|March 20, 2017
OneWeb Breaks Ground at Cape Canaveral Spaceport for Satellite Facility (Source OneWeb)
During a ceremony with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, OneWeb Satellites CEO Brian Holz and Airbus President Mike Cosentino, it was announced that the factory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is set to begin its full series, autonomous assembly line production, integration and satellite testing later this year. OneWeb Satellites is a joint venture between OneWeb, a satellite-based internet provider, and Airbus, the world’s second largest space company, with its first order to include the production of 900 communications satellites for OneWeb’s low Earth orbit constellation. (3/6)
Colorado Company Plans R&D Center on Florida's Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
An unnamed Colorado company wants to turn a Space Coast town into the "Silicon Valley of Space 2.0." The Denver-based company is working with economic development officials to open a research and development center in a historic building in downtown Titusville, Florida, converting the upper floors of the buildings into apartments. The 65-person company, whose identify is being kept confidential by local officials for competitive reasons, would use the facility "to develop new technologies for the aerospace industry." (3/14)
RUAG Locating Fairing Operation to Alabama (Source: Decatur Daily)
RUAG Aerospace is moving its operation, which provides carbon fiber payload fairings for ULA rockets, from Switzerland to ULA’s plant in Alabama. By 2020, RUAG is expected to employ 150 workers in Decatur with an average annual salary of $100,000. (3/12)
Blue Origin and Washington: Powering the Future of Space Transportation (Source: Lift WA)
Based in Kent, WA, we are driven to invent technologies that will improve the state of space transportation and operations. Fueled by our company motto, Gradatim Ferociter (or “step by step, ferociously”), we have followed an incremental development process in our mission to develop reusable space vehicles and the engines that power them. In 2003, we employed 10 professionals. Today, that number has grown to more than 900 scientists, engineers, and builders—all passionate about human spaceflight.
This team made history in November 2015, becoming the first organization to launch a rocket booster to space and land it vertically back on the Earth. We then successfully flew that same rocket four more times. But, we don’t just build rockets—-we’ve built a unique culture around methodical innovation and exploration that allows us to steadily advance and grow. We’re honored to have our headquarters in Washington and we take great pride in our contributions to the state’s economy.
We’ve created hundreds of lucrative, high-tech manufacturing jobs—aerospace engineers, software engineers, propulsion designers, robotic laser operators, simulation engineers, machinists, avionics engineers, welders, program managers and so many more. Our employees and their families spend their off hours contributing to our local and state economies through recreational activities, dining, shopping and medical care, to name a few. Click here. (3/12)
Strength Built by Diversity and Inclusion Key to NASA Mission and Huntsville's Success (Source: Huntsville Times)
It's no coincidence that we live and work in a vibrant, growing community. Huntsville became the "Rocket City" because visionary leaders and residents throughout the Tennessee Valley recognized we must attract and retain the best and brightest to journey beyond Earth's orbit. Engineers and scientists come to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center from everywhere, with diverse skills and backgrounds, but united in purpose.
Now, Marshall is excited to be part of an opportunity with the community to further advance our history of innovation and mission success through even greater diversity and inclusion. Together, Marshall and the region are successful because, as we accept daunting new challenges, we embrace new ideas and explore new paths for solutions. (3/13)
ULA Layoffs Could Impact Decatur (Source: Decatur Daily)
Planned layoffs for United Launch Alliance could affect the company's Decatur plant, an official said this week. "As with last year's reduction, they are across the company," spokeswoman Jessica Rye said in a statement. "We are not specifically addressing the number of employees to protect competitively sensitive information." Last year, ULA laid off about 55 workers in Decatur as the company looked to lower launch costs by cutting about 10 percent of its workforce nationally. (3/17)
ULA Won't Say if Alabama Layoffs Coming (Source: Decatur Daily)
United Launch Alliance isn't saying whether a planned round of layoffs this year will impact its 800-employee plant in Decatur. Asked if the layoffs could impact the Decatur plant, ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye did not specify the number of planned layoffs or where they might occur.
“United Launch Alliance continues to transform our company to provide cost-effective solutions for our customers while we maintain focus on mission success,” she said. “As we announced last year, ULA would have two reductions in force, one in 2016, which was completed, and one in 2017 to accomplish our business goals." ULA eliminated up to 55 jobs at the Decatur plant last year, when the Colorado-based company eliminated a total of 375 jobs from its five locations nationwide, approximately 10 percent of its total workforce. (3/13)
Legislature Should Keep Sun Shining on Spaceport America Records (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Interestingly, the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors launched Sunshine Sunday in 2002 in response to efforts by some Florida legislators to create scores of new exemptions to that state’s public records law. The following year, the idea of a national Sunshine Sunday was raised at an American Society of News Editors Freedom of Information summit, but it was decided that the initiative needed to be more than a single day, and Sunshine Week was born.
In New Mexico, Senate Bill 429 would make a wide range of Spaceport America records secret, ostensibly to make it competitive with other spaceports. It would exempt from public disclosure of prospective and current client information including identities, correspondence, agreements, client names, payments, activities, visitor logs, policies and security protocols.
Editor's Note: Space Florida's enabling legislation (Chapter 331, Part Two) allows the agency to keep trade secret information out of the public eye. The information must be declared "trade secret" by the company seeking the privacy...not unilaterally by Space Florida. (3/13)
Sunshine Will Help Spaceport America Succeed (Source: NM Politics)
Unfortunately, there are forces trying to hide information about Spaceport America from the public. They say secrecy is necessary to compete with other space facilities. I first became aware of their efforts last month. Two spaceport officials called me out of the blue. They said they wanted to answer any questions I had. I asked how much tenants are paying in rent at the spaceport. Tammara Anderton, VP for business development, asked me why I wanted to know that. Cue the red flag.
I explained that taxpayers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the project and legislators understandably want to know, as does the public, about the return on their investment. I got nothing. Bill Gutman, VP of spaceport operations, explained that it would be damaging to release the spaceport’s “rate card.” I asked who the tenants were. Anderton said there were five. I asked her to email me information about them. She sent me the names of the tenants and shared whether they launch vertically – using rockets – or horizontally from the spaceport’s runway. That’s it.
They also told me the spaceport had a twenty-fold return on the state’s investment in terms of economic impact in Fiscal Year 2016 — $20.8 million back from the state’s spending of $944,000. I asked in an email for documents that showed “the actual data” to support that claim. I wrote that I wanted “the analysis that shows in more detail where those incoming dollars came from.” I didn’t get that either. (3/12)
Bill Would Have Cloaked Spaceport America in Secrecy (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The failing spaceport got a local state senator to introduce Senate Bill 429, the Spaceport Confidential Records Act, which would cloak Spaceport America in secrecy, supposedly to attract customers. New Mexico law already protects companies’ trade secrets. This bill would protect the spaceport’s own “secrets” from its owners — you and me. The second excuse for it is to protect “cyberinfrastructure information” from potential terrorists.
(Would some terrorist bomb the spaceport just to kill a few rabbits?) If this bill has any legitimate objective, it’s unfortunate that someone drafted it using a meat-cleaver, rather than exercising actual thought. Knowing how essential governmental transparency is to our democracy, I worry about bills like this; and knowing that many citizens feel the spaceport is an irredeemable failure, I wonder about management’s motives. (3/18)
Students Set Record at Spaceport America with Amateur Rocket Launch (Source: USC)
A student group set a new rocketry record earlier this month. A rocket built by the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory launched from Spaceport America in New Mexico March 4, reaching a peak altitude of 43.9 kilometers. The Fathom 2 rocket is believed to set the record for the highest altitude achieved by a rocket designed and manufactured entirely by students. The group’s ultimate goal is to launch a rocket past the Karman Line of 100 kilometers, the widely-observed boundary of space. (3/18)
Georgia Spaceflight Liability Bill Advances in State's Senate (Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
The state Senate backed a bill Thursday clearing the way for commercial space flight launches in Georgia, starting a crucial countdown toward final passage. The Georgia Space Flight Act essentially sets legal rules over liability involving private property and any would-be astronauts, a first for the state. It says that those participants would have to assume the risks for injuries or accidents and sign “informed consent” waivers, except in cases of gross negligence by the company sponsoring the flight. The bill passed on a 44-6 vote. Because of changes made in a Senate committee, it now goes back to the House for review. (3/16)
Georgia Legislators Ask for Spaceport Study (Source: Golden Isles News)
Four state representatives have filed a resolution asking for a careful study to the determine the impacts of a proposed spaceport in Camden County. State Rep. Jason Spencer, sponsor of a bill to protect the space industry from lawsuits by injured employees, said the resolution, if passed, will send “conflicting messages” to the space industry. The resolution calls for careful study and consideration a commercial spaceport in Camden County would have on Georgia ports, commercial fishing and shrimping, tourism and recreation and property rights. (3/18)
Athena: a Failed Approach to Small Satellite Launchers? (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin has ended its effort to return a small-to-medium-lift launch vehicle to market. A meaningful customer base for the Athena family of vehicles has again proven too difficult. The company was hoping to tap into the growing small-satellite launch market with the two-stage Athena 1c and three-stage Athena 2c, capable of sending 700 kilogram and 1,800 kilogram payloads to low Earth orbit, respectively.
