Latest Space News
Wed, 13 Dec 2017 10:08:47 +0000
A Japanese company planning a series of robotic missions to the moon announced Dec. 13 that it has raised more than $90 million in one of the largest Series A funding rounds for any emerging space venture. SpaceNews.com
Wed, 13 Dec 2017 08:47:31 +0000
Blue Origin said it carried out a successful test flight of a new version of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle Dec. 12. SpaceNews.com
Wed, 13 Dec 2017 04:06:57 +0000
Arianespace performed its eleventh and final launch of the year today, sending four Galileo European navigation satellites into medium Earth orbit. SpaceNews.com
Tue, 12 Dec 2017 20:39:55 +0000
The new decadal survey for Earth science research will likely be unveiled in early January, slightly later than previously planned. SpaceNews.com
Tue, 12 Dec 2017 20:17:22 +0000
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 5 okayed the first part of a satellite-servicing mission Orbital ATK’s Space Logistic subsidiary has with Intelsat, saying the servicing vehicle can execute “rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking with the Intelsat-901” satellite while in a graveyard orbit. SpaceNews.com
Tue, 12 Dec 2017 17:20:18 +0000
Tucked into the details of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that President Trump signed into law Dec. 12 is a long overdue recognition of the first American astronauts who were lost in service to their country while practicing for a mission. SpaceNews.com
Tue, 12 Dec 2017 11:41:15 +0000
Rocket Lab scrubbed a launch of its Electron small launch vehicle Dec. 11 after an abort just two seconds before liftoff. SpaceNews.com
Tue, 12 Dec 2017 03:55:05 +0000
President Trump’s new space policy directive calling for American astronauts to return to the moon is welcome and encouraging news. SpaceNews.com
Tue, 12 Dec 2017 03:04:42 +0000
On the eve of the first launch of a reused Dragon capsule on a Falcon 9 with a reused first stage, both NASA and SpaceX said they were comfortable with the level of risk involved with the mission. SpaceNews.com
Mon, 11 Dec 2017 22:16:34 +0000
President Donald Trump signed an order Dec. 11 formally directing NASA to send humans back to the moon, but provided no information on schedules or budgets for such an initiative. SpaceNews.com
Mon, 11 Dec 2017 11:04:22 +0000
President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign his administration’s first space policy directive in a White House ceremony Dec. 11, one that may formally direct NASA to send humans back to the moon. SpaceNews.com
Sun, 10 Dec 2017 21:03:54 +0000
China Great Wall Industry Corp. launched Algeria’s first telecommunications satellite, Alcomsat-1, aboard a Long March 3B rocket at 11:40 a.m. Eastern to geostationary transfer orbit, the Algerian press agency APS said today. SpaceNews.com
Sun, 10 Dec 2017 01:20:41 +0000
An airspace closure notice published by the Federal Aviation Administration Dec. 9 suggests Blue Origin is preparing to resume test flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle after a hiatus of more than a year. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 08 Dec 2017 21:23:41 +0000
More than a year after suffering significant damage in a Falcon 9 explosion, a Florida launch pad is ready to return to service, incorporating improvements that will allow a higher flight rate. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 08 Dec 2017 20:55:51 +0000
Tethers Unlimited, one of three companies NASA selected Dec. 7 to build a prototype space-based 3-D printer called FabLab has grown dramatically in recent years due to interest among government and commercial customers in this type of work. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 08 Dec 2017 20:44:31 +0000
If the U.S. Federal Communications Commission wants a more accurate database of C-band satellite dishes, it should make the process of registering those dishes less expensive and time-consuming, fleet operator SES said Dec. 6. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 08 Dec 2017 18:23:58 +0000
The U.K. plans to become a haven for space startups from all over the world as it aims to grow its space industry to control 10 percent of the global market by 2030. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:23:21 +0000
Gen. John "Jay" Raymond said the reorganization laid out in the NDAA will help to set the conditions for the United States to get ahead of its enemies in space. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 08 Dec 2017 00:18:01 +0000
The protracted budget stalemate is bad news for the Air Force’s 2018 space investment budget. SpaceNews.com
Thu, 07 Dec 2017 22:17:31 +0000
NASA will provide an updated launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope early next year, even as some warn that the mission might face further delays. SpaceNews.com
More space news...

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December 11, 2017

Major Policy Issues in Evolving Global Space Operations (Source: Aerospace Corp.)
The United States and the growing list of global space actors currently are participants in a fundamental reordering of many tenets and assumptions that have been long-standing attributes of US national space policy and international agreements.

The U.S. should lead by example. Part of this leadership is creating a path that does more than react to the technical evolution, programmatic developments, or perceived intentions of other countries. The path should serve US national interests by expanding capabilities that enhance security, the economy, and science. Click here. (12/5)

Pondering the Regulatory Future of Private Space (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Boundary-pushing companies seeking to mine asteroids or build moon bases could face a stubbornly terrestrial challenge: getting regulatory approval for activities that are more common in science fiction than traditional business plans. "What we're starting to see now is a lot of companies coming up with new ideas … moon bases, asteroid mining, lots of exciting ideas," George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the FAA, said Tuesday. "But the question then becomes: Who in government is responsible to authorize and continuously supervise those kind of activities?"

He said he worries a U.S. failure to clarify its process could encourage domestic innovators in the burgeoning private space sector to move to countries with less regulatory uncertainty. "We want to be able to say 'Yes' to these companies rather than, 'Gee, I'm sorry. I don't know who is supposed to look at that, but we're not able to help you,' " Nield said. (12/6)

FAA Offers National Space Council Ideas for Launch Licensing Reforms (Source: Space News)
The Federal Aviation Administration submitted to the National Space Council a set of regulatory reforms that one official said would create a “21st century licensing process” for commercial spaceflight. The proposed changes, intended to streamline licensing of expendable and reusable launch vehicles, were submitted to the Council as one of the 45-day reports requested by its chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, at its first meeting Oct. 5.

Nield said his office had already been studying ways to improve its processes. “Nobody had to twist our arms on this,” he said. “We’ve been trying to decrease the regulatory burden on everybody, both the government and the industry.” That included regular discussions with the Commercial Spaceflight Federation industry group and reviewing white papers submitted by companies such as SpaceX. (12/6)

Seeking Regulatory Certainty for New Space Applications (Source: Space Review)
Companies in the US developing “non-traditional” commercial space missions, like lunar landers of satellite servicing, still face regulatory uncertainty. Jeff Foust reports on how companies, and one government agency, believe that uncertainty should be resolved. Click here. (12/4)

Regulation and Compliance for Nontraditional Space Missions (Source: Space Daily)
Center for Space Policy and Strategy has released a policy paper, Navigating the Space Compliance Roadmap for Small Satellites. The paper explores U.S. spaceflight regulations and how they apply to the increasingly common "nontraditional missions," which do not match the historical norm of a single large government satellite on a launch vehicle. This paper provides roadmaps to help new mission planners obtain the proper approvals prior to launch.

The release of Aerospace's analysis is timely, as Congress is considering new legislation, The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act of 2017, intended to foster a "more favorable legal and policy environment for free enterprise." "Launches today rarely consist of one satellite on one launch vehicle owned by a single agency," said Sims. "The emerging trends that we're seeing now are a large number of new entrants, space launches that provide multiple rideshares, satellites carrying hosted payloads, and the proliferation of small satellites." (12/5)

Sans Regulation, You Only Have to Be Rich to Fly in Space (Source: Business Standard)
The U.S. government is giving the nascent industry wide latitude, in part to encourage commercial enterprise and also because there’s little stomach for funding a national space program. Congress has allowed companies to devise their own medical screening and training protocols by imposing a moratorium on space passenger regulation until 2023. The Federal Aviation Administration currently requires a license for non-governmental space flights to ensure they don’t pose a hazard to public safety. But the FAA doesn’t have authority over vehicle design or training—or who springs for a seat on these new space ventures. 

“It’s really up to the company for what kind of screening they want to have,” George Nield, the FAA’s associate administrator for commercial space transportation, said. If all goes as planned, the commercial space race will introduce scores of new “astronauts” each year: mostly middle-aged and older people with plenty of cash to burn—as well as run-of-the mill maladies that come with age. This situation, novel to space travel, has led researchers to probe the average person’s vulnerabilities in such an environment, contributing to a growing body of research about the stresses of rocket flight for those without a NASA-certified physique.

Does this mean space travelers with heart disease or diabetes, pacemakers or insulin pumps, or any chronic affliction that comes with old age could pass muster? Potentially, yes. The primary medical-screening issue, Vanderploeg said, is whether a flier’s condition is “well-understood and well-controlled” and the person is receiving the appropriate treatment. (12/6)

When Will Space Tourism Begin? Real Soon! (Source: Parabolic Arc)
I’m like the guy in the office — head in hand, exasperated, looking at his watch, heard this 1,000 times — listening to someone tell me how space tourism is right around the corner. Thirteen years and we’re still at the dawn of it. (12/6)

Space Policy Experts Lay Out Their Concerns: Will the Trump Administration Listen? (Source: Space News)
Officials in the Trump administration have been known to ignore advice from experts. But this White House should listen to what a group of space analysts and scholars have to say, asserts a white paper released Tuesday. The United States needs a “national space policy” that looks broadly at issues like space traffic management, small satellites, proximity operations, orbital debris, counter-space threats and norms of behavior, says a report titled “Major Policy Issues in Evolving Global Space Operations,” by The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy.

James Vedda, of The Aerospace Corporation, and Peter Hays, of the George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute, wrote the report based on a survey of 30 U.S. and international experts. There is a “proliferation of capabilities” in space coming from the private sector, the military and civilian agencies, Vedda said at a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Air Force Association. “We are in a great transition period for national security, civil and commercial space,” he said.

