April 23, 2018
Air Force: 'Future is Very Bright' for Cape Canaveral Launches, 45th Space Wing (Source: Florida Today)
Air Force officials are confident that the Space Coast will be home to a bright future thanks to its role as one of the most active spaceports in world. “Assured access to space is absolutely essential to our national security.” Raymond reiterated what the local unit, the 45th Space Wing, has coming down the pike: The “Drive to 48,” or a target of supporting up to 48 launches a year, which translates to one a week on average. That could come as soon as 2020 as Blue Origin enters the manifest along with SpaceX, ULA, Orbital ATK, NASA and possibly others.
“That will represent almost 50 percent of the world’s launches from that one place,” Raymond said, noting that the infusion of autonomous operations into launches will help make that possible. SpaceX’s Falcon 9, for example, supports the Autonomous Flight Termination System, which can automatically destroy a rocket if deemed dangerous or straying from its path. In return, it has reduced cost and staffing requirements for the Air Force. (4/19)
Strongest Atlas V Gives Air Force Rare Direct Ride to High Orbit (Source: Florida Today)
Nicknamed the “bruiser,” United Launch Alliance’s most powerful Atlas V on Saturday evening carried out a long, complex mission showcasing both force and finesse. The nearly seven-hour mission, featuring three burns by the upper stage engine, aimed to drop an Air Force communications satellite and experimental payloads directly into orbits 22,300 miles above the equator.
It’s a rare trick for a rocket to perform; satellites bound for similar orbits typically must use their own engines to reach their final destination after deploying from a rocket, a process that could take days or months. An adapter ring supporting the satellite also was deployed as an experimental spacecraft called Eagle, carrying a group of technology demonstration missions run by the Air Force Research Laboratory. (4/14)
ULA Slows Vulcan Debut for Upper-Stage Engine (Source: Denver Business Journal)
United Launch Alliance has pushed the first flight of its new Vulcan rocket back so the company can choose a new engine to power the launch vehicle’s Centaur upper stage and make it better able to handle future U.S Air Force missions. This could mean ULA switching from its supplier, California-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has made the Centaur upper-stage engines for years, the company said.
ULA has narrowed its choices for what engine it will use but doesn’t have a final decision to announce. With the changes to its upper stage, ULA now expects Vulcan to fly in mid-2020 — a few months later than the late 2019 timeline ULA previously set as its public goal. Finding a new engine to power the Centaur upper stage of Vulcan was prompted by military’s projections for what kinds of space launches it would buy in the early 2020s, said CEO Tory Bruno.
The company thought it could use its existing Centaur 3 stage in the early years of Vulcan, but a couple of “difficult, heavy missions” that Air Force wants to be able to launch before 2022 made ULA start planning a bigger Centaur, he said. “When we saw the RFP, we decided to go directly to the Centaur 5,” Bruno said. “That moved the flight date from late 2019 to flying Vulcan for the first time in mid-2020, and with the second flight being later that year.” (4/20)
Orbital ATK Unveils OmegA Rocket (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Orbital ATK provided a detailed update on the important progress being made on its Next Generation Launch System. The company reaffirmed its commitment to the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program for national security space missions with the announcement of the name of the rocket, OmegA, and the selection of its upper stage propulsion system. As one of the company’s largest strategic investments, OmegA will provide intermediate- to heavy-class launch services for Department of Defense, civil government and commercial customers beginning in three years. (4/16)
Orbital ATK Selects Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10C for Newly Christened OmegA Rocket (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK revealed new details about the rocket it has been developing over the last three years in an effort to take Air Force launch contracts away from ULA and SpaceX. With the Air Force expected to select up to three companies this summer to build and test rockets capable of launching intermediate to heavy-class national security payloads, Orbital ATK executives announced they have picked Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10C engine to power the upper stage of a next-generation launch vehicle they are now calling OmegA.
OmegA’s solid-fuel lower stages, as previously disclosed, are based on space shuttle solid rocket motor segments developed by Orbital ATK, and solid strap-on boosters used on ULA’s rockets. Executives called OmegA one of the company’s largest strategic investments. It was developed under a three-year, $250 million cost-sharing partnership with the Air Force. (4/16)
US-Russia Rocket Engine Cooperation ‘Shining Example’ of Joint Success - RD Amross (Source: Sputnik)
Cooperation between Russia and the United States on rocket engines demonstrates a "shining example" of how the two states can successfully accomplish joint tasks, RD Amross CEO Michael Baker said. The US-Russian joint venture RD Amross hopes that the cooperation between the two countries on rocket engines will continue for many years ahead, Baker said.
"Our joint cooperative programs between Russia and the US over the last 20 years have been a shining example of how our two countries can work to together to accomplish great things," Baker said. Baker pointed out that at the working level the United States and Russia work together very well to solve any issues that arise, both technical and programmatic. (4/16)
Russian Lawmakers Propose Aerospace Sanctions Against U.S. (Source: CNNMoney)
Russian lawmarkers have drafted a bill to impose retaliatory sanctions on the U.S. whose effects could include the space industry. The bill would block the export of titanium used by U.S. aerospace companies, notably Boeing, and could also halt the export of RD-180 engines. If passed, though, analysts expect that Russian President Vladimir Putin would implement those sanctions more selectively. (4/17)
BE-4 Engine Qualification Testing Moving Toward Completion (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin says its BE-4 engine should complete qualification tests by the end of this year. In an interview, company CEO Bob Smith said that testing of the large engine is going well as the company steps through a methodical test program. Blue Origin plans to use the BE-4 on the first stage of its New Glenn orbital rocket and is offering it to ULA for its Vulcan rocket. Smith also said test flights of Blue Origin's New Shepard suborbital vehicle should resume in a few weeks, and the company could perform the first flight with people on board by the end of the year. (4/20)
Blue Origin’s Reusable BE-4 Engine Will Be Able to Launch ‘100 Full Missions,’ CEO Says (Source: CNBC)
Blue Origin is headed quickly toward commercial operations as the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos nears the end of testing for several of its major projects. The company's BE-4 engine, the thunderous staple of Blue Origin's propulsion business, has demonstrated that it "works, and works well," CEO Bob Smith said. Blue Origin recently test fired a BE-4 engine for nearly two minutes at nearly three-quarters of full power. That test showed the durability of the engine, according to Smith, and how the design for reusability is paying off.
"That's why we've spent so much time in developing this, over seven years developing this engine, to make it reusable," Smith said. "This engine will actually perform 100 starts — 100 full missions that we'd actually be able to go do," Smith said. BE-4 is built for Blue Origin's coming New Glenn rocket. ULA is also considering the BE-4 to power the first stage of its Vulcan rocket. (4/17)
Blue Origin Will Launch People into Space by the End of 2018 (Source: Seattle Business)
Ariane Cornell is head of astronaut strategy and sales and New Glenn commercial sales director for the Americas at Blue Origin. Cornell has long aspired to be an astronaut and has the extraordinary job of selling tickets for the upcoming suborbital space tours on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, as well as finding satellite customers for the company’s far larger New Glenn rocket — the first steps in Bezos’ vision of getting millions of people living and working in space.
She says New Shepard will be flying Blue Origin employees by the end of this year, assuming our test program continues to go well. Within the next year or two, we’ll have paying customers, which is really exciting. I would go in a heartbeat, but we haven’t released anything yet about who is going or what the cost will be. (4/16)
|SpaceX Gearing Up for Block-5 Debut (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Now that SpaceX has successfully launched NASA’s TESS satellite into orbit, there’s a pause of at least two weeks in scheduled Florida launches until SpaceX may attempt its first launch of the Falcon 9 Block 5. The Block 5 is an upgrade intended to allow each rocket to be reused up to 10 times with little refurbishment and up to 100 times with more refurbishment, according to an article on Teslarati.com, which said the current Falcon 9 can only be reused two or three times. SpaceX has moved the Block 5 to Florida after testing in Texas.
SpaceX is currently aiming for a departure from Kennedy Space Center “no earlier than” May 4, although the mission has been delayed a few times already. The payload is called Bangabandhu 1, and it was built by a French firm, Thales Alenia Space. Thales has a U.S. arm also, with significant offices in Orlando and Melbourne. (4/20)
Second SpaceX Block 5 Rocket Spied in Texas, Solidifying May 4 Debut (Source: Teslarati)
Following reports from SpaceX’s Hans Koenigsmann that the company’s newest Falcon 9 Block 5 soared through its first hot-fire testing faster than any of the rocket’s previous upgrades, the second Block 5 booster has been spotted vertical, prepping for its own round of static-fire testing in McGregor, Texas.
After a thorough period of tests for the first Block 5 booster B1046, the presence of what can only be B1047 backs up Hans’ comments beyond a shadow of doubt. B1046 is now understood to be awaiting its inaugural on-pad static fire and launch at SpaceX’s Pad 39A, currently scheduled for NET May 4. While not entirely clear at this point, B1047 will most likely return to California after its test campaign in Texas, supplying SpaceX’s Vandenberg AFB launch site with a highly reusable booster. (4/20)
SpaceX Launches NASA Telescope From Florida, Lands Rocket Offshore (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
On a mission to search for planets outside of the Solar System, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was launched into space atop a Falcon 9 rocket on the first leg of the spacecraft’s multi-month journey to its final orbit high above Earth. TESS is a 772-pound satellite that has a primary goal of looking for exoplanets.
Liftoff of the Falcon 9 with TESS took place from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport’s Space Launch Complex 40. This was two days later than planned as the original launch date was called off to give SpaceX time to conduct additional analysis on its guidance, navigation and control systems.
The rocket's first stage successfully landed on the drone ship about 300 miles off the coast. This was the 13th successful drone ship landing and the 24th successful booster recovery overall, including the two Falcon Heavy side-cores in February 2018. In fact, since SpaceX’s first successful landing in December 2015, the company has failed in landing a first stage core only four times, including the failed landing of the Falcon Heavy core in February 2018. (4/18)
SpaceX to Build Mars Rocket at Port of Los Angeles (Source: WESH)
SpaceX plans to open up shop at the Port of Los Angeles where it will work on research, design and development of its Mars rocket. Los Angeles officials said Monday that a tentative lease agreement would allow SpaceX to take over a dormant building at the port in a move that could bring as any as 700 jobs to the area.