“We are no longer actively marketing it,” Skladanek said. “If someone is interested in flying with Athena, we still have an asset available, so we could resurrect that system, but right now we are not actively marketing it.” Lockheed Martin has performed only a handful of missions with the Athena family, which the company co-produced with Alliant Techsystems — the latter of which is now part of Orbital ATK — since the mid-1990s. Athena has a performance record of seven flights, of which two failed.
Editor's Note: Two of the first Athena missions were conducted from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, at Launch Complex 46, which was converted by the state's Spaceport Authority from a Navy missile test site into a commercial space launch facility. (3/10)
Flashback 2014: Alaska Picks Athena for State Spaceport Infrastructure Investment (Source: Space News)
In 2014, Alaska Aerospace Corp. picked Athena as its go-to launcher for small- and medium-lift missions at the Pacific Spaceport Complex. Lockheed Martin was planning an upgraded version of the rocket called Athena 2S, capable of orbiting payloads between 1,900 and 3,000 kilograms. The Athena was picked from four proposals to provide medium-lift launch services from the spaceport.
The state was offering up to $25 million, appropriated by the state legislature in 2012, to companies willing to use Kodiak for launches of their vehicles. Upgrades to the launch pad were also funded, in-part, from the state’s insurance payout from a failed military launch failure at the site. An integration facility in Anchorage was also planned to support Athena launches and other aerospace activity, which Lockheed Martin included in its proposal. (3/14)
Maritime Launch Services Selects Nova Scotia for Spaceport Over 13 Other Locations (Source: SpaceQ)
Maritime Launch Services (MLS) has selected a site in Nova Scotia over 13 other prospective locations for its new spaceport and expects to break ground on construction within a year. MLS is pursuing the medium class launch market. They are offering two launch options to begin with. Option 1 is a Sun-synchronous orbit launch between 600-800 km, a much desired service at this time for smaller satellites, with a payload up to 3350 kg for $45 million. Option 2 is a Low Earth Orbit launch, below 600 km in altitude, that will allow a payload up to 5000 kg also for $45 million.
MLS declined go into details on its funding but did say, and as we had previously reported, that United Paradyne Corporation (UPC) had provided initial funding for the venture, and that Joe Hasay, UPC’s CEO, is one of the principals in this new venture. Hasay said that UPC had been looking to expand into commercial space launch operations and this program is just what they had been looking for.
Yuzhnoye Design Office along with Yuzhmash of the Ukraine will be supplying MLS with a new variant of the Cyclone rocket, the 4M, and CEO John Isella had previously told SpaceQ of the new design, “the Cyclone 4 upper stage and fairing remain unchanged and the first stage is now derived from the Zenit family of vehicles using an existing Lox-RP engine that is produced in Ukraine. So a 2 stage vehicle, Lox-RP first stage.” (3/14)
NASA Works to Streamline Processes for Florida’s Multi-User Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
To support a growing private sector space economy, NASA's Kennedy Space Center has transformed its portion of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport into a multi-user installation capable of handling the needs of a variety of companies from launch processing through recovery. NASA, the FAA, and the Air Force, enabled by the Commercial Space Launch Act, are working together to simplify the steps to certify commercial launches from Kennedy Space Center's multi-user spaceport.
"...We are taking this opportunity to examine all of the government requirements and eliminate those that are not necessary," said NASA's Janet Petro. "We will maintain safety, but if there are requirements that are unnecessary, then no one benefits." NASA does not levy any additional licensing requirements beyond the minimum for commercial launch operations, Petro explained.
Additionally, NASA's Launch Services Program, which procures launch vehicles for NASA spacecraft, has developed processes to shorten the path to launch in recent years as the industry and government work toward making launch processes more efficient and cost effective. (3/9)
Booming Space Launch Business Requires Rethinking of Ranges (Source: Space.com)
Most launch ranges aren't equipped to handle reusable rockets, space experts said, despite the technology being widely viewed as a key to reducing launch costs. "The traditional range systems simply do not have sufficient capability to accommodate the emergence of multiple reusable flying elements," said Jim Ball of Spaceport Strategies.
Ball pointed to Cape Canaveral, where private launch companies are working to expand their operations. "Launch activity just at that spaceport could climb to 100 to 200 launches annually," he said. "We clearly have a system that cannot support that." The issue isn't relegated to the U.S. alone. "We see an expanding worldwide infrastructure devoted to space transportation," Ball said. "We are not alone in this enterprise, nor should we expect to be."
What's going to be required is for private companies and governments to realize that space launches are going to start becoming routine occurrences, and plan accordingly. Space transit needs to start seeing the same regulations and infrastructure support as other travel, Ball said. (3/16)
Lockheed Martin Plans Some Atlas 5 Overlap with Vulcan (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin plans to keep the Atlas 5 rocket in flight concurrently with United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket for the first five years of operations. Atlas 5 is Lockheed Martin’s principal contribution to the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, which mainly serves U.S. defense and civil government customers using the Atlas and Delta rocket families. Additionally, Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services carries out Atlas 5 missions for commercial customers.
“We will be flying both vehicles for some period of time until we are absolutely certain that the Vulcan system can maintain the cadence, and the rhythm and reliability that our customers are expecting of us,” Steve Skladanek said. “Right now we are anticipating something on the order of a five-year overlap between the two systems.” (3/10)
ULA Delta Launches WGS Military Satellite at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance on Saturday successfully launched a Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) 9 satellite. The Delta-4 launch had been delayed from earlier in the month because of a booster problem. WGS-9 was funded by five international partners, who gain access to the overall WGS constellation. (3/19)
SpaceX Wins its Second GPS 3 Launch Contract (Source: Space News)
SpaceX beat United Launch Alliance to win a $96.5 million contract to launch a GPS 3 navigation satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2019, the U.S. Air Force announced March 14. The award is SpaceX’s second Air Force launch contract for a GPS 3 satellite but the first for which it faced a competing bid. ULA elected not to bid on a launch contract the Air Force awarded to SpaceX last April for a 2018 launch of a GPS 3 satellite. That contract was for $82.7 million, about half of what ULA normally charges for an Atlas 5 launch. (3/14)
SpaceX Beat ULA on Cost for GPS Launch Contract (Source: Space News)
SpaceX’s lower cost compared to its competitor was the major factor in winning a contract for a GPS 3 launch, an Air Force representative said Wednesday. “Price was a major factor,” said Claire Leon, the launch enterprise director for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, which oversees acquisitions for many space systems and services.
Meanwhile, Leon said that the Air Force has no plans to fly payloads on Falcon 9 rockets with previously-flown first stages. The service has specifically requested SpaceX not to fly re-used hardware. “We would have to certify flight hardware that had been used which is more qualification, more analysis, so we’re not taking that on quite yet,” she said. “If it proves to be successful for commercial, we might consider that in the future.” (3/15)
SpaceX Launches EchoStar From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched into a starry moonlit sky Thursday from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, making a speedy trek across the Atlantic Ocean to place a commercial television broadcast satellite into orbit for EchoStar. The nearly 23-story rocket, powered by nine Merlin 1D engines, ignited and blasted off from historic launch pad 39A at 2 a.m. EDT. Liftoff was pushed back 25 minutes Thursday out of concern for unfavorable high-altitude winds. High winds also scrubbed a launch attempt Tuesday. (3/16)
FAA Mandating Higher Insurance Coverage for SpaceX Launches at KSC (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The SpaceX rocket scheduled to lift a commercial satellite into orbit from Florida this week carried five times as much liability coverage for prelaunch operations as launches in previous years. The Falcon 9 rocket carried $63 million in prelaunch liability coverage. The higher limit, mandated by federal officials, reflects heightened U.S. concerns about the potential extent of damage to nearby government property in the event of an accident before blastoff.