There is a need for the government to get more involved in policy-making and help sort things out. With this study, said Vedda, “We wanted not just to tee up the issues but say, ‘Here’s how key thinkers are feeling about these issues and please take this to heart.’” (12/5)

“Do We Want to Get to the Moon or Not?” (Source: Space Review)
The approach NASA eventually adopted for landing astronauts on the Moon for the Apollo program makes perfect sense in retrospect, but at the dawn of the Space Age had little support. Carl Alessi, in the first of a two-part article, discusses how one engineer faced an uphill battle to win backing for lunar orbit rendezvous. Click here. (12/4)

NASA Expects Commercial Crew Providers to Achieve Safety Requirements (Source: Space News)
As the two companies developing commercial crew vehicles prepare for test flights in the next 12 months, a NASA official said the agency expects those companies to be able to meet, or come close to, stringent safety requirements for those spacecraft. At a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, Lisa Colloredo, deputy program manager for NASA’s commercial crew program, said Boeing and SpaceX were making good progress toward achieving a “loss of crew”, or LOC, requirement established by NASA.

The LOC requirement states that the odds of an accident killing or causing serious injury to a crewmember be no more than 1 in 270 flights for a 210-day mission at the International Space Station. That covers all aspects of the mission, including launch and reentry.

“We have a very difficult LOC requirement to meet, and we knew that when we going in,” Colloredo said. The 1-in-270 LOC requirement for commercial crew is more stringent than the 1-in-90 value at the end of the shuttle program. “I would say that we’ve made a lot of progress, and the providers have both done a lot of redesign work to improve their LOC numbers.” (12/4)

NASA Extends Bigelow Expandable Habitat's Time on the Space Station (Source: NASA)
The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, known as BEAM, will remain attached to the International Space Station to provide additional performance data on expandable habitat technologies and enable new technology demonstrations. NASA awarded a sole-source contract to Bigelow Aerospace to support extension of the life of the privately-owned module, and its use to stow spare space station hardware.

After NASA and Bigelow successfully completed collaborative analyses on BEAM life extension and stowage feasibility, astronauts began the process to provide additional storage capability aboard the station by removing hardware used for the initial BEAM expansion. They then converted sensors that monitor the BEAM environment from wireless to wired (to prevent interference from future stowage items on transmission of sensor data). Next they installed air ducting, netting, and large empty bags to define the stowage volume for hardware inside BEAM.

NASA and Bigelow later will likely add a power and data interface to BEAM, which will allow additional technology demonstrations to take place for the duration of the partnership agreement. This new contract, which began in November, will run for a minimum of three years, with two options to extend for one additional year. (12/4)

Study Validates NanoRacks Concept for Commercial Space Station Module (Source: Space News)
A five-month study supported by NASA has concluded that it is technically feasible to convert a launch vehicle upper stage into a habitat module that could be used on the International Space Station or future commercial space station. NanoRacks discussed the results of the study, part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) effort. The concept, called Ixion, involves taking an Atlas 5 (or Vulcan) upper stage left in low Earth orbit after a launch and refitting it with life support and other systems needed to support a crew. That converted module could then be attached to the ISS or be used as part of a standalone commercial space station.

Potential uses range from space tourism to on-orbit manufacturing. There are “several legitimate consumer non-traditional customers that have interest in using a commercial platform,” Jeff Manber said, stating those potential users were under non-disclosure agreements. “We’ll have some more announcements in the coming months on what we’re going to be doing with this commercial module,” he said. (12/6)

Scientists Want In on Humanity's Next Big Space Station (Source: Nature)
As the world’s leading spacefaring nations plan for their next big outpost in space — a successor to the International Space Station — scientists are drafting a wish list of experiments for the most remote human laboratory ever built. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are hosting meetings to discuss the science plans, the first of which are taking place on 5–6 December in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

No nation has yet committed to fully funding the project, which does not yet have an estimated cost but is slated for the 2020s. But the space agencies are working on a plan to build an outpost in orbit around the Moon. Scientists are already jockeying for room on the platform. “I have been taken aback by the extent and the quality of proposals,” says James Carpenter, human and robotic exploration strategy officer at ESA in Noordwijk, who organized the event and had to double the capacity of the agency's event to 250 people, owing to the level of interest.

Known as the Deep Space Gateway, the platform is the “commonly accepted” next step once the International Space Station retires in the mid-2020s, says David Parker, director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration at ESA. The space agencies have made clear that its main purpose would be to test, from Earth’s backyard, the technology for deep-space exploration and long-duration missions — including, eventually, going to Mars. Editor's Note: My beef with this (and I'm not alone) is that such a station would be too expensive to coexist in the same budget as a lunar surface base (Moon Village). The time and expense required for this could actually delay human exploration of the moon and Mars. (12/5)

Boeing: We Are Going to Beat SpaceX to Mars with SLS Rocket (Source: Ars Technica)
It was about a year ago that Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg first began saying his company would beat SpaceX to Mars. "I'm convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket," he said during a Boeing-sponsored tech summit in October 2016. On Thursday, Muilenburg repeated that claim on CNBC. Moreover, he added this tidbit about the Space Launch System rocket—-for which Boeing is the prime contractor of the core stage—-"We’re going to take a first test flight in 2019 and we’re going to do a slingshot mission around the Moon."

Unlike last year, Muilenburg drew a response from SpaceX this time. The company's founder, Elon Musk, offered a pithy response on Twitter: "Do it."

The truth is that Boeing's rocket isn't going anywhere particularly fast. Although Muilenburg says it will launch in 2019, NASA has all but admitted that will not happen. The rocket's maiden launch has already slipped from late 2017 into "no earlier than" December 2019. However, NASA officials have said a 2019 launch is a "best case" scenario, and a slip to June 2020 is more likely. (12/7)

NASA Seeks Proposals for Space Resources Technologies (Source: Space News)
NASA is seeking proposals for studies and technology development efforts related to the use of space resources, particularly as they apply to future human missions to the moon and Mars. NASA issued Dec. 4 an appendix to its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) program, calling for proposals on studies and technology development efforts related to what’s known as in situ resource utilization, or ISRU. While companies like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources are interested in extracting resources from asteroids, the NASA solicitation is focused on accessing lunar and Martian resources.

The program will cover both trade studies as well as development of key components and subsystems needed to extract water, carbon dioxide and other volatiles from the Martian atmosphere and the soils of Mars, the moon, and asteroids. Such resources can then be used for life support and as propellants, reducing the reliance future expeditions have on resources transported, at significant expense, from Earth. (12/6)

NASA Picks Three for In-Space 3-D Printing Tech (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected three companies to develop prototypes of new 3-D space printers. Interlog Corporation, Techshot, Inc. and Tethers Unlimited, Inc. each won awards under part of NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships effort to develop a protype of a multi-material "FabLab." The combined value of the awards is $10.2 million, with prototypes due in 18 months. NASA will later select partners for future work on the FabLab concept. (12/7)

Industry Sees New Opportunities for Space Manufacturing (Source: Space News)
Space manufacturing, a field whose promise has gone unrealized for decades, is now offering new opportunities thanks to the use of the International Space Station and reduced space access costs, some experts believe. The best near-term opportunity to demonstrate the ability of space manufacturing to produce products of value on Earth may come from experiments flying to the station in the next year to test the production of high-quality optical fibers.

One key demonstration of space manufacturing will take place on the ISS in the next year. Two companies plan to fly payloads on the station to test the ability to produce a high-quality optical fiber called ZBLAN, taking advantage of the microgravity conditions to make the fiber without the flaws created when such fiber is made on Earth. Made In Space’s experiment that will go to the station on a Dragon cargo mission scheduled for launch as soon as Dec. 12. “We’re using the space station as the testbed to prove out that you can actually make the product in space, bring it back down to Earth and sell it for a profit.” (12/6)

5 Commercial Markets for Space (Source: Space News)
Commercial space is such a vibrant and dynamic industry that it’s hard to define. It includes multinational corporations that have been around for decades, billionaire astropreneurs, myriad component suppliers and startups so new they remain in “stealth mode” with mysterious websites or none at all. What is clear is that the commercial space sector continues to dominate the market. In 2016, commercial space activities generated $253 billion, just over three-quarters of the global space industry’s $329 billion revenues while government space budgets accounted for about $76 billion, or 24 percent of the total, according to the Space Foundation. Click here. (12/5)

Investor Interest in Space Companies Remains Strong Despite No Big Deals (Source: Space News)
Despite a lack of “megadeals” involving space companies this year, investor interest in the industry remains strong thanks to several factors, according to one assessment. Carissa Christensen, chief executive of Bryce Space and Technology, said there’s been a consistent level of overall investment activity by venture capital firms into the industry this year. So far in 2017, she noted there has been no so-called “megadeals” involving emerging space companies unlike the previous two years.

In January 2015, Google and Fidelity led a $1 billion round in SpaceX. In December 2016, SoftBank led a $1.2 billion round in broadband satellite constellation company OneWeb. While 2015 and 2016 had similar total investment levels, she said the number of investors dropped in 2016, but with larger deals. “That may indicate a degree of maturity,” she said. “Instead of money going into early stage startups, there are more deals focusing on maturing companies that appear to be hitting their milestones and achieving success.” (12/5)

Northrop Buys Orbital ATK, and All of Space Launch Is Watching (Source: Motley Fool)
It's official now. Less than three months after Northrop Grumman announced that it will be buying Orbital ATK for $7.8 billion in cash, Orbital ATK shareholders voted last week to approve the transaction. The result: Regulators permitting, this deal is headed for a closing in the first half of 2018, after which Orbital ATK will disappear, Northrop Grumman get bigger -- and a new space star will be born.

With operations in both the military munitions market and in space launch, Orbital ATK is sort of a strange beast. More than half the company's revenue, however, comes from its space business. Historically, Orbital ATK has targeted the mid-range market for rocket launches, operating two main families of rockets -- Minotaurs launching payloads ranging from less than 1 ton to just over 3 tons, and Antares rockets hoisting payloads up to 8 tons in mass.

