February 17, 2020
Atlas Rocket Launches Solar Research Satellite at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
An Atlas 5 successfully launched a European-American mission to study the sun Sunday night. The Atlas 5 411 lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 11:03 p.m. Eastern and deployed the Solar Orbiter spacecraft nearly 53 minutes later. The spacecraft, a European-led mission with NASA participation, will pass slightly closer to the sun than Mercury in its orbit. That orbit will become more inclined over time to allow it to observe the poles. Scientists believe that its observations, in conjunction with NASA's Parker Solar Probe and other spacecraft, will help them better understand the sun's magnetic field and the development of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. (2/10)
Antares Rocket Lifts Off from Virginia on Space Station Cargo Mission (Source: Spaceflight Now)
A twin-engine Northrop Grumman Antares rocket climbed into orbit Saturday from Virginia’s Eastern Shore carrying a Cygnus supply ship bound for the International Space Station with a compact electron microscope, a flame combustion experiment, a range of biological investigations, fresh cheese, fruit and vegetables for the research lab’s three-person crew.
The 139-foot-tall Antares launcher lifted off from pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at 3:21:04 p.m. EST Saturday after Northrop Grumman scrubbed two previous launch attempts due to an issue with ground support equipment and unfavorable winds aloft. Powered by two Russian-built RD-181 engines producing more than 860,000 pounds of thrust, the Antares rocket cleared lightning protection towers at the launch pad and headed southeast from the spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (2/15)
SpaceX Delays Next Starlink Launch From Cape Canaveral Due to Hardware Issue (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX has delayed the launch of its next Starlink mission from Cape Canaveral due to hardware issues, the launch provider confirmed Saturday evening. "Standing down from (Sunday's) Starlink launch," SpaceX said via Twitter. "Team is taking a closer look at a second-stage valve component." The Falcon 9 rocket is now scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex 40 about 10:04 a.m. Monday. The Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron is expecting 80% "go" conditions for the attempt. (2/15)
2021 NASA Budget Request Includes $3.3B for Human Lunar Landers, $430M for Moon Resource Development (Source: Tech Crunch)
The Trump White House today issued its fiscal 2021 budget request, and it included a 12% increase in requested funding to NASA’s coffers, as expected. That puts the total request for NASA at $25.2 billion, nearly half, or $12.3 billion, of which is earmarked specifically to support NASA’s efforts to return to the surface of the Moon and to eventually land people on Mars.
$3.3 billion is for human lunar lander systems that will be used to take astronauts to the Moon’s surface from staging positions in lunar orbit. It outlines that these will rely on “competition, industry innovation and robust Government oversight” to produce safe and reliable systems for “sustainable exploration.” A $430 million pool is included to specifically fund a “Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative,” which includes the development and demonstration of technologies that will be employed to take advantage of Moon-based resources for power generation, astronaut habitats and exploration tools. (2/10)
NASA Would Get $4 Billion for SLS Rocket and, Orion Capsule, Millions More for Rover, Space Suit, Mars (Source: Tech Crunch)
The proposed 2021 NASA budget adds $4 billion for continued development of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, which combined will be used to provide transportation of astronauts from Earth to the Moon. The budget specifically says that these funds will be used by the agency to “complete these systems and start to establish a regular flight cadence.”
Also included in the request are $175 million for spacesuits to be used by astronauts on the surface of the Moon, along with $212 million for rovers that will be used for transportation. There’s $254 million included for the Commercial Lunar Landing Services (CLPS) program through which NASA is sourcing private partners to deliver scientific and cargo payloads to the Moon’s surface ahead of sending astronauts back in 2024. Another $529 million is set aside for the “robotic exploration of Mars,” including a return mission to bring a Martian soil sample back to Earth for the first time ever. (2/10)
Trump Proposes $4.8 Trillion Budget, Amid Record $1 Trillion Deficit (Sources: Vox, AP)
President Trump on Monday unveiled a $4.8 trillion 2021 budget proposal that includes spending cuts that would nullify a two-year deal negotiated with Congress last summer. The new budget includes $590 billion in non-defense spending and $740.5 billion in defense spending. It would slash Commerce Department funding by 37%, the Environmental Protection Agency by 26%, the Department of Housing and Urban Development by 15%, the Department of Health and Human Services by 9% and the Education Department by 8%.
It seeks an 8% cut to the Agriculture Department's budget, a 21% cut to the State Department and foreign aid and an 11% cut to the Labor Department. It would reduce funding for Energy Department by 8%. Trump posted a tweet on Saturday vowing, “We will not be touching your Social Security and Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget.” One day later, the Wall Street Journal published a report indicating that Trump is doing exactly that with his budget proposal. The president's budget cuts nearly half a trillion dollars from Medicare over the coming decade.
The U.S. budget deficit for the 2019 budget year, which ended Sep. 30, was $984.4 billion, reflecting the impact of the $1.5 trillion tax cut President Trump pushed through Congress in 2017 and increased spending for military and domestic programs that Trump accepted as part of a budget deal with Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the deficit for the current 2020 budget year will hit $1 trillion and will remain over $1 trillion for the next decade. (2/10)
Mixed Reactions in Congress to NASA Budget Request (Source: Space News)
NASA's fiscal year 2021 budget proposal has received a mixed reaction from Capitol Hill and industry. Some in Congress, like Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK), chair of the House space subcommittee, welcomed the overall increase but criticized proposals to cancel a number of science missions and NASA's education office. Horn also said at a panel discussion this week that she questioned whether the overall increase was sufficient to meet the 2024 lunar landing goal, and sought more information from NASA about its plans. (2/12)
Trump Budget Proposal Would Cancel SOFIA Flying Telescope (Source: Space News)
The White House's budget proposal seeks to cancel NASA's SOFIA airborne observatory despite recent efforts to make it more efficient. The proposal released this week argued that SOFIA's high operating costs could not be justified by its science output and there were no signs of "a dramatic improvement" in its efficiency in the near future. NASA performed two studies of SOFIA last year, though, that found various efficiencies intended to make the observatory more productive. NASA proposed terminating SOFIA six years ago, just as its prime mission was starting, but Congress rejected that plan and continued to fund the project. (2/14)
2021 NASA Budget Request Supports X-59 Experimental Supersonic Jet Development (Source: Space.com)
While the Trump administration's proposed NASA budget for 2021 includes a big boost for human spaceflight, it also would boost funding for the agency's aeronautics division. Included in the $25.2 billion budget request for NASA is $819 million for aeronautics research, up from $783 million in 2020. One of NASA's chief aeronautics programs is the experimental X-59 supersonic aircraft being built by Lockheed Martin to pioneer quieter sonic booms for commercial travel. NASA's budget documents released to date did not include the exact funding for the new jet. (2/12)
FAA Seeks 6% Increase for Space Office Budget (Source: Space News)
The FAA is seeking a modest increase in its budget to keep up with growth in the commercial launch industry. The FAA's budget proposal requests more than $27.5 million for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, an increase of about 6% from its 2020 appropriation. The office would use the additional funding to hire more staff for launch licensing and related activities as the number of licensed launches continues to grow. The office is also completing a reorganization intended to make it more efficient. (2/12)
Trump Adds $15.4 Billion for U.S. Space Force in 2021 Budget Request (Source: Space News)
The Trump administration’s $740.5 billion budget request for national defense in 2021 includes $15.4 billion for the U.S. Space Force, according to documents released by the Pentagon on Feb. 10. In the 2021 budget the U.S. Air Force transferred $15.4 billion from existing accounts to the Space Force.
