push into space exploration. Click here. (7/17)
From Satellites to the Moon and Mars, China Is Quickly Becoming a Space Superpower (Source: TIME)
Nestled among the crimson dunes of China's Gobi Desert, a warren of domes and squat white buildings rises from the parched earth. Inside is a research and educational facility for budding astronauts — and the latest manifestation of Beijing's bid to position itself as a leading space power. "Mars Base 1," built by private Chinese company C-Space, is like a space station on Earth, boasting an airlock, greenhouse, gymnasium, living quarters and control room. Solar-powered buggies and lunar probes scour the red dust landscape of northeastern Gansu province, whose barren expanses bear an eerie resemblance to the Red Planet, which China is planning to visit next year.
Visitors experience what life is like on a real space mission, from rearing crops under an ultraviolet glow in soilless science labs to clambering around in bulky space suits. Barley worms are even grown for protein in lieu of rearing animals. "I’m very excited to see this place," says student Zhang Huan, 12, who's touring the facility. “If China can be the first to land humans on Mars, it will inspire everyone throughout the country.”
Satellite launches are a priority, too. China had 38 launches last year, more than any other country, as it attempts to catch up with the West's satellite infrastructure. And last month, China launched a rocket from a mobile platform in the Yellow Sea for the first time, sending five commercial satellites and two others containing experimental technology into orbit. The feat meant China is only the third country after the U.S. and Russia to master sea launches. (7/19)
India Scrubs Moon Launch (Source: The Hindu)
India scrubbed the launch of its Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission less than an hour before the scheduled liftoff. The Indian space agency ISRO said a "technical snag" prompted the launch postponement, but provided few other details. No new launch date has been announced, and according to one report it may take 10 days to study the problem with the GSLV Mark 3 rocket before ISRO can announce a new launch date. Chandrayaan-2 is India's second lunar mission, and includes both an orbiter and a lander, the latter carrying a rover. (7/15)
India Reschedules Lunar Launch to Monday (Source: PTI)
The Indian space agency ISRO has rescheduled the launch of the Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission for Monday. ISRO said in a statement Thursday that the launch of the GSLV Mark 3 rocket was now set for 5:13 a.m. Eastern Monday. ISRO scrubbed the launch Sunday less than an hour before liftoff because of a problem with the rocket. The agency didn't disclose details about the problem, but other reports said the scrub was caused by a helium leak in the rocket's cryogenic upper stage. (7/18)
Europe Plus Japan Equals Mercury (Source: TIME)
Think it’s hard to get to Mars? Try Mercury, a sizzling world so deep within the gravity well of our sun that it’s hard even to see except at just the right moments, when it’s in just the right spot. There’s a reason so few spacecraft have visited the solar system’s innermost world. The most recent was NASA’s Messenger spacecraft, launched in 2004. Before that, the U.S. hadn’t gone to Mercury since Mariner 10’s three flybys in 1974 and 1975. But the little planet will have company soon, as BepiColombo—a joint mission of the European Space Agency and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency—begins the six-year cruise phase of its mission , putting it in Mercury’s neighborhood in 2025. (7/19)
Europe Plus Russia Equals Mars (Source: TIME)
Maybe. Russia has had rotten luck with Mars, failing to get its spacecraft there vastly more often than it has succeeded. Europe has taken its shot much less frequently, but has a spotty track record too, with Britain’s 2003 Beagle 2 lander going silent shortly after it touched Martian ground and the ESA’s Schiaparelli spacecraft crashing into Mars in 2016. Now the ESA and Roscosmos (Russia’s NASA) are partnering, hoping to launch a spacecraft named ExoMars in 2020. The name of the craft reveals its tantalizing purpose: to look for exobiology—or life—on Mars . A recent failed parachute test did not inspire confidence, but the project is continuing, with mission planners mindful of one eternal maxim: Mars is hard. (7/19)
UK Space Agency Joins NASA in Lunar Exploration (Source: Press Association)
The U.K. Space Agency said Tuesday it's signed an agreement with NASA to cooperate on lunar exploration. The two agencies will establish a working group to coordinate joint scientific research and identify future opportunities to work together later this year. That agreement could enable the use of British communications and navigation systems on future NASA lunar missions, and "essentially" opens the door to potentially flying a British astronaut to the moon, Science Minister Chris Skidmore said. (7/17)
ESA Identifies Demand for Satellites Around the Moon (Source: Space Daily)
Dozens of very different commercial and institutional missions to the Moon are planned for the coming decades. These encompass everything from NASA's manned Lunar Gateway research station and cubesats from start-ups and universities to commercial landers carrying rovers. The heightened interest in going to the Moon shows that there could be a market in providing satellite communications beyond Earth. All the proposed missions share similar communications and navigation needs that could be satisfied by a commercial service provider.