With little competition from either the high end or the low end, Orbital ATK basically has a lock on the mid-range launch market here in the U.S., launching Minotaurs and whatnot, and collecting anywhere from $26-50 million per mission. Now, Northrop's arrival -- with Orbital's new generation of larger NGLS launchers in tow -- threatens to add even more price competition to the mix, and potentially spark a new price war that will hurt profits among all the major space players. Maybe by allying with Northrop Grumman, Orbital ATK will be able to sell its new NGLS line of rockets cheaply enough to compete in this marketplace -- but I wouldn't bet on it. (12/5)

FTC Wants More Info From Northrop Over $9.2B Orbital Deal (Source: Law360)
Northrop Grumman Corp. on Wednesday said the Federal Trade Commission hit it with a second request for information related to its all-cash bid to buy defense technology services company Orbital ATK Inc. for $7.8 billion in cash and $1.4 billion in debt. (12/7)

NASA Seeks Developer for Part of Mississippi Space Center (Source: Sun Herald)
NASA is looking for a developer to help create an industrial park aimed at luring commercial development to Mississippi's Stennis Space Center. The federal space agency on Monday asked interested groups to respond by Jan. 12. Stennis plans to later request formal proposals and negotiate with at least one developer on a long-term deal to run what NASA is calling Enterprise Park. That's 1,100 acres on the north side of Stennis near Picayune that could have sites inside and outside the security perimeter.

The idea is for companies involved in space exploration, commercial space transportation or technology development to locate at Stennis. NASA says it would also welcome businesses serving other Stennis tenants, including the U.S. Navy. Stennis has nearly 5,000 employees, who live in both Mississippi and Louisiana.

Editor's Note: Looks like they're trying to replicate Space Florida's Exploration Park, which was developed with state funding on Kennedy Space Center property at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Exploration Park featured the state-developed Space Life Sciences Lab as its anchor facility, but had to wait years for a viable commercial development. Blue Origin and OneWeb decided to locate their factories there with a mix of state incentives, workforce availability, and common-sense benefits of being as close as possible to the launch site. (12/5)

Government Outsourcing Disrupts Space as SatComm Services Commercialized (Source: Space Daily)
In the past couple of years, we have seen a steady reduction in the costs of manufacturing and launching communications satellites. Smaller satellites built for low-earth orbit, standard satellite designs, reusable rockets, and launch vehicles capable of delivering multiple satellites per mission have combined to make space more affordable for new users, allowing more and more governments to make space a vital part of the communications strategy. 

The number of countries and commercial enterprises owning their own satellites is projected to increase dramatically in the next decade. However, being able to afford manufacturing and launching a satellite is quite a bit different than meeting the twin challenges of first, getting the satellite from the drawing board and into orbit, and second, operating the spacecraft throughout its useful life. (12/7)

Plain Language Guidebook on Satellite Export Controls (Source: Office of Space Commerce)
The Office of Space Commerce and the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation published the second edition of their Introduction to U.S. Export Controls for the Commercial Space Industry. The guidebook provides basic information to help commercial space organizations, especially emerging entrepreneurial firms, considering business in the international market. It is intended to serve as a starting point in the preparation for the export control process. Click here. (11/21)

Depleted Export-Import Bank Hit With Another Vacancy (Source: Government Executive)
The controversial Export-Import Bank of the United States, whose business lending has been slowed by board vacancies and divisions in Congress, over the weekend lost its acting chairman and president. Obama administration holdover Charles Hall warned that congressional inaction on confirming board members could become a burden to taxpayers because a lending freeze has dried up the revenue the agency usually collects in fees. “If we don’t get a board, probably sometime in 2018 I would anticipate that we would cease to be self-sustaining,” said Hall, a former CEO of an Africa development corporation.

Hall pointed to a backlog of $37.5 billion in planned transactions that are stalled by the absence of an Ex-Im Bank board quorum. Some $20 billion of that could be pushed through within six months of the Senate confirming President Trump’s nominees for the bank’s board, he estimated. Criticized by both the right and left as an instrument of “corporate welfare,” the Ex-Im bank was threatened with elimination in recent years. But it won a surprise reprieve from President Trump, who in April nominated former Rep. Scott Garrett, R-NJ, to be the new chairman.

The controversy comes because Garrett was on record as having favored killing the bank, which he once said “embodies the corruption of the free enterprise system." But at a Nov. 1 confirmation hearing at the Senate panel, he addressed the issue obliquely by saying, "My role has changed. I am not in a legislative function. I do commit sincerely to carry out the letter of the law as established by Congress." (12/4) 

Trump to Nominate Former NASA Chief Griffin for Defense Undersecretary (Source: Reuters)
U.S. President Donald Trump intends to nominate Michael Griffin, a former administrator of NASA, as undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, the White House said on Monday. The White House had said in October that Trump intended to tap Griffin for principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. Monday’s announcement did not give a reason for the change.

Griffin most recently served as chairman and chief executive officer of the Schafer Corporation, a provider of scientific, engineering, and technical services and products in the national security sector, the White House said. He held the top NASA job from 2005 to 2009. (12/4)

Budget Delays Impacting Critical Air Force Space Investments (Source: Space News)
The lack of a final budget deal is affecting military space modernization efforts. The Air Force sought a 20 percent increase in its space investment budget for 2018 to focus on several key priorities, but cannot start new programs while a CR is in place. If negotiations on a final 2018 spending bill drag into January, some analysts worry those new programs might not start at all in 2018, or that the Air Force will prioritize aircraft programs over space programs. (12/7)

Battle Brewing in the Pentagon Over Military Space Investments (Source: Space News)
The space arms race is accelerating and rivals are closing in on the United States, military officials have warned. But on the question of what to do next, opinions diverge. Military and civilian leaders have warned that the Pentagon is taking for granted its access and dominance in space while adversaries keep plugging away. Electronic weapons now being developed by Russia and China, they warn, will one day be aimed at U.S. military satellites in orbit.

The United States can win in space today but “it’s not prepared to fight in the future,” said Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command. “The strength we have today is based on the sheer mass and numbers of capabilities we put up over the years. It dwarves any adversary we face,” Hyten said Dec. 2 at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

But Hyten sees complacency with regard to space. “I’m worried about the future. Somehow this country lost the ability to go fast. I don’t know how that happened,” he said. “We take four years to study a problem before we do anything. We do four years of risk reduction on technologies we built 50 years ago.” (12/4)

DoD Space Policy Chief: ‘It’s Imperative That We Innovate’ (Source: Space News)
As competition ratchets up for space dominance, adversaries are poised to challenge the United States, causing real concern among policy makers at the Pentagon. “The threats are moving fast and we need to stay ahead of it,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Stephen Kitay. “We absolutely need to move with urgency,” Kitay said. “Space is not a sea of tranquility.” (12/4)

Defense Act Calls for Upgrades to Eastern & Western Launch Ranges (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandates the Department of Defense to undertaken a program to modernize the infrastructure and improve support services on the Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California. The measure, passed by Congress, awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

“The program...shall include investments to improve operations at the Eastern and Western Ranges that may benefit all users, to enhance the overall capabilities of ranges, to improve safety, and  to reduce the long-term costs of operations and maintenance,” the bill reads.

The act also includes measures to improve processes across both ranges to “minimize the burden on launch providers” and “improvements in transparency, flexibility, and, responsiveness for launch scheduling.” The NDAA allows the DOD to consult with current and anticipated users of the two ranges and to pursue partnerships if appropriate. The DOD is given 120 days after enactment of the act to submit a report on planned improvements to congressional defense committees. (11/4)

A Tale of Two Launch Ranges: The Best & Worst of Times (Source: Parabolic Arc)
America’s Eastern and Western launch ranges in Florida and California are struggling to keep up with increasing demand from the nation’s booming commercial launch industry while dealing with budget uncertainties in Washington, U.S. Air Force officials said last week. The Eastern Range has been dealing with a surge of flights this year from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as SpaceX has increased its launch cadence. Elon Musk’s company and rival ULA have launched 18 times from Florida thus far, with two more SpaceX flights on the schedule for later this month.

The Eastern Range was recently closed for two weeks while workers tackled 85 high-priority maintenance projects, the general said. The growth in launches could be adversely impacted by Congress’ annual failure to agree on a budget in time for the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, Monteith said. The nation is currently operating on a continuing resolution that expires on Dec. 8. Another short-term deal or a government shutdown could result later this week. Click here. (12/4)

LC-40 Back in Action with SpaceX Test, Allowing Future Twice Daily Launches for SpaceX (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX conducted a successful test fire of a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Wednesday, breathing new life into a launch pad that had not seen smoke and fire since a 2016 explosion left it heavily damaged. The test firing and subsequent launch to the ISS next week will initiate SpaceX's era of two functioning launch pads at the Eastern Range. The company leases LC-40 from the Air Force and LC-39A from NASA.

Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander and director of the Eastern Range, noted that SpaceX could launch as rapidly as once a week if necessary, and said that next year the Range could be capable of supporting two launches on the same day, if needed. (12/6)

Space Florida Announces Partnership with NASA for Orion Testing at LC-46 Pad (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida has solidified a partnership with NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) for use of Launch Complex 46 for the Orion spacecraft's Ascent Abort-2 test. LC-46, flight proven with the launch of the Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket in August of this year, is currently undergoing post-launch repairs and mission-specific modifications in preparation for Orion Ascent Abort -2 (AA-2) test beginning in Spring 2018.

The landmark Sub-License Agreement gives JSC priority use of the launch complex. The test will verify a key part of Orion's safety system during ascent to space before it begins missions with astronauts to deep space. Space Florida's SLC-46 is an extremely flexible and configurable launch facility that can be modified to support a variety of new and smaller launch vehicles, including suborbital vehicles requiring only a concrete pad surface for mounting a launcher. With minimal post launch refurbishment required, SLC-46 can support multiple launches per year. (12/5)

Port Canaveral Abandons Cargo Rail Proposal (Source: Florida Today)
A cargo rail line that would include a route through the Cape Canaveral Spaceport has lost the support of the Canaveral Port Authority. Commissioners voted 5-0 on Wednesday to withdraw the port's proposal from consideration by the federal Surface Transportation Board, which is the regulatory agency for new rail lines. Port commissioners were told the port's 30-year master plan — which has been under development for about two years and now is being finalized — "identifies no current or projected economic data that presents a compelling case for rail." (12/6)

Space Coast Launch Services and Yang Settle on Underpayment Lawsuit (Source: Law360)
U.S. Air Force contractor Space Coast Launch Services LLC reached an undisclosed settlement in Florida federal court Thursday with space launch operations support subcontractor Yang Enterprises Inc. in the subcontractor's breach of contract suit accusing Space Coast of underpaying it $9 million, according to settlement conference documents. (12/7)

Putnam: Workforce Training, Technical Education Key to Florida Aerospace Job Growth (Source: Florida Today)
Florida must invest in work force and economic development programs to grow space industry and other jobs, Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam told local aerospace officials Wednesday in Melbourne. “The state that launched a man to the moon ought to be a leader in innovation and 21st Century careers,” said Putnam, the Commissioner of Agriculture since 2011 and a former congressman. “Finding the talent to fill the jobs that are out there continues to be a concern.”