The deal is expected to be approved by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners on Thursday. SpaceX won't have to pay rent for the facility for more than two decades. It will get more than $40 million in rent credits for renovating and upgrading the facility, which has been vacant since 2005. The company will not receive any subsidies from the city. Musk said in February that SpaceX will soon go all-in on the bold idea and begin dedicating its engineering talent to developing the BFR. (4/16)
SpaceX Signs Lease for California BFR Factory (Source: Los Angeles Times)
SpaceX has won approval to build a factory for its BFR launch system at the Port of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved a permit Thursday for SpaceX to build a factory on a 19-acre site at the port formerly used by a shipbuilding company. The lease agreement has a base period of 10 years and two 10-year options, with annual rent payments starting at nearly $1.4 million. Building the factory at the port, the company said, will allow it to ship the giant vehicles by sea to launch sites. (4/20)
Why More Taxpayer Funding to Elon Musk’s Big F-ing Rocket Would Be a Big F-ing Mistake (Source: Town Hall)
Elon Musk announced that he will begin devoting most of SpaceX’s efforts on developing the “BFR” – short for Big F-ing Rocket – which will allegedly be so huge and powerful that it will make the company’s previous rocket lines outdated in just a few short years. Although already receiving over $70 million in government funding for the BFR, SpaceX announced it wants more appropriations to help it power through to the finish line.
But given the company’s rocky history, as well as the steady influx of competition in the aerospace realm, perhaps the Pentagon should not extend Musk’s funding marker until the company demonstrates the ability to fix the security issues in its other rocket lines. The steady stream of outside competition is likely adding to Musk’s uncertainty of the Falcon Heavy’s future and desire to build something new. For example, ULA's reusable Vulcan is expected to debut by mid-2020 at a “sub-$100 million” launch price.
At the same time, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin is targeting a 2020 debut for its privately-funded New Glenn rocket. Blue Origin will unquestionably outrank Musk’s company once the New Glenn takes the skies “unless SpaceX has something else up its sleeve.” Increased competition in the aerospace industry is also expected to soon come from companies like ArianeGroup, Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems, and Orbital ATK, so NASA is under no circumstances beholden to SpaceX. (4/21)
SpaceX May Use Balloon to Recover Upper Stages (Source: Engadget)
SpaceX ultimately wants to recover every stage of a rocket, not just the first, and it may resort to some unusual tactics to make that happen. Elon Musk has claimed that his company will try to take rocket upper stages out of orbital velocity using a "giant party balloon" -- yes, he knows it sounds "crazy." He hasn't shed more light on the subject as we write this, but we've reached out to SpaceX to see if it can elaborate.
If such a system works out, it could provide more than a few benefits to SpaceX. As of 2018, SpaceX estimates a cost of $62 million to launch a Falcon 9 rocket with a first stage landing factored in. If it can reliably recover the upper stage with a relatively low-cost method like a balloon, it can both reduce its own expenses and make launches more attractive to customers. Throw in the eco-friendliness (there's no dead stage plummeting to Earth) and it could easily be worth attempting to use a balloon, however ludicrous the idea might sound at first blush. (4/16)
When Will Elon Musk’s SpaceX Take Regular People Into Space? Probably 2019 (Source: Recode)
By successfully launching the agency’s TESS satellite this week, SpaceX is now helping its longtime partner NASA search for planets beyond our solar system. As far as we know, the long game for Elon Musk’s space company is still helping Earthlings see what’s out there, too.
However, in that regard, SpaceX might need to be patient, says The Verge’s science reporter Loren Grush — at least until next year. On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Grush told Recode’s Kara Swisher that the historically nimble company will have to ease on the brakes if it wants to launch more than just cargo and satellites; while it originally planned to take people up in 2017, it probably won’t be flying people to space in any capacity until 2019 at the earliest, she said.
“NASA is very meticulous when it comes to how they iterate,” Grush said. “If you want to do a change [to a rocket], you have to run it by a person, who runs it by a person, who runs it by a person. With SpaceX, they were making new changes every day... Now they’re really being put to the test because they’re developing this new technology to take astronauts [into space],” she added. “Obviously, safety is a concern whenever you launch a rocket, but when you put people on it, that’s when the stakes are super high.” (4/20)
How Reusable Rockets Could Power a Space Taxi Future (Source: Washington Post)
NASA is fostering a commercial space industry by subcontracting the work of sending humans to low-Earth orbit, technology it pioneered a half-century ago. The strategic shift started when the Obama administration in 2010 scuttled plans to build a shuttle replacement and a Bush-era program to revisit the moon. Click here. (4/13)
Lockheed Martin Working to Lower Orion Costs (Source: Space News)
As Lockheed Martin prepares to complete assembly of the Orion spacecraft flying on the first Space Launch System mission, the company says it’s making progress in lowering the costs of the future spacecraft, including through reuse. Mike Hawes at Lockheed Martin Space Systems said the Orion crew capsule for the Exploration Mission (EM) 1 flight should be ready in June to be combined with the European-built service module, expected to arrive in the U.S. a little later in the summer.
The service module has been one of the pacing items in the schedule for the overall mission, along with the SLS core stage. “This is their first-time build, so they have had supplier challenges. They have had some assembly challenges,” he said of ESA and the service module prime contractor, Airbus.
Elements of the Orion spacecraft that will fly on EM-2, scheduled for launch in the early 2002s, are also in production, he said, including the pressure vessel and heat shield. The company is using experience from the EM-1 Orion, as well as the earlier Exploration Flight Test (EFT) 1 Orion mission in 2014, to find ways to lower costs for EM-2 and beyond. (4/20)
Why Sierra Nevada’s Owners are Betting Big on Dream Chaser (Source: Space News)
Sierra Nevada Corp. plays a unique role in the aerospace industry. Like traditional contractors, it’s a major systems integrator with billions of dollars in annual revenue stemming from civil, commercial and military work. But it’s also a private company, like SpaceX and Blue Origin, making enormous investments in future space capabilities.
SNC’s largest investment to date is in Dream Chaser, the spaceplane NASA selected in the initial rounds of its campaign to encourage companies to build private space taxis to transport astronauts to and from the ISS. After awarding SNC more than $312 million for Dream Chaser development, NASA passed over SNC to award commercial crew contracts in 2014 to competitors Boeing and SpaceX. That loss was incredibly painful, Eren and Fatih Ozmen said, but they quickly decided to continue investing in Dream Chaser. Click here. (4/16)
Dream Chaser Cargo Spaceplane Assembly Poised To Begin (Source: Aviation Week)
Sierra Nevada expects to receive aeroshell panels next month for the first orbital Dream Chaser, marking a key milestone in the run-up to the start of spaceplane assembly at the company’s Louisville, Colorado, facility. The panels, along with the vehicle’s composite primary structure, are produced by Lockheed Martin and form the bulk of the vehicle’s aerodynamic surfaces.
The structural elements are coming together as Sierra Nevada continues through critical design review (CDR), the final phases of which are expected to be completed in July. The Dream Chaser is under development to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s 2016 Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract. It is on schedule for first launch in the fourth quarter of 2020 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5. (4/19)
Stratolaunch Planning First Aircraft Flight This Summer (Source: Space News)
Stratolaunch expects to conduct the first flight of its giant aircraft this summer as it develops a broad spectrum of launch services that will make use of it, the company said. Stratolaunch has performed two taxi tests of the aircraft at Mojave so far. Three more taxi tests are planned, at progressively higher speeds. During the most recent test, the plane reached speeds of up to 74 kilometers per hour. The next test will reach speeds of nearly 130 kilometers per hour, with later tests going up to 220 kilometers per hour.
If those tests are successful, Stratolaunch expects to be ready for a first flight of the aircraft some time this summer. Officials said they are not being more precise about the date of that flight because of the uncertainties of flight testing compounded by the one-of-a-kind nature of this airplane.
Stratolaunch, after years of changes in the type of vehicle it would fly, is currently planning to initially use the Pegasus XL rocket from Orbital ATK. The company is still studying the ability to fly three rockets on a single flight, something it says is of particular interest to the national security community. However, the company is making clear it has other uses for that aircraft than launching the Pegasus. (4/16)
Spaceplane Which Will Take Tourists Into Orbit at Five Times Speed of Sound Could Fly by 2025 (Source: Yahoo)
A spaceplane which could blast tourists directly from a runway into orbit at five times the speed of sound could be in the air by 2025 after new investment. The Skylon uses a revolutionary ‘air breathing’ engine which can blast passengers – or cargo – into space in just 15 minutes.
Instead of huge multi-stage rockets, a relatively light plane will take off from a conventional runway and reach space in a single journey without a pilot. The engine could also make possible passenger flights from London to Australia in just over four hours – and drive airliners with twice the speed of Concorde. (4/13)
Technical Issue Delays Next Rocket Lab Electron Launch (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab is postponing its next launch by a few weeks because of a technical problem, but the company says it is optimistic about its long-term prospects as demand for its small launch vehicle grows. The company, headquartered in the United States but with launch operations in New Zealand, announced April 17 that it was postponing a launch of its Electron rocket scheduled for April 19 because of a problem detected in a wet dress rehearsal a few days earlier. (4/17)
Fueling Issue Brings Firefighters to Rocket Lab Launch Pad (Source: New Zealand Herald)
A "minor fueling issue" during a dress rehearsal for the next Rocket Lab Electron launch prompted a response from local firefighters. The company acknowledged the incident Sunday, and said fire and emergency personnel came to the pad "as a precautionary measure," but did not disclose additional details about the incident. The Electron is scheduled to launch late this week on its first commercial mission, carrying satellites for GeoOptics and Spire. (4/16)
What It's Really Like to Work at Rocket Lab (Source: New Zealand Herald
For those who work at the high-tech New Zealand founded powerhouse, one of the key traits is the patience to cope with the better safe than sorry ethos that runs through the company. Rocket Lab has 250 people and it's looking for more. The vacancies range from incredibly specialized jobs to the roles seen at most workplaces. "The space industry is an industry that keeps you extremely humble," says Beck.
"The space gods will cut you down as soon as look at you." A scheduled launch has been delayed for several weeks, this time because of a problem with the motor controller in the Electron rocket. Launch delays, or "scrubs", are commonplace in the space industry. Weather, technical glitches and even a stray boat near the Mahia launch site have delayed launches in the past year.
With a total cost of close to $7 million per launch, and 11 tonnes of propellent on board, Rocket Lab needs to get it right, Beck says. Naomi Altman joined Rocket Lab as employee number nine in October 2014. She now leads a team of more than 20 people, mainly engineers, responsible for the electronics on the launch vehicle. Her team worked to develop and build the Electron's electronic systems, associated equipment such as the launchpad, and helped launch the 17m rocket. Click here. (4/21)
Rocket Lab Founder Peter Beck Blasts Lack of NZ Venture Capital for Other Firms (Source: New Zealand Herald)
Rocket Lab founder and chief executive Peter Beck says a shortage of venture capital in New Zealand and pressure to stay in this country is putting the brakes on innovation for other companies. His 12-year-old company has raised the bulk of about $200 million in the United States to fund development of its Electron rocket program. In New Zealand it did get funding from Sir Stephen Tindall's investment firm K1W1 and Callaghan Innovation.