A supporting lunar communications and navigation infrastructure would enable these missions to be designed more cost-effectively. Furthermore, such an infrastructure would have an enabling role as it would stimulate more research and commercial private ventures on the Moon. ESA is assessing a related commercial partnership and running several studies together with industrial partners to evaluate how such a lunar communications and navigation infrastructure could be setup and benefit lunar exploration and exploitation. The agency is also planning to contribute communication capabilities to the Lunar Gateway, which is due to be deployed in the 2020s. (7/17)
More Funding Sought for Aussie Space Agency (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)
The Australian space community is asking the government to increase funding for the country's fledgling space agency. The year-old Australian Space Agency received less than $30 million over four years in the federal budget last year, plus $14 million for a Space Infrastructure Fund. By comparison, the National Gallery of Australia received $46 million this year. Experts in industry and academia said that while the agency is doing a good job, it needs a funding increase to grow the country's space industry. (7/16)
Space In Africa Closes Investment Round (Source: Space Daily)
Space in Africa, the authority on news, data, and market analysis for the African space industry, has successfully completed its seed funding round. While the terms were not disclosed, the funds raised are being used to hire additional reporters and analysts to expand coverage for its subscription news service and specialized industry reports.
The GDP of the African continent has doubled in the last 10 years to over USD 2.2 trillion. Amidst this economic expansion, Temidayo explains that "the African space market is now worth over USD 7 billion in terms of annually generated revenue, and we project that it is likely to grow by over 40% in the next five years to exceed USD 10 billion by 2024.
There are thousands of people employed across the African space industry, and our local technology skills set is growing alongside international partners and home-grown NewSpace startups. African engineers are increasingly collaborating on satellite construction, while local innovators are providing new application solutions across communications, natural resources, and public services." (7/17)
The NASA-Vatican Relationship Models a Bridge Between Science and Religion (Source: Space Review)
Science and religion can often seem diametrically opposed to each other. Deana Weibel describes how NASA’s long-running relationship with the Vatican Observatory, one dating back to Apollo, can show how the two can work together instead. Click here. (7/15)
Galileo Outage Highlights Need for New European Approach (Source: Inside GNSS)
The ongoing Galileo outage is raising questions about the management of Europe's satellite navigation system. The Galileo system remains offline, apparently because of a problem at two separate ground stations that provide precise timing signals for the satellites. Some industry observers say the outage is a sign that Europe needs a "change of mindset" about Galileo, treating it instead as critical infrastructure that cannot fail at any costs, as is the case with the GPS system. (7/16)
Galileo Back Online (Source: AFP)
Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system is back in service after an extended outage. The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency said Thursday that it had restored service after a six-day outage caused by a problem with ground stations that provide precise timing information. Although Galileo had yet to start full operations, the outage had caused frustrations among those using, or were planning to use, the service, in part because of the lack of information about the problem and when service would be restored. (7/18)
Europe’s Galileo Satellite Outage Serves as a Warning (Source: WIRED)
Europe’s Galileo Satellite navigation system largely regained service Thursday, a full week after a mass outage began on July 11. The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency, known as GSA, said that commercial users would start to see coverage returning, but that there might be "fluctuations" in the system. What remains unclear is what exactly caused the downtime—and why it persisted for so long.
The incident took down all of the GPS-like system's timing and navigation features other than "Search and Rescue," which helps locate people in remote areas. As the days dragged on, what might have simply been an inconvenient blip ballooned into a major incident. And while European systems and services can still fall back to other timing and navigation options, like GPS, the prolonged outage serves as a chilling reminder of the modern world's intrinsic reliance on fallible global positioning systems.