The company previously only had to carry $13 million in coverage for launches from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral. Insurance requirements for the company's launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base have not changed. The company has carried far higher insurance amounts to cover liability for Falcon 9 first stage landings at its Cape Canaveral pad. (3/14)
ULA Name Change Planned? (Source: Decatur Daily)
A recent report in a trade publication cited a "credible inside source" that ULA, a partnership between Lockheed-Martin Corp. and Boeing Co., was considering a name change. “As with most companies, ULA continually evaluates its branding strategy and adjusts according to the market,” Jessica Rye said, when asked about the report. Jeremy Nails, president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, said he has heard rumors of a name change, but nothing has been confirmed. (3/13)
Firefly Space Systems Assets to be Sold (Source: Space News)
The assets of Firefly Space Systems, a company that was developing a small launch vehicle before encountering financial [and legal] problems last year, will be sold this week in an auction organized by a little-known company backed by a Ukrainian entrepreneur. An undated public notice states that “virtually all” of the assets of Firefly Space Systems will be sold at a public auction scheduled for March 16 in Menlo Park, California. Those assets include the company’s physical assets as well as “general intangibles” that include patents and other intellectual property.
The auction was announced by EOS Launcher, Inc., a company described in the announcement as the secured party in a loan agreement with Firefly dated Oct. 20. That agreement, whose specifics are not described in the notice, is dated three weeks after Firefly announced it was furloughing its staff because of financial problems stemming from an investment that fell through.
Thomas Markusic, co-founder and chief executive of Firefly, said in an October interview that the company was looking to raise short-term capital at the time to keep the company running for four months while considering its options. Those options, he said then, could include a sale of the company. Prospective bidders must provide a $100,000 deposit and also deposit funds for their proposed maximum bid into an account 24 hours before the auction. EOS Launcher, though, reserved the right to bid without making an advance deposit. (3/15)
Arizona's World View Tourism Flight Plans Fluid (Source: Sonora News)
By late 2018 Tucson-based World View Enterprises plans to fulfill the dreams of many by sending people into space.
World View Enterprises, a private company, is the only near-space exploration company in Arizona. For $75,000 customers will be taken to an altitude of roughly 100,000 feet, and stay up there for hours before gently coming back down.
Andrew Antonio, director of marketing and communications for World View Enterprises, made it clear that the timeline to get people into space is fluid. “It’s hard to commit to a specific date for obvious reasons – safety is our No. 1 priority and we’re doing something that’s never been done before, which requires a lot of great research and development and learning along the way,” Antonio said. Initial plans from World View had the company sending customers up by 2017. “We won’t rush the necessary process just to hit a specific date,” Antonio said. (3/17)
Blue Origin Plans Crewed (Suborbital) Launch Within a Year (Source: Space.com)
The spaceflight company Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, plans to launch its first crewed flight to suborbital space soon. "We're trying to get to our first human flights within the next year. That's a laser focus for the team right now," said Erika Wagner, Blue Origin's business development manager. The launches would occur at the company's private Texas spaceport using the New Shepard reusable rocket. (3/14)
Dragon Capsule Departs ISS, Returns Cargo/Experiments to Earth (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
NASA and SpaceX released a Dragon capsule from the ISS with more than 5,400 pounds of cargo for the return trip to Earth. The items include euthanized mice specimens, stem cell samples, and three disused experiment packages tagged for disposal inside the spacecraft's trunk, which will burn up on re-entry. More than 5,400 pounds of cargo, vehicle hardware and experiment samples are packed inside the Dragon capsule's pressurized cabin and the ship's disposable trunk. (3/19)
Trump Budget Would Fund SLS/Orion (Source: Washington Post)
Overall, Trump would shrink funding for NASA slightly, to $19.1 billion from about $19.3 billion, according to a blueprint of the president’s budget requests for 2018. The largest portion of funds would go to the agency’s human exploration division, with $3.7 billion for the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System (SLS) jumbo rocket, spacecraft that NASA says will one day get humans to Mars. The outlined budget also instructs NASA to “investigate approaches for reducing the costs of exploration missions to enable a more expansive exploration program.”
Editor's Note: This may be a sign that Alabama's forces remain potent in the Trump administration. The Huntsville-led SLS rocket program has been a controversial program, with detractors arguing that existing and proposed commercial launch systems will be able to meet many of NASA's ultimate SLS requirements without the multi-billion dollar cost. (3/16)
Trump, with NASA, Has a New Rocket and Spaceship. Where’s He Going to Go? (Source: Washington Post)
NASA is building a jumbo rocket. It’s called the Space Launch System, or simply the SLS. The new rocket will have to survive the unpredictable crosswinds of Washington. President Trump is now in charge of the space program, and no one in Washington seems to have a clear idea what’s going to happen next. Trump has expressed interest in President Kennedy’s vow in 1961 to put Americans on the moon. Thus everyone expects Trump to try to create a “Kennedy moment.”
Trump hasn’t nominated anyone yet to lead NASA, nor has he picked a science adviser. He is expected to issue an executive order re-forming the long-disbanded National Space Council, which would be headed by Vice President Pence and oversee civilian and military space programs. In the meantime, civil servants at NASA headquarters are reexamining the current human spaceflight schedule to see whether there’s a way to do something dramatic before the end of Trump’s term.
Huge aerospace corporations, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have contracts for this hardware. The Alabama factor comes into play. The SLS is based at NASA Marshall, in Huntsville, the historic center of American rocketry. The Trump administration has a number of influential Alabamians, starting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Two former Sessions senate staffers, Stephen Miller and Rick Dearborn, work in the White House. (3/12)
Trump Budget Proposal Cuts ARM, Earth Science Missions, Education (Source: Space News)
A fiscal year 2018 budget proposal released by the Trump administration March 16 would cancel NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and several Earth science programs, but spares NASA the deeper cuts proposed for many other agencies. The budget blueprint document requests $19.1 billion for NASA, a cut of about one percent from the $19.285 billion it received in 2016. NASA, like other government agencies, is currently operating under a continuing resolution that funds programs at 2016 levels.
Targeted for cancellation in the budget proposal is ARM, a NASA program to fly a robotic spacecraft to a near Earth object, retrieve a boulder from its surface and fly back to lunar orbit, where astronauts would visit it on a future Orion mission. ARM has enjoyed lukewarm support, at best, in Congress, with many members expressing opposition to a mission they claim does not support long-term exploration goals.
The budget proposal also seeks to eliminate NASA’s Office of Education, which received $115 million in 2016. “The Office of Education has experienced significant challenges in implementing a NASA-wide education strategy and is performing functions that are duplicative of other parts of the agency,” the document stated. One area getting a budget increase is NASA’s planetary science program, which would receive $1.9 billion in the administration’s request, up from $1.63 billion in 2016. (3/16)
Trump’s Biggest Budget Cuts to NASA: Ranked (Source: The Verge)
Packed within NASA’s small budget decrease are some pretty sizable cuts. A few major upcoming missions are canceled, and NASA’s entire education program, which is responsible for outreach and grants, is eliminated. The budget request also proposes wasting technologies already in space.
Some of these cuts could have a positive impact on NASA, while others could deprive students and the science community of the space agency’s expertise. Here are the biggest cuts to NASA ranked from “This is good actually” to “What the hell are you doing?” Click here. (3/17)
Trump Low-Orbit Space Budget Clips High Expectations (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
When President Trump unveiled the outline of his first federal budget proposal this past week, many analysts described it as a mixed bag for America’s space program. We’d call it a missed opportunity. There’s bad news and good news for space. While Trump proposed cutting $200 million, or about 1 percent, from NASA’s $19.3 billion budget this year, the space agency would fare much better than other non-defense agencies; the EPA, for example, is the target of a proposed 31 percent cut.
The president called for canceling NASA’s mission to send astronauts to an asteroid, but preserving funding to develop the agency’s next rocket and crew vehicle. He advocated a deep cut in NASA’s Earth science programs, but maintained support for a robotic mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. However, the president’s plan falls short of revitalizing and redirecting the manned space program after years of sluggishness and drift under President Obama. It fails to meet the high expectations Trump created last month in his first speech to Congress, when he declared, “American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.” (3/16)
NASA Budget Would Cut Earth Science and Education (Source: Washington Post)
The total cut to the Earth-science budget is $102 million, or 5 percent of the program’s annual budget, and it almost exclusively targets missions aimed at understanding climate change — the ocean monitoring program PACE; the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3; the Deep Space Climate Observatory; and the CLARREO Pathfinder, which measures heat in Earth’s atmosphere.
Also on the chopping block: the entire NASA Education office, which runs camps and enrichment programs, provides internships and scholarships for young scientists, and oversees efforts to support women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.