Beck said the amount from taxpayer-funded Callaghan would be less than $10m. While Rocket Lab had its corporate headquarters in the United States where it was registered, and was doing more manufacturing there, two-thirds of its staff of 250 were based in this country. The company is advertising more than 50 roles, ranging from highly-specialized space scientists and engineers to human relations, a spray painter and range of support personnel in Mahia.
"For a very small [taxpayer] investment we've created a great industry and a whole lot of jobs. And as for running offshore you can't do this kind of thing as a New Zealand company," he said. "Instead of lamenting the fact we lost another one we should be celebrating the fact it went global. We have to understand that you can reach a certain size in New Zealand then you have to become a global company." (4/21)
Rocket Lab and York Space Systems Team to Develop Rapid Response Launch Capability (Source: Rocket Lab)
US orbital launch provider Rocket Lab and spacecraft platform developer York Space Systems have entered into an MOU to develop a universal Interface Control Document (ICD) and supporting Concepts of Operations (CONOPS) that will streamline the manifesting process for small satellite launch customers.
By removing the time spent in not only selecting a bus and follow-on launch provider, but also developing the standard products that are required to get a spacecraft program off the pad, Rocket Lab and York are setting up a framework to shorten the integration process required for York spacecraft on the Electron Launch Vehicle. By creating standard launch integration products that have already established the compatibility of a York bus on an Electron launcher, many months of mission integration can be eliminated. (4/17)
New DARPA Challenge Seeks Flexible and Responsive Launch Solutions (Source: Space Daily)
DARPA announced the DARPA Launch Challenge, designed to promote rapid access to space within days, not years. Our nation's space architecture is currently built around a limited number of exquisite systems with development times of up to 10 years. With the launch challenge, DARPA plans to accelerate capabilities and further incentivize industry to deliver launch solutions that are both flexible and responsive.
"Current launch systems and payload development were created in an era when each space launch was a national event," said Todd Master, the DARPA Launch Challenge program manager for DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. "We want to demonstrate the ability to launch payloads to orbit on extremely short notice, with no prior knowledge of the payload, destination orbit, or launch site." (4/19)
Cabana: LC-39C Pad for Small Rockets 'Might Be Better Placed Elsewhere' (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
In response to a Spaceflight Insider question about the status of Launch Complex 39C, KSC Director Robert Cabana stated that the small-launcher site within the LC-39B perimeter had been built for a specific test project and that it might be better placed elsewhere in the future. (4/16)
Florida's Aerospace Footprint (Source: GCRL)
When it comes to aerospace and aviation, Florida is among the most active in the nation with clusters spread throughout the state, including the military intensive Panhandle. Besides MROs, Florida has long been a gateway to space, the air traffic hub for the western hemisphere, a center for flight training and home to aircraft and component manufacturing. Click here. (4/18)
Alaska Aerospace Corporation Denies Plans to Build More Launchpads at Kodiak Spaceport (Source: KTOO)
Some Kodiak residents are not happy with a proposed launch pad for the space technology company Vector Space at the Pacific Spaceport Complex. Locals worry any more development at the spaceport will deface the vistas and limit access to public land. AAC CEO Craig Campbell said there are currently no plans for building a launchpad for Vector and that AAC is committed to keeping the public land the spaceport sits on — open.
At the moment there is no long-term agreement between the two companies. Campbell said Alaska Aerospace Corporation is working on a deal with Vector on a potential rocket launch later this year, but nothing is set in stone. “We are looking to bringing them up here later this year, and hopefully conduct, at least their initial launches here and hopefully a long-term relationship where they’ll do commercial launches in the future from Kodiak.”
A that Vector posted was taken in an area of the spaceport where there are already three small pads that could be used by Vector to launch their small liquid-fueled rockets. Campbell said any modifications to them would be simple and if another launchpad was constructed it would be small and minimal. “It’d just be a square of dirt and gravel fenced off with, probably, lighting and, probably, a small concrete pad where the actual engine would ignite when it launches.” (4/17)
Virgin Galactic Releases Update on New Mexico Spaceflight Operations (Source: KRWG)
Virgin Galactic’s Executive Vice-President Jonathan Firth spoke to members of the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, or MVEDA. “People know that we’re testing our spaceflight systems in California and what they’re curious about and want information on often is what impact is Spaceport America is already having in the economy and what sort of value is being returned to the economy,” Firth said.
Virgin Galactic stated its in-state spending so far totals nearly $20 million, including more than $9 million in rent and associated fees at the spaceport since January 2013. The company has 33 full-time employees to-date at its Las Cruces office and plans to move at least 85 more employees from Mojave, California to New Mexico before starting operations.
Additionally, Firth said the company plans to make more local hires in the hospitality sector. Virgin Galactic stated it has agreements with New Mexico firms valued between $2.5 and $3 million. But Firth didn’t have an exact number of how many people it will hire for guest-related activities. (4/17)
Is Space Tourism Really Just Around the Corner? (Source: Cosmos)
The announcement of the first “space hotel” in low Earth orbit has fired up the imaginations of would be space tourists. The Aurora Station, planned for launch by space startup Orion Span, is planned for launch in 2021 for a 2022 open, offering 12 days at 320 km above Earth for the low, low price of $US9.5 million. Despite this exciting announcement, how close are we really to the human dream of room service in zero G?
A lifetime of watching Skywalkers and Kirks and so forth zip about in space has given us the impression that space travel is about as risky as getting on a bus. However, there are risks inherent to space with which the industry is only now starting to grapple – especially their lawyers and insurers.
Many of the technical problems have been solved, such as the existence of reusable launch vehicles, but perhaps the biggest problem with space travel – as opposed to bus travel – is that there’s nobody to ask for help if things go wrong. This is a major risk even for trained astronauts who have gamed out contingencies, and thus an even greater one for civilians. This is why guests will precede their 12 day stay on Aurora Station with a three month training program. Click here. (4/16)
How to Become a Space Tourist: 8 Companies (Almost) Ready to Launch (Source: Popular Science)
Numerous private companies intend to launch their own space tourism programs. You’ve likely heard of the biggest players in the private spaceflight game: Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic just resumed testing of its SpaceShipTwo vehicle earlier this month after a fatal test in 2014, and Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ private spaceflight venture, is aiming to send crewed missions to space as early as this year.
And, in addition to these heavy hitters, there are quite a few other companies offering tourists a chance to reach space, too. Some are farther along in development than others, and there are always reasons to be skeptical when talking about space tourism. We’ve seen plenty of similar ventures come and go over the years without making it to space. But we choose to remain optimistic. Here are the most recent commercial space programs that would love to take you out of this world—for a price. Click here. (4/20)
Bankrupt Spaceflight Company's Assets to Help Young Minds Soar (Source: Space.com)
Before it went bankrupt last year, XCOR Aerospace had ambitious plans to fly tourists to space with the company's fully reusable Lynx suborbital vehicle. But now, the company's assets will be used for a more down-to-Earth purpose: giving high school and college students hands-on experience with rockets and space technology.
A nonprofit organization called Build A Plane purchased XCOR's assets at auction for just under $1.1 million, according to court records. The amount was slightly above the $1 million bid by Space Florida, an agency that supports space in the Sunshine State and that was also one of XCOR's largest creditors. Build A Plane plans to use the assets for a new school the organization wants to build in Lancaster, California, said the nonprofit's founder, Lyn Freeman. (4/20)
Officials Owe Public Answers on Georgia Spaceport Study (Source: Savannah Morning News)
The FAA is proving frosty when it comes to the public’s concerns about a proposed spaceport on Georgia’s coast. Spaceport Camden is planned for a former industrial property near the Cumberland Island National Seashore. At issue is the potential danger to residents whose properties would be overflown by rockets blasting off from the spaceport. Inhabitants of Little Cumberland Island, located across the marsh from the site and in the projected launch path, are understandably apprehensive.
Those islanders and other members of the public were invited to meet with FAA officials last week. The agency is reviewing the project’s potential environmental impact as required prior to issuing a launch operator’s license. Yet FAA officials on Thursday closed what had been advertised as a public meeting. They excluded two journalists, claiming the session was to “have an open discussion with residents ... not a discussion on the record,” according to a spokeswoman.
The FAA didn’t limit attendance to residents, however. Several environmental advocates sat in, as did the Camden County government’s legal counsel. If the FAA were a state agency, this would be a clear violation of open meetings law. Georgia’s sunshine laws limit closure except in cases that involve personnel reviews, real estate transactions or strategic planning. The feds have more leeway. They can legally hold private sessions with specific stakeholders, as they did last Thursday – although allowing select non-residents to attend invalidates their stance. (4/17)
Texas Sound Test Could Herald Supersonic Flight (Source: Houston Chronicle)
NASA will use Galveston as a testing ground for the future of supersonic air travel, seeing if residents of the island community will accept a quieter, less startling “boom” from jets flying faster than the speed of sound. NASA’s announcement Tuesday at Scholes International Airport comes two weeks after announcing that Lockheed Martin would build its Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator X-plane, with technology that reduces the loudness of a sonic boom.
Here’s how it works: pilots will begin the maneuver at 49,000 feet, diving at a 53-degree angle and accelerating to supersonic speeds during the dive. Most of that sound will go down toward the water. But the plane will still be traveling at supersonic speeds when it starts to pull out of the dive at 42,000 feet, meaning some of the sound will travel toward Galveston. By the time it reaches the island, it will be at the sound level expected from NASA’s X-plane.
The Houston Spaceport is hoping NASA's local tests will spur development for the cluster of aerospace companies it's seeking to create. It’s talking with two companies intending to build supersonic planes, said Arturo Machuca, general manager of Ellington Airport and the Houston Spaceport. He said being near the Gulf of Mexico where companies could test their aircraft without bothering people is just one of many benefits Houston could offer these manufacturers. (4/17)
Commerce to Take Responsibility for Space Traffic Management Under New Policy (Source: Space News)
A new space traffic management policy announced by Vice President Mike Pence would give the Commerce Department, and not the FAA, responsibility for providing space situational awareness data to satellite operators. Pence said the draft policy, developed by the National Space Council, is intended to address the growing number of satellites and space debris, and the increased burden placed on the Defense Department to provide warnings to satellite operators of potential collisions.
“The National Space Council has developed the first comprehensive space traffic management policy, which we will soon be sending to the president’s desk for his approval,” Pence said. “This new policy directs the Department of Commerce to provide a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use, based on the space catalog compiled by the Department of Defense,” Pence said. (4/16)
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Lays Out Plan to Streamline Space Regulations (Source: GeekWire)
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross pledged to make outer space more business-friendly as part of his drive to turn his department into the “one-stop shop for space commerce.” He pointed to last month’s early cutoff of video from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch as an issue he’s addressing. “This is a perfect example of how commercial activity in space is outpacing government regulation,” he said. “No more.”