The $15.4 billion request continues to fund programs and activities that were managed by the Air Force but the budget was developed with strong input from the U.S. Space Force, said Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond. (2/10)
Make Way for the Space National Guard (Source: Space News)
National Guard officials say that the Pentagon needs to establish a Space National Guard to support the U.S. Space Force. National Guard Bureau officials and adjutants general from five states met with reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday to make the case that a Space National Guard could serve as the reserve component of the Space Force. The Defense Department's current plans for the Space Force do not include a role for the National Guard, and some officials privately have cautioned that creating a Space National Guard could open the door to every state to want to have a space guard to fuel economic growth. Guard officials counter they're not seeking Space National Guard units in every state, but only "some additional overhead in the particular states that participate in the mission." (2/12)
Colorado-Based DoD Space Ops Facility Funded in 2021 Budget Proposal (Source: Space News)
The fiscal year 2021 budget proposal includes funding to complete construction of the military's Consolidated Space Operations Facility. The $88 million included in the Pentagon's budget proposal would complete construction of the center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. The facility is designed to meet growing demands for secure facilities for military space operators and analysts from the intelligence community. The funding request was welcomed by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) during a panel discussion Tuesday. (2/12)
Colorado Pushes for Space Command HQ Location Decision (Source: Space News)
At a Space Foundation event, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said the investments made by the Air Force in military space infrastructure in Colorado are one reason the Pentagon “needs to make a permanent decision as to where U.S. Space Command will be located.” A decision on announcing the permanent site for U.S. Space Command’s headquarters has been delayed with no explanation, Lamborn said.
The Air Force last year said the finalists were Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal, California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base and Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and Schriever Air Force Base. The command is currently based at Peterson and would have to move as soon as a decision is made. Other states, including Florida and Texas, have lobbied the Trump administration to have their bases added to the short list. (2/12)
New Mexico Delegation Urges Space Force to Utilize State Assets (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham want the newly created U.S. Space Force to take advantage of what the state has to offer. Grisham, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small – all Democrats – sent a letter to Gen. John W. Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command, urging him to utilize the state’s existing public and private sector space capabilities as the Space Force develops its infrastructure and mission. (2/16)
The US Space Force and International Law Considerations (Source: Space Review)
The establishment of a Space Force in the US has raised questions about international law provisions that prohibit some military activities in space. Bharatt Goel notes that while the militarization of space is hardly new, the Space Force could heighten debates about the roles of militaries in space. Click here. (2/11)
Space Force Enlists RAND to Gauge Commercial Support Capabilities (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Space Force has requested a study on the capabilities of the commercial space industry. The RAND Corp. is carrying out the study, requested in October, to identify commercial space technologies that the Space Force could put into use as well as the potential risks of employing commercial systems during an armed conflict. The one-year study was directed by Maj. Gen. William Liquori when he was director of strategic requirements, architectures and analysis at Air Force Space Command; his office is now part of the Space Force. (2/10)
Airmen, Spacemen, Guardians? Space Force Seeks Ideas for What To Call Its Members (Source: Space News)
The Space Force is looking for ideas for what to call its members. The call for ideas, currently limited to Air Force personnel but later to be expanded to space professionals in other services, is seeking input on what service members of the Space Force should be called, similar to the Air Force's airmen. Officials also are looking for ideas on Space Force ranks and names for operational units. (2/14)
Space Force Gets First Senior Enlisted Member (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Space Force has named its first senior enlisted adviser. Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, who is already the top enlisted adviser at U.S. Space Command, will take on that role for the new service. Towberman will advise the Space Force's enlisted corps and will serve as a personal adviser to the Chief of Space Operations and the Secretary of the Air Force on issues like the welfare, readiness and morale of the force. (2/14)
Army Soldiers to Join Space Force (Source: Defense One)
A group of U.S. Army soldiers may be the first troops outside of the Air Force to join the U.S. Space Force. About 100 Army soldiers already trained in space-related fields will join the Space Force in 2021, Army officials said Tuesday. The Air Force assigned 16,000 personnel to the Space Force, but only Gen. Jay Raymond has formally become part of the Space Force. The Air Force expects to start transferring airmen to the Space Force later this year. (2/12)
Space Force Criticizes Provocative Russian Satellite Activity (Source: Space News)
The head of the U.S. Space Force is criticizing Russia for activities by a Russian satellite that is maneuvering close to an American reconnaissance satellite. Gen. John Raymond said the actions by Cosmos-2542 and Cosmos-2543, an inspector satellite and its sub-satellite seen by satellite trackers in the vicinity of USA 245, "has the potential to create a dangerous situation" and is not responsible behavior. Raymond's comments are the first official statements confirming that the Russian spacecraft were in the vicinity of USA 245, as noticed by amateur satellite trackers.
Raymond also revealed that the United States believes Russia in 2017 deployed a similar satellite that released a sub-satellite, and that one satellite "exhibited characteristics of a weapon." The United States subsequently expressed concerns to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in 2018. (2/11)
Satellite Docking Experiment Tests Space Situational Awareness (Source: Gov.UK)
Improvements in Space Situational Awareness (SSA) may result from a unique collaborative experiment being conducted by The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and representatives from the Five-Eyes nations (UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Two satellites are due to rendezvous for the experiment in near-Geostationary Orbit this month (February 2020).
Known as Phantom Echoes, the experiment aims to demonstrate how allied SSA sensors and processing capabilities can be integrated to enhance the performance over individual systems working independently to improve Space safety for UK and allied satellites in and near Geostationary Orbit. A combination of simulation and real-world events will be used to understand the strengths and constraints of each system that will advise the development of operational SSA architectures within the Coalition Space Operations (CSPO) initiative. (2/4)
Sigmatech to Support Air Force Space Acquisition (Source: Space News)
Sigmatech has won a contract to provide support services for an Air Force space acquisition office. The five-year, $74 million contract covers expert support staff to assist the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration. That office is run by Shawn Barnes, who serves as the principal space adviser to Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and is also helping to coordinate the standup of the U.S. Space Force. (2/12)
U.S. Seeks Improved Security and Resiliency for GPS (Source: Space News)
The White House issued an executive order Wednesday calling for government agencies to improve the security and resilience of services that depend on GPS. The document, titled "Strengthening National Resilience Through Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation and Timing Services," directs the executive branch departments and agencies to adopt guidelines for how to manage the risk of disruption to critical infrastructure that rely on GPS services. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the agency that develops cybersecurity standards for different industries, will be in charge of developing cybersecurity guidance for GPS-related services. (2/12)
L3Harris Developing Next-Generation GPS Satellite Payload (Source: Space News)
Lockheed Martin has given L3Harris the green light to continue the development of a fully digital navigation payload for the next generation of GPS satellites known as GPS 3 Follow-on, or GPS 3F. The digital payload cleared what the military calls a “critical design review” that required demonstrating the new payload design is mature enough to proceed to final development test and delivery.