GSA has so far still provided only a rough sketch of what caused the outage. "The technical incident originated by an equipment malfunction in the Galileo control centers that calculate time and orbit predictions, and which are used to compute the navigation message," the GSA wrote on Thursday in its most specific statement yet. "The malfunction affected different elements on both centers." That generally confirms what researchers who use the Galileo system had noticed independently. Click here. (7/18)
NASA Awards $73.7 Million to Made In Space for Orbital Demonstration (Source: Space News)
NASA awarded a $73.7 million contract to Made In Space to additively manufacture ten-meter beams onboard Archinaut One, a small satellite scheduled to launch in 2022. “As manufacturing progresses, each beam will unfurl two solar arrays that generate as much as five times more power than traditional solar panels on spacecraft of similar size,” NASA said. Archinaut One is scheduled to launch from New Zealand as early as 2022 on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket.
“In-space robotic manufacturing and assembly are unquestionable game-changers and fundamental capabilities for future space exploration,” Jim Reuter, NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate associate administrator, said in a statement. “By taking the lead in the development of this transformative technology, the United States will maintain its leadership in space exploration as we push forward with astronauts to the Moon and then on to Mars.”
The contract announced July 12 extends Archinaut work Made In Space began in 2016. Since then, Made In Space has continued to enhance its Archinaut technology and prove the 3D printed hardware it produces is durable enough to operate in space. Made In Space’s Archinaut partners include Northrop Grumman, NASA Ames and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (7/12)
NASA Bets on Spacecraft That Can 3D Print and Self-Assemble in Orbit (Source: Astronomy)
Putting a satellite in space is news of the past, but launching a spacecraft that can 3-D print and self-assemble is a story of the future. NASA is now betting on the technology being ready for prime time as early as 2022. Last week, the space agency announced that they had awarded a $73.7 million contract to a startup company called Made In Space, Inc. The money will fund a test of the concept using a small spacecraft, called Archinaut One, in low-Earth orbit.
Space made history by 3-D printing the first object ever produced in space. And since 2016, they have been running a permanent manufacturing unit inside the International Space Station, dubbed the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF). Now the goal is to build large spacecraft parts. That will require leaving the confines — and protection — of the ISS and moving their 3-D printing operation into the vacuum of space. The undertaking will require the machine to print parts larger than itself and then assemble them. Made In Space claims to have developed a system capable of integrating 3-D printing and robotics to do just that. (7/16)
Draper Developing Guidance for Lunar Landers (Source: Space News)
The organization that developed the Apollo Guidance Computer is working on technologies to enable future lunar landers. Draper developed the computers for Apollo and says it has technologies available that can enable precise landings by future landers. Draper is also one of nine companies that is part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, and plans to compete for future mission opportunities after not being selected for the first round of missions in May. (7/18)
Aerospace Corporation Finds New Purpose in Space (Source: Space News)
Founded in 1960 to help the U.S. Air Force develop the first missiles, rockets and satellites, the El Segundo, California-based nonprofit currently finds itself increasingly called upon to help the Defense Department navigate a rapidly evolving commercial space industry. Kevin Bell, vice president of space program operations within The Aerospace Corporation’s Space Systems Group, describes the 59-year-old organization as an “innovation shop that helps invent and maintain essentially the corporate knowledge for the U.S. government.”