Editor's Note: I believe this would mean eliminating NASA's nationwide network of Space Grant Consortia. The Florida Space Grant Consortium, headquartered at UCF in Orlando, sponsors internships and co-ops, and has long partnered with the state of Florida to fund space research projects that are consistent with the state's space diversification priorities. (3/16)
Trump Flips Science the Bird with New Budget (Source: Ars Technica)
First and foremost, President Trump's proposed budget is focused on the military, which will see a $54 billion increase in spending, offset by cuts or wholesale elimination of programs elsewhere. Science is clearly not a priority, as it is repeatedly targeted for cuts in every agency that funds it.
But those cuts aren't evenly distributed. NASA's budget sees a relatively minor reduction, with Earth sciences research funded by the agency will be cut to expand funding elsewhere. The National Science Foundation, a major source of grants for fundamental research, isn't even mentioned, so there's no sense of how it will fare. And the harshest cuts appear to be directed at biomedical research, which will see a dramatic 20% drop in funding for the National Institutes of Health.
Science in the Department of Energy would also face severe cuts, with a budget that "demonstrates the administration's commitment to reasserting the proper role of what has become a sprawling federal government." While the Department's overall budget would be down by 5.6 percent (down to $28 billion), shifting funds within the DOE would result in a de-emphasis on energy and physics in order to provide more money for nuclear weapons programs. (3/16)
Trump Looks to Reform Air Traffic Control (Source: USA Today)
President Trump has proposed removing air traffic control operations from the FAA and giving them to a private corporation. Supporters of the plan say reforming air traffic control will shelter it from annual budget disputes. This has been a top priority for most airlines while still contentious in Congress.
The main reason airlines, the controllers’ union and congressional advocates want the change is to avoid annual spending disputes and worker furloughs in recent years. More stable funding is needed, according to the advocates, to spur the FAA’s multi-year modernization program called NextGen, which is upgrading ground-based radar to satellite-based GPS to track and guide planes. (3/16)
Bill Nye Gives Donald Trump 5 Tips for How to Run NASA (Source: Inverse)
It’s still unclear what President Trump has in store for NASA and America’s space program. He’s been enthusiastic about the potential growth of the private sector, and there’s been talk of sending humans back to the moon among White House personnel. On the flip side, Trump may slash NASA’s budget in order to free up these goals. NASA itself has some exciting plans to explore the cosmos coming up, particularly by sending humans to Mars by 2033 — and there are a ton of people eager to see the agency fulfill that goal.
On Tuesday, celebrity scientist Bill Nye, who also resides as the CEO of the non-partisan Planetary Society, posted a video message to Trump on YouTube on how the new administration should best support NASA. “You have the opportunity to provide clear direction to our nation’s space program,” Nye said. “The advances and discoveries made on your watch could be historic.” Click here. (3/14)
Moon Launches and Circuses: Seeking Presidential Leadership Yet Again (Source: Space Review)
All eyes are on Washington to see what the Trump Administration might propose for NASA’s budget in 2018 and what new initiatives it might offer. Roger Handberg says that history suggests we should treat such proposals skeptically. Click here. (3/13)
Space is Bigger Than NASA (Source: The Hill)
Over the past decade, space policy decision-making has been fragmented and left to lower-level staff rather than accountable leadership. This has resulted in declining budgets and slower innovation. NASA's $19.3 billion budget in 2016 was 0.5 percent of federal government spending. If NASA had the same spending power as in 1992, around the end of the Cold War, its budget would be over $24 billion today.
We spend 20 percent less on NASA than we did 25 years ago, while the importance of space is greater than ever. We are lagging behind China in cutting-edge hypersonic research while innovative U.S. commercial remote-sensing companies are tangled in regulatory limbo. U.S. economic and security interests are in peril unless there is a new burst of innovation and regulatory relief in our aerospace industries.
When speaking about civil space programs, Trump said, "A cornerstone of my policy is we will substantially expand public private partnerships to maximize the amount of investment and funding that is available for space exploration and development." Exactly the same logic applies to meeting national security space needs. Click here. (3/14)
Integrated Space Plan Shows the Paths Forward (Source: ISA)
Integrated Space Analytics is expanding the venerable Integrated Space Plan (ISP), a detailed roadmap/forecast showing the technology and programmatic prerequisites for various space exploration scenarios. The group is sponsoring a new kickstarter initiative to allow you to back the project's 100 year forecast update. Click here. (3/19)
To the Moon! The Musk-Bezos Billionaire Space Rivalry Just Reached New Heights (Source: Space.com)
Musk congratulated Bezos on the accomplishment but also stressed that landing a rocket during orbital liftoffs — as SpaceX was trying to do with the first stage of its Falcon 9 launcher — is much tougher to do. In response, Bezos said the Falcon 9 first stage doesn't actually make it to orbit before coming down to Earth, then pointed out that the SpaceX rocket performs a deceleration burn to make its "re-entry environment more benign.
"So if anything, the Blue Origin booster that we just flew and demonstrated may be the one that flies through the harsher re-entry environment," Bezos said in a news conference in November 2015. "And then finally, the hardest part of vertical landing and reusability is probably the final landing segment, which is the same for both boosters."
SpaceX nailed its first Falcon 9 landing a month later, bringing a first stage back safely during the Dec. 21, 2015, launch of 11 satellites for the communications company Orbcomm. Bezos congratulated Musk's company with a tweet that some people interpreted as a being bit snarky: "Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon's suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!" Click here. (3/14)
Private Space Stations Could Orbit the Moon by 2020, Robert Bigelow Says (Source: Space.com)
Giant space-station refueling depots could be orbiting the moon by 2020, but only if the Trump administration makes the funding and national drive needed for it to happen a priority, according to aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow. Bigelow, whose company, Bigelow Aerospace, has launched three private space-habitat prototypes into orbit — including the first inflatable space-station module, said that a commercial station in lunar orbit would be a vital destination for moon exploration. (3/10)
Lockheed Martin Says Mars Base Camp Possible by 2028 (Source: Florida Today)
While NASA evaluates how soon it can send astronauts on a loop around the moon in an Orion capsule, Lockheed Martin is promoting a concept that would send crews on a three-year trip around Mars in just over a decade. "This is all doable in the next 10 to 12 years," said Tony Antonelli, a former NASA space shuttle pilot who heads advanced civil space programs for Lockheed Martin, lead contractor for the Orion spacecraft being assembled at Kennedy Space Center. (3/14)
UCF Prof: Building a Mars Colony? You'll Need a Team of Astronaut 'MacGyvers' (Source: Space.com)
Colonizing Mars will be no easy feat. It will require billions of dollars and years of specialized research led by some of the smartest scientists and engineers in the world. It will demand advanced technologies, yet to be invented — new kinds of spacecraft, for example, advanced rocket propulsion, deep-space life-support systems and high-speed communications.
But when humans arrive at the Red Planet, their best chances for success and survival will depend on simple materials, low-tech solutions and a broad set of problem-solving skills that will allow people to adapt.
"Here on the Earth, when we go to a remote location to do an engineering development project, we've learned that taking high-tech equipment isn’t really the right approach. What you want is appropriate technology," said planetary scientist Phil Metzger, who is also a co-founder of NASA Kennedy Space Center's Swamp Works. "You want technology to be maintained using the local resources and local labor." (3/14)
Here's How You Can Profit From the Race to Mars (Source: Yahoo Finance)
While Musk and Bezos are in a race to be the first to colonize the Red Planet, the US government would like to see NASA win that race. This month, Congress approved a bill that authorizes $19.5 billion in spending for the government agency in 2017. That’s a $208 million increase from 2016. The bill asks for a human mission “near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s” and that the space agency position the US as “a thriving space economy in the 21st century.” Now it’s up to President Donald Trump to sign the bill into law.
For investors, Petranek calls space exploration “the new frontier.” He believes the best opportunities won’t be in space tourism, but rather in the smaller companies that are building satellites and providing support to the industry. He says companies, including Orbital ATK, Ball Aerospace, Loral Space & Communications as well as Canada-based MDA, are well positioned to benefit as the race to space heats up. (3/14)
The Untapped Value of In-Space Manufacturing (Source: Space Angels Network)
Anyone who doubts the value of in-space manufacturing need only imagine the day-to-day inconveniences of life in low-Earth orbit. The International Space Station’s resupply missions carry very tightly-controlled payloads, which may be scheduled twelve months in advance of launch.2 Given this rigid framework, the everyday unexpected challenges of life in space can’t be addressed by terrestrial segments. This is where in-space manufacturing comes into play. A readily-available source of supplies—from wrenches and other tools, to medical supplies3—would prove invaluable when the next resupply mission is three weeks from arrival.
In-space manufacturing is projected to free up space on resupply missions. Consider the fact that SpaceX’s ISS resupply missions can cost NASA upwards of $20,000 per pound of cargo.4 The ability to simply print objects in-orbit could significantly reduce the amount of cargo that’s launched to the ISS. It also frees up space for the little necessities humans need to thrive—like musical instruments or other small luxuries.