The central component of the navigation payload is the mission data unit, which is expected to provide more powerful signals and ensure accurate atomic clock operations. Lockheed Martin manufactures the satellites for the U.S. military. The company is making 10 GPS 3 satellites use L3Harris’ 70-percent digital mission data unit. The 100-percent digital payload will be introduced in the 11th satellite of the GPS 3 constellation which will the Follow-on variant. (2/12)
Hackers Could Shut Down Satellites - or Turn Them Into Weapons (Source: Space Daily)
As a scholar who studies cyber conflict, I'm keenly aware of the lack of cybersecurity standards for satellites. This, coupled with satellites' complex supply chains and layers of stakeholders, leaves them highly vulnerable to cyberattacks. If hackers were to take control of these satellites, the consequences could be dire. On the mundane end of scale, hackers could simply shut down satellites, denying access to their services. Hackers could also jam or spoof the signals from satellites, creating havoc for critical infrastructure. This includes electric grids, water networks and transportation systems.
Some of these new satellites have thrusters that allow them to speed up, slow down and change direction in space. If hackers took control of these steerable satellites, the consequences could be catastrophic. Hackers could alter the satellites' orbits and crash them into other satellites or even the International Space Station. Makers of these satellites, particularly small CubeSats, use off-the-shelf technology to keep costs low. The wide availability of these components means hackers can analyze them for vulnerabilities. In addition, many of the components draw on open-source technology. The danger here is that hackers could insert back doors and other vulnerabilities into satellites' software.
Some analysts have begun to advocate for strong government involvement in the development and regulation of cybersecurity standards for satellites and other space assets. Congress could work to adopt a comprehensive regulatory framework for the commercial space sector. For instance, they could pass legislation that requires satellites manufacturers to develop a common cybersecurity architecture. They could also mandate the reporting of all cyber breaches involving satellites. (2/14)
Northrop Grumman to Develop Cyber-Secure Satellite Communications for Air Force (Source: Space News)
Northrop Grumman has won an Air Force contract to develop a "cyber-secure" communications payload for satellites. The $253.5 million contract, awarded this week, covers work to build a prototype payload under the Protected Tactical Satellite Communications (PTS) program that the U.S. Air Force started in 2018. As many as four prototype payloads will be funded under the PTS program. Two payloads will be selected to launch in 2024 for on-orbit demonstrations that will last three to five years. (2/14)
Iran Fails Again to Launch Satellite (Source: AP)
An Iranian rocket failed to put a satellite into orbit Sunday. A Simorgh rocket lifted off at about 10:45 a.m. Eastern from the Imam Khomeini Spaceport carrying a small communications satellite called Zafar. Iranian government officials said that while the rocket reached space, it failed to gain enough velocity to attain orbit and instead fell back to Earth. The government said it will attempt to launch another Zafar satellite as soon as June. This failure is the latest setback for Iran's space program, which suffered two launch failures early last year and a launchpad explosion during preparations for another launch last August. (2/10)
Iran Dismisses US Claims Its Rockets Have Military Purpose, Vows to Continue Tests (Source: Sputnik)
Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami has dismissed allegations issued by the US that the satellite carriers could be turned into military missiles and that the recent launch of a Zafar satellite was part of Iran's missile program. "The satellite launch and satellite carrier [...] are not related to missile [the program]", Hatami said. The defence minister went on to say that despite opposition from some foreign countries, Iran will continue to develop its satellite program. He added that while the rocket doesn't have any military applications, the satellite that it will eventually take into orbit could be used for defensive purposes by the Islamic Republic. (2/13)
Japan Launches Spy Satellite (Source: Asahi Shimbun)
Japan launched a reconnaissance satellite Saturday night. An H-2A rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 8:34 p.m. Eastern and placed into orbit the IGS Optical 7 imaging satellite. That satellite will replace IGS Optical 5, which is nearly at the end of its five-year life. The launch was scheduled for late January but postponed by a technical issue. (2/10)
Norway Claims Chinese Intelligence Has Repeatedly Stolen its Space Technology (Source: Space Daily)
Norway plays an important role in space exploration for key military space facilities used by the US, including the Globus II radar in Finnmark County, sometimes referred to as the world's most advanced radar for tracking satellites. In recent years, the Chinese intelligence service has succeeded in obtaining advanced Norwegian technology several times, the Scandinavian country's intelligence service has stressed, warning that China is en route to becoming "a military superpower in Norway's neighborhood". (2/13)
China to Launch Mars Probe in July (Source: Space Daily)
China announced that it will launch its first Mars mission probe in July this year, China Youth Daily reported Thursday, adding that this is the first time the country disclosed the launch month of its Mars exploration program. The Mars probe will be sent by the Long March-5 Y4 carrier rocket. The Long March-5 Y4 rocket has recently completed a 100-second test for its high thrust hydrogen-oxygen engine, which is the last engine examination before the final assembly. (1/24)
Finland Needs Its Own Space Research Center (Source: Uutiset)
Finland must increase its investments in the business and technologies of space, according to a report commissioned by the Prime Minister's Office. The report recommended setting up a "Space Situation Center" so that authorities could monitor data on satellite systems observing Finnish territories as well as study the effects of space weather. The rapid global expansion of the space industry is making it less expensive to launch tech into Earth's orbit. This is a development the scientific working group found affects Finland's national security and economic interests. (2/15)
IAI Hopes to Maintain Satellite Production Line (Source: Space News)
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) believes that a recent satellite order from the Israeli government will be the first of several. The Israeli government ordered the Dror-1 satellite last month, a deal seen as a way to keep IAI's production lines open. In an interview, an IAI executive said he expected follow-on orders from the government, but didn't predict when those contracts would materialize. Dror-1 will be completed in four years and will be IAI's first satellite with a digital payload. (2/12)
Russia Delays Weather Satellite Launch After Problems With Similar Satellite (Source: TASS)
Russia will delay the launch of a weather satellite after a similar model experienced problems in orbit. Roscosmos said the Meteor-M 2-3 satellite, which was scheduled for launch later this year, will be delayed to 2021 in order to perform additional tests on the satellite. Meteor-M 2-2 suffered problems in December that, at the time, Roscosmos said was caused by a micrometeoroid impact. The spacecraft malfunctioned again early this month but has returned to service. The cause of the most recently glitch has not been disclosed. (2/12)
Australian Govt Funds Rocket Fuel Tank Research (Source: Space Daily)
Research that could cut space travel cost by 25 per cent has received a $3 million boost from the Australian Government. A Gilmour Space Technologies, University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and Teakle Composites project to create lightweight rocket fuel tanks was included in the latest round of the Cooperative Research Centers Projects (CRC-P) grants. The project is a $12.5 million investment by the consortium with support from the Federal Government in order to design, develop and manufacture flight ready cryotanks. (2/13)
Space Hub Sutherland (Scotland UK) Submits Planning Application (Source: Highland Council)
Construction of vertical launch space port with launch operations control center, site integration facility, launch pad complex, antenna park, access road, fencing, services and associated infrastructure. Click here. (2/7)
Indian Astronauts Training in Russia (Source: The Hindu)
Indian astronauts have started training in Russia. Four Indian Air Force pilots recently started a 12-month training program at the Russian cosmonaut training center in Star City, outside Moscow. The four, whose identities have not been disclosed by the Indian government, will train for India's first crewed spaceflight, expected in 2022 and likely to carry one or two people. (2/11)
New Members Added to National Space Council (Source: Space News)
The White House has added three new members to the National Space Council. In an executive order signed Thursday by President Trump, the White House expanded the roster of the council to include the Secretary of Energy, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy. The Energy Department has, in recent months, emphasized the role it can play in the space industry beyond providing nuclear power sources, noting its expertise in areas from quantum networks to developing astronomical instruments. (2/14)
NASA Plan for Yearly Artemis Moon Flights Through 2030. The First Could Fly in 2021 (Source: Space.com)
The first flight of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket and Orion crew capsule — and the first big step in putting astronauts back on the moon — was originally scheduled to launch this year, but the mission is now expected to slip to 2021. A new document from NASA explaining President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2021 budget request for the agency lists the uncrewed test flight, known as Artemis 1, as scheduled to launch in 2021.