Commercial advances in space, and the increasingly multidisciplinary nature of the space industry, are reshaping how the federally funded research and development center accomplishes that mission. “[Our] big role is changing from an inventor or innovator to an aggregator who is taking advantage of technology progress across all kinds of fields,” Bell said. He cited artificial intelligence as one area with growing application for space where the commercial sector is investing at a rate far beyond what Aerospace Corp. could match. (7/14)
UbiquitiLink Raises $12 Million for Cellular Constellation (Source: Space News)
Satellite communications startup UbiquitiLink has raised more than $12 million for its plan to launch a constellation of satellites to extend the reach of terrestrial mobile networks. The company is developing technology that allows conventional cellphones to communicate directly with satellites, and tested its technology on a hosted payload flown on a Cygnus cargo spacecraft earlier this year. By the end of the year, UbiquitiLink plans to launch its first free-flying satellite, with the next two slated to launch in the spring of 2020. (7/16)
3DGS Raises $12 Million for Radio Device Things (Source: Space News)
3D Glass Solutions (3DGS), a company developing radiofrequency devices using glass-ceramics that have space applications, has raised $12 million. Japanese conglomerate Nagase & Company led the round, with participation from Lockheed Martin Ventures, Sun Mountain Capital and Murata Manufacturing Co. The company builds radiofrequency devices for markets ranging from 5G cellular networks to automotive radar for self-driving vehicles. Demand from the space industry is leading the company to expand, and the first satellite to carry 3DGS technology is scheduled to launch in the coming months. (7/16)
Momentus Raises $25.5 Million for In-Space Transport (Source: Space News)
Momentus announced Wednesday it has raised a $25.5 million round to develop in-space transportation services. Prime Movers Lab led the Series A investment round, which brings the total raised by the company to date to $34 million. Momentus is building two transportation vehicles: Vigoride to move satellites within low Earth orbit and Vigoride Extended to move satellites from low Earth orbit to geostationary transfer or geostationary orbits. Momentus launched its first demonstration mission earlier this month as a secondary payload on a Soyuz rocket, but has not disclosed details about the status of that spacecraft. (7/18)
Airbus to Build Earth Imaging Satellites for France (Source: Space News)
Airbus won a contract last week to build for Earth imaging satellites for the French space agency CNES. The four satellites, referred to as the CO3D system, are expected to launch in 2022 aboard a Vega C rocket, with each satellite capable of imaging the Earth at a resolution of 50 centimeters. The system, jointly funded by Airbus and CNES, is viewed Airbus as a steppingstone to a larger constellation of 20 or more satellites. (7/15)
Viasat Wins $48.3 Million Verdict (Source: Space News)
Viasat has won a $49.3 million verdict in a case against a company about to be acquired by Cisco. A jury concluded that Acacia Communications violated the satellite operator's intellectual property rights when it created products based on Viasat-developed integrated circuits, but refused to pay Viasat royalties stipulated as part of product development in 2009. Cisco announced plans a week ago to purchase Acacia for $2.6 billion. (7/18)
OneWeb’s Satellites Hit 400Mbps and 32ms Latency in New Test (Source: Ars Technica)
OneWeb says a test of its low-Earth orbit satellites has delivered broadband speeds of more than 400Mbps with average latency of 32ms. "The tests, which took place in Seoul, South Korea, represent the most significant demonstration of the OneWeb constellation to date, proving its ability to provide superior broadband connectivity anywhere on the planet," OneWeb said.
The company said it's on track toward creating "a fully functioning global constellation in 2021 and delivering partial service beginning as early as 2020." The test described yesterday involved six OneWeb satellites that were launched in February. OneWeb says its commercial network "will start with an initial 650 satellites and grow up to 1,980 satellites." While the 32ms latency figure is an average, the 400Mbps result seems to be the peak speed delivered during the test. OneWeb said its test also demonstrated "seamless beam and satellite handovers; accurate antenna pointing and tracking; [and] live-streamed video at resolutions up to 1080p." (7/17)
OneWeb Successfully Delivers HD Streaming From Space (Source: Via Satellite)
OneWeb revealed the successful test of its six satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). All satellites delivered high-speed, low-latency services, with speed of more than 400 Megabits per Second (Mbps) which enabled the fastest real-time video streaming in Full High Definition (HD) from space, according to the release. The tests, which took place in Seoul, South Korea, represent the most significant demonstration of the OneWeb constellation to date.
The recent satellite tests were conducted in partnership with Intellian, the developer and manufacturer of OneWeb user terminals and SatixFy, developer and manufacturer of the 125 Megahertz (MHz) SCPC test modem. The tests included: latency, speed, jitter, seamless handover between satellites and power control. OneWeb is aggressively moving forward on the implementation of its first phase of the network which will start with an initial 650 satellites and grow up to 1,980 satellites. (7/18)
Using Satellite Information to Help Rebuild After a Disaster (Source: Space Daily)
ESA and the Asian Development Bank have joined forces to help the Indonesian government use satellite information to guide the redevelopment following the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the provincial capital of Palu and surroundings last year. On 28 September 2018, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi was struck by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was on the island's northwest coast - 77 km north of Palu, which lies at the head of a long narrow bay.