Putnam met with representatives from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Harris Corp, Orlando Melbourne International Airport, Space Florida and others during an aerospace roundtable discussion hosted by the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. The EDC hopes it is the first of many meetings with 2018 candidates for state and federal offices, helping to prioritize aerospace issues in their campaigns. Six other Republicans and four Democrats are among the declared candidates for governor so far. (12/17)

Vector Plans Orbital Flight and New Arizona Factory (Source: KGUN)
Vector Space Systems is building bigger facilities for its program of small rockets for the new generation of smaller satellites. Vector is building a new rocket factory and pushing towards sending rockets higher than it ever has before. Vector's had a series of successful launches and engine tests. In its push to fill a growing market for small rockets to launch the new small, but still very capable satellites.

On the floor of a temporary factory there’s a Vector R, that's R for rapid. It's about 45 feet long altogether and it's designed to boost a small satellite into low Earth orbit. Besides space to assemble the rockets, the factory will be home base for engineers and a variety of other workers--and that means job opportunities. Alex Rodriguez says,  "We will have over 200 employees working in high impact roles in engineering, in manufacturing, in high technical roles that provide technical support and across the board." (12/6)

Houston Preparing Utilities and Road Infrastructure for Spaceport (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Houston's spaceport effort at Ellington Field is making progress on building the roads and utilities needed to support future development. The design for such infrastructure was 60 percent complete in late September, and officials have since selected a firm to finish the design and then build the $18.5 million project. Officials plan to ask City Council for approval to award the contract to its selected company in the first quarter of 2018, and it hopes to break ground in the third quarter.

Arturo Machuca said this type of infrastructure is expected by potential tenants such as Blue Origin, which was considering the Houston Spaceport but ultimately chose Alabama for a rocket engine manufacturing facility. This week, Ellington Airport completed a $2 million rebuild of a non-airfield road that provides vehicle access to hangars. Construction on a new air traffic control tower is under way, and the tower should be complete and operational by September 2018. It will include space for mission control. (12/7)

NASA and Lockheed Martin Invite Media to Visit Colorado Companies (Source: NASA)
Two Colorado companies designing, manufacturing and testing flight hardware for NASA's Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in support of human missions near the Moon and into deep space will open their facilities to media Monday, Dec. 11.

EnerSys Advanced Systems (EnerSys) in Longmont, and SEAKR Engineering Inc. (SEAKR) in Centennial are among the thousands of businesses across the 50 United States and Puerto Rico that support NASA's deep-space exploration programs. Colorado is home to about 250 of these businesses.

Visits to key suppliers are an opportunity for leadership from NASA and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin to share progress on flight hardware in production and recognize employees making significant contributions to human spaceflight. (12/5)

Virgin Galactic to Relocate Dozens of Employees from Mojave Spaceport to Spaceport America (Source: Albuquerque Business First)
Next year could finally bring some things New Mexico has been waiting on for years: Virgin Galactic's commercial space flights, and the economic prosperity that would follow. Wednesday afternoon representatives with Virgin Galactic said that in 2018 it will prepare to make its more-than-10-year-old plan to send private citizens to the final frontier a reality – and Spaceport America will be its exclusive host. The company will start to ramp up its commercial flight service there next year, moving nearly 100 families to the state and creating new jobs along the way. (12/6)

SpaceX Now Targeting Dec. 12 Launch of ISS Supplies From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX's next launch of International Space Station supplies from Cape Canaveral has slipped at least four days and is now targeted for Dec. 12, before noon. No reason was given immediately for the delay. The launch previously had been targeted for Dec. 8. The Falcon 9 booster being prepared for launch next week already has one mission under its belt, having launched cargo to the ISS in June. The mission will be SpaceX's fourth reflying a used Falcon booster. The mission is SpaceX's 13th under a NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract initially awarded nine years ago. (12/5)

SpaceX In Home Stretch of Banner Year (Source: Aviation Week)
In June, SpaceX topped its 2016 launch rate with its ninth flight of the year and six months on the calendar still ahead. Now in December, the company is on track to singlehandedly fly more than any country in 2017. “We wanted to fly at least 18 times,” says SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell. “I guessed between 18 and 20 [launches] at the beginning of the year. We are now at 16 and have a good shot at two, maybe three more.” (12/4)

Musk Confirms SpaceX Postponements, Falling Short of Record Year (Source: Observer)
Though SpaceX still has two important launches left on their December manifest, they won’t be closing the New Year in quite as spectacular a fashion as they had hoped. Elon Musk’s ambitious plan to cap 2017 with 20 successful space launches, debut the world’s most capable active rocket and deliver a top-secret payload for the U.S. government appears to have fallen short.

The long anticipated liftoff of SpaceX’s most technologically impressive rocket, the Falcon Heavy, as well a captivatingly secretive mission contracted by the U.S. government, using only the callsign “Zuma,” have both been postponed until early next year.

Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, told Aviation Week that the Falcon Heavy launch will occur a few weeks after a series of preflight tests that are scheduled for December, likely pushing the rocket’s unveiling back to January. In a recent tweet Elon Musk, confirmed the schedule change. (12/5)

How SpaceX's Monster Mars Rocket Compares to the Most Powerful Rockets in the World (Source: Business Insider)
With the announcements of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy and Big Falcon Rocket, Blue Origin's New Glenn, and NASA's Space Launch System, it can be tough to tell one rocket apart from the other. Following is a transcription of the video. NASA’s Saturn V rocket was the pinnacle of technology during the Apollo era. More than 40 years after its final flight, it’s still the world’s most powerful rocket. But that’s finally about to change.

NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin are developing their most impressive rockets yet. Here’s how America’s monster rockets of the future measure up to NASA’s moon rocket. Click here. (12/7) 

Is Elon Musk Even Allowed to Send His Car to Space? (Source: The Verge)
After much fanfare, Elon Musk made it clear that he does plan to launch his Tesla Roadster to Mars on the Falcon Heavy next year — but questions remained over whether the mission is allowed. Are there any major federal hurdles SpaceX has to overcome in order to launch the very first sports car into deep space?

Musk initially said he wanted to send the car to Mars orbit, which could raise concerns about planetary protection. That’s the concept of preventing contamination of worlds in our Solar System with Earth life. Honoring planetary protection is a matter of international law, as it’s mandated in the Outer Space Treaty — a 50-year-old document that dictates guidelines for what countries can and cannot do in space. And the US is ultimately responsible for US commercial space companies adhering to the treaty.

The Tesla Roadster isn’t really going to Mars, though, so SpaceX isn’t going to run afoul of international space law; instead, the car will be delivered near where Mars orbits around the Sun, about 141 million miles from Earth, and then left to travel forever through space, according to further clarification from Musk. As long as the Roadster doesn’t interfere with the Red Planet, SpaceX should be fine. (12/9)

ULA Picks L3 for Vulcan Avionics (Source: EON)
L3 Technologies has entered into an agreement with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to become the exclusive provider of avionics and related services for its new Vulcan Centaur rocket system, delivering an estimated $1 billion-plus in mission-critical systems and services over a 10-year period.

Under the agreement, ULA and L3 will integrate the companies’ design and manufacturing processes to provide ULA with low-cost, custom solutions, enhancing ULA’s launch services. Work on this project will be performed by L3’s Space & Sensors sector, which is part of the company’s Sensor Systems business segment.

Vulcan Centaur is ULA’s next-generation, American rocket system. It provides the capability to handle all of the missions that ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets perform today at a significantly reduced price. More affordable launch services from ULA combined with L3’s avionics systems will enable enhanced capabilities to support human habitation and exploration in space, along with providing superior solutions for satellite consumers. (12/4)
 
Blue Origin Preparing to Resume Test Flights From West Texas (Source: Space News)
An airspace closure notice published by the Federal Aviation Administration Dec. 9 suggests Blue Origin is preparing to resume test flights of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle after a hiatus of more than a year.

The Notice to Airman, or NOTAM, published by the FAA on its website Dec. 9 closes airspace above Blue Origin’s test site between Dec. 11 and 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern each day. The closure is to “provide a safe environment for rocket launch and recovery.” The NOTAM does not give additional details about the planned activities, but does identify Blue Origin as the point of contact regarding the airspace closure. (12/9)

Blue Origin and PARC to Promote R&D Opportunities (Source: Xerox)
PARC, a Xerox company, announced its partnership with Blue Origin to enhance awareness and interest in the vast possibilities made possible by conducting R&D in space. The partnership will leverage PARC’s expertise in technology innovation and Blue Origin’s reusable suborbital rocket, New Shepard, to push new frontiers in four areas of technology R&D: advanced manufacturing, energy systems, human-machine interaction, and predictive analytics. (12/5)

Secretive Aerospace Firm to Test Rocket Engines in Bremerton Washington (Source: Herald Net)
A Renton-based aerospace firm will begin testing rocket engines next year in a facility under construction at the Port of Bremerton. Radian Aerospace is involved in research and development of “aerospace hardware to serve a variety of customers,” according to a company representative. But beyond sharing some basic details, Radian officials are keeping a tight lid on the specifics of their project.

“We’re not in a position at this time to discuss the specific nature of the work we’re doing for reasons of confidentiality,” a Radian representative said in an email Wednesday. Radian is building the engine testing facility on a small parcel of land adjacent to an abandoned runway at the southeast corner of Bremerton National Airport. According to plans filed with the city of Bremerton, the site consists of control and instrumentation rooms, a generator, and a concrete pad with protective blast walls. (12/5)

Relativity Space Aims to 3D Print Entire Launch Vehicles (Source: Space News)
There’s no question that additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, has become an important technology in the aerospace industry. A growing number of companies are using the technology to make components for satellites and launch vehicles that are lighter or less expensive than if they were made with conventional techniques, if they could be made at all.