In-space manufacturing also has major benefits in the event of emergencies. If there were to be a components breakdown, or system malfunction, repairs must be carried out with equipment aboard the space station. But what if tools are misplaced, or broken? Given the limited storage space aboard the ISS,5 there’s no room for multiple sets of backup equipment. With a capable 3D printer, ISS crew members can create whatever component they may need in both seen and unforeseen situations. This potentially life-saving technology is worth major money to NASA, who has offered significant financial incentives for small businesses to develop innovative solutions to the problem. Click here. (3/14)
Should Commercial Space Activities be Permissionless? (Source: Space Policy Online)
Witnesses at a House subcommittee hearing last week debated how – and whether – the U.S. government should regulate commercial space activities to ensure compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty while not stifling innovation. No consensus emerged other than if there is governmental regulation, it should have a light touch.
Today, the only commercial space activities that are regulated are launch and reentry (FAA), use of the electromagnetic spectrum (FCC), and remote sensing satellites (NOAA). With the emergence of ideas for private sector activities ranging from satellite servicing to mining asteroids, the issue of the government’s role in overseeing what companies do in space has taken on new urgency. Click here. (3/14)
America Needs a Space Corps (Source: Space Review)
Military space programs have suffered from the perception they are considered less important by the US Air Force than aircraft. M.V. “Coyote” Smith argues that, to elevate the importance of space, it needs its own independent service within the military. Click here. (3/13)
US Astronaut’s Spaceflight to be Financed by Russian Corporation as Sea Launch Debt Settlement (Source: Tass)
U.S. astronaut Joseph M. Acaba will fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) as a third crew member of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship. His flight will be financed by Russia’s Rocket and Space Corporation Energia as debt repayment to US’ Boeing under the joint project Sea Launch, a source in the Russian space industry said.
"Joseph Acaba has been appointed as a member of the main crew of the Soyuz MS-06 spaceship due to be launched to the International Space Station on September 13. Shannon Walker has been appointed as a member of backup crew. Most likely, she will be subsequently chosen as a main crew member of the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft due to fly to the ISS in March 2018," the source said. Editor's Note: Before joining NASA, Acaba taught science at Melbourne High School and math & science at Dunnellon Middle School in Florida. (3/13)
Russia's Private Space Travel Company Plans to Create Launch Pad at Baikonur (Source: Tass)
Russia’s private company CosmoCourse, having ambitious plans for space tourism in Russia, is in talks with Russia’s space corporation Roscosmos and the center responsible for operating ground space infrastructures over plans for creating its own launch pad at the Baikonur space site in Kazakhstan, CosmoCourse chief Pavel Pushkin said.
"We have been offered to use several older launch pads, mothballed a while ago, or to build new infrastructures. There was also a proposal for using the Vostochny spaceport, but we need unpopulated desert areas to make landings," Pushkin said. Previously, some proposed using the Kapustin Yar proving ground in the Astrakhan Region. (3/14)
Russian Aerospace Forces to Launch Over 20 Spacecraft Into Space (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Aerospace Forces in 2017 are planning to launch 15 carrier rockets into space, during which over 20 spacecraft will be placed into orbit," the forces' commander, Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev, said. Additionally, three radar stations of missile warning system will start operating, he added. "In order to increase the orbital grouping of spacecraft, 15 space launches of carrier rockets have been planned in order to place more than 20 spacecraft into orbit," Col. Gen. Bondarev said. (3/17)
No Suspects Yet in Roscosmos Top Manager’s Death in Jail Cell (Source: Tass)
Law enforcement agencies have not yet named any possible suspects in the death of Vladimir Yevdokimov, a senior official in charge of quality and reliability control of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, in a cell of a Moscow pre-trial center, a source with law enforcement agencies told TASS. "No suspects have been named as of yet. His cellmates and officials of the detention facility are being questioned. Personal cases of the people who shared the cell with Yevdokimov are being studied as well," he said.
The main line of inquiry into Yevdokimov’s suspicious death is a murder, but a suicide cannot be ruled out either, he said. Yevdokimov’s body with three knife wounds - two in the heart and one in the neck - was found in his jail cell. Yevdokimov was arrested last December on charges of embezzlement of 200 million rubles (approximately $3.495 mln) from the MIG Russian Aircraft Corporation. Later, Moscow’s Basmanny Court extended the arrest of Yevdokimov and his alleged accomplice until April 30. The officials denied any wrongdoing. (3/19)
Satellite Company Seeks Launch Cost Refund From Kosmotras (Source: Space News)
Hisdesat is demanding a refund from the operator of the Dnepr rocket because of a delayed launch. The Spanish satellite operator has filed with the International Court of Arbitration in Paris, reportedly seeking $16 million from Kosmotras for payments it made for a Dnepr launch originally scheduled for 2013 but which has yet to take place. Hisdesat has since signed a contract with SpaceX for the launch of its PAZ radar satellite. (3/13)
Is Russia Helping China Build Hypersonic Weapons? (Source: RBTH)
The race to build the world’s fastest nuclear delivery system – the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) – has gained steam. While the United States is clearly in the lead, Russia and China aren’t too far behind, with reports suggesting that Moscow – in a reprise of the friendly 1950s – is influencing Beijing’s HGV program. In a new study titled ‘Factoring Russia into the US-Chinese Equation on Hypersonic Glide Vehicles’, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says Russia is a factor that is shaping Chinese hypersonic research. (3/14)
China Studying Reusable Rockets Similar to SpaceX (Source: Space News)
China is studying recovering the first stage of future rockets. A concept being developed would use parachutes to slow down first stages after separation, then deploy an airbag to cushion the stage’s landing on dry land. Chinese researchers said they looked into making a powered landing of the first stage, as SpaceX does with the Falcon 9, but concluded it was “extremely difficult” and inefficient. A final decision on whether to incorporate reusability in future rockets is expected by 2020. (3/17)
Japan Launches Radar Remote Sensing Satellite (Source: Kyodo)
Japan launched a radar imaging satellite Thursday night. The H-2A rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 9:20 p.m. Eastern and placed the Information Gathering Satellite Radar 5 into orbit. The radar imaging satellite is intended to replace a similar satellite that is reaching the end of its life, although the Japanese government has plans to increase the constellation's number of radar and optical reconnaissance satellites. The launch was scheduled for earlier in the week but postponed by poor weather. (3/18)
Scheduling, Costs Still a Challenge for Japan's H-IIA Rockets (Source: Nikkei)
Japan successfully fired the H-IIA rocket for the 27th consecutive time from the Tanegashima Space Center on Friday, but a long wait time between launches and high costs still stand in the way of full-fledged commercialization. "Short intervals between launches help build confidence," said Naoki Okumura, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. The last H-IIA launch was on Jan. 24.
The agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries cut the interval by a day from their past record to just 52 days by using a small crane for the previously manual cleanup process, as well as other operational changes. Mitsubishi Heavy and JAXA were committed to slashing the gap this time around. After 27 consecutive successes, H-IIA's success rate has now reached about 97%.
At the current pace of just four launches a year, most H-IIAs end up being used by public Japanese institutions. The rocket fired on Friday, like others, was loaded with a government satellite. Only four so far have served foreign private-sector clients, the first of which carried a Canadian satellite two years ago. France-based Arianespace, on the other hand, can put 10 or more satellites into orbit each year. (3/17)
Japan's 'Mother Astronaut' and Why Women are Suited to Space Travel (Source: SCMP)
It was the 1970s, a time when space exploration captured the global imagination. Star Trek and Star Wars had burst onto screens. Nasa had launched Voyager-1 to explore the outer solar system. In Japan’s Chiba prefecture, not far from the capital of Tokyo, a little girl, Naoko Yamazaki, sat on her living room couch transfixed at science fiction anime and dreamt about visiting space for herself.