Although NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and other agency officials have said they expect the mission to be delayed, an updated launch target has not yet been officially announced. An updated timeline for that mission is currently under review, and NASA expects to present its new plan to Congress about six weeks from now, Doug Loverro, the director of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, told reporters at a State of NASA event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. (2/12)
NASA Plans New Class of Astronaut Candidates (Source: CollectSpace)
NASA will open another astronaut selection round in March. The agency announced this week that it will solicit astronaut applications from March 2 through March 31. NASA is making some changes in this round, including requiring a master's degree in a STEM field or related education, and will make applicants take an online assessment at the beginning of the application process "to help ensure that the applications that are evaluated by the Astronaut Rating Panel best reflect the requirements of the position." NASA plans to select a new class by the middle of next year, but has not disclosed how many people will be included in that class. (2/12)
Russia to Meet with NASA on Artemis Cooperation (Source: TASS)
The head of Roscosmos said he will meet with NASA in April to discuss Russian participation in NASA's exploration plans. Dmitry Rogozin said he will meet with NASA officials prior to the launch of the next crewed Soyuz spacecraft in April about cooperation in deep space exploration. Such discussions will likely include any role for Russia in the lunar Gateway or other aspects of NASA's Moon-to-Mars strategy. (2/11)
NASA Prepares for Moon and Mars With New Addition to Its Deep Space Network (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA officials broke ground on a new antenna for communicating with the agency's farthest-flung robotic spacecraft. Part of the Deep Space Network (DSN), the 112-foot-wide antenna dish being built represents a future in which more missions will require advanced technology, such as lasers capable of transmitting vast amounts of data from astronauts on the Martian surface.
Using massive antenna dishes, the agency talks to more than 30 deep space missions on any given day, including many international missions. As more missions have launched and with more in the works, NASA is looking to strengthen the network. When completed in 2½ years, the new dish will be christened Deep Space Station-23 (DSS-23), bringing the DSN's number of operational antennas to 13. (2/11)
Mars 2020 Spacecraft Arrives at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NASA JPL)
NASA's Mars 2020 spacecraft has arrived in Florida for launch preparations. The spacecraft's major components, including the rover, arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday afternoon on a pair of C-17 cargo planes. At KSC the spacecraft will undergo final tests and integration prior to its launch on an Atlas 5 in July. (2/12)
ESA Struggling with ExoMars 2020 Schedule (Source: Aviation Week)
ESA and its ExoMars 2020 contractors are working flat out to catch up on delays and meet the planned launch window this summer. If the July/August window is missed, the next opportunity is in two years later in August 2022. Problems have been experienced with the lander's parachutes, and with Russian-developed hardware delivered eight months late. (2/12)
ESA Mars Rover Ready for ExoMars Integration (Source: BBC)
ESA's Rosalind Franklin Mars rover is ready to be integrated with its spacecraft. The rover completed environmental testing recently at an Airbus facility in Toulouse, France, and is now at a Thales Alenia Space factory in Cannes to meet up with the rest of the hardware for the ExoMars 2020 mission. That mission is scheduled for launch this summer on a Russian Proton rocket, pending the outcome of tests of the spacecraft's parachute system scheduled for the coming weeks in the United States. Problems in past parachute tests raised questions about whether the mission would be ready in time for launch. (2/12)
Algae Caviar, Anyone? What We'll Eat on the Journey to Mars (Source: WIRED)
Until now, design for space has focused on survival. But Ekblaw thinks it's possible, even essential, to imagine an entirely new microgravitational culture, one that doesn't simply adapt Earth products and technologies but instead conceives them anew. Whatever else they do, they'll require nourishment, which is why food is a central focus of the MIT program. NASA and other government space agencies have traditionally treated food as a practical challenge—an extreme version of provisioning for an outback camping trip.
But while a highly trained astronaut might be able to subsist on space gorp without losing her mind, what about a civilian with a one-way ticket to Mars? Coblentz, who is leading the Space Exploration Initiative's gastronomic research, argues that, as much as art or music or movement, good food will enable us to thrive as we leave Earth behind. It has always been the glue that connects us to each other and to the environment around us.
Our pursuit of food has shaped the evolution of our sensory apparatus—the very tools through which we, as a species, perceive the world. The choices we make every day about food selection, preparation, and consumption lie at the foundation of our identities and relationships and affinities. As the Italian historian Massimo Montanari succinctly put it, food is culture. (2/11)
It Turns Out Rust Is... a Great Shield for Deadly Space Radiation (Source: Futurism)
Lifehack for future space commuters: Leaving your ship out in the rain could save your life. That’s because new research suggests a layer of powdered rust is a particularly effective shield when it comes to blocking dangerous cosmic radiation — the kind that bombards astronauts and their equipment once they leave the safety of Earth’s atmosphere. Oxidized metal, especially gadolinium (III) oxide, blocks more radiation by weight than anything else out there, according to research published last month in the journal Radiation Physics and Chemistry. The study, a joint effort of Lockheed Martin and North Carolina State University, could give engineers a new tool for keeping crewmembers safe during long forays into space. (2/14)
NASA Picks Four Concepts for Planetary Science (Source: Space News)
NASA has selected four finalists for its next round of the Discovery program of planetary science missions. The four concepts announced Thursday include two missions to Venus, one to Jupiter's volcanic moon Io and one to Triton, Neptune's largest moon. Each concept will receive $3 million for a nine-month concept study, and NASA plans to select one or two of the missions in 2021 for launch in the mid to late 2020s. (2/14)
Starliner Software Setback (Source: Space Review)
One software error truncated an uncrewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in December, but last week a safety panel revealed there was a second problem that could have caused a “catastrophic” failure. Jeff Foust reports on that new problem and its implications for Boeing’s commercial crew vehicle. Click here. (2/11)
Boeing Plans Comprehensive Code Review (Source: Space News)
Boeing will perform a complete review of the software on its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle after two serious errors. In a media teleconference Friday, Boeing officials said the company will "reverify" about one million lines of code after the revelation last week that engineers found a second problem with software that could have caused the spacecraft's service module to bump into the crew module after separation just before reentry. NASA said there were "numerous process escapes in the design, development and test cycle for software" for the vehicle, and will use an organizational safety review to better understand why Boeing's software development processes failed to catch those errors. (2/10)
SpaceX’s First Astronaut Mission Could Take Off in May (Source: Tech Crunch)
SpaceX is getting very close to its goal of flying actual astronauts aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft. After a successful in-flight abort (IFA) test in January, it had basically crossed off all the major milestones needed before flying people, first on a demonstration mission referred to as “Demo-2” by SpaceX and its commercial crew partner NASA.