The quake triggered a tsunami that swept huge surges of water - as high as 10 m - along the bay and swamped the city. The combination of the earthquake, tsunami, soil liquefaction and landslides claimed well over 2000 lives, destroyed homes, buildings, infrastructure and farmland in several districts. (7/13)
US Heat Waves to Skyrocket as Globe Warms (Source: USA Today)
If you think it's hot now, just wait awhile. As the globe warms in the years ahead, days with extreme heat are forecast to skyrocket across hundreds of U.S. cities, a new study suggests, perhaps even breaking the "heat index." “Our analysis shows a hotter future that’s hard to imagine today,” study co-author Kristina Dahl, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “Nearly everywhere, people will experience more days of dangerous heat in the next few decades."
By 2050, hundreds of U.S. cities could see an entire month each year with heat index temperatures above 100 degrees if nothing is done to rein in global warming. The number of days per year when the heat index exceeds 100 degrees will more than double nationally, according to the study. (7/16)
NASA Extends Eight Astrophysics Missions (Source: Space News)
NASA has approved extensions for eight astrophysics missions. In the latest senior review of such missions, NASA decided to provide three-year extensions for all eight under consideration, ranging from the Hubble and Chandra observatories to smaller spacecraft and an instrument on the ISS. Excluded from the senior review was the SOFIA airborne observatory, for which NASA conducted two separate reviews of its science and operations. (7/18)
NASA's Webb Telescope Shines with American Ingenuity (Source: Phys.org)
The task of building the world's most complex and powerful space telescope, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has required steadfast contribution from across the United States. In total, 29 states throughout the U.S. have lent a hand manufacturing, assembling, and testing Webb components. After launch, Webb's science and data will reach a global audience.
Webb's 18 innovative lightweight beryllium mirrors had to make 14 stops at 11 different places across 8 states (visiting some states more than once) around the U.S. to complete their manufacturing. Their journey began in beryllium mines in Utah, and then moved across the country for processing and polishing. Explore an interactive map showing the journey of the mirrors. After the spacecraft is fully assembled in California, the telescope will journey to French Guiana for lift-off, and the beginning of their final journey to space. (7/19)
Astronauts Will Fix Ailing Dark Matter Experiment on Space Station (Source: Space.com)
The secrets of the universe are so important that NASA plans spacewalk work to fix a dark matter experiment on the space station, U.S. astronaut Jessica Meir said. Meir, who will launch to the International Space Station on Sept. 25 as a part of Expedition 61, said her crew will likely participate in several spacewalks during her half-year mission. The spacewalkers will address some issues with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a particle detector outside the orbiting laboratory that is scanning the cosmos for evidence of dark matter.
One of the AMS pumps is degrading, and NASA has had to implement some new procedures and tools to fix the issue. That's because the pump wasn't originally designed to be repaired by astronauts, Meir said in the televised news conference from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. AMS has been operating since 2011, after the second-to-last space shuttle flight brought the instrument to the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment is meant to help scientists better understand dark matter.
"It will be a complex and challenging spacewalk," said Meir, who compared the outing to the series of excursions five astronaut crews completed to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope over two decades. (7/19)
Physicists Wonder: Why Has No One Been Killed by Dark Matter? (Source: Gizmodo)
The fact that no one has died from being struck by dark matter is enough proof to rule out certain ideas about the mysterious stuff, according to one new theory paper. There’s a conundrum facing physicists: Most of the universe’s mass appears to be missing, based on observations of the universe’s structure, how galaxies move, and how they seem to warp distant light.
Thousands of physicists are now hunting for what might be producing these effects. But the mere fact that we’re alive here on Earth can offer some insight as to what dark matter isn’t, and the researchers behind the new paper say the human body itself can serve as a dark matter detector. Click here. (7/17)
Can We Really Get A Universe From Nothing? (Source: Forbes)
The biggest question that we're even capable of asking, with our present knowledge and understanding of the Universe, is where did everything we can observe come from? If it came from some sort of pre-existing state, we'll want to know exactly what that state was like and how our Universe came from it. If it emerged out of nothingness, we'd want to know how we went from nothing to the entire Universe, and what if anything caused it. Click here. (7/19)
There Aren’t Enough Space Explosions to Explain Strange Radio Bursts (Source: New Scientist)
Many of the brightest, weirdest phenomena in space come from cataclysmic events like explosions or collisions. But many fast radio bursts (FRBs), one of the most mysterious space signals we’ve seen, must not. That might mean that they are all part of a class of FRB that we previously thought might be rare. FRBs are milliseconds-long bursts of powerful radio waves that come from the depths of space. They have been attributed to many different sources, from neutron star mergers to alien spaceships, but no explanations have definitively fit yet.