More than three decades later, on April 5, 2010, Yamazaki, 39, donned a bright orange spacesuit and boarded the space shuttle Discovery at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Eight and a half minutes after lift-off she breached the “final frontier” – her childhood dream a reality. (3/12)
Working for Arianespace in Kourou: The Perfect Job? (Source: DW)
Life is very relaxed here. For people who like to be outside, people who like the sun, the rain, and the beach, it is very peaceful. The rhythm of life is quite slow, so we're not as stressed as you'd be in Paris or in Toulouse, where I went to study. So it's quite nice. But work is completely different. Because I work in customer support, I am on call. I have to work Monday to Saturday, and I can be called in at 8pm … so that's very different. But fortunately we have this [indicates the sunny environment]. Otherwise it would be very difficult if both professional and private life were stressful. Click here. (3/17)
Turkey’s Parliament Deliberates on Space Agency Law (Source: Space News)
The Turkish parliament is deliberating on a draft bill to create a space agency to boost the country’s space industry and facilitate Ankara’s expansion within the global space industry. The draft was recently debated by the parliament’s Committee on Industry, Trade, Energy, Natural Resources, Information and Technology. (3/17)
The Zambian 'Afronaut' Who Wanted to Join the Space Race (Source: The New Yorker)
Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, a grade-school science teacher and the director of Zambia’s National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy, who claimed the goings-on interfered with his space program to beat the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the moon. Already Nkoloso is training twelve Zambian astronauts, including a curvaceous 16-year-old girl, by spinning them around a tree in an oil drum and teaching them to walk on their hands, “the only way humans can walk on the moon.” Click here. (3/11)
Zero 2 Infinity Launches Rocket From The Edge Of Space (Source: SpaceRef)
Zero 2 Infinity, a company specialized in Space transportation systems, successfully launched its first rocket from the Edge of Space on March 1. Part of the Zero 2 Infinity team sailed a few miles off the Spanish coast to launch the balloon carrying the rocket. After soaring to 25 km (more than twice the cruising altitude of commercial airplanes), the other part of the launch team gave the order of the controlled ignition of the first Bloostar prototype.
This mission is part of the development of Bloostar, the first small satellite launcher to use a stratospheric balloon as a first stage. By initiating the rocket ignition from above airspace, the targeted orbit can be reached with expediency and efficiency.
This patented technique is less risky than any systems used until now. The rocket-powered phase starts already from above 95% of the mass of the atmosphere, getting there with no polluting emissions. Besides the environmental angle, this new method lets Zero 2 Infinity launch satellites with more flexibility (2 weeks notice), at a drastically lower cost and more often than ever before. (3/13)
Supersonic Planes Are Mounting a Comeback—Without That Earth-Shaking Boom (Source: WIRED)
Two things explain why you aren’t jetting across the country at the speed of sound: cost, and noise. Forty-eight years after the Concorde made its first flight, supersonic commercial aircraft remain enormously complex and prohibitively expensive. They also generate an inevitable sonic boom so disruptive that Congress banned the Concorde from overland routes.
But advancements in materials and aerodynamics, coupled with an industry embrace of business jets, could see commercial aircraft achieving Mach 1 or better within a decade. Big names like Lockheed Martin and startups backed by Airbus and Virgin Galactic see a day when you’ll fly from New York to Los Angeles in about two hours. One study found a potential market for 450 supersonic aircraft, and notes that the technology to build them is within reach, assuming the FAA eases restriction on overland flights, which account for 75% of commercial air travel. Click here. (3/15)
Aireon Surveillance Payloads See First ADS-B Traffic (Source: Aviation Week)
Aireon has powered and self-tested all 10 of its hosted payloads onboard 10 Iridium NEXT satellites, detecting 1090-MHz automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) surveillance transmissions from a large number of airliners, general aviation aircraft and helicopters “in oceanic and remote airspace that have never before had real-time surveillance,” states CEO Don Thoma in a March 2 program update. Space Coast-based Harris Corp. developed the Aireon payloads. (3/13)
NASA Technology Fights Flight Delays (Source: Scientific American)
As planes line up for landing today, pilots maintain steady communication with air traffic controllers to ensure that all planes maintain safe distances from one another. The time spent relaying information means pilots can adjust speed only as quickly as they hear from the tower. This wait creates the need to leave an extra safety buffer of space between each arriving aircraft, limiting the number that can land within a given time.
NASA's flight deck interval management (FIM) system cuts down on the banter: it combines satellite-based location tracking and automated computer commands to keep track of planes' positions and constantly updates pilots on safe flight speeds for landing. This eliminates the padding between aircraft—which could save on fuel costs, reduce emissions and bump up the number of flights that arrive on time. “More aircraft landing per hour at airports means less delay for passengers,” says William Johnson, former project manager for Air Traffic Management Technology Demonstration-1 at the NASA Langley Research Center. (3/14)
Service Uses Satellites to Spot Runway Obstacles (Source: ATM.net)
Airports can now use satellites to identify and manage obstacles that could pose a risk to flight safety, thanks to the European Space Agency (ESA). Of the 48,000 airports around the globe, only about a quarter can allow aircraft to land in poor weather and only 500 airports have a specialist on site to pinpoint obstacles that might exceed height restrictions within flight paths.
With ESA’s help, Ascend XYZ in Denmark has developed a service for airports to record potential obstacles. Airport restrictions Using satellites and aircraft combined with smart web-based software, airports can identify and manage obstacles that could pose a risk to flight safety in the restricted aerial zones around the airport. The service uses satellites and aircraft combined with smart web-based software. (3/14)
Florida Student Scientists Select Menu for Astronauts (Source: Space Daily)
Several thousand middle and high school students from Miami-Dade County in Florida are supporting plant researchers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The KSC scientists have partnered with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami to create STEM-based challenges for teachers and students in the area. There are two challenges-Growing Beyond Earth and Green Cuisine: The Flavor of Space Travel.
Over this past school year, the students participated in Growing Beyond Earth by growing crops in mini botany labs provided to each of the participating schools by Fairchild. Each lab mimics NASA's Veggie plant growth system currently aboard the space station, and the students had to follow research protocols set forth by NASA and Fairchild while testing factors that could influence plant growth, flavor and nutrition-all so they can help NASA pick the next crops to grow for the astronauts aboard the station.
"The Veggie team at KSC is excited to be working with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and middle and high schools groups to help us identify future varieties and best growing practices for use on the International Space Station," said Dr. Gioia Massa, Veggie project scientist. "We plan to use the data from the student research to help us determine what to grow and how to grow it in Veggie experiments in the future." (3/15)
FSU Scientist Finds Inorganic "Fossils" May Complicate Search for Life(Source: Space Daily)
An international team of researchers discovered that inorganic chemicals can self-organize into complex structures that mimic primitive life on Earth. Florida State University scientist Oliver Steinbock and a colleague in Spain found that fossil-like objects grew in natural spring water abundant in the early stages of the planet. But they were inorganic materials that resulted from simple chemical reactions.
This complicates the identification of Earth's earliest microfossils and redefines the search for life on other planets and moons. "Inorganic microstructures can potentially be indistinguishable from ancient traces of life both in morphology and chemical composition," Garcia-Ruiz said. Scientists had seen hints of this in past lab work, but now through Steinbock and Garcia-Ruiz's research, it is clear that this also happened in nature. (3/15)
Here’s Why NASA is Sending a Florida School’s Satellite Into Space (Source: Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach Gardens students put their sweat and smarts into building a satellite that will soon launch into space. Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees NASA, came to The Weiss School Saturday afternoon to give students good news. Theirs is one of 34 satellites NASA will launch into space. The WeissSat-1 will be launched on a mission in 2018, 2019 or 2020, according to Nelson’s office.
After it’s launched, WeissSat-1 will study bacteria that has thawed after being trapped in ice, according to Nelson’s office. Fifth through eighth grade students at the school for gifted students spent years designing, building and testing small satellites. This is only the second time NASA has chosen a satellite built by elementary and middle school students to go to space, according to Nelson’s office. (3/13)
How Virtual Reality and Social Media Are Helping Buzz Aldrin and NASA Educate the Masses (Source: AdWeek)
Space travel may have been at its buzziest in the late 1960s, when Buzz Aldrin—right behind colleague Neil Armstrong—became the second person to walk on the moon. Yet intergalactic topics seem to be making a notable comeback thanks in part to a few tech-minded developments, specifically NASA’s social media game and Aldrin’s leveraging of virtual reality. In terms of the latter, Aldrin is set to take stage today at South by Southwest, where the 87-year-old will showcase his devotion to humans colonizing the universe.
He’s expected to explain, among other subjects, that there’s enough ice on the moon that it can be mined and turned into the amount of rocket fuel needed to send humans someday on a six-month journey to Mars. And he’ll be armed with virtual-reality content to illustrate his potentially revolutionary master plan. Starting at 11 a.m. local time, showgoers at the Austin Convention Center will be able to put on VR goggles and be immersed in a 10-minute, 3-D video called “Buzz Aldrin: Cycling Pathways to Mars.” (3/14)
Spaceflight is a Pre-Existing Condition (Source: Mashable)
NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria flew to space four times for the space agency between 1995 and 2007. While in space, his eyesight deteriorated, a well-documented medical issue NASA's known about for years, and one that many astronauts have experienced first-hand. For many astronauts, their eyesight readjusts once they get back to Earth.