We now know the working date that SpaceX is aiming for with that crucial mission: May 7. To be clear, that’s very much a working date and the actual mission could slip either later, or even earlier, according to Ars Technica’s Eric Berger who first reported the timeline. The Government Accountability Office released a report last week detailing progress on the commercial crew program and noted that the Crew Dragon capsule that will be used to fly astronauts for Demo-2 was on track to be completed “3 months earlier” than was expected based on most recent timelines. (2/10)
SpaceX Hires Gerstenmaier as it Prepares for Crewed Launches (Source: CNBC)
SpaceX is only a couple of months away from its first attempt at launching astronauts and the company has brought in one of the foremost experts in human spaceflight to help it do so successfully. William Gerstenmaier, the former leader of NASA’s human spaceflight program, has now begun working at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. In his new role Gerstenmaier is reporting to SpaceX vice president of mission assurance Hans Koenigsmann, those people said, as the company prepares to begin launching astronauts. (2/11)
The Journey to Mars Begins in South Texas (Source: The Atlantic)
Many of Boca Chica’s residents have lived there for years, long before SpaceX arrived, some before the company even existed. Friction between next-door neighbors is quite different when one of them is a rocket company. Instead of an ugly fence, there might be an ugly fence with massive tanks of cryogenic liquid behind it. When residents find papers stuck in their front door, the notes don’t ask them to keep the noise down or clean up after their dogs; they warn them that their windows could shatter.
Boca Chica’s residents have learned to live with a rocket company, or at least tolerate it, over more than five years. But SpaceX’s work is about to become even more disruptive. (The explosion certainly made that clear.) So the company has offered to buy their homes. Some have taken the offer. Others, such as McConnaughey, have rejected it, even as Musk prepares to launch a giant rocketship just a short hop from their houses. SpaceX is already hard at work on the next Starship prototype, and Musk says the company might launch it into orbit as soon as this year. Click here. (2/11)
Airline Industry Fears Traffic Disruption From Spaceport Launches (Source: Aviation Week)
"We're talking [about] spaceports with in five miles of a metropolitan area right now," said Steve Jangelis, a Delta captain who serves as aviation safety chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association. In 2018, the pilots' union opposed establoihsing the Colorado Air and Space Port at the former Front Range Airport in Colorado. "We've been insulated because we've been launching from protected areas," Jangelis argued. "We have to start looking at when we start launching from the middle of the lower 48 states, when we start launching directly across populated areas."
"We are going to press the FAA to make sure that it's safe. We are going to lobby hard for that," said Jangelis. SpaceX's historic Falcon Heavy test launch in 2018 closed 1,000 miles of airspace for three hours, resulting in 563 flight delays and 34,000 additional miles flown by airliners. While only a handful of current commercial sites are very active, proponents believe spaceports represent an economic boon. (2/12)
Spaceport Camden - America's Small Rocket Pure Play (Source: Space Daily)
Once approved by the FAA, Spaceport Camden will be positioned to create generations of tech, research, service and manufacturing jobs in Camden County, Georgia. No other place in America has a better case for building a spaceport and research center than Georgia and Camden County. Ideally located in Georgia's southernmost coastal county and central to Savannah (with Gulfstream Aerospace), Atlanta (with Georgia Tech) and Cape Canaveral (with NASA).
Georgia already has the building blocks in place to compliment a spaceport and research center since the state of Georgia's #1 export is aerospace products. The Georgia Department of Economic Development reports that Georgia's aerospace manufacturing industry base includes 800+ companies including over 80 existing NASA suppliers, 108,000 employees, $57B impact (6% of GDP) and $500+ million in university research.
Local and industry experts support the project including Camden County resident Major General Robert S. Dickson (sic), USAF Retired, who has been involved in the commercial space sector for the past decade and attests to the growing demand for small satellite launches. He feels Camden County is an ideal and safe location for a spaceport. (2/11)
Property Development Is Starting To Take Off At The Houston Spaceport (Source: BisNow Houston)
When people think of a spaceport, they envision an upright rocket launching into the sky. But the Houston Spaceport is chasing a different kind of liftoff — the commercial kind. Combined with a 12% budget increase for NASA in Fiscal Year 2021, and regular economic infusion from the Johnson Space Center, space is keeping commercial real estate humming here on the ground.
The Houston Spaceport is on the southeast side of Ellington Airport, a public and military-use airport about 15 miles southeast of Downtown Houston. Phase 1 of the spaceport broke ground in June. The Phase 1 expansion covers 154 acres, and includes the construction of streets, water and wastewater infrastructure, pipelines, electric power and distribution, as well as communications facilities. That phase is expected to be completed in the first half of 2021. (2/13)
Virgin Galactic Sends Space Ship to New Mexico Spaceport (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has arrived in New Mexico for a final series of flight tests. The suborbital spaceplane, named VSS Unity, was ferried from California to Spaceport America in New Mexico Thursday on its WhiteKnightTwo aircraft. The company plans a series of flight tests at the spaceport in the coming months to become familiar with operations there and to test upgrades to the vehicle and its new passenger cabin. Virgin has previously stated it expects to begin commercial operations at the spaceport by June. (2/14)
Virgin Galactic's Record-Breaking Week Doesn't Stop Short-Sellers (Source: Bloomberg)
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. may close at another record on Friday after hitting new highs every day this week, but bearish bets are climbing too. The space-tourism company told investors last night that the spaceship VSS Unity successfully completed another test flight during its relocation to New Mexico and was on track for the final stages of its test-flight program. The New Mexico-based company is gaining for the sixth day and has climbed about 45 per cent during this latest rally.
The Branson-founded company will compete against rivals like Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin LLC to get the space tourism market off the ground this year. None of that has deterred short sellers, who have racked up US$388 million in bearish bets against roughly 31 per cent of Virgin Galactic’s free float, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners. Shorts are down roughly US$214 million in mark-to-market losses since November, including a US$10 million loss today, according to Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3.
None of that has deterred short sellers, who have racked up $388 million in bearish bets against roughly 31 per cent of Virgin Galactic’s free float, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners. Shorts are down roughly US$214 million in mark-to-market losses since November, including a US$10 million loss today, according to Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics at S3.“This is not a very crowded short although with a stock borrow fee of just over 12 per cent, there is tightness in the stock loan market which means there is not an unlimited supply of borrows available,” Dusaniwsky said in an email. He added that “if short selling increases again, rates will go up and it will be more difficult to get in the name.” (2/14)
Is Virgin Galactic And Its Version Of Space Travel Finally For Real? (Source: Forbes)
Virgin Galactic blasted off on Valentine’s Day 2020, rising more than 21% to a 52-week high despite a falling stock market. The company was founded in 2004 by Sir Richard Branson (#478 on the Forbes billionaire list with, $4 billion) and has yet to earn a profit. Why did the stock rocket upward? The company made a three-hour positioning flight. It flew its passenger spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, from Mojave Airport in California to its commercial headquarters at Spaceport America’s Gateway to Space building in New Mexico.