Ross said giving the space industry freer rein will become more important as commercial space ventures proliferate. Commercial space is on track to become a trillion-dollar industry “sooner than most people realize,” he said. One of the major shifts being implemented by the Trump administration is to put the Commerce Department in the lead position for space industry regulation, instead of the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
As part of that shift, Ross said a new director would soon be appointed for the Office of Space Commerce, “a position that had been left vacant for nearly 10 years.” “This individual will serve as an ambassador for U.S. space companies, and will advocate for our business opportunities around the world,” he said. The Commerce Department will also set up a “mission authorization framework” that will cover all commercial space activities and spectrum issues that are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. (4/18)
Why Isn't FCC on National Space Council? (Source: Space News)
One FCC commissioner believes her agency deserves a seat at the National Space Council table. Jessica Rosenworcel said at an FCC meeting Tuesday that she was surprised the agency, which regulates satellite communications, was not included among the agencies represented on the council. She noted that the FCC, as part of its licensing process, plays "an important role" in dealing with space debris and space traffic management. (4/18)
Space Traffic Control: Technological Means and Governance Implications (Source: Space Review)
The growing amount of both operational satellites and space debris has created growing concerns about the risks of collisions and the need for better tracking and coordination. Nayef Al-Rodhan argues that true space traffic management will require new international accords to ensure proper collection and sharing of information. Click here. (4/17)
Aerospace Corp. Releases Policy Papers Offering New Solutions for Space Traffic Management (Source: Aerospace)
The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy (CSPS) released two new policy papers that examine major implications for space traffic management due to the proliferation of small, hard-to-track satellites and plans for vast constellations of small- and medium-sized satellites.
The first paper, GPS Transponders for Space Traffic Management, proposes a radically new way of thinking about space traffic management, based on the use of onboard GPS transponders. These devices could more timely and accurately report a spacecraft’s position than the current decades-old systems that track satellites and other space objects with radar and optical telescopes as part of the DOD Space Surveillance Network. The system could provide additional advantages, as well—for example, by enhancing onboard navigation and facilitating proximity operations.
“GPS transponders could provide positive identification for a spacecraft and allow operators to maintain a lock on it, even when it is thrusting or dead,” said Dr. Andrew Abraham, author and senior member of Aerospace’s technical staff. “By providing more-accurate position information, GPS transponders could significantly enhance the ability to compute the probability of collision. There is a margin of error in predicting a satellite’s position at any moment; as a result, operators spend a considerable—and growing—amount of time responding to false alarms and planning unnecessary avoidance maneuvers.” (4/18)
House Committee Approves Rep. Posey’s Bipartisan Commercial Space Legislation (Source: Rep. Bill Posey)
The House Science Committee approved Rep. Posey’s bipartisan commercial space legislation to streamline the FAA's licensing and permitting process of hybrid launch vehicles to allow for licensed commercial space support flights. Some companies would like to utilize space support vehicles to train crews and spaceflight participants by exposing them to the physiological effects encountered in spaceflight or conduct research in reduced gravity environments.
Recent FAA and GAO reports recommended that the FAA examine the current regulatory framework for space support vehicles. Posey said that spaceports like those in Florida would like to attract these companies to operate out of their facilities and this bill creates a regulatory foundation for more companies to engage in human space flight activities and support commercial space operations. (4/17)
Aviation Bill, Without Air Traffic Spinoff, Lands in House (Source: Bloomberg)
Federal aviation programs would be authorized through 2023 at $3.35 billion each year in a new House FAA bill introduced April 13. The FAA reauthorization bill (H.R. 4) replaces H.R. 2997, which was introduced in 2017. The new bill would not spin off air traffic control from the FAA, but otherwise is nearly identical to H.R. 2997. The House could take up the bill the week of April 23.
The bill would extend the FAA’s drone integration pilot program at six test ranges for six years beyond the date of enactment. The program is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2019. The FAA would have to encourage testing of sense-and-avoid and “beyond line of sight” systems through the program. Editor's Note: I believe there are a couple interesting space provisions in the bill too... at least there were in the 2017 version. (4/16)
House Version of NASA Authorization Urges Commercial Partnerships (Source: Space News)
The House Science Committee will markup a NASA authorization bill Tuesday that puts a greater emphasis on commercial partnerships. The bill, introduced Friday by Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), directs NASA to, among other things, make use of commercially available space products and in-space infrastructure to support its exploration plans, and calls for a study on the use of commercial capabilities to carry out some aspects of current Landsat remote sensing missions. The bill doesn't endorse a particular approach for transitioning the International Space Station to commercial users, concluding the feasibility of doing so is dependent on many factors. The bill instead asks for quarterly reports from NASA on its progress. (4/16)
Rubio's Reversal Assured Bridenstine Confirmation for NASA (Source: USA Today)
"If you look at the time frame (of finding someone else), we timed it out to March 2019. NASA cannot go two and a half years (from Trump's inauguration) without a director," Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said. "An agency needs guidance. It needs to have someone there who has both the authority the backing of the administration to get things done." The senator also said Bridenstine has assured him "he's going to run it in a non-political way and that he's going to be fair to Florida and I'll take him at his word for that."
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, who as a congressman representing the Orlando area was a payload specialist on a 1986 flight of the Columbia space shuttle, lobbied his fellow Democrats to oppose Bridenstine, arguing he is too partisan for the job. “The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional … not a politician,” Nelson said on the Senate floor before the vote. "More importantly, the administrator must be a leader who has the ability to bring us together, to unite scientists and engineers and commercial space interests and policymakers and the public on a shared vision for future space exploration.” (4/18)
Senate Confirms Bridenstine as NASA’s Administrator After Months of Uncertainty (Source: GeekWire)
The Senate confirmed U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-OK, as NASA’s administrator today in a nail-biting vote along party lines. Bridenstine, 42, has represented his Tulsa-area district since 2013. During his time in Congress, he’s been a strong supporter of space commercialization. He’s the principal sponsor of the American Space Renaissance Act, which aims to beef up the military and commercial side of the space program.
His background includes service as a naval aviator and a stint as the director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium. For a time, he also led a flying team in the short-lived Rocket Racing League. The White House named Bridenstine as President Donald Trump’s pick for NASA’s top post last September, sparking objections from senators such as Florida’s Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.
“The NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional … not a politician,” Nelson, a Democrat, argued during the final hours of debate this week. Rubio, a Republican, initially voiced similar objections, saying last September that putting Bridenstine in what’s traditionally a nonpartisan post could be “devastating to the space program.” (4/19)
How Trump’s NASA Nominee Used a Nonprofit He Ran to Benefit Himself (Source: Daily Beast)
Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) is a former Navy pilot with virtually no management experience in any large organization. But the Oklahoma Republican has been tapped by President Donald Trump to take over NASA, a federal agency with a budget of $18.5 billion, 18,000 federal workers, and over 60,000 contract employees. For this lack of technical experience—along with a skepticism of climate change and opposition to LGBT rights — Bridenstine has faced sharp criticism on the Hill. But another issue may soon end up complicating his nomination.
An investigation and review of public records by the Project On Government Oversight shows that, prior to his time in Congress, Bridenstine led a small non-profit organization into hefty financial losses. Some of the losses involved the use of the non-profit’s resources to benefit a company that Bridenstine simultaneously co-owned and in which he’d invested substantial sums of his own money.
Bridenstine has vehemently denied mismanaging the non-profit: the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. His stake in the separate company, the Rocket Racing League, has been well known. But the fact that he was using the Museum’s resources to benefit that company has not previously been covered by the press and now raises red flags for tax law experts. "This is a classic example of the use of a charity's assets for private benefit," said Marc Owens. Click here. (4/18)
Gingrich: A Glimpse of America’s Future in Space in 2024 (Source: Fox News)
Between Earth and the moon, there should be multiple low-orbit systems assembling enormous structures and supporting commercial manufacturing, tourism and other industries in space. If we achieve this before any other country, the U.S. will have undisputed economic superiority for decades. At the same time, execution of this seemingly fantastic concept would leapfrog our national defense capabilities far into the 21st century.
Having a squadron of reusable rockets (effectively a Mach 25 Air Force) would allow U.S. forces to overfly and outfly the myriad of foreign air and space weapons proliferating today. This would also allow us to have “eyes, ears, and presence” anywhere in the world in under an hour, while also protecting the peace in the global commons of space. This vision could be made possible by three technological and entrepreneurial revolutions.
First, the advent of reusable rockets is going to lead to a crash in costs and a dramatic increase in frequency of launches. Ranges and regulatory procedures must be modernized as we move from a paradigm of 10 heavy launches per year to a paradigm of 70 to 100 heavy launches per year. If the Trump-Pence team pushes it, Falcon Heavy rockets could have more than 100 launches through 2024. (4/21)
Lightfoot: Accept Risk Wisely, with ‘Eyes Wide Open’ (Source: GeekWire)
NASA should rethink its approach to the risks of spaceflight as it prepares for a new wave of exploration, the space agency’s outgoing chief says. “Protecting against risk and being safe are not the same thing,” Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said. “Risk is just simply a calculation of likelihood and consequence.”
Lightfoot said he’s worried that excessive risk aversion could hobble NASA as it prepares to build an outpost in lunar orbit and blaze a trail to Mars. “We need to require what I call an ‘Eyes Wide Open’ strategy,” he said. Such a strategy calls for leaders to have a full understanding of the risks and make the right decisions about them, while keeping the bigger picture in mind. (4/18)
The Bizarre Story Of The "Mutiny" On Board A Space Station (Source: IFL Science)
It’s a tale worthy of Hollywood. In December 1973, three astronauts aboard the US space station Skylab stopped working for an entire day, rebelling against their NASA overlords after complaining of being overworked. They said NASA had been working them too hard, so they took some time off without permission, even going so far as to switch their radio off so they couldn’t be contacted.
They spent the day looking out the window at Earth, taking a shower, and generally having a good time. As a result of the “mutiny”, the three astronauts on the Skylab 4 mission – commander Gerald "Jerry" Carr, science pilot Edward Gibson, and pilot William "Bill" Pogue – never flew in space again, being reprimanded by NASA for disobeying orders. The incident also forced NASA to rethink how it handles human psychology in space. Click here. (4/21)
NASA’s Lunar Space Station Is Almost Here (Source: Bloomberg)
NASA’s goal of returning to the moon should see a major push in early 2019, when the agency awards its first contract for the lunar “Gateway” program. The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway is NASA’s planned “staging” area intended for studies of the moon and the deep-space environment. Eventually, it will function as a way station for astronauts traveling to and from Mars.