That wasn’t the case for Lopez-Alegria, though. His eyesight got significantly worse during his time in orbit, and NASA isn't paying for his contacts or doctor visits today, years after his retirement from the agency. However, he still travels to Houston, Texas once per year to allow the agency to gather data about his health, without any expectation that NASA will offer treatment for any conditions that may have developed because of his time in space.
While lawmakers continue to argue over how they will repeal and replace Obamacare, both houses of Congress quietly passed the To Research, Evaluate, Assess, and Treat Astronauts Act, also known as the TREAT Astronauts Act, as part of a larger NASA authorization bill outlining the space agency's future. The act – once signed by President Donald Trump – will allow NASA to treat former astronauts for any medical issues they have as a result of their flights to space. Clickhere. (3/13)
Mental Health in Outer Space (Source: Scientific American)
NASA says there have been no behavioral emergencies on U.S. space flights—yet. But in 2007, a woman named Lisa Nowak drove 900 miles to the Orlando airport, bringing a knife, a mallet, rubber tubing, and a BB gun. At the airport, she wore a black wig and followed Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman in the parking lot. After Shipman declined to give her a ride, Nowak began crying and then tried to pepper spray Shipman, according to police reports.
Nowak was subsequently arrested and charged with attempted murder. Police said she had planned to harm Shipman over an apparent love triangle. The case drew international headlines and, over the next two years, media outlets followed whether Nowak would pursue an insanity defense in court. Nowak was an astronaut, as was her love interest in the triangle.
This bizarre incident called attention to NASA's medical practices and the role of mental health in space flight. Just months earlier, Nowak had flown on the shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station, where she controlled robotic instruments during spacewalks. Now, she awaited criminal trial, reportedly diagnosed with a brief psychotic disorder and major depression, among other conditions. Click here. (3/14)
How Urine Could Help Astronauts Grow Food in Space (Source: Space.com)
If you want to be one of the first human beings to visit Mars, you better have a strong stomach. Scientists in Germany are testing ways in which urine and sweat could help astronauts grow food on the Red Planet. Most food for missions to the International Space Station are brought as cargo from Earth. However, longer-duration space missions, such as those to Mars, will need a self-sustaining food supply, scientists have said.
Using both synthetic and human urine, Hauslage is conducting lab experiments to re-create this cycle in a way that could be useful for space fliers, the BBC reported. For example, the scientists filled columns of urine with pumice stones, the hole-covered stones that form when lava mixes with water. Within the pumice stones' holes are colonies of bacteria that feed on the urine, converting the ammonia in the urine into nitrites and nitrate salts (a fertilizer). (3/14)
Space Sex is Serious Business (Source: Five Thirty Eight)
Mark Lee and Jan Davis met during training for a space shuttle mission and kept their relationship quiet long enough to ensure that it would be difficult to replace them on the mission, as NASA normally would have done under its then-unwritten rule that banned married astronauts from flying together. And so, in September 1992, Lee and Davis became the first (and, after the unwritten rule became a written one, possibly last) married couple in space.
NASA says no humans have had sex in space. There’s nothing other than speculation to suggest otherwise. (Well, speculation and a vague sense that we would want to try it, given half a chance.) But you aren’t a total junior-high pervert for wondering. Sex — or, rather, reproduction — has piqued the curiosity of scientists, too. When they went to space together, Lee and Davis even spent some time artificially inseminating frog eggs for the greater good. (3/14)
ECLSS Put to the Test for Commercial Crew Missions (Source: Space Daily)
Extensive evaluations are underway on the life support systems vital to successful flight tests as NASA prepares to return human spaceflight to the United States. One of the most intensely studied systems is called ECLSS. Short for environmental control and life support system and pronounced 'e-cliss,' the system is a complex network of machinery, pipes, tanks and sensors that work together to provide astronauts with air and other essentials during missions for NASA's Commercial Crew Program to and from the International Space Station. (3/9)
Extinction or Survival: The Ethics of Colonizing Other Planets (Source: The Conversation)
The notion of a mass exodus and transplanting a planet is, on the surface, an attractive concept. But we rarely, if ever, critically ask why we ought to do such a thing in the first place. Have we truly earned the right to colonise other planets, especially after the way we’ve behaved on this one? Many films and books have turned their attention to these ethical questions. Click here. (3/13)
Aliens May Be Using Giant Radio Beams To Travel The Cosmos (Source: Huffington Post)
Two Harvard University scientists are suggesting that mysterious fast radio bursts, detected in faraway galaxies, may be evidence of aliens traveling through the cosmos. FRBs are extremely bright flashes of radio waves that last for only a thousandth of a second and are detected by earthbound telescopes. Since the first one was observed 10 years ago, 17 have actually been reported, although scientists think there are thousands of them a day.
At first, Abraham “Avi” Loeb said, he took a conservative approach to explaining them. “It looked like the simplest explanation would be flares from stars in the Milky Way galaxy,” said Loeb, a theoretical astrophysicist and chair of Harvard’s astronomy department. But then “one of the FRBs was localized to reside in a small galaxy at a distance of about a billion light-years away,” Loeb told The Huffington Post. (One light-year is about 6 trillion miles.) (3/17)
Could a Magnetic Shield Be the Answer to Creating a Suitable Atmosphere on Mars? (Source: TrendinTech)
Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA, says that one way that may help Mars become habitable is by launching a magnetic shield into the sky. Green recently talked about one particular idea that’s part of the workshop in a discussion entitled, “A Future Mars Environment for Science and Exploration.” During it he talked about how launching a magnetic shield between the sun and Mars could potentially save the planet from damage caused by high-energy solar particles.
The way in which the shield would work is through the use of a very powerful closed electrical circuit, called a dipole. In using the dipole to create an artificial magnetic field Mars will become relatively protected by it, which would give the planet a chance to restore its uninhabitable atmosphere. Due to previous damage caused by solar particles around 90 percent of the Red Planet’s atmosphere was destroyed. Up until around 3.5 billion years ago, the planet was thought to have been temperate and with surface water too.
Various models have demonstrated how this shield could help Mars significantly by lowering the atmospheric pressure on the planet. Warmth would hit the plant and Mars’s polar ice caps would begin to melt, flooding the world with liquid water. Green commented, “Perhaps one-seventh of the ancient ocean could return to Mars.” So, maybe this really will be the next big step towards setting up for civilization on Mars, but for now, we will just have to wait and see what happens. (3/12)
NASA Plans to Make a Telescope Out of the Sun (Source: Engadget)
As NASA astronomers peer further and further into space, they require ever larger and more powerful telescopes to do so. That's why one team of researchers from the Jet Propulsion Lab have proposed using the biggest object in our solar system, the Sun, as a cosmic magnifying glass.
Massive objects will bend the space around it and cause the path of objects traveling within that space -- including light itself -- to curve as well. And, under the right conditions, that light can bend just enough that it magnifies the view of space behind it. This is known as gravitational lensing and astronomers have leveraged its effect for years to help boost the visual prowess of our telescopes. We discovered the exoplanet Kepler 452b in this manner and that thing is hundreds of millions of light years away.
Despite the technical difficulties, the payoff for actually implementing this system would be huge. Currently, we have difficulty separating the exoplanet and its host star in our imaging. Like the TRAPPIST-1 shots that came out earlier this week, generally what you get is an amorphous blob of pixels. But with the Sun as a gravitational lens, telescopes equipped with starshade technology will be able to see the exoplanet itself. (3/15)
Dark Matter is Missing From Young Galaxies (Source: Ars Technica)
One of the earliest indications of the existence of dark matter came from an examination of the rotation of nearby galaxies. The study showed that stars orbit the galaxy at speeds that indicate there's more mass there than the visible matter would indicate. Now, researchers have taken this analysis back in time, to a period when the Universe was only a couple billion years old, and the ancestors of today's large galaxies were forming stars at a rapid clip.
Oddly, the researchers find no need for dark matter to explain the rotation of these early galaxies. While there are a number of plausible explanations for dark matter's absence at this early stage of galaxy formation, it does suggest our models of the early Universe could use some refining.
The measurements at issue here are what are called the "galaxy rotation curves." These curves track the speed at which stars rotate as a function of their distance from the center of the galaxy. If regular matter were all that was present, it would be easy to predict what we'd see. Close to the galaxy's center, stars would only feel a portion of the total galactic mass, so they would orbit at a relatively sedate speed. Any faster, and their orbits would shift outward. (3/15)
How Do NASA's Apollo Computers Stack Up to an iPhone? (Source: Popular Mechanics)
Yes, the modern smartphone is more powerful than the computer used by NASA during the Apollo mission, but that overlooks how impressive the Apollo computers actually were. For starters, there wasn't just one computer, there were four. NASA's computers, specifically the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) were at least ten years ahead of their time from a commercial tech perspective, its strength unmatched until a decade later with the advent of computers like the Apple II.