But the simple flight was, as the company puts it with its typical hype, “another vital step on its path to commercial service.” As part of the ‘getting ready for space’ process, Virgin Galactic has moved 100 team members to New Mexico, hired 70 local people, and now has transferred the space craft and carrier ship. (2/14)
Firefly Distances Itself From Investor's Controversies (Sources: The Verge, Snopes)
Firefly Aerospace says there is no link between its activities and controversial practices by its major investor. A recent investigation found evidence of deceptive practices in a chain of dating sites run by Ukrainian businessman Max Polyakov, whose Noosphere Ventures rescued Firefly from bankruptcy and is the launch company's major investor. Thomas Markusic, CEO of Firefly, said that his company is independent from Noosphere's other businesses, and that Polyakov is not involved in day-to-day operations of Firefly. (2/12)
Hurling Satellites Into Space Seems Crazy—But Might Just Work (Source: WIRED)
With SpinLaunch the basic idea is to physically throw a missile off the planet, in much the same way our ancestors hurled rocks with a leather sling. In this case, a giant centrifuge would spin the craft around in a vacuum to build up insane speed, then open a door and release it into the sky. But the physicist in me also can’t help being a little skeptical. The challenges here—like air drag, for starters—seem enormous. I’m not saying this thing won’t work, but I want to crunch the numbers myself to see what’s involved. Click here. (2/11)
Astra Emphasizes Rapid Iteration In Its Quest for Low-Cost, Rapid Launch (Source: Space News)
As Astra prepares for its first orbital launch attempt, the company is setting expectations accordingly and taking the long view towards its goal of frequent, low-cost access to space. The launch window for Astra’s first orbital launch from Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska now opens Feb. 25, according to a U.S. Coast Guard notice published Feb. 12. The company will have daily windows from 3:30 to 7:00 p.m. Eastern through March 3.
Chris Kemp, chief executive of Astra, confirmed that launch window but didn’t give a specific date when the company would make its first launch attempt. The rocket, dubbed “One of Three,” will be flying to the spaceport on Kodiak Island, Alaska, in a few days. That launch, he confirmed, will be the first of two missions as part of the DARPA Launch Challenge, a competition by DARPA to demonstrate responsive launch capabilities. Astra is the sole remaining competitor in the challenge after the other two finalists, Vector and Virgin Orbit, dropped out last year. (2/14)
Rocket Lab Wins NASA Contract for Lunar Cubesat Launch (Source: Space News)
NASA awarded a contract to Rocket Lab Feb. 14 for the launch of a cubesat mission that will serve as a precursor for the agency’s planned lunar Gateway. A Rocket Lab Electron will launch the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) satellite from the company’s Launch Complex 2 site at Wallops Island, Virginia, in early 2021. The contract for the dedicated launch is valued at $9.95 million.
CAPSTONE, a 25-kilogram satellite being built by Colorado-based Advanced Space under a $13.7 million contract awarded in September, will go into a near-rectilinear halo orbit around the moon, the same orbit proposed for the lunar Gateway. CAPSTONE will demonstrate the stability of that orbit, which has never been used by a spacecraft before, to support planning for the Gateway. (2/15)
Unique Atlas 5 to Launch This Year (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A previously unflown variant of the Atlas 5 will make its first launch later this year. The Atlas 5 511, with a five-meter payload fairing and a single solid rocket booster, will launch a pair of surveillance satellites to geosynchronous orbit in the fourth quarter of this year. That version is the only version of the Atlas 5 yet to fly. The most popular Atlas 5 version, the 401 with a four-meter fairing and no boosters, has flown 38 times. (2/12)
Space Florida Well Positioned as Legislative Session Approaches Final Phase (Source: SPACErePORT)
Budget deliberations in the Florida House and Senate appear on track for providing Space Florida with $12.5 million for operations and $6 million for project financing. Also, a bill that would provide the agency with more flexibility for financial deals appears headed for passage in both chambers. Meanwhile, Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida, and the state's other economic and workforce development agencies are not facing the kinds of deep budget cuts that were threatened last year. The state's Department of Transportation also supports space industry development, with millions of dollars provided every year for spaceport infrastructure projects that are adopted into regional transportation plans. (2/14)
Rocket Engine Test in Cocoa Sends Debris Flying, Starts Fire (Source: Click Orlando)
Rocket engine company Rocket Crafters was conducting an engine test Thursday that resulted in a mishap sending debris flying and starting small brush fires, company officials confirmed. The private space company was conducting a rocket engine test fire at its facility around noon in Cocoa when an “over-pressurization anomaly occurred...Per standard procedure, individuals were cleared from the test bay before the test, and no one on-site was injured during the incident.” (2/13)
High-Ranking Research Programs Power UAH Aerospace Collaborations (Source: YellowHammer)
Aerospace engineering researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville are modeling how a future U.S. spacecraft might be engineered for nuclear propulsion. They are also studying how reliable rocket engine components can be printed using advanced manufacturing techniques. These two projects illustrate why UAH consistently ranks among the nation’s top programs for federally financed aerospace research. In 2018, the university earned a No. 5 ranking for research activities in the field, according to data from the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Judith Schneider, a professor in UAH’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, said the university’s location in Cummings Research Park means it is perfectly positioned for collaborations with aerospace companies and government agencies located on Redstone Arsenal. Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA’s center for propulsion research and a frequent collaborator, stands nearby. Major aerospace and defense firms including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman all have a major presence in Huntsville, which also hosts homegrown firms such as Dynetics. (2/15)
Blue Origin’s New Rocket Engine Production Facility Opens in Alabama (Source: Tech Crunch)
Blue Origin is set to open its new rocket engine production center in Alabama on Monday. The new Huntsville facility will be able to produce its rocket engines at a much higher rate than is currently possible, which will be useful as the company is using its in-development BE-4 engine for its own New Glenn rocket, as well as for supplying the United Launch Alliance with thrust for its new Vulcan launch vehicle.
Blue Origin started working on BE-4 in 2011, and though it was originally designed for use specifically on Blue Origin’s own New Glenn rocket, which is its first orbital launch vehicle, in 2014 ULA announced it would be using the engines to power its own next-generation Vulcan craft as well. BE-4 has 550,000 lbs of thrust using a mixture of liquid natural gas and oxygen for fuel, and is designed from the ground up for heavy lift capability. (2/14)
How Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin is Aiming to Have People Live and Work in Space (Source: Yahoo Finance)
Blue Origin, a spaceflight company founded by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos in 2000, is ready to start testing some of its new products. Yahoo Finance’s Ines Ferre breaks down the details. Click here. (2/12)
Alternative Financing for Lunar Mining Exploration (Source: Space Review)
Despite the long-term promise of extracting water ice and other resources from the moon, such efforts, done commercially, face the daunting challenge of raising funding. Blake Ahadi suggests some alternative approaches, drawn in part from similar issues faced in terrestrial mining, to help fund lunar resource extraction. Click here. (2/11)
Blue Canyon to Demo In-Space Manufacturing (Source: Space News)
Blue Canyon Technologies will provide the satellite bus for an in-space manufacturing demonstration mission. Blue Canyon's X-SAT bus will be used for the Archinaut One mission by Made In Space, scheduled for launch no earlier than 2022. The mission, supported by a NASA contract awarded last year, will demonstrate the ability to additively manufacture a pair of beams each 10 meters long for the spacecraft's solar arrays. Blue Canyon previously won a contract for X-SAT, its largest satellite bus, from the Environmental Defense Fund for its MethaneSat mission. (2/12)
How the Space Station Has Diversified This Florida Firm (Source: Orlando Business Journal)
Carol Craig spent Jan. 28 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport watching a satellite deploy from a platform run by her company. Craig Technologies began operating two facilities at the International Space Station in the last 18 months. Craig Technologies in 2018 became the overseer for SSIKLOPS, a platform on the space station from which satellites can be deployed. The other is CraigX, a testing facility built by the company that was sent to the space station last year. CraigX acts as a testing ground for companies and academic institutions.