NASA’s first spending for the platform will be for power and propulsion elements early next year, followed by habitation components, Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier said Thursday at the Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They will probably be launched moonward, in that order, starting in 2022. The platform should be orbiting the moon in 2025, said Gerstenmaier. (4/20)
Moon Colonization: Why Do We Want It and What Technologies Do We Have? (Source: Space Daily)
Scientists are convinced that humankind is capable of turning the Moon into a space outpost: people have cosmodromes, heavy carrier rockets, space modules and lunar rovers. Sputnik reveals what is behind the human desire to conquer space and what challenges colonizers may face on the way.
The idea of the Moon's colonization was quite popular during the Cold War era. But in the mid-1970s such projects by the USSR and the US were suspended as travel to the satellite proved very expensive and didn't pursue any concrete goal. But half a century later, the dreams of settling on the Moon have taken over mankind once again. Click here. (4/20)
Ready, Set…Mars! Imagining Life on the Red Planet (Source: HP)
A solar-field construction vehicle with nimble robot arms that piece together solar cells. Vertical turbines that harness the energy of dust storms — and shield nearby cities from their force. A compact settlement built underground in rust-red soil, capped by series of stunning atriums.
Those are just a few of the winning entries that wowed the judges of the second round of HP’s Mars Home Planet challenge, including star architect Daniel Libeskind; Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society; and Dr. Sanjay Vijendran of the Mars Mission for the European Space Agency. “The entries are mind-bending,” says Sean Young, HP’s worldwide segment manager for product development and AEC. “Some are so beautiful and so well thought out that it makes you want to go live on Mars.” Click here. (3/30)
EU-Russian Mars Mission Landing Site to Be Chosen Soon (Source: Sputnik)
The site for the landing of the Russian-built surface platform system as part of the Russian-EU ExoMars mission to the Red Planet will be chosen in October or November, Daniil Rodionov, the head of a laboratory at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Space Research Institute, told Sputnik. "There are two candidate sites — Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis. The choice will be made by the end of this year, I believe, in October-November," Rodionov, who heads the ExoMars project from the Russian side, said.
There are two requirements that the site for the mission’s landing should meet – the feasibility of landing, and the site’s usefulness in terms of achieving the research objectives of the mission, which includes such criteria as the presence of water, and conditions for conservation of signs of life, Rodionov noted.
The choice of the landing site will be carried out jointly by the Russian and EU scientists, the researcher continued, adding that the launch of the second stage of the mission is set for June 2020. Scientists have been considering the issue of the landing site for the second launch of the ExoMars mission since 2013. A total of four sites, all located near the equator in the northern hemisphere of Mars, have been considered for this purpose. (4/22)
Not Much Time Left to Look for Life on Mars Before Life Arrives From Earth (Source: GeekWire)
NASA has been looking for life on Mars for more than 40 years, but the quest could get a lot more complicated when earthly life arrives en masse, perhaps within the next decade. “There is a ticking clock now,” Princeton astrobiologist Chris Chyba said at last week’s Breakthrough Discuss conference, conducted at Stanford University.
The issue has the potential to pit scientists like Chyba against rocketeers like SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk, who wants to start sending settlers to Mars by the mid-2020s. When humans and all the supplies they need start arriving by the tons, there’s a risk that their biological signature could overwhelm any faint traces of ancient or modern-day life on the Red Planet. (4/15)
The First Person on Mars 'Should Be a Woman' (Source: BBC)
A senior NASA engineer has said the first person to set foot on Mars should be a woman. Allison McIntyre, who puts prospective space travelers through their paces at Johnson Space Center in Houston, noted that all 12 people who have walked on the Moon were men. She believes women should be at the forefront if and when the agency sends its first human missions to Mars. (4/18)
US, Russia Likely to Go to Mars Together, Former NASA Astronaut Says (Source: Space Daily)
The United States and Russia are on a path to jointly explore deep space and will most likely fly to Mars together, former NASA astronaut Ronald M. Sega said. "I think we are on a path to work together to go on to different places in space. Mars is a logical major milestone forward," Sega said. "We may have a different path to get there. Maybe to the Moon or something like that. My sense is that we'll go to Mars, we'll eventually probably do that together." (4/17)
Space Law Workshop Exposes Rift in Legal Community Over National Authority to Sanction Space Mining (Source: Space News)
International space experts conducted a spirited debate April 16 on whether national or international laws should govern space mining at a Space Law Workshop. “The problem is there is currently not legal certainty about what is allowed and what is not allowed,” said Tanja Masson-Zwaan, former president of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL). “In the Outer Space Treaty, the question of whether you can own extracted resources is not clearly answered.”
The United States and Luxembourg have passed laws giving companies the rights to space resources they extract. Companies are relying on that legal authority to attract investment for their plans to mine the moon and asteroids. “If I’m a U.S. company, the only law I am obligated to follow is U.S. law,” said George Sowers, Colorado School of Mines professor and former United Launch Alliance vice president and chief scientist. Not all international space experts agree, however, that individual nations have the authority to grant companies permission to extract resources in orbit.
The Working Group “is also of the opinion that some kind of international governance would be the ideal solution,” said Masson-Zwaan. “The point is I don’t think we can wait because the companies are knocking on the door. That is the reason national laws came into being. And that led COPUOS to make it an agenda item.” (4/17)
Luxembourg Leads the Trillion-Dollar Race to Become the Silicon Valley of Asteroid Mining (Source: CNBC)
In the 1980s the tiny European nation of Luxembourg arose out of almost nowhere to become a leader in the satellite communications industry. Now it's looking to the skies again. Luxembourg sees an opportunity to play host to entrepreneurs and start-ups as the worldwide hub of the space mining industry. Private space exploration is a brand new market with trillions of dollars in potential; the FAA expects space tourism to be a $1 billion sector over the next several years.
It started in 2016 when Luxembourg established the Space Resources initiative and earmarked $223 million of its national space budget to provide early-stage funding and grants to companies working toward space mining. In the event more money is needed, Luxembourg "will be able to provide that money," Schneider said at a press conference announcing the funding in June 2016.
Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources are already working closely with Luxembourg's government. Stibrany said the government contributed an undisclosed amount of R&D funding to Deep Space Industries. And in November 2016, Planetary Resources and Luxembourg struck a deal: $28 million in investment from the Grand Duchy in exchange for an undisclosed equity stake in the company. (4/19)
Deep Space Industries Raises $3.5 Million (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Deep Space Industries announced today the closing of the first tranche of its Series A funding round. The company raised just over $3.5M from private investors. The funding will be used to develop Meteor, the company’s new launch-safe bipropellant rocket engine, and continue the ongoing development of the Xplorer spacecraft, the company’s deep space exploration platform scheduled for launch in 2020. (4/17)
Kneeling Before a Sovereign (Source: Space Review)
Some space companies proposed developing orbital facilities for so-called “sovereign clients,” nations without human spaceflight programs of their own. Dwayne Day discusses how those efforts have suffered delays, just like so many other new space markets proposed over the last few decades. Click here. (4/17)
Commercial Sponsorship of Space Stations Possible (Source: Space News)
Commercial sponsorships of future space stations may be possible. Companies planning commercial space stations are grappling with questions about how they will operate, including the role of government customers and corporate sponsorship. NASA expects that commercial stations will require some degree of government support to be viable, but also assumes that if companies fund the development of stations, they will get some kind of naming rights. That worries some people: "I don't want the Taco Bell International Space Station," said one engineer who attended a panel discussion on the topic at the 34th Space Symposium. (4/20)
A Time of Historic Change for National Security Space (Source: Space News)
The head of Air Force Space Command says this is a time of "historic change" for national security space. Speaking at the 34th Space Symposium Tuesday, Gen. Jay Raymond said he saw a "strategic alignment of leadership and resources" to support space superiority, citing backing from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Those views were echoed by Gen. John Hyten, head of Strategic Command, who says he sees an "alignment of purpose, alignment of vision, alignment of leadership" supporting national security space. (4/18)
Restructuring Air Force Space Acquisition (Source: Space News)
The Air Force is revamping a key space organization so that it can acquire systems more rapidly. Lt. Gen. J.T. Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, said that restructuring of the organization, which oversees $6 billion in space programs, will start this year after a four-month review. The first test for "SMC 2.0" will be the development of a next-generation missile-warning satellite system to succeed SBIRS. Air Force Secretary Wilson said she wants to see SMC develop those new satellites in five years, versus the nine years needed to build two more SBIRS satellites. (4/18)
Former SECAF: Space Corps a Bad Idea (Source: Space News)
Deborah Lee James, secretary of the Air Force during the Obama administration, insists a Space Corps is a solution in search of a problem. “Any organizational construct can work. The question is do you want to through the pain? It would be years of reorganization drama. What exactly is the problem you’re trying to solve?” she said in a CNAS podcast. “When I look at the totality, I conclude that no, it’s not the time to separate out a Space Corps. It’s not going to solve problems. If the problem is that acquisition is too slow, organizational change is not necessarily the answer. We have to speed up authorities.” (4/17)
Commercial Capabilities for NRO Surveillance From Space (Source: Space News)
The National Reconnaissance Office is also looking to speed up its activities, including making use of commercial capabilities. NRO Director Betty Sapp said her agency will take over the EnhancedView commercial imagery contract from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency in September and hoped to find synergies with its own systems. NRO is also interested in commercial capabilities in small satellites and launch vehicles. Sapp said NRO is expanding its internal research and development work to help keep ahead of evolving threats. (4/18)
Commercial Imagery Satellites Capture Missile Strike Damage in Syria (Source: C4ISRnet)
Early Saturday morning, the United States and its European allies launched targeted air strikes against the Assad regime in Syria in retaliation for the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. The satellite imagery companies DigitalGlobe and Planet captured high-resolution images of the strikes, providing the public with a valuable glimpse at the critical information offered by satellites orbiting the globe. Click here. (4/17)
New 'Space Fence' Will Spot Space Junk, Small Sats, and Orbital Weapons (Source: Popular Mechanics)
There’s a well-deserved complaint that military technology takes so long to develop that it’s obsolete by the time it’s fielded. But that gripe can't be made against the U.S. Air Force’s “Space Fence,” a new radar system being built to monitor action in Earth’s orbit.
Later this year the Air Fore is scheduled to take possession of a powerful, electronically steered, phased array radar located on the remote Kwajalein atoll in the Pacific. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin says the facility is the solution to some pressing issues in civil and military spaceflight, including the proliferation of space junk, militarization in orbit, and the shrinking size of satellites.