While an iPhone does have more computing power than all of NASA had during the Apollo days, the AGC, designed at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, had one crucial advantage: it was crash-proof. Operating system that we're familiar with today, like Apple iOS and Android, control the computer and dole out energy and attention to various programs. In the AGC, the programs controlled the computer in a hierarchical structure, a program's specific importance would dictate how much attention it got. In the case of an emergency, this would allow for a quicker focus on crucial systems. (3/13)
"Islands" on Titan Explained (Source: Space.com)
So-called “magic islands” seen on Titan maybe be nitrogen bubbles. Radar images of the surface of Titan taken by the Cassini spacecraft have detected features that look like islands in its hydrocarbon seas. Those islands appear to change shape over time. Lab experiments suggest that the islands could be giant nitrogen bubbles created as methane-rich and ethane-rich liquids mix. (3/18)
Spinning Out of the Shadows (Source: Space Review)
Last month, NASA issued a request for ideas of payloads that could fly on a mysterious satellite the agency was getting from elsewhere in the government. Dwayne Day traces that satellite back to a National Reconnaissance Office program that briefly exited the black world nearly two decades ago. Click here. (3/13)
Road-Tripping to the Birthplace of Space Reconnaissance (Source: Space Review)
The site of a classified military space facility known as the “Blue Cube” is now home to a college and a government building. Joseph T. Page II visits the former Blue Cube site to see how its legacy has been preserved there. Click here. (3/13)
Indian Beer on the Moon? (Source: Quartz)
India’s parliament discussed a heady question this week: is the country planning to brew beer on the moon? Sisir Adhikari, a member of the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, asked the question of the Department of Space, also seeking details of the research plan if such brewing plans were in development. Jitendra Singh, the minister of state in the prime minister’s office, responded Wednesday that India’s space agency has no such plans, although Team Indus, the Indian venture planning a private lunar lander mission, was considering flying such an experiment from a student group. (3/18)
Budweiser Totally Serious About Bringing Beer to Mars (Source: Fast Company)
In space, no one can hear you crack open a cold one. Astronauts have lamented this for years, but it's just basic science: carbonated beverages don't work so well in a zero-gravity environment. The pressure inside the container is different than the pressure outside the container, and things get messy. Without gravity, the bubbles in the drink aren't buoyant, so they don't float to the top. NASA experimented with soda back in the '80s (hey, man, who didn't?), but so far, no one has made it possible to drink anything in microgravity that doesn't come in a bag with a straw, like a Capri Sun.
On Saturday evening at SXSW, though, Budweiser announced plans to change all of that. At an official panel the brand hosted in downtown Austin, they recruited retired astronaut Clay Anderson, Anheuser-Busch vice president of innovation Valerie Toothman, and Center for the Advancement of Science in Space marketing & communications manager Patrick O'Neill (whose organization manages the U.S. lab at the International Space Station).
They laid out the challenges mankind will face as it begins to develop beer for the humans who will eventually be visiting the Red Planet: In addition to the whole gravity thing, the lack of water will make brewing difficult, the lack of direct sunlight will make it difficult to grow hops, the carbonation causing a yucky-sounding problem known as "wet burps," and the fact that you can taste less food in space because your tongue swells. These are the challenges Budweiser announced that it's committed to solving. (3/14)
Racing Commentators Call A $424 Million Military Satellite Launch and It's Incredible (Source: Jalopnik)
Florida’s big endurance races are known for plenty of fireworks on and off-track, but they’re usually not from military satellites. Today, the United Launch Alliance is sending the $424 million Delta IV WGS-9 satellite into orbit from nearby Cape Canaveral, Florida, visible from the classic endurance race.
Fortunately, the launch happened while the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s 12 Hours of Sebring was under its fifth full-course yellow flag of the day from the No. 27 Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 stopping on course. The television crews had ample time to cut away from the recovery effort and the cars circulating on track to feature the solid rocket boosters falling off above. Click here. (3/19)
Apollo Astronaut's US Flag Secretly Carried on the Moon Heads to Auction (Source: CollectSpace)
When Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott became the seventh person to walk on the moon in 1971, he wore a spacesuit adorned with American flags on both his left shoulder and atop his life support backpack. But as an upcoming auction has now surprisingly revealed, those were not the only two U.S. flags he had on him. Unbeknownst to even Scott until after he returned to Earth, hidden behind the stars and stripes decorating his Portable Life Support System's Oxygen Purge System (OPS) was a pouch holding smaller U.S. flags in a secret stash. (3/17)
Bombshell NASA Photos ‘Prove Alien Bases Exist on Moon’ – and They Can Move (Source: Daily Star)
YouTube channel SecureTeam 10 claims photos taken from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter may prove the extraterrestrial life exists. In several shots, mysterious circular objects are captured on the camera and these are the main area of focus for Tyler Glockner. “This object on the surface almost looks like part of some sort of nuclear reactor – with these long smoke stacks,” he says in the video, uploaded earlier today. (3/13)
10 'Innovative' Space Firms Make Fast Company's Annual Roundup (Source: Space.com)
Fast Company's annual list of the "50 Most Innovative Companies" includes a firm working to make sense of a flood of data coming from space. The Mountain View, California-based Orbital Insight is taking the deluge of images coming from Earth-imaging satellites and channeling them into useful and lucrative data.
The company "analyzes more than a million square kilometers of high-resolution imagery on a monthly basis from eight of the largest satellite constellations in orbit, and then uses machine-vision algorithms to put hard numbers on everything from the amount of water in reservoirs to the number of active fracking sites in North Dakota to the depth of poverty in Sri Lanka," Fast Company wrote in its March issue. Click here. (3/10)
Commercial Remote Sensing Companies Seek Streamlined Regulations (Source: Space News)
A regulatory system crafted a quarter-century ago is failing to keep up with an evolving commercial remote sensing industry, which companies say is slowing down their efforts to develop new satellite systems and capabilities. At a remote sensing policy event organized by the Satellite Industry Association, panelists argued for changes regarding what is regulated and how to better handle an increasing number of companies proposing novel satellite systems and large constellations of spacecraft.
Regulations for the industry, enabled by a 1992 law, have not kept pace with recent changes in the industry that focus less on resolution improvements and more on increasing the frequency of imagery and other data collected by such spacecraft.
“What that has transitioned this industry into is a digital information services industry,” he said, “something that is essentially an entirely different industry that is regulated now as compared to the industry that was created by the framework for regulating this industry back in the 1990s.” (3/17)
SpaceX at 15 (Source: Space Review)
By some accounts, this week marks the 15th anniversary of the founding of SpaceX. Jeff Foust examines the company’s legacy to date in shaking up the space industry, for better or for worse. Click here. (3/13)
Satellite Manufacturers See Pause In Purchasing (Source: Aviation Week)
Wild enthusiasm for the predicted revolution in satellite-enabled broadband communications has not yet translated into sales of communication satellites, manufacturers say. Satellite makers in open markets sold an anemic 14 spacecraft in 2016, down from 19 the year before and the lowest number since 2004. The holy grail is making money in an environment in which the dollars per gigabit that service providers can charge is plummeting. (3/14)
UrtheCast Receives C$17.6 Million of Funding from Canada (Source: UrtheCast)
UrtheCast Corp. will receive approximately $17.6 million in funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's Industrial Technologies Office as part of its Strategic Aerospace & Defense Initiative (SADI) program. This funding will provide significant financial support for the ongoing development of UrtheCast's planned constellation of Earth Observation satellites, known as the OptiSARTM Constellation.
UrtheCast believes its OptiSARTM Constellation program is leading a wave of disruptive geospatial and geoanalytics products and services that will ensure Canada remains a world leader in radar technologies, supported by thriving aerospace, space, defense and security (A&D) industries. The planned 16-satellite OptiSAR Constellation is expected to consist of eight X- and L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites and eight high-resolution optical satellites. (3/14)
Donate to SPACErePORT (Source: SPACErePORT)
The SPACErePORT is a free weekly e-newsletter distributed to over 1500 subscribers. It is supplemented by a monthly Florida Defense Contracts Monitor; a daily-updated blog (here); a Twitter feed (here) with 1802 followers; a spaceports-focused LinkedIn Group (here) with 201 members; and a hypersonic/supersonic transport LinkedIn Group (here). If you enjoy receiving this stuff, donations are encouraged using the Tip Jar link here. Thanks! (3/20)