Most of the FRBs we’ve spotted appear only once, but three appear to repeat, sending multiple blasts of radio waves through space. Those three cannot come from cataclysmic events like neutron star collisions or supernovae that destroy their progenitors. Now, Vikram Ravi at the California Institute of Technology has calculated that the rest probably don’t either. He used a few of the closest non-repeating FRBs we’ve seen to calculate a lower limit on how often they occur, and compared that rate to the rates of cataclysmic events in the nearby universe. (7/18)
'Spooky' Quantum Entanglement Finally Captured in Stunning Photo (Source: Live Science)
Scientists just captured the first-ever photo of the phenomenon dubbed "spooky action at a distance" by Albert Einstein. That phenomenon, called quantum entanglement, describes a situation where particles can remain connected such that the physical properties of one will affect the other, no matter the distance (even miles) between them. Click here. (7/17)
China #1 in Quantum Entanglement, Teleports Object 300 Miles (Source: TweakTown)
The human race has made another milestone in the quantum entanglement field where they have managed to teleport an electron to a low-orbiting satellite 300 miles away. According to a team of researchers in China, scientists have managed to use quantum entanglement to teleport an electron 300 miles away. That this is the furthest the technology has managed to teleport an object.
This isn't the first test of its kind, for about a month these scientists have conducted many tests and have beamed up millions of photons from their ground site located in Tibet. The team said that "This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum Internet." (7/16)
New Research on Tunguska Finds Such Events Happen Less Often Than We Thought (Source: Ars Technica)
Last month marked the 111th anniversary of the Tunguska event, a blast that flattened trees across half a million acres of Siberian forest on June 20, 1908. Scientists have been puzzling over the details ever since. We now have fresh evidence about what transpired back then, in the form of new data gleaned from a well-documented rare meteor burst near Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013. That data shores up the hypothesis that the Tunguska event was most likely due to an asteroid impact. The findings are described in a series of scholarly papers commemorating the event.
Those models, plus current data on the asteroid population, also enabled researchers to calculate how frequently such impact events are likely to occur. The good news is that this research suggests mid-size rocky bodies like the one that likely caused the damage at Tunguska occur less frequently than previously thought—on the order of millennia, rather than centuries. NASA remains committed to improving its systems for detecting possible asteroid impacts. "Because there are so few observed cases, a lot of uncertainty remains about how large asteroids break up in the atmosphere and how much damage they could cause on the ground," said Lorien Wheeler. (7/17)
Headed to Mars? Pack Some Aerogel -- You Know, For Terraforming (Source: WIRED)
As most humans busily make Earth less and less habitable, a few humans propose making Mars more Earth-like, via a process called terraforming. Carl Sagan pitched the idea back in 1971, and even then he knew the main problem would be that gossamer atmosphere. It lets in too much ultraviolet radiation and lets out too much infrared—that’s heat—to turn Mars’ ice into hospitable-to-life water. Either the planet already lost all its insulating CO2, or it’s bottled up underground somehow. On Earth, the greenhouse effect is about to go runaway; on Mars, it ran away.
And yet: “sunlight penetrating a few centimeters through the surface into the snowpack can cause great increases in temperature, leading to sublimation,” says Robin Wordsworth, a planetary scientist at Harvard. The frozen CO2 turns to gas and geysers out of the ground. It’s called a solid-state greenhouse effect—light penetrates the surface, passes through the translucent ice, and then hits darker regolith, which warms up. And so Wordsworth, who studies the climate, evolution, and potential habitability of other worlds, wondered: Could you do that artificially? Could an insulating material create a solid-state greenhouse effect warm enough to make Mars habitable?