One company is taking that technology to an extreme — or, in its view, to a logical conclusion. Relativity Space, a startup based in Los Angeles that only recently emerged from stealth mode, plans to use 3D printing to produce entire launch vehicles, an approach it claims can be more cost effective than traditional manufacturing techniques.

“It was really just looking at what was the inevitable conclusion of that technology,” Tim Ellis said in a recent interview. “Looking further into the future, it became obvious to us. We view it as autonomous manufacturing.” By being able to manufacture a rocket with 3D printing, vehicles can be built faster and less expensively because far less human labor is needed. It also allows the company to revise vehicle designs quickly, without sunk costs in tooling tied to certain designs. (12/5)

Cal Poly Pomona on a Quest to Launch a Liquid-Fueled Rocket Into Space (Source: Press-Enterprise)
Cal Poly Pomona has joined the race to become the first university to launch a liquid-fueled rocket into space, the university announced Friday. At a kickoff event on campus, Cal Poly unveiled its College of Engineering Liquid Rocket Lab and Mobile Operation Center Assembly Trailer and offered details about its newly expanded rocketry program. Students from Lorbeer Middle School in Diamond Bar attended the event and learned about unmanned aerial vehicles. (12/8)

Boeing Validates Requirements for Redesign of ICBM System (Source: UPI)
Boeing says it has completed its first key review with the U.S. Air Force as part of its redesign of the intercontinental ballistic missile system, which is part of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD, program. The company said Thursday that the Air Force has "validated program technical requirements" prior to entering the design and development stage of the GBSD, which is expected to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.

Boeing completed the System Requirements Review about two months after being awarded a $349 million deal to develop the next generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Northrop Grumman is also working on the Minuteman replacement, having received a $328.6 million contract from the Department of Defense for the project at the same time as Boeing. The contracts run until Aug. 20, 2020, when one of the two companies will be selected to finish the program. The two companies, as well as Lockheed Martin, have been competing to develop the new missile. (12/1)

MLS Bringing Ukraine Crew to Nova Scotia Spaceport Site (Source: Guysborough Journal)
Plans for development of a rocket launch site in the Canso/Hazel Hill/Little Dover area are proceeding quickly. Maritime Launch Services CEO Steve Matier will be in the Canso area and Dartmouth next week for a series of events, meetings and activities to help move the project forward and share information with local residents. Officials with Yuzhnove, the Ukrainian maker of the Cyclone-4M rockets to be used at the site to launch commercial satellites into orbit, will be given a tour of the site on Dec. 13. (12/6)

Countdown to Rocket Lab's Next Test Flight (Source: RNZ)
Rocket Lab opened the 10-day launching window on Friday but high winds have so far stopped the launch. It is the second of three test flights as the company prepares to become a commercial operation. People could watch the launch via a live stream on Rocket Lab's Facebook page or on YouTube. Founder Peter Beck said he was optimistic about sending paying customers into space soon and said a space for a satellite on board the rocket would cost about $10 million. (12/9)

Rocket Lab Poised to Provide Dedicated Launcher for CubeSat Science (Source: Science)
Atop an emerald green hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, at the tip of New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, sits a diminutive launch pad, built and operated by Rocket Lab, a Los Angeles, California–based aerospace company. On 8 December, a 10-day launch window will open for the second flight of the Electron, one of the world’s first rockets specifically designed to carry small satellites to orbit—a capability that intrigues many scientists. (12/7)

Russia Looks Past Soyuz-2 Failure to Soyuz-5 (Source: Space News)
Try as they might, the Russian space program is having a hard time sustaining a positive news cycle. For every small step forward, it seems they take one giant leap back. Budget cuts, program delays [and embezzlements], and regular launch failures dog Russia’s space industry at every turn — making small victories and promises of glories still to come harder and harder to swallow.

With the latest setback, last week’s botched launch of a new weather satellite and 18 secondary payloads, fate seems to be piling on. It is never good to lose a rocket, but the timing of this loss — the 12th failure across different families of launch vehicles since 2010 — is especially unfortunate for Russia’s space program. In recent months, industry leaders and Roscosmos officials have been touting the development of their own next-generation spacecraft, hoping to keep up with Western private space firms.

As part of the 2016-2017 Federal Space Program, Roscosmos announced project Phoenix — a 30-billion-ruble ($512 million) crash program to develop a new medium-class launcher to replace Soyuz, and the Russian-Ukrainian Zenit, by the early 2020s. The idea was to have alternatives to Angara should any problems with that, primary, project arise. Several design proposals were forwarded from Russia’s major rocket production centers to compete for the Phoenix tender. In the end, it was Energia’s proposal for a Soyuz-5 that won over. (12/17)

Operations for Turkish Satellite Launcher to Start Next Year (Source: Daily Sabah)
Turkey's Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications is getting ready to execute the Space Probe Rocket and Launch System Project (BURAK). The project, which is set to start in 2018, will end Turkey's dependence on external satellite launching operations. The Ministry, which took action to launch Turkey's own satellites, recently started project BURAK. With the project, satellite launching systems and technologies will be developed domestically. The aim is to develop the technology needed for space projects and to create a space enterprise envisaged in accordance with Turkey's 2023 goals.

Moreover, placing Turkey among countries that have access to space independently is also a primary goal. In the meantime, starting the project in 2018 takes into account the strategic importance of having launch technologies to contribute to Turkey's development. (12/3)

Japan Moves Epsilon Launch to January (Source: JAXA)
Japan's space agency has rescheduled the launch of a small satellite for January. The Advanced Small-size Radar Satellite (ANSARO-2) was planned to launch in November on a Epsilon rocket but was delayed because of a problem with the electrical system on the rocket. That launch is now scheduled for Jan. 17. JAXA also announced that it has rescheduled the launch of a cubesat on an SS-520 vehicle, a converted sounding rocket, for Dec. 28, three days later than previously announced. (12/7)

Japan's H-3 Engine Nears Testing (Source: Nikkei Asian Review)
Development of a new engine for Japan's H-3 rocket is entering a critical phase. Tests of the LE-9 engine are expected to begin soon to keep the program on track for a first launch of the H-3 in 2020. The engine offers 40 percent more thrust than the engine currently used on the core stage of the H-2 rocket, but with 20 percent fewer components. The engine is critical to the goal of reducing the H-3's launch costs by up to half of that of the H-2. (12/5)

Japan to Join Lunar Probe Project in Chance to Burnish Space Technology (Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
Will this become a foothold with which Japanese astronauts can land on the moon? It has been decided that Japan will also aim to take part in the U.S.-planned scheme to build a space station to orbit the moon. The government’s Committee on National Space Policy has incorporated this objective into a revised time schedule of its basic plan on space policy.

Keeping a lunar mission by a Japanese astronaut in view as well, the revision schedule also makes clear that Japan “will aim at realizing moon-landing and lunar surface activities through international cooperation.”

This is a revision plan replete with potential. It could lead to fostering the next generation, who will take on the challenge of space development. As participation enables Japan to learn at close hand the current state of nations advanced in space technology, it could become a good opportunity for this country to enhance its basic technological strength. (12/5)

Japan Airlines Options Up to 20 Boom Supersonic Airliners (Source: Aviation Week)
Japan Airlines (JAL) has entered into a strategic partnership with Boom Supersonic, the Mach 2-plus airliner developer, and has placed purchase options for up to 20 aircraft. The Japanese flag carrier becomes the second airline after Virgin Atlantic to reveal its support of the Denver-based supersonic airliner project, which is targeting entry into service in the mid-2020s. Together with the 10 options announced by Virgin in mid-2017, the JAL commitment represents almost half of the 76 options received by Boom to date. Three additional operators for the remaining 46 aircraft remain unidentified. (12/5)

New Russian Lunar Orbiter Contracted to be Built (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos) is proceeding with a new project to build a lunar orbiter which will be the first of numerous new lunar missions the agency is planning. Based on information TASS obtained from the official government procurement website, the new Luna-Resurs Orbiter will be contracted out to several different companies with a total price tag not to exceed 2 billion rubles (a little over $33,500,000 at the current exchange rate).

The primary contractor of the new spacecraft will be the NPO Lavochkin aerospace company. They will receive about 80 percent of the contract’s value in an advance payment. The procurement contract stated that the new orbiter will be completed by February 29, 2020. (12/6)

EU Exempts Hydrazine Fuel From Ukraine-Related Russian Sanctions (Source: Space Daily)
"On November 30, 2017, the Council adopted Decision (CFSP) 2017/2214 in order to permit certain operations concerning hydrazine (CAS 302-01-2) in concentrations of 70 % or more, which is included in the Common Military List of the European Union," the Council of the European Union's regulation in the Official Journal of the European Union reads.