The space programs diversify the firm's offerings, while also providing access to space for businesses that aren't among the aerospace industry giants, says Carol Craig. "What we offer to smaller companies is reduced cost and easier access to space." Her company employs 320 people, with roughly 80 workers in Central Florida. (2/11)
Nanoracks is Offering Unbeatable Rideshare Pricing and Services (Source; Space Daily)
Recently, we at Nanoracks announced that we are now offering small satellite deployment opportunities on SpaceX dedicated rideshare missions - and our first mission is targeted for Q4 2020. We've been very busy - and now just a few spaces still remain on our port, and we want to give you the best deal possible! We're selling discounted rates through April 2, 2020 - giving you the opportunity to not only virtually meet with our team, but also sign your launch deal in person if you will be at either Satellite 2020 in Washington, DC or the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. (2/10)
Spaceflight Industries Sells Rideshare Business to Japanese Companies (Source: Space News)
Spaceflight Industries announced Tuesday it will sell its satellite rideshare launch business to two Japanese companies. Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and Yamasa Co., Ltd. will acquire Spaceflight, Inc. for an undisclosed sum in a deal expected to close in the second quarter. Spaceflight has arranged the launches of 271 satellites on 29 missions, including 64 on the Falcon 9 SSO-A launch in late 2018. Spaceflight will remain an independent company based in the U.S. under the deal. The sale allows Spaceflight Industries to focus on its BlackSky geospatial intelligence business, including the deployment of a constellation of high-resolution imaging satellites. (2/12)
JAXA Picks Astroscale to Rendezvous and Inspect Space Junk (Source: Space News)
Astroscale has won a contract from the Japanese space agency JAXA to inspect a discarded rocket stage. The contract, whose value was not disclosed, would cover a mission to rendezvous with and inspect a rocket stage left in orbit from an earlier Japanese launch. A follow-on mission would then attempt to deorbit the stage. Astroscale is the second company in recent months to be awarded a contract for a debris-removal mission. In December, Swiss startup ClearSpace received a European Space Agency contract to deorbit a derelict rocket upper stage in 2025. (2/12)
False Claims Cloud NewSpace Progress (Source: Space News)
The space industry has a B.S. problem. The problem of misinformation is not unique to the space industry, but the problem of deception may be magnified in the fast-paced commercial space industry because entrepreneurs and executives face immense challenges. Another reason for the recent surge in tall tales is that some entrepreneurs feel pressure to show rapid progress. Founders of startups and established space companies, as well as investors, are becoming increasingly frustrated by false claims. (2/12)
SpaceX Satellite Internet Plan Is More Fantasy Than Strategy (Source: Seeking Alpha)
SpaceX has claimed that Starlink satellite internet services will generate billions of dollars in profits, which would justify the program's $10 billion cost as well as fund its future operations. The history of satellite internet constellations throws the economic argument into serious doubt; high costs and limited customers have forced previous attempters out of business.
Current ground and satellite infrastructure are capable of serving virtually all of Starlink's target market already; future competition in its own niche from OneWeb and Blue Origin makes its profit potential even more dubious. Starlink will not save SpaceX; indeed, it is far more likely to end up a disastrous and expensive flop. (2/11)
Space Internet Startup Astranis Raises $90 Million (Source: Fortune)
Astranis, a satellite Internet startup focused on bringing overlooked parts of the world online, raised $90 million in new funding. The deal includes $40 million in equity venture capital led by Venrock, the company tells Fortune. Andreessen Horowitz, which led Astranis's 2018 fundraising, also participated, marking that firm's only space investment. The deal also includes $50 million of debt financing.
The new funding will help Astranis deploy its first satellite, already contracted to provide Internet service in Alaska, as well as funding further growth, CEO John Gedmark tells Fortune. The Alaska deal will bring in "many tens of millions of dollars" of revenue over coming years, and the company is in talks with customers like Internet service providers, smaller countries, and in-flight connectivity providers to launch 20 to 30 more similar satellites, he says. (2/13)
Former Vector Executives Seek to Acquire Satellite Tech Eyed by Lockheed Martin (Source: Breaking Defense)
A startup founded by former executives of Vector is seeking to acquire that company's satellite technology. NewSpace Networks is bidding on Vector's software-defined satellite technology, called GalacticSky, competing against Lockheed Martin. The startup hopes to use that technology to support efforts like the Space Development Agency's plans to develop satellite constellations for communications and missile tracking. It's also interested in other government and commercial work. The GalacticSky technology will be sold at auction later this month as part of Vector's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. (2/12)
Iceye Opens California Office (Source: Space News)
Iceye has opened a U.S. office as it considers building synthetic aperture radar satellites in the country. Iceye, headquartered in Finland, set up an office in the San Francisco Bay Area led by Mark Matossian, who managed a series of aerospace programs at Google including the Earth-imaging venture Terra Bella now owned by Planet. The company says an American office will enable it to more effectively work with customers in the U.S., and that it will later consider establishing a "full manufacturing chain" for its system in the country. (2/14)
Silicon Valley Satellite Startup Installs Ground Station in Antarctica (Source: Quartz)
It’s all business for corporate founders: Meeting investors, interviewing potential hires, and—making an expedition to ride bikes in Antarctica? That’s the case for Swarm Technologies, a San Francisco satellite start-up whose two founders journeyed over three days to remote McMurdo Station in November to install a ground antenna for a space network designed for Internet of Things sensors. The research center, on an island just 850 miles (1,360 km) from the South Pole, is operated by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which has also backed Swarm since 2016.
Swarm’s goal is to drive down the cost of small-scale communication from space by an order of magnitude or more, says Dr. Richard Schwerdtfeger, the NSF program manager who has approved $1.2 million in funding to the company through a program that backs innovative research at small businesses. Swarm has also received development grants from the US Navy and raised more than $25 million from private investors in a 2019 round led by Craft ventures. (2/11)
House, Senate Differ on 5G Satellite Spectrum Transfer (Source: Space News)
Members of Congress have varying reactions to an FCC proposal to transfer C-band satellite spectrum for 5G terrestrial uses. The plan, unveiled last Thursday by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, would provide up to $14.7 billion to satellite operators if they can quickly clear 280 megahertz of C-band spectrum. While the leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee endorsed the plan, the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee warned that the "questionable legal basis for the satellite incentives will likely result in litigation" that would delay the introduction of 5G services. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) also criticized the size of the deal and the fact that the satellite operators who would receive the payments are headquartered outside the country. (2/10)
Understanding the Impact of Satellite Constellations on Astronomy (Source: Space Daily)
While there is large uncertainty about the future number of satellites, some simulations were conducted on the basis of a large sample of over 25 000 satellites from representative satellite constellations from different companies. With this sample, the number of satellites above the horizon at any given time would be between ~1500 and a few thousand, depending on the latitude.
Most of these will appear very close to the horizon, only a few of them passing directly overhead; for instance, about 250 to 300 would have an elevation of more than 30 degrees over the horizon (i.e. where the sky is clear from obstructions, and where most of the astronomical observations are performed). The vast majority of these will be too faint to be visible to the naked eye.