This Space Fence would spot an object in orbit, plot its projected orbit, and predict a future collision. The system can also detect changes to what it expects to be routine operations and then alert personnel. With that warning, a satellite could maneuver space junk and detect impacts that could a cascade of collisions. (4/16)
Lockheed Martin Provides Australia with Space Situational Awareness System (Source: Space Daily)
With space becoming an increasingly congested and contested domain, the Commonwealth of Australia has chosen Lockheed Martin's iSpace - intelligent Space - system to help with their Space Situational Awareness capability needs.
Lockheed Martin is providing the Commonwealth of Australia with an iSpace Space Situational Awareness training and demonstration mission system. iSpace collects data from a worldwide network of government, commercial, and scientific community space surveillance sensors to provide space situational awareness and space command and control.
Deployed within the Australian Space Operations Center, the iSpace demonstrator will provide key analytical tools to support derivation of future requirements for critical national defense missions. iSpace will fuse space surveillance data, including data from Australian sensors, into a recognized space picture that provides comprehensive knowledge of the space environment. (4/19)
Rise of the Megaconstellations Breathes Life Into Active Debris Removal Schemes (Source: Space News)
For years, efforts to capture space debris and remove it from orbit faced a conundrum: Who would pay for the service? Little government funding is available. Insurers are not stepping up. And individual satellite operators showed little interest because while the problem is growing, the threat to any single spacecraft remains incredibly small.
Finally, entrepreneurs and space policy experts think they have an answer. The megaconstellations promising global broadband service are heightening concern about orbital debris and creating demand for space-based trash collection. Because their collision risk is higher, the new constellations look like a promising market for satellite removal.
A constellation’s defunct spacecraft could threaten its working satellites traveling in the same orbit. “The constellation operators don’t want their dead satellites hitting their active satellites,” said Hitchens, former director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva. Nor do constellation operators want to pollute low Earth orbit. Click here. (4/18)
New Reality in Space Driving Change in European Defense Policy (Source: Space Daily)
Decades of relative tranquility in space have come to an end. The possibility of state-on-state conflict has become part of military planning, making flexible and continuous connectivity more critical than ever for defense forces around the world. The cybersecurity threat to SATCOM has also increased, both from hostile governments and non-state actors.
These new realities are forcing a change to the status quo. NATO for example has recognized these threats, and has increased its budget for space capabilities and coordination with the goal for alliance members to spend at least two percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024. (4/17)
More ITAR Reforms Sought for Space (Source: Space News)
American space companies are looking for additional export control reform. While reforms enacted in 2014 removed many commercial satellites and their components from the U.S. Munitions List, and therefore no longer subject to ITAR, changes in satellite technology merit a new look at what should be on the list, companies argue. Such reforms could include regular reviews, on five-year cycles, of items on the Munitions List and the Commerce Control List. (4/17)
Spaceflight Books Launch Slots on Two Arianespace Vega Missions (Source: Space News)
Spaceflight Industries has secured rideshare opportunities on two Vega rocket missions for tiny satellites. European launch provider Arianespace on April 17 said Spaceflight will launch “a microsatellite and a significant number of cubesats” on a proof of concept flight of Europe’s Small Spacecraft Mission System (SSMS), an adapter designed for cubesats and other satellites that are smaller than what typically launch on Vega. Seattle-based Spaceflight’s contract includes “a subsequent Vega SSMS flight about one year later,” Arianespace said. (4/17)
S7 Closes Sea Launch Purchase, Future Rocket TBD (Source: Space News)
Some 19 months after announcing its intent to buy the assets of Sea Launch, Russian aviation group S7 has closed the purchase. The transaction gives S7 the ocean-faring mobile launch platform Odyssey, the Commander support vessel, and certain equipment and intellectual property rights. Sea Launch and S7 faced a lengthy regulatory approval process from U.S. and Russian governments — one that took 15 months instead of the initially estimated six months. The process included an analysis CFIUS, an interagency committee that assesses whether transactions that could give control of an American business to a foreign entity might harm national security.
Russian officials had previously said restoring Zenit rocket production would necessitate better Russian-Ukrainian relations. Zenit launches slowed to a near-halt after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. An alternative to the Zenit is Russia’s future Soyuz-5 rocket, which Koptev described as a Russian analog of Zenit. RSC Energia, Sea Launch’s largest shareholder prior to the S7 sale, said it will assist in adapting Soyuz-5 rockets for launches from the Sea Launch complex.
But even if S7 can launch the Soyuz-5 using Sea Launch infrastructure, it will take considerably more time than the company had hoped to revive the launch business. S7, in announcing the purchase of Sea Launch infrastructure at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, hoped to begin launches roughly 18 months after obtaining government approvals. Koptev said the Soyuz-5 won’t be ready until 2022, meaning S7 would have to wait four to five years. (4/17)
Proton-M Launches Blagovest 12L Satellite for Russian Aerospace Forces (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The Russian military has expanded its fleet of communications satellites with the launch of the Blagovest 12L spacecraft on Wednesday. The military comsat lifted off atop a Proton-M launcher from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The launch was initially targeted for December 25, 2017, but problems with one of the satellite’s components forced Russia to postpone the mission several times. (4/18)
Russia Appears to Have Surrendered to SpaceX in the Global Launch Market (Source: Ars Technica)
As recently as 2013, Russia controlled about half of the global commercial launch industry with its fleet of rockets, including the Proton boosters. But technical problems with the Proton, as well as competition from SpaceX and other players, has substantially eroded the Russian share. This year, it may only have about 10 percent of the commercial satellite launch market, compared to as much as 50 percent for SpaceX.
In the past, Russian space officials have talked tough about competing with SpaceX. For example, the Russian rocket corporation, Energia, has fast-tracked development of a new medium-class launch vehicle that it is calling Soyuz-5 to challenge SpaceX. On Tuesday, however, Russia's chief spaceflight official, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, made a remarkable comment about that country's competition with SpaceX.
"The share of launch vehicles is as small as 4 percent of the overall market of space services," Rogozin said in an interview with a Russian television station. "The 4 percent stake isn’t worth the effort to try to elbow Musk and China aside. Payloads manufacturing is where good money can be made." According to an independent analysis, the global launch market is worth about $5.5 billion annually. Losing its half-share of this market, therefore, has probably cost the Russians about $2 billion, which is a significant fraction of its non-military aerospace budget. (4/18)
Mysteries Surrounding July 14 Soyuz Flight Solved? Not Quite (Source: Space News)
For the first time since a Russian Soyuz rocket launched 73 satellites in July 2017, Glavkosmos is confirming a problem with the Fregat upper stage. “According to the telemetry, an anomaly was detected in one of the Fregat’s low-thrust engines,” Glavkosmos said. The new Glavkosmos statement solves the mystery surrounding the loss of cubesats sent into a 601-kilometer orbit, allowing the U.S. firm Astro Digital to win an insurance claim for the loss.
Roscosmos had previously claimed that none of the failures were caused by rocket problems, and has directed Russian startup Dauria Aerospace to return approximately $5 million paid it to build two remote sensing nanosatellites that failed to respond to commands after the launch. “Roskosmos helps a U.S. company get insurance and at the same time sends a claim to Dauria to return all the money,” Sergey Ivanov, Dauria chief executive, said. “It looks like Roscosmos is supporting a U.S. startup and ready to kill a Russian one.” (4/12)
Turbopump Blamed for China's Long March 5 Launch Failure in 2017 (Source: Space News)
China has disclosed the cause of last year's Long March 5 launch failure. China's State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense released a report Monday blaming the July 2017 failure on a turbopump in one of the two YF-77 main engines in the rocket's first stage. The report said the turbopump's exhaust structure failed under "complex thermal conditions." A redesigned version of the YF-77 has undergone static fire tests, and the Long March 5 is expected to return to flight in November. Last year's failure delayed the launch of the Chang'e-5 lunar sample return mission until some time in 2019. (4/16)
OneSpace of China Tests Vertical Assembly of Rocket Ahead of Debut Launch (Source: GB Times)
Chinese NewSpace launch service provider OneSpace has performed a vertical assembly rehearsal of its OS-X rocket ahead of the company's debut rocket launch in June. The vertical assembly took place in Beijing on April 11, using independently developed equipment to transport the rocket. The test verified the function and performance of a range of equipment, including transportation and lifting systems, launch pad, as well as rocket assembly, transfer and erection processes.
The OneSpace OS-X1 rocket is designed for suborbital flights to provide high-altitude research and test services. Its debut launch is planned for June, following successful tests of its solid-propellant engine in December. The site of the first launch and details of potential payloads are yet to be disclosed. The company hopes that its OS-M rocket series, first with the OS-M1 rocket, will later provide low-cost, light-lift launch services for low Earth (LEO) and Sun-synchronous orbits (SSO).
OneSpace is one of a number of emerging players in the Chinese commercial launch sector, Landspace, i-Space, Linkspace, which has recently succeeded with a vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) test, and Expace, which is aiming to perform four commercial launches inside a week later this year. (4/20)
China's Shanxi Province Considers Active Role in Commercial Launch Industry (Source: GB Times)
A Chinese province is considering getting into the commercial launch business. Shanxi Province in North China is home to the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, used primarily for launches of satellite to polar and sun-synchronous orbits. Province officials said they are interested in ways to support commercial launch activities at the center, including creating its own commercial launch company. (4/20)
Doubtful of China’s Economic Numbers? Satellite Data and AI Can Help (Source: Quartz)
The Chinese government is notorious for doctoring its official statistics, from using messed-up methodology, to not reporting some key metrics, to out-and-out fabrication. Last year, the governor of one of China’s rust-belt regions admitted for the first time that the province had inflated GDP figures for years. “Officials produce the numbers, and the numbers produce officials,” he said at the time, referring to the idea that massaging data can help one get ahead in Chinese officialdom.
To measure China’s manufacturing expansion, investors usually pay attention to two sets of monthly data called the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). One is released by China’s national statistic bureau, and the other is based on surveys performed by financial service company IHS Markit, and sponsored by news organization Caixin. Both seek information from companies on new orders and stock levels, among other things.
The Chinese Satellite Manufacturing Index (SMI), created by US company SpaceKnow since 2016, offers a different approach. The index uses 2.2 billion satellite snapshots taken of more than 6,000 industrial areas spanning half a million square kilometers of Chinese territory to get a numeric measure of how well the country’s manufacturing sector is doing. Published every other week, the SMI is read in the same way as the PMI, with the 50-point threshold separating expansion from contradiction. (4/16)
Patent Applications a Measure of China Space Growth (Source: Space News)
Patent applications offer one measure of the growth of China's space capabilities. Data analytics firm Govini found that space technology patent applications filed in China grew by more than 13 percent over the last five years. Some of those applications, the firm acknowledged, may be by foreign companies seeking intellectual property protection. Nonetheless, the growth leads analysts to conclude that China is "becoming a more important economy for space-related technologies." (4/20)
Indian Space Agency Claims to Have Saved $120 Million on Second Lunar Mission (Source: Space Daily)
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has claimed that it has saved $120 million in public money in the upcoming moon mission "Chandrayaan-2," which is expected to be launched in October-November this year. "The total cost of the mission is about INR 800 crore ($124 million), which includes INR 200 crore ($31 million) as the cost of launching and INR 600 crore ($93 million) for the satellite.