According to the council, the substance is necessary for the flight of the ExoMars carrier module and tests and flight of the ExoMars descent module under the umbrella of the ExoMars 2020 mission. The EU Common Military List regulates the scope of military items controlled for export in the EU pursuant to the EU Common Position on arms exports. The sanctions were introduced under the 2015 amendment order, imposing sanctions on Russia over events in Ukraine. (12/4)

Establishing a European NewSpace Industry (Source: Space Review)
Luxembourg hosted the first NewSpace Europe conference last month, bringing together European startups, investors, and government officials. Jeff Foust discusses some of the challenges European startups face in this sector and how they compete against American counterparts. Click here. (12/4)

Is China Edging Ahead in the Race to Rule Space? (Source: Asia Times)
The Cold War era in space was always depicted as involving a looming showdown between the US and the Soviet Union, but China has emerged in the 21st Century as posing the greatest challenge to US dominance. Specifically, the ability of China to pursue a much faster and grander scheme for dominance in satellites is increasingly apparent. Multiple launch sites in China are being upgraded and plans proceed to establish an offshore launch capability in the South China Sea. Click here. (12/4) 

UAE Begins Astronaut Recruitment (Source: Arabian Business)
The UAE has started recruiting people for its astronaut program. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE, announced Wednesday that the country was seeking young Emiratis to apply to the program. The country's space agency will later select four people for its first-ever astronaut corps, although when they will fly in space, and on what vehicles, remains to be determined. (12/5)

Incredible 360 Degree Video Shows the UAE's Vision for a 2117 Mars Colony (Source: Daily Mail)
Stunning VR footage that could be taken straight from the latest video game has revealed the United Arab Emirates' vision for its planned Martian colony where robots live alongside humans. An immersive 360° experience of the futuristic city was released by the Gulf state's government, giving the most detailed view yet of its city. The release is part of Dubai's Mars 2117 Strategy, which seeks to build the first settlement on Mars in the next 100 years. Click here. (11/30) 

US Firm Picks UK for Weather Satellites (Source: BBC)
A miniaturized instrument to monitor the weather will be the first payload to fly on one of the UK's new publicly funded demonstration satellites. US-based Orbital Micro Systems will launch their microwave radiometer aboard the 30cm-long spacecraft next year to retrieve temperature, humidity and precipitation measurements. If successful, OMS plans a 40-strong constellation of similar satellites. OMS is moving into Britain because of the support offered to new space firms. (12/7)

New UK Business Incubators Will Help Space Industry Grow (Source: Public)
The incubators, in Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Leicestershire and London, will provide world-class science innovation support for entrepreneurs and small businesses to help grow the UK space industry. The funding follows the launch of the government's Industrial Strategy, which includes a £50 million program to enable new satellite launch services and low gravity spaceflights from UK spaceports, to boost the economy and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. (12/7)

Team Indus Will Try Crowd-Funding (Source: The Hindu)
TeamIndus, a private aerospace start-up, and the only Indian team attempting to launch a spacecraft on the moon, is exploring crowd funding, sponsorship and ticketing route as possible fund raising options. The start-up which has, so far, raised $35 million (approximately ₹250 crore), has to raise the other half of $35 million within a revised deadline of March 2018. The project is estimated to cost close to $ 65-70 million (approximately 500 crore).

According to Sheelika Ravishankar, Marketing and Outreach, TeamIndus, the company would launch a platform (for crowd funding) in the next couple of weeks inviting people to contribute towards its ‘Moon Mission’. The Bengaluru-based start-up, is among the five finalists in the $30 million race to the moon, under the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition. It invites privately funded teams to place a spacecraft on the moon’s surface, travel 500 meters and transmit high definition video and images back to earth. (12/4)

India Needs a Robust Space Law (Source: Daily O)
A long-awaited draft on Indian space law has finally been unveiled. It is called the Space Activities Bill, 2017, and its main objective is to “promote and regulate space activities in India.” The need for such a legislation has been felt for a long time since India, despite having made deep inroads into space sector over the years, did not have any legislation so far.

The absence of a regulatory or legal framework became more apparent in the past few years, with growing interest of private sector in space and growth of space start-ups in Bengaluru. The involvement of private sector in core space activities such as building and launching satellites is inevitable for any space agency for growth and wider utilization of space technologies. Such a multi-player space sector needs a full-fledged regulatory framework.

The draft made public by the Department of Space (DoS) allows private players to fabricate and launch satellites and participate in other space-related activities. This is a welcome move. Till now private companies have only been a supplier of components, fuel and other parts to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). (12/5)

Space Travel Attraction Launched in Indian City (Source: The Hindu)
Amusement park enthusiasts in the City can now have a simulated space flying experience as Wonderla Holidays Limited launched a new ride - mission interstellar - here on Monday. The ride which has a laser projector and 3,500 sq ft parabolic screen will simulate the weightless, no-gravity experience at 40 ft from the ground. The ride which was inaugurated on Monday is housed on the 50-acre campus of Wonderla.

The Wonderla-Hyderabad was inaugurated in April 2016. Other Wonderla amusement parks are located in Bangalore and Kochi. The company plans to make Hyderabad an important amusement location that brings in tourists from north Indian cities too. (12/5)

Planet Plans India Partnership (Source: PTI)
Planet will establish a development center in India. Karthik Govindhasamy, chief technology officer and executive vice president of engineering at Planet, said the center will work on technologies to analyze data from the company's constellation of Earth-imaging satellites. The center will also market imagery and data to customers in India, including government agencies and businesses. (12/5)

UrtheCast Plans Chinese Partnership (Source: Space News)
UrtheCast has signed a partnership deal with a Chinese Earth-imaging company. UrtheCast and Beijing Space View Technology have agreed to offer images from each others' satellites to their customers. Each company currently operates two imaging satellites, but with plans to develop larger constellations. The deal gives UrtheCast access to more imagery after an agreement with RSC Energia to operate cameras mounted on the Russian segment of the ISS expired at the end of 2016. (12/5)

Guatemala Leverages SES Networks' to Deliver Better Connectivity (Source: Space Daily)
Comnet, one of Guatemala's leading service providers, is the first to tap into the newly-launched SES Networks Enterprise+ Broadband for Latin America to enable the delivery of Quantum, a high-performance next-generation broadband service, to its end customers spanning the agricultural, tourism and mining industries. (12/5)

Procurement Process of Canada’s Next Military Satellite Project Stuck in the 20th Century (Source: SpaceQ)
The Department of National Defence (DND) this week released the long anticipated Request for Information for the Enhanced Satellite Communication Project – Polar (ESPC-P), or simply called Escape. If rapid development and deployment was important to DND then they would be out of luck in getting this satellite project on-orbit and operational anytime soon.

It seems any type of military procurement takes more than a decade from start to finish. The procurement of ESCP-P could take 12 years. A contract award for ESCP-P is anticipated at being no later 2024. By the time the satellite is launched and operational it could be 2029. The estimated costs in 2016 was $1.5B. Why so long? Blame the government. There’s no one else to blame. To design, manufacture, launch and deploy a satellite, even a sophisticated military satellite does not need to take 12 years. (12/8)

Six New Entrants Into the Satellite Industry in 2017 (Source: Via Satellite)
Despite tough margins across the market, 2017 marked a number of significant milestones for the global space industry. In March, SpaceX successfully launched and relanded a flight-proven, first-stage booster for the first time; in February, the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) PSLV broke a record for the most satellites launched simultaneously at 104; and in June, Arianespace launched the heaviest payload in history into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), lofting the combined weight (21,977 pounds) of ViaSat 2 and Eutelsat 172B.

But 2017 was pockmarked by smaller victories too. A number of countries and universities that previously had lackluster or nonexistent space programs have taken big risks to place some of their first satellites into orbit. Here’s a rundown of the newest entrants to the satellite industry this year, as well as other players who have announced their plans to orbit an asset in the near future. Click here. (12/5) 

Fleet Details 100 Nanosat Constellation for Internet of Things Connectivity (Source: Space News)
The space industry has at least 10 startups all wanting to use cubesats or other small satellites to help keep all manner of interoperable devices connected to a rapidly expanding Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem. Among them is Fleet, an Adelaide, Australia-based company formed in 2015 that counts the French space agency CNES as one of its partners. Fleet raised roughly $3.8 million in a Series A funding round at the beginning of this year, providing capital to build two of a desired 100 nanosatellites for connecting industrial IoT devices. (12/6)

Tethers Unlimited Wins NASA Grant for Future FabLab for 3-D Printing in Space (Source: GeekWire)
Tethers Unlimited is getting a shot at helping to create an advanced fabrication facility that could manufacture and recycle 3-D printed items in space. Tethers Unlimited and two other companies will have 18 months to deliver a prototype for the multi-material fabrication lab, or FabLab. The other companies are Interlog Corp. of Anaheim, Calif.; and Techshot of Greenville, Ind.

About $10.2 million has been set aside for the prototyping phase of the project. After the prototype is delivered, NASA will select partners for further development of the technology. The FabLab initiative is part of a NASA program known as Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP. (12/7)

Code Red! SpaceIL Needs $20 Million Stat to Save Satellite Program (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The construction of the first Israeli spacecraft is at a critical turning point. Only two weeks before its completion, $20 million are needed by the end of the year to prevent the project’s termination. This would result in the cancellation of the launch planned for 2018 and end all the non-profit’s educational activities, a moment before the spacecraft is launched.

The total sum required to complete the project is $30 million. Businessman and philanthropist Morris Kahn has pledged an additional $10 million, if $20 million are raised from other sources. (12/4)

Making Organs From Stem Cells in Space (Source: Financial Times)
Should humanity ever establish colonies in space, it will need the right equipment to survive away from Earth and its resources. The possibility of manufacturing beyond our planet has intrigued science-fiction writers and engineers since the dawn of the space age but serious efforts to create “factories in space” have been limited. This is beginning to change, as shown by a number of small-scale projects whose aims include building lunar bases and making artificial human organs.

“It’s definitely still early days,” says Andrew Rush, chief executive of Made in Space, a company founded in Silicon Valley in 2010. “The amount of activity in space manufacturing has grown significantly over the past five years and even over the past couple of years. On Earth, 3D bioprinting requires thick bio-inks containing chemicals and other materials to provide structural support, says Techshot. In space, however, tissues could be printed with finer print tips and lower viscosity bio-inks, containing only the biological materials needed to create a healthy organ. Click here. (10/19)

Food Companies in Space Race to Beef Up Menu for Astronauts (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japanese astronauts craving for a taste of home can now tuck into ramen and rice balls on the International Space Station (ISS), but that's just an appetizer. Food firms are now chomping at the bit for the chance to tout their chow as food that can be served on Earth and in space. To do so, manufacturers apply to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to register their products as Japanese Space Food, which means that astronauts can pop it into their "bento" lunchbox before rocketing into orbit.

“I once shared my curry with a non-Japanese crew member. They were delighted and we bonded," said astronaut Kimiya Yui, referring to his own experience. Some Japanese Space Food was displayed recently at an event held by JAXA in Yokohama with visitors getting a chance to sample it. Astronauts are provided with three meals daily on the ISS, and they are also allowed to personalize their diet with food and snacks from their own countries.