When the Sun is 18 degrees below the horizon (i.e. when the night becomes dark), the number of illuminated satellites above the horizon would be around 1000 (with around 160 at elevations higher than 30 degrees). The numbers decrease further towards the middle of the night, when more satellites are in the Earth's shadow (e.g., no reflected sunlight). At the moment it is difficult to predict how many of the illuminated satellites will be visible to the naked eye, because of uncertainties in their actual reflectivity (also since experiments are being carried out by SpaceX to reduce the reflectivity of a Starlink satellite by adopting different coatings). (2/13)
Planetary Simulator Helps in Exoplanet Characterization (Source: Space.com)
A "planetary simulator" is helping scientists study the habitability of exoplanets. ROCKE-3D is a model based on one developed for Earth's climate, but adapted for use examining conditions on wide range of exoplanets. Scientists used the model to examine Proxima b, a planet orbiting the nearby star Proxima Centauri and thought to be tidally locked so that one side of the planet always faces the star. That would seem to make the planet uninhabitable, but ROKE-3D showed that, in some cases, clouds could form on the side facing the star, making conditions there less harsh. (2/11)
New Technologies, Strategies Expanding Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Source: NRAO)
Emerging technologies and new strategies are opening a revitalized era in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). New discovery capabilities, along with the rapidly-expanding number of known planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, are spurring innovative approaches by both government and private organizations, according to a panel of experts speaking at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Seattle, Washington.
New approaches will not only expand upon but also go beyond the traditional SETI technique of searching for intelligently-generated radio signals, first pioneered by Frank Drake’s Project Ozma in 1960. Scientists now are designing state-of-the-art techniques to detect a variety of signatures that can indicate the possibility of extraterrestrial technologies. Such “technosignatures” can range from the chemical composition of a planet’s atmosphere, to laser emissions, to structures orbiting other stars, among others. (2/15)
Breakthrough Listen’s Search for Intelligent Life Releases Unprecedented Data Survey (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The Breakthrough Listen Initiative today released data from the most comprehensive survey yet of radio emissions from the plane of the Milky Way Galaxy, the region around its central, 4-million-solar-mass black hole, and observations of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov.
Breakthrough Listen Principal Investigator Andrew Siemion announced the release of the nearly two petabytes of data at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It marks the second “data dump” from the four-year-old, $100M search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) initiative. A first download of a petabyte of radio and optical telescope data was released in June 2019, marking the largest release of SETI data in the history of the field.
The raw data – yet to be fully analyzed by astronomers – comes from a survey of the radio spectrum between 1 and 12 gigahertz (GHz). About half was captured via the Parkes Radio Telescope in New South Wales, Australia, which, because of its location in the Southern Hemisphere, is perfectly situated and outfitted to scan the entire galactic disk and galactic center. (2/16)
Mysterious Radio Signal From Space is Repeating Every 16 Days (Source: CNN)
Mysterious radio signals from space have been known to repeat, but for the first time, researchers have noticed a pattern in a series of bursts coming from a single source half a billion light-years from Earth. Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are millisecond-long bursts of radio waves in space. Individual radio bursts emit once and don't repeat. But repeating fast radio bursts are known to send out short, energetic radio waves multiple times. And usually when they repeat, it's sporadic or in a cluster, according to previous observations.
Between September 16, 2018 and October 30, 2019, researchers with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment/Fast Radio Burst Project collaboration detected a pattern in bursts occurring every 16.35 days. Over the course of four days, the signal would release a burst or two each hour. Then, it would go silent for another 12 days. (2/12)
New Image Shows Betelgeuse Isn’t Dimming Evenly (Source: Ars Technica)
From Earth's perspective, one of the brightest stars in the sky is the red supergiant Betelgeuse. Found in the constellation of Orion, it's large enough and close enough that when it's destroyed in an inevitable supernova, it will put on a spectacular light show for anyone who happens to be on Earth to see it. So when the star started dimming late last year, speculation rose that the show was about to start.
Because Betelgeuse is so large and so close, it's actually possible to resolve some details of its surface rather than simply seeing it as a point source of light. Some astronomers have used the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory to do just that, and they've found something extremely weird: Betelgeuse's dimming isn't even. Betelgeuse was more or less spherical about a year ago. By December, it was most decidedly not. While the upper hemisphere of the star looked much as it had a year earlier, the lower portion looked diffuse and distorted, with at least two regions of distinct brightnesses. (2/14)
Will Betelgeuse Explode? After ‘Unprecedented’ Dimming The Giant Star Is Now Changing Shape (Source: Forbes)
Spectacular new images taken using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Cerro Paranal in Chile, published today, reveal that red supergiant star Betelgeuse isn’t just dimming, but could also be changing shape. The star in the constellation of Orion has been visibly dimming since late 2019, and now stands at just 36% of its normal brightness. Astronomers and experienced stargazers can easily see the difference, and it’s got them talking ... about the chance of the star becoming a supernova.
Is the dimming associated with a change in Betelgeuse that could lead to the star “going supernova?” In that scenario, Betelgeuse’s explosion could mean it shines as bright as a full moon for a few months. Its apparent shape has changed. So what’s going on? “The two scenarios we are working on are a cooling of the surface due to exceptional stellar activity or dust ejection towards us,” says Montargès. “Of course, our knowledge of red supergiants remains incomplete, and this is still a work in progress, so a surprise can still happen.” (2/14)
NASA's Experimental X-59 Supersonic Jet to Be Complete By End of 2020 (Source: Space Daily)
Since 2016, Lockheed Martin has been working in collaboration with NASA on a new supersonic X-59 QueSST for the space administration's Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program, scheduled for test flights in 2022. NASA's new experimental supersonic X-plane will be flying across the US by the end of 2020, a representative of Lockheed Martin, who was commissioned to build the plane, said on Friday.
Officially named X-59 QueSST or just X-59, it was greenlit for final assembly in 2019. NASA aims to develop it into an ultra-quiet craft that can travel faster than the speed of sound across land. Further testing will follow the plane's completion this year to ensure that this is the case and that the plane not only functions and reaches the desired speeds, but also remains silent enough to not disturb the public. Construction is only Phase 1 of the entire project. Phase 2 will see further testing, certifications and acoustic (or sound) validation. (2/10)
Man Leads Kennedy Space Center Police on Chase Before Crashing Near Launch Pad (Source: Florida Today)
A man led Kennedy Space Center police on a high-speed chase through the federal facility late last month, eventually crashing into a structure near a launch pad before being apprehended. KSC confirmed Wednesday that on the last day of January, a man without appropriate credentials failed to obey police directions to make a U-turn and leave the property. Once in the restricted area, police immediately began chasing the vehicle southbound on Kennedy Parkway at speeds up to 80 mph.
The vehicle crashed through two gates before turning on a road that approached pad 39B, which is the northernmost launch complex. The man finally crashed into a trailer near the pad's entrance and was apprehended. Major pads like 39B and 39A have additional fences and gates. (2/12)
Massive Asteroid Sill Swing by Earth After Valentine's Day (Source: CNN)
Not long after Valentine's Day ends, a massive asteroid estimated to be between 1,443 feet and 3,248 feet long will pass by Earth around 6:05 a.m. ET on Saturday. Based on the size range, it could be anywhere between the size of a suspension bridge to taller than a skyscraper. But the experts at NASA's Center for Near Earth Object Studies say we're in no danger. The asteroid will pass within 3,590,000 miles of Earth. That's 15 times the distance from Earth to the moon, according to NASA. (2/14)
Puppy Love! Astronaut's Reunion with Her Dog After a Nearly Yearlong Flight Made Us Cry (Source: Space.com)
After spending a record-breaking 328 days in space, NASA astronaut Christina Koch returned to Earth and reunited with the furriest member of her family: her pup, LBD (which stands for Little Brown Dog). Yesterday (Feb. 13), Koch shared a video of the heartwarming reunion on Twitter and Instagram. "Not sure who was more excited. Glad she remembers me after a year!" Koch wrote on Twitter alongside the video. And, in watching the video itself, they both look thrilled to be together again. Click here. (2/13)
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