"This cost is almost half of $232 million, which would have been otherwise incurred if the same mission had to be launched from a foreign launching site," said K. Sivan, the ISRO chairman. The ISRO had planned the launch of the mission for April but, in the review, it was decided that more tests were needed to be done before the launch. "This will be the first-of-its-kind moon mission to this extent," Sivan emphasized. (4/20)
12 Missions, 12 Months - ISRO's Mega Plan For 2018 (Source: NDTV)
2018 is proving to be a very busy year for India's space agency ISRO, with a mission planned for each month. The Indian Space Research Organization has already launched 3 important satellites between January 1 and April 12. These include remote sensing satellite Cartosat-2 on board the PSLV-C40 rocket in January, communication satellite GSAT-6A on board GSLV-F08 rocket on March 29, and navigation satellite IRNSS-1I on board the PSLV-C41 rocket on April 12. "In the next eight months, ISRO has nine more important missions planned," ISRO Chairman K Sivan said. This means ISRO will average one mission every month for the year 2018 - which would be a remarkable achievement. (4/16)
Indian Satellite Still Lost in Space (Source: The Hindu)
India's GSAT-6A satellite remains silent two weeks after it stopped communicating with ground controllers. K. Sivan, the head of the Indian space agency ISRO, said GSAT-6A's orbital location was known, and was hopeful that ground stations would reestablish contact with the satellite soon. GSAT-6A, launched in late March, went silent after the second in a series of orbit-raising maneuvers. (4/16)
Arianespace to Launch Japanese Satellite (Source: Space News)
Arianespace has won a contract to launch a Japanese communications satellite. The contract, announced Thursday, covers the launch of the BSAT-4b for Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation of Japan on an Ariane 5 in 2020. Space Systems Loral won a contract to build the satellite last month. (4/20)
A New President for JAXA (Source: SpaceTech Asia)
The Japanese space agency JAXA has a new president. Hiroshi Yamakawa became head of the agency earlier this month after Naoki Okumura completed a five-year term as JAXA president. Yamakawa is an aerospace engineer who has worked on missions such as BepiColombo, a joint mission with ESA to orbit Mercury, and the Martian Moons Exploration mission under development for launch in the early 2020s. (4/17)
The Return of a Secret British Rocket Site (Source: BBC)
Westcott Venture Park was once the center of the UK’s Cold War rocket research. Left idle for years, it’s now enjoying a second wind as British firms unveil new 21st Century designs. Falcon Project makes research rockets and specialist fuels for the UK and US militaries but is perhaps best known for prototyping a hybrid rocket motor for the Bloodhound Supersonic Car.
Also on the site is rocket motor manufacturer Moog UK, whose Leros 1b engine powered NASA's Juno space probe into orbit around Jupiter last year – using a new motor technology which Moog has also seen flown on NASA Mars and Mercury probes. Click here. (4/19)
The British are Coming — for the Rocket-Launching Industry (Source: CNBC)
The British already have a foothold in the manufacture of small satellites. Now they are moving quickly to build the rockets necessary to launch them. The United Kingdom Space Agency, working with British companies in the sector, has established how intends to grow its 6.5 percent stake in the $350 billion space economy over the next 12 years.
"We want to get to a place where the U.K. has 10 percent of the global space economy by 2030 and we're working in partnership to deliver it," said Claire Barcham, the director of the agency's satellite launch program. A 10 percent stake could be worth more than $109 billion in 2030, according to Bank of America last year.
To achieve that growth, UKSA is working to attract rocket companies which specialize in launching small satellites, Barcham said. The U.K. currently produces about 44 percent of the world's small satellites and has extensive facilities to operate those satellites once active. But Britain lacks any spaceports or launchpads to put the satellites in orbit. (4/21)
UAE Astronaut Applicants Top 4,000 (Source: Arabian Business)
More than 4,000 people have applied to become astronauts in the United Arab Emirates. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre said it received more than 4,000 applications for the country's new astronaut corps, with applicants ranging in age from 17 to 67. A third of the applicants were women. The UAE Space Agency plans to select four of them to be astronauts, although when they would fly in space, and with what nation, remain unknown. (4/17)
Israel’s StemRad Advances Astronaut Radiation Protection (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA and the Israeli Space Agency have signed an agreement that could lead to the testing of an astronaut radiation shielding vest provided by Tel Aviv startup StemRad Ltd. aboard Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). EM-1 is to mark NASA’s first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System and deep-space Orion crew capsule, a nearly four-week voyage around the Moon and back planned to launch in late 2019-20.
Even before EM-1 circles the Moon with a radiation sensor-equipped astronaut test mannequin furnished by the German Aerospace Center on EM-1, StemRad’s AstroRad protective test garment is to launch to the International Space Station next year as a U.S. National Laboratory payload so that astronauts can evaluate the ergonomics of the protective clothing. An AstroRad weighs just more than 50 lb. (25 kg) and is fashioned from high-density, hydrogen-rich polymers. (4/17)
'Africa’s Satellite’ Avoided Millions Using A Very African Tax Scheme (Source: ICIJ)
The New Dawn Satellite was proudly African – partly funded by local investors and promoted as a way for African schoolchildren, nurses, civil servants and businesses to access world-class internet and mobile phone networks. But if its purpose was to promote African development, its tax strategy did exactly the opposite. The companies behind the New Dawn Satellite channeled millions of dollars in payments from African companies and governments through offshore companies in Mauritius, one of the continent’s premier tax havens.
In so doing, the companies achieved a Mauritian double-whammy, using one kind of offshore company to avoid local taxes and another to pay as little as possible on bills paid from overseas using treaties signed between Mauritius and its African neighbors. The primary money-making company estimated that it would pay $22,500 in taxes on $75 million in revenue – just 0.03 percent. In a 17-year lifespan, the company predicted, it would earn $936 million yet never pay taxes above $300,000.
That’s according to a PowerPoint presentation from the Paradise Papers, offshore documents that include nearly seven million files from the law firm Appleby and its clients, including the satellite’s co-owner, Intelsat. The Mauritius arrangement lasted until 2013 when Intelsat closed the companies down after unexpectedly low financial returns. The company’s tax return that year reflects that it paid 0.09 percent tax on $31.6 million. (2/20)
Hyperspectral Imagery From Dutch Cubesat (Source: Space News)
A Dutch firm has released the first images from a hyperspectral instrument on a recently launched cubesat. Cosine Measurement Systems said its HyperScout miniaturized hyperspectral camera, flown on the GomX-4B satellite launched in February, is working well. The company expects the data from the instrument to be used in managing irrigation, monitoring fire hazards and detecting floods, among other change-detection applications. (4/20)
Switzerland’s RUAG Continues U.S. Expansion, in Florida, Alabama and California (Source: Space News)
Swiss company Ruag is increasing its manufacturing activities in the United States. The company, which makes various satellite and launch vehicle components, is making investments in facilities in Alabama and Florida, as well as a research center in Silicon Valley. It has about 100 employees at those facilities. Ruag sees the greatest potential for growth in the U.S., the company's CEO said in an interview. (4/20)
Earth-i Releases First Satellite Images (Source: Space News)
Earth-i has unveiled the first color video from its VividX2 satellite. The British company released high-definition video from the satellite, also known as Carbonite-2 and launched in January, of several locations around the world. Earth-i is planning a constellation of such satellites, which can also take high-resolution images. The video, the company believes, can provide useful information that images alone cannot, such as tracking the spinning of wind turbines to measure their power output. (4/17)
EarthNow to Use OneWeb Satellite Bus for Real-Time Video From Orbit (Source: GeekWire)
The latest spinout from Intellectual Ventures, EarthNow, says it’s coming out of stealth mode with backing from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other high-profile investors. EarthNow aims to operate a fleet of small satellites that will send continuous real-time video views of our planet from Earth orbit. The satellites will be modified versions of the spacecraft that Airbus is building for the OneWeb broadband internet satellite constellation.
In addition to Gates, EarthNow’s investors include Airbus, OneWeb founder and executive chairman Greg Wyler and Japan’s SoftBank Group, the startup said today in a news release. The amount of funding was undisclosed, but for what it’s worth, SoftBank made a billion-dollar investment in OneWeb back in 2016. The funding will be used primarily to mature the overall design for the Earth observation system, EarthNow said. (4/18)
Methane Detection Satellite Planned by Environmental Group (Source: Space News)
An environmental group is planning a satellite to track emissions on one specific greenhouse gas. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced last week it will develop MethaneSAT, a smallsat designed to track methane emissions from oil and gas production regions. EDF has hired Tom Ingersoll, the former chief executive of Skybox Imaging, to help run the MethaneSAT project. The satellite is planned for launch in late 2020 or early 2021, but details about who will build and launch it have yet to be determined. (4/16)
ESA Testing Detection of Floating Plastic Litter From Orbit (Source: Phys.org)
The millions of tonnes of plastic ending up in the oceans every year are a global challenge. ESA is responding by looking at the detection of marine plastic litter from space, potentially charting its highest concentrations and understanding the gigantic scale of the problem.
We dump around 10 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans annually. Though most conspicuous along coastlines, plastic litter is also found out in the open ocean and from the equator to the pole – even frozen in polar ice. Gradually broken down into micro-fragments by weathering and waves, it is not only endangering marine animals but it is also entering the global food chain, with unknown long-term consequences for animal life and our own health.
"Indirect measurements from space are already used to get to grips with the marine plastic litter problem," explains ESA's Paolo Corradi, overseeing the project. "For instance, satellite maps of ocean currents let us simulate accumulation of litter in vast 'gyres' within the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. (4/20)
NASA Mapping Hurricane Damage Across Florida Everglades (Source: Space Daily)
Last spring, NASA researchers flew over the Everglades and Puerto Rico to measure how mangroves and rainforests grow and evolve over time. Five months later, hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through those study areas - creating a unique opportunity to investigate the devastating effects of massive storms on these ecosystems, as well as their gradual recovery.
Flying the same paths over the Everglades three months after Hurricane Irma, the scientists' preliminary findings reveal that 60 percent of the mangrove forests analyzed were heavily or severely damaged. Next week, the team will return to Puerto Rico to conduct an airborne survey of the rainforest there - quantifying the damage and possibly identifying sites vulnerable to landslides.