While only foodstuffs that can be stored for at least 18 months at normal temperatures are eligible for Japanese Space Food status, firms also have to make further improvements and meet other basic criteria so their products can withstand temperature fluctuations. In addition, they need to make sure so the broth and other ingredients do not fly off and splatter over the equipment in the gravity-free conditions. Kikkoman Corp. took four years to develop a soy sauce product that passed muster, according to officials. (12/4)

Space Farms: 'Mark Watney in The Martian Was Right to Add Poop to the Soil' (Source: Space Daily)
When it comes to establishing a sustainable agricultural ecosystem on Mars, "nothing can be allowed to get lost, including the dead plant material we do not eat," said Dr. Wamelink. "The worm forms a part of the small cycle existing of plants, worms, bacteria, fungi, humans and bumblebees. The worms chew the organic matter, mix it with the soil and excrete it. Bacteria will then further break down the organic matter releasing the nutrients for the plants. That has to be brought back in the soil and worms do just that," Dr. Wamelink explained.

The worms, Dr. Wamelink said, have an important job digging burrows, aerating the soil which helps the water reach the roots, "which is important for plant growth." Dozens of crops are already being grown in various experiments using Martian soil, including potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, peas, cress, carrot and radishes, however this was the first time a team of Biologists in the Netherlands substituted pig slurry for human feces.

"That set-off the growth. We know that adding organic matter also helps and the work of the worms add to that as well. This implies that human feces has to be brought back in the system and that also the feces during the travel have to be stored for fertilizing the Martian soil." (11/30)

Astronauts' Core Body Temperature Increases on Extended Space Missions (Source: ACSH)
Astronauts' core body temperature increases by roughly 1° C (1.8° F) on long-duration missions. Our brains, via the hypothalamus, tightly regulate our body temperature. The average person's body temperature is 37° C (98.6° F). Eliminating heat is vital to maintaining a proper temperature. That's why, for instance, we sweat during exercise; as the water evaporates, our bodies cool off.

Such natural cooling mechanisms don't work as well in space. The relative lack of gravity hinders both evaporation and convection. (Convection is the process by which heat is transferred by the movement of a fluid, like air.) This is problematic because it is not only uncomfortable for the astronauts, but it is potentially unhealthy. An elevated body temperature impairs physical and cognitive performance and may even induce a mild state of systemic inflammation.

Making things worse is the fact that astronauts, in order to keep their bodies in shape, absolutely must exercise while in space. This could increase their core body temperature to dangerously high levels. (12/3)

Draper Developing Tool to Guide At-Risk Spacewalkers (Source: The Verge)
A "take me home" button could guide astronauts experiencing problems on spacewalks. The technology, developed at Draper, involved hardware and software that would guide a spacewalking astronaut in distress back to the ISS or another spacecraft by simply pressing a button. Spacewalkers on the station today have a thruster system called SAFER that allows them to return to the station if they drift away, but it requires them to be able to operate the system manually. (12/5)

Private Space Company to Return to Apollo 17 Landing Site – Carefully! (Source: SpaceWatch Middle East)
On the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 17, the last mission to take humans to the surface of the Moon, commercial space company PTScientists plans a mission to revisit the Apollo 17 landing site. This is the first time any organization – private or public – has planned to return to any of the historic landing sites on the Moon. Announcing a partnership with For All Moonkind, Inc., PTScientists is making a public pledge of support for their initiative to safeguard sites of historical and cultural significance on the Moon and elsewhere in outer space. (12/7)

CASIS and the NSF Announce Second Space Station Funding Opportunity in Fluid Dynamics (Source: CASIS)
The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a joint solicitation wherein researchers from the fluid dynamics community will have the ability to leverage resources onboard the U.S. National Laboratory aboard ISS. Up to $2 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects. This is the second collaboration between the NSF and CASIS funding of fluid dynamics research.

Through this partnership, CASIS and NASA will facilitate hardware implementation and on-orbit access to the ISS National Laboratory.  NSF will fund the selected projects to advance fundamental science and engineering knowledge. CASIS is the nonprofit organization responsible for managing and promoting research onboard the ISS National Laboratory. NSF supports transformative research to help drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and maintain America’s position as a global leader in innovation. (12/6)

Satellites That Can See Through Clouds Will Launch in January (Source: CNBC)
Technology known as earth observation satellites is one of the fastest growing sectors in the $350 billion space industry, and Finnish company ICEYE is on the bleeding edge. ICEYE will launch its first microsatellite to orbit in January from India on a PSLV rocket. The technology on board, synthetic aperture radar (or SAR), is designed to provide almost real-time imagery at any time — something current optical cameras cannot do as much 75 percent of the time. (12/1)

Independent Review to Examine JWST Launch Plans (Source: Space News)
NASA will provide an updated launch date for the James Webb Space Telescope early next year, even as some warn that the mission might face further delays. At a Dec. 6 hearing of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, said the revised launch date would come after an independent review of the status of the spacecraft.

That review won’t start until January because of ongoing tests of unfolding the sunshade of the space telescope. Previous tests, he said, took much longer than anticipated, playing a key factor in the decision to delay the launch. An updated launch date, he said, would likely come in “January or February.” (12/7)

Jupiter’s Moons, Black Holes, Exoplanets Among JWST’s First Scientific Targets (Source: Spaceflight Now)
The James Webb Space Telescope should start returning its first scientific results by the end of 2019, and scientists recently announced a slate of observations selected to whet the appetites of astronomers who will use the multibillion-dollar facility well into the 2020s.

The observatory’s initial scientific targets will include Jupiter and its moons, supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, planets orbiting other stars, and some of the oldest observable galaxies in the universe. The director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Ken Sembach, selected 13 observation plans last month from more than 100 proposals submitted by global science teams for the chance to be among the first to use JWST after its launch in early 2019. (12/4)

NASA is Going Beyond Pluto (Source: The Hill)
It’s not over for New Horizons. The spacecraft is now on its way to another distant world, 972 million miles beyond Pluto, still called by its discovery designation of 2014MU69 — or just MU69 by its close friends. On Jan. 1, 2019 the spacecraft will fly by MU69, and we have little idea what we will find. MU69 is small, less than 50 miles across, and dark like charcoal. There is some evidence it has a strange shape. It may even be two smaller objects in a tight orbit around each other.

Does MU69 have active geology? We don’t think so because it is so small. Does it have an atmosphere? Probably not, for the same reason. MU69’s importance lies in a different field of science, and that is the study of origins. (12/6)

Smackdown! Mini-Moons Punched Straight Through the Planet’s Core (Source: Cosmos)
Comparatively small moon-like objects smashed into the young Earth, bringing elements such as gold and platinum and adding substantially to the planet’s mass, say US scientists. A small team led by Simone Marchi of the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado, US, used a computational method known as smoothed-particle hydrodynamics to simulate a violent period of the Earth’s life immediately following the formation of the moon.

The moon came into being about 4.5 billion years ago – around 40 million years after the solar system began. It formed due to the clumping together of debris thrown out when the proto-Earth, then a smallish object, smashed into another wayward planet about the size of Mars.

Following this episode, the Earth – larger now, because of the collision, but still smaller than it is today – was bombarded by lots of objects collectively known as planetesimals. These accrued from clumps of interstellar matter left over from the creation of solar nebula, forming rocks that varied from the size of a grain of sand to monstrous flying lumps more than 3000 kilometers across. (12/5)

Is Water Really on Mars? (Source: Voice of America)
A new study suggests that dark markings on the planet Mars represent sand – not water. Research in 2015 had suggested that lines on some Martian hills were evidence of water. Yet American scientists now say these lines appear more like dry, steep flows of sand. If water is present, they said, it is likely to be a small amount. Water in liquid form would be necessary for microbial life.

NASA, the American space agency, said more research is needed. Michael Meyer is the lead scientist for NASA's Mars exploration program. He noted that the latest study does not reject the presence of water. But he admitted, "It just may not be as exciting as the idea of rivers going down the sides of cliffs." NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provided the images of dark lines. Thousands have been reported on the Red Planet. (12/9)

Is Planet Nine Even Real? (Source: The Atlantic)
When Mike Brown first proposed that a hidden, massive planet lurks in the outer reaches of our solar system, he was confident someone would prove him wrong. “Planet Nine,” as the hypothetical world was nicknamed, was his explanation for the strange movements of half a dozen distant, icy planetoids that are farther away and smaller than Pluto: In theory, this huge, somehow-undiscovered planet could sway their orbits. But surely astronomers would be quick to find a more obvious explanation.

“Shockingly, in a year and a half, nobody has,” says Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology. “There have been so many claims of planets in the last 170 years, and they were always wrong. But I’m clearly a true believer at this point.”

Brown, the self-titled “Pluto Killer” who led the campaign that demoted the dwarf planet, and Konstantin Batygin, his coauthor at Caltech and a young star who plays in his own rock band, know how to spark debate. Since their proposal about Planet Nine, the lack of definitive evidence for or against its existence has divided the planetary community. Other astronomers have put forth alternative explanations, and some contend Brown and Batygin’s data are biased. Until someone clearly spots the new mystery planet in a telescope, they’ve come to an impasse. Click here. (12/8) 

Defenders of the Planet (Source: Air & Space)
Lindley Johnson is NASA’s first Planetary Defense Officer, charged with keeping Earth safe from rocks in the solar system on a path to collide with us. His work at the staff college when Shoemaker-Levy was discovered helped convince Air Force leadership that a potential strike from one of the objects in the solar system was a threat that needed their attention. “Impacts by even a modest-size asteroid, something a couple of hundred meters in size—it would be a catastrophic event unlike anything we ever had to deal with, particularly if it’s near a metropolitan area,” Johnson says. Click here. (12/5)

NASA Just Sent a Signal 13 Billion Miles Into Space. And Got a Response (Source: Independent)
While we struggle for mobile reception in a countryside, Nasa just managed to contact a spacecraft 13 billion miles away. NASA was worried Earth would lose contact with Voyager 1 as its altitude control thrusters, which rotate so it can communicate with Earth, have been wearing down.

The Voyager team eventually agreed on an "unusual solution", according to a statement: firing up a set of four backup thrusters that hadn't been used since 1980. Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in the statement: "With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years." (12/3)

Exoplanet That Could Harbor Extraterrestrial Life Has a Neighbor Hiding Behind It (Source: Newsweek)
Astronomers have identified a distant exoplanet as a “super-Earth” that has the potential to harbor alien life. On top of this, the team also discovered that this planet—K2-18b—has another, similar world hiding behind it. A super-Earth is a planet with a mass higher than Earth but smaller than larger bodies like Uranus and Neptune.