“If you wanted to take an atmosphere and compress it down to a few centimeters, what would you need?” Wordsworth asks. “The key is how transparent the material is, how light propagates through it, and how thermally insulating it is.” Wordsworth proposes a candidate: silica aerogel. You remember this stuff—it’s the “solid smoke” that the Stardust probe used to collect dirt in space, a mostly-air nanocrystalline matrix of silicon oxide that has an extremely low thermal conductivity. Which is to say, it’s an insulator good enough for spacecraft. Click here. (7/15)
The Scientists Searching for Alien Life Aren’t Very Popular in Science (Source: Quartz)
But while scientists tossing around the idea of alien life may find a rapt public audience, they can also draw cynical, even hostile reactions from their fellow scientists, a response summed up by acclaimed physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who once quipped to CNN: “Call me when you have a dinner invite from an alien.”
This paradox has ripple effects. The threat of being written off as a kook can loom large for researchers, especially young ones. A lot of academics “won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole,” said Don Donderi, a retired associate professor of psychology at McGill University in Montreal who now teaches a non-credit course called “UFOs: History and Reality” in the school’s continuing education department.
NASA physicist Silvano Colombano maintains that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been limited by long-held assumptions and that the “general avoidance of the subject by the scientific community” means no one questions them. It’s a dilemma: scientists might look like cranks for posing questions about aliens, but we’ll also never know unless someone asks. (7/15)
Virgin Test Pilot Joins Fallen NASA Astronauts on Space Mirror (Source: Florida Today)
A test pilot killed in a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo accident in 2014 will be added to a memorial at the Kennedy Space Center. The board of the Astronaut Memorial Foundation voted unanimously Monday to add Mike Alsbury to the Space Mirror memorial after changing its rules to allow private, as well as government, astronauts, to be considered for the memorial. The Space Mirror is a black slab with the names of fallen astronauts etched on it. Alsbury was the co-pilot on a SpaceShipTwo test flight in October 2014 and was killed when the vehicle broke apart. (7/16)
Private Astronauts to be Included on Space Mirror Memorial (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
There can be little doubt that the age of commercial space flight is here. A recent announcement made by the Astronaut Memorial Foundation has shown that another, more somber, milestone in this new age has been reached. The KSC Visitor Complex’s Space Mirror Memorial contains the names of 24 fallen astronauts who have died in the US’ pursuit of space exploration efforts (either on actual missions or in training activities). That mirror will now include the names of astronauts who have died in service to the companies they work for. (7/16)
When a Chimpanzee Landed on the Moon: the Saga of Boris (Source: Space Review)
Last week, Dwayne Day explained how a tall tale he created about a mythical Soviet program to send chimpanzees to the Moon took on a life of its own on the Internet. This week, the story itself. Click here. (7/15)
Ed Dwight Was Set to Be the First Black Astronaut. Here’s Why That Never Happened (Source: New York Times)
Two grand stories that America tells itself about the 1960s are the civil rights movement and the space race. They are mostly rendered as separate narratives, happening at the same time but on different courses. In the 5-foot-4 figure of Ed Dwight, they came together for a transitory moment. The Kennedy administration, a supporter of civil rights, became Dwight’s champion. The black press, eager to mark milestones by lionizing barrier breakers, splashed his face across front pages.
Dwight personified American progress at a time when the country was eager to prove that while Russia had beaten us into orbit, the United States was the true superpower. It was a high-stakes contest of Cold War optics. But the top of the California sky was the closest Dwight would ever get to space. He went from being a prospective astronaut to working on a series of obscure assignments, dealing a major blow to America’s early attempts to integrate the ranks of its space pioneers. Click here. (7/16)
‘Spirit of Apollo’ Inspires a New Generation of Ukrainian Spaceflight Pioneers (Source: Daily Signal)
Viktor Listov was a 10th grade student in St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad), Russia, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, completing one orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961, aboard his Vostok 1 spacecraft.
Listov vividly remembers the day. His teacher interrupted the day’s lesson and told the students the good news. Then, class was canceled and the students were let loose to celebrate—an unprecedented break from the Soviet school system’s typically rigid discipline. “It was the proudest moment of our existence, it was intensely great,” Listov, now 74, says during an interview from his office at Ukraine’s National Aerospace Educational Center for Youth, located in the city of Dnipro. (7/19)
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