The two new super-Earths orbit a red-dwarf star around 111 light years away. K2-18b, scientists say, could be in an excellent location for alien life to emerge—having perfect conditions for surface water, a fundamental ingredient for life, to exist. Scientists combed the skies with the European Southern Observatory’s planet-hunting HARPS device in Chile. They found the planets circling the red dwarf star K2-18, which is part of the constellation, Leo. (12/6)

Breakthrough Prize Shines Glitzy Scientific Spotlight on Cosmic Mappers (Source: GeekWire)
This year’s Breakthrough Prizes, cast as the “Oscars of Science,” are going to genetic engineers, disease fighters, math whizzes — and the scientists on the cosmos-mapping team behind the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, or WMAP. This year’s physics award is notable in that it’s being shared by 27 researchers on the science team for WMAP, which produced a precedent-setting map of the cosmic microwave background radiation nearly 15 years ago.

“This is amazing, and certainly surprising,” Charles Bennett, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University and the principal investigator for the WMAP mission, told GeekWire in advance of tonight’s ceremony. “We knew we were doing something important, but you never know how it’s going to be received until it all happens.”

Bennett and four other team leaders — the University of British Columbia’s Gary Hinshaw and Princeton’s Norman Jarosik, David Spergel and Lyman Page — will take the biggest shares of the $3 million prize. But everyone involved in the project will benefit. (12/3)

UF Scientists Discover Black Holes Have Wimpy Magnetism (Source: UF)
Black holes are famous for their muscle: an intense gravitational pull known to gobble up entire stars and launch streams of matter into space at almost the speed of light. It turns out the reality may not live up to the hype. In a new paper appearing in the journal Science, University of Florida scientists have discovered these tears in the fabric of the universe have significantly weaker magnetic fields than previously thought.

A 40-mile-wide black hole 8,000 light years from Earth named V404 Cygni yielded the first precise measurements of the magnetic field that surrounds the deepest wells of gravity in the universe. Study authors found the magnetic energy around the black hole is about 400 times lower than previous crude estimates.

The measurements bring scientists closer to understanding how black holes' magnetism works, deepening our knowledge of how matter behaves under the most extreme conditions — knowledge that could broaden the limits of nuclear fusion power and GPS systems. (12/8)

Extreme Radiation Around Small Stars May Not Doom Life Nearby (Source: New Scientist)
Could our Milky Way’s many red and white dwarf stars be home to alien life? These tiny, dim stars seem inhospitable with intense flares and destructive tidal forces. But with just the right circumstances, life forms on nearby planets could survive.

Our galaxy is full of small, cool stars. Red dwarfs are common but rambunctious stars that lash out in fierce flares. White dwarfs are calmer smoldering remnants of dying stars too small to explode in a nova, but only form after a star swells into a planet-destroying red giant. These dwarf stars have narrow habitable zones — the region around each star that could have liquid water – yet their prevalence makes them tempting targets in the search for life. Click here. (12/4)

NASA Remains Tops on Federal Best Places To Work Ranking (Source: Federal News Radio)
NASA not only remains the number one large agency in government, but it also managed to improve its employee engagement score for the sixth consecutive year. The agency has been continually honing into the details and specific questions on the FEVS, Morris said.

“Driving down into the specifics, into specific offices, [and get a] better understanding of what is on the lower end, what is the area on the higher end and really rolling their sleeves up and getting into the blocking and tackling, that’s what iconic government organizations like NASA continually do,” he said. “The fact that NASA was able to raise their number by a further 2.5 points is phenomenal.” (12/6)

Harrison Schmitt: Space and the Challenge for America (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
A settlement on the moon. Mankind well on its way to Mars. A potential clean power source so powerful that about 200 pounds could provide electricity to a major city for a year. New Mexico astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt says these are a few of the possibilities that might well have been reality by now had the administration of President Lyndon Johnson not decided to limit production of the massive Saturn V rockets that carried Apollo astronauts, including Schmitt, to the moon.

“Had things gone differently we could be much further along than we are today,” he said in a recent interview. “No question we would have a settlement on the moon and would very seriously have a program going to Mars if not already there.”

“The budget-driven decision made in the Johnson administration and confirmed in the Nixon administration was to fly only 15 of these large Saturn rockets,” Schmitt said. “That immediately limited the amount of exploration we were going to do in deep space. You need rockets of that size to go to the moon or to Mars. We really gave up on deep space exploration.” (12/4)

USTA Taking Tennis to Outer Space (Source: Baseline)
Feustel will be in space as a member of NASA's Expedition 55, along with another NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold and crew mate Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Feustel also happens to be a tennis player and fan. “Tennis is one of my loves, actually tennis is because of my love,” Feustel said in a press conference on Thursday. “Tennis came into my life later, after I met my wife. She comes from a huge tennis playing family, and those experiences and those interests rubbed off on me and our kids.” (12/8)

Why Is Fashion Having an Astral Moment? (Source: New York Times)
If anyone can restore proper awe to the notion of space travel, Buzz Aldrin can. At 87, Mr. Aldrin, who made history in 1969 when he set foot on the moon, has hung on to his plain-as-folk charm and easy, infectious enthusiasm.

Those attractions may well factor into pop culture’s resurrected romance with the pioneering astronaut, who raised his profile in recent years with guest spots on shows including “The Simpsons” and “Dancing With the Stars,” and an appearance at the Summer Olympics in Rio last year. In November Mr. Aldrin led the annual Veterans Day parade in New York City, serving as grand marshal.

Unstoppable, it seems, he recently embarked on yet another life chapter: Last winter he strode the runway of the men’s wear designer Nick Graham, showing off a silver foil jacket with distinctly aerodynamic loft. So it may have been only a matter of time before Mr. Aldrin made the leap to a mainstream brand. (12/8)

Adam Savage's New Tool Bag Styled After Apollo Astronaut 'Purse' (Source: collectSPACE)
The former "Mythbusters" co-host and Tested.com editor-in-chief, Savage recently introduced his first original product, a tool bag dubbed the "EDC One." The every day carry (hence EDC) evolved from Savage's decades-long pursuit of a durable, yet simple and stylish bag to hold his stuff.

"The origins of the EDC One go all the way back to my tool kits I used as a model maker in the '90s, up to working at Industrial Light & Magic and on Warner Bros. films, through the beginning of 'Mythbusters,'" said Savage. "My tool boxes started out as leather doctor bags of roughly a similar size and shape to the EDC One." Savage's leather bags eventually gave way to kits he built out of aluminum. But for the EDC One, he looked to a different type of hardware. (12/4)
 
Harris CEO Lands Officer Position on Top Space Group (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A Melbourne-based Harris Corporation executive has been named to a top post of an organization that bills itself as the voice of the U.S. aerospace and defense industries. William Brown, who has been at the helm of Harris since 2011, will serve in 2018 as the Aerospace Industries Association’s Vice Chairman. Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy will serve as the association’s chairman next year. (12/5)

First Black Astronaut a Forgotten Hero (Source: Florida Today)
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the loss of one of our most forgotten brothers: Maj. Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., America’s first black astronaut. This year, he is receiving the recognition he’s long deserved. In the late 1960s, development of manned space systems for military use by the U.S. and the Soviet Union was well underway. In June 1967, Lawrence — just 31 years old and already an accomplished Air Force officer — was selected to be an astronaut in a program created to explore the value in military space missions.

Just six months later, before he was ever launched into orbit, Lawrence perished on Dec. 8, 1967, in a jet crash while training for this program. He was the only astronaut from his team who died in service, and the first black astronaut at that, yet his remarkable achievements and sacrifice went unsung for decades. (12/5)

The German Space Program That Never Was (Source: Hackaday)
The V-2 wasn’t the only rocket-powered vehicle that the Germans were working on, a whole series of follow-up vehicles were in the design phase when the Allies took Berlin in 1945. Some were weapons, but not all. Pioneers like Walter Dornberger and Wernher von Braun saw that rocketry had more to offer mankind than a new way to deliver warheads to the enemy, and the team at Peenemünde had begun laying the groundwork for a series of rockets that could have put mankind into space years before the Soviets. Click here. (12/4)

A Quick Look at SpaceX’s Plans in the Works (Source: Satellite Today)
On Nov. 27, SpaceX filed an amendment to its Series H funding round with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), tacking on an additional $101.3 million to the $351 million it already raised in August. According to CBInsights, this latest capital injection brings the total valuation of the company to $21.5 billion — making it the third most valuable private tech startup in the United States after Uber and Airbnb.

It’s clear that SpaceX has done a spectacular job capturing the attention of the public — and investors — with its ambitious plans. Ultimately though, the cache of funds at its disposal may just be a fraction of what the company needs to realize the lofty goals spearheaded by its founder, Elon Musk. Here’s a quick overview of everything the company hopes to achieve in the next five years. Click here. (12/1)

Should SpaceX and Tesla Merge? (Source: Bloomberg)
One investment analyst thinks it makes sense for SpaceX to merge with Elon Musk's other company, Tesla. In a research note Tuesday, Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley argued that investors expect Musk to devote more of his attention in the future to SpaceX versus Tesla, even as Tesla faces much stiffer competition in the automobile industry than SpaceX does in launch. A combination of the companies, Jonas argued, could address that concern and others, such a lack of a "natural buyer" for Tesla. Musk has previously dismissed such a merger, saying there's too little cooperation between the two companies. (12/5)

SpaceX Only Exists Because of Elon Musk’s Love of Inter-Planetary Publicity Stunts (Source: Quartz)
Mock Elon Musk’s plan to launch his personal Tesla roadster to Mars on a brand-new SpaceX rocket if you must, but it’s more than just ridiculous inter-planetary brand synergy: It’s bringing the technology mogul back to his roots. SpaceX itself emerged from a stunt that Musk cooked up to promote the idea of humans exploring the solar system. After leaving Pay-Pal, Musk decided that he wanted to use some of the money earned from selling his first start-up, Zip2, to launch a greenhouse habitat to Mars.

These plans foundered when the cost of buying rockets to launch them exceeded Musk’s multi-million dollar budget. But his research into the space industry convinced him that a better way to get humans to Mars would be building affordable vehicles to take them there. That led him to found SpaceX in 2002. (12/5)
 
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