The view of southeastern Florida, less than three months after Hurricane Irma hit, revealed swaths of leafless trees and broken branches, even uprooted mangrove trees. "It's staggering how much was lost. The question is, which areas will regrow and which areas won't," said Lola Fatoyinbo. "This is an opportunity - with all these data, we can really make a difference in understanding how hurricanes impact Florida's mangrove ecosystems." (4/17)
Harris Says Existing Sensor Could Meet USAF Weather Satellite Needs (Source: Space News)
Harris Corporation is offering an updated version of a legacy sensor for an Air Force weather satellite program. Harris says its Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) can meet the Air Force's needs for cloud characterization and theater weather imagery for future weather satellite efforts. Harris has built 19 models of the AVHRR for U.S. and international customers. (4/20)
Raytheon's NOAA VIIRS Suggested for Military Weather Satellites (Source: Space News)
Raytheon believes an existing instrument can meet the Defense Department's weather requirements. The company argues that its Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument, developed for NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System satellites, can also meet the needs of the Air Force for future military weather satellites. The Air Force issued an RFI in November asking industry what it could offer for space-based monitoring of clouds and weather imagery in theaters of operation. (4/17)
NASA's Got a Plan for a 'Galactic Positioning System' to Save Astronauts Lost in Space (Source: Space.com)
Outer space glows with a bright fog of X-ray light, coming from everywhere at once. But peer carefully into that fog, and faint, regular blips become visible. These are millisecond pulsars, city-sized neutron stars rotating incredibly quickly, and firing X-rays into the universe with more regularity than even the most precise atomic clocks. And NASA wants to use them to navigate probes and crewed ships through deep space.
A telescope mounted on the International Space Station (ISS), the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), has been used to develop a brand new technology with near-term, practical applications: a galactic positioning system, NASA scientist Zaven Arzoumanian said.
With this technology, "You could thread a needle to get into orbit around the moon of a distant planet instead of doing a flyby," Arzoumian told Live Science. A galactic positioning system could also provide "a fallback, so that if a crewed mission loses contact with the Earth, they'd still have navigation systems on board that are autonomous." (4/17)
NanoRacks’ Commercial ISS Airlock Completes CDR, Moves to Fabrication (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The NanoRacks Space Station Airlock Module “Bishop” met another major milestone with completion of the Critical Design Review (CDR) on March 20 and 21, 2018 in Houston, Texas. This milestone begins the transition from the engineering design phase to the fabrication phase. Detailed design drawings such as those for the critical pressure shell will be signed and released to NanoRacks fabrication partner, Thales Alenia Space, in order for them to continue their fabrication efforts.
In February 2018, NanoRacks announced that Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), was chosen as the latest partner in its commercial airlock program, joining with a number of key partners, including Boeing. Thales Alenia Space is set to produce and test the critical pressure shell for the NanoRacks Airlock Module and will also manufacture various secondary structures, including the Micrometeoroid Orbital Debris (MMOD) shields. (4/17)
The Next Era in Exoplanet Searches (Source: Space Review)
As NASA’s Kepler mission nears its end, another exoplanet hunter is ready for launch this week. Jeff Foust reports on how the TESS mission will carry on the search for exoplanets, particularly those relatively close to Earth. Click here. (4/17)
The Unique Orbit of NASA’s Newest Planet Hunter (Source: NASA)
NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - TESS - will fly in an orbit that completes two circuits around Earth every time the Moon orbits once. This special orbit will allow TESS’s cameras to monitor each patch of sky continuously for nearly a month at a time. To get into this orbit, TESS will make a series of loops culminating in a lunar gravity assist, which will give it the final push it needs. TESS will reach its orbit about 60 days after launch. Click here. (4/19)
The Planet That Took Us Beyond the Solar System (Source: The Atlantic)
For millennia, the only planets we knew of were the ones in our own solar system. That changed in October 1995, when a pair of Swiss astrophysicists discovered a planet orbiting a sun-like star about 50 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus. For decades, scientists had suspected that other planets existed in the cosmos, and they finally had the proof.
The discovery of 51 Pegasi b, as it was called, was just the beginning. The astronomy community was witnessing “A Parade of New Planets,” declared a headline in Scientific American in 1996. In the months since the exoplanet discovery had been announced, the publication reported, astronomers had reported finding at least four more planets. Click here. (4/16)
Doubt Surrounds the Only Experiment That Claims to See Dark-Matter Particles (Source: The Atlantic)
For 20 years, an experiment in Italy known as DAMA has detected an oscillating signal that could be coming from dark matter—the fog of invisible particles that ostensibly fill the cosmos, sculpting everything else with their gravity. One of the oldest and biggest experiments hunting for dark-matter particles, DAMA is alone in claiming to see them. It purports to pick up on rare interactions between the hypothesized particles and ordinary atoms.
But if these dalliances between the visible and invisible worlds really do produce DAMA’s data, several other experiments would probably also have detected dark matter by now. They have not. Rita Bernabei presented the results of an additional six years of measurements, showing DAMA’s signal looks as strong as ever. But researchers not involved with the experiment have since raised serious arguments against dark matter as the signal’s source.
In a paper posted on April 4, three physicists showed that a standard dark-matter wimp cannot produce the new DAMA signal. “The vanilla one that everybody loves—that one’s gone,” says Freese, who coauthored the new paper with her student Sebastian Baum and Chris Kelso of the University of North Florida. Click here. (4/18)
Giant Asteroid Flies Through the Earth-Moon Orbit (Source: Space Daily)
With just a few hours' notice, a relatively large asteroid whipped through the Earth-moon orbit over the weekend. You may have missed it though; humanity only learned of the asteroid hours before the flyby. A "Tunguska-class" asteroid was first spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey out of the University of Arizona on April 14. The asteroid, 2018 GE3, flew by just hours later. Austrian amateur astronomer Michael Jager recorded the object as it passed through the southern constellations Serprens. (4/17)
Diamond From the Sky May Have Come From ‘Lost Planet,’ Study Says (Source: Daily Beast)
Scientists have found that fragments of a meteorite, which crashed to Earth a decade ago, may have come from a “lost planet” in our solar system, a new study claims. The Almahata Sitta meteorite landed in the Nubian Desert in October 2008, and diamonds on the inside were formed by a proto-planet around 4.55 billion years ago, researchers have concluded. The study was conducted jointly by authors from Switzerland, Germany, and France.
“We demonstrate that these large diamonds cannot be the result of a shock but rather of growth that has taken place within a planet,” author and planetary scientist Philippe Gillet reportedly told The Associated Press. The lost planet was possibly as big as Mercury or Mars, according to Gillet. “What we’re claiming here,” Gillet said, “is that we have in our hands a remnant of this first generation of planets that are missing today because they were destroyed or incorporated in a bigger planet.” (4/17)
Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans? (Source: The Atlantic)
We’re used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you’re only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated.
When it comes to direct evidence of an industrial civilization—things like cities, factories, and roads—the geologic record doesn’t go back past what’s called the Quaternary period 2.6 million years ago. For example, the oldest large-scale stretch of ancient surface lies in the Negev Desert. It’s “just” 1.8 million years old—older surfaces are mostly visible in cross section via something like a cliff face or rock cuts. Go back much farther than the Quaternary and everything has been turned over and crushed to dust.
And, if we’re going back this far, we’re not talking about human civilizations anymore. Homo sapiens didn’t make their appearance on the planet until just 300,000 years or so ago. There are fossils, of course. But the fraction of life that gets fossilized is always minuscule and varies a lot depending on time and habitat. It would be easy, therefore, to miss an industrial civilization that only lasted 100,000 years—which would be 500 times longer than our industrial civilization has made it so far. (4/13)
Yuri's Night Rocks KSC Visitor Complex (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Yuri’s Night is an annual global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space. It was started by Loretta and George Whitesides, and Trish Garner in 2001 to celebrate human spaceflight. This includes Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human in space in 1961 and the first Space Shuttle launch in 1981—-both occurring on the same day 20 years apart, April 12. The first YN event occurred April 12, 2001, in Los Angeles.
Originally billed as a “St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo for space people,” the event has since garnered fans around the world, within and beyond the space community. Parties have occurred under a Space Shuttle at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. as well as the California Science Center and under a Saturn V test article at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.
It has also had participating parties as far apart as Australia, Russia, and even Antarctica. This year was the first time a party occurred at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About 750 attendees at the KSC event included a large cadre of cosplayers from the local branch of the “501st Legion,” a group of individuals who raise money for charities and appear at events dressed in authentic-looking Star Wars Stormtrooper uniforms and other character costumes. (4/16)
Two New Inductees for Astronaut Hall of Fame (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame is inducting two new astronauts. Joining the other 95 astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle Programs will be Space Shuttle astronauts Thomas Jones and Scott Altman. This will be the 17th class of shuttle astronauts to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Inductees to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame are selected by a special committee of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. (4/20)
Netflix Doc 'Mercury 13' Chronicles First US Women Tested for Spaceflight (Source: CollectSpace)
A famous scene from space history gets an unexpected twist in the first moments of "Mercury 13," a new documentary now streaming on Netflix. "That's one small leap for a woman, another giant step for mankind." That line, which comes across as both familiar and foreign, is delivered in a woman's voice with the archival footage of men walking on the moon. It underscores what might have been — and the overall theme of the one-hour, 18-minute film from directors David Sington and Heather Walsh. (4/20)
NASA Nominated for Six Webby Awards (Source: NASA JPL)
A solar eclipse and the demise of one of NASA's most successful planetary missions made 2017 the agency's biggest year yet for online engagement, and NASA's efforts in digital communications have been recognized with nominations for six Webby Awards, the highest honor for online communications. "NASA's digital engagement involves dozens of people across the agency," said Jen Rae Wang, associate administrator for communications. "We're really pleased that our efforts are being recognized again." (4/17)
Train Like an Astronaut (Source: Space Nation)
We’ve signed a collaboration agreement with NASA. Meaning we’re able to bring the universe of knowledge contained in real life astronaut training straight to your smartphone. Daily updating missions and minigames put you at the center of your own astronaut adventure, and teach you in a fun and inspiring way what it takes to be an astronaut. Click here. (4/20)
Train Like a Martian (Source: Mars Generation)
Sign up now and join us for our third annual #TrainLikeAMartian event! We expect that the event will be a blast! Anyone can join including individuals, students, teachers, schools, sports teams, community organizations and anyone who wants to get involved. For educator resources to plan for event please click here. (4/19)
New Central Florida Elementary School Named in Honor of Sally Ride (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
renovated Orange County elementary school to open in August will be named for astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. The new Sally Ride Elementary School in south Orange will house students who had attended Durrance Elementary School and Cypress Park Elementary School.
Parents, students and staff from both schools suggested names, and Sally Ride was their top choice. The Orange County School Board approved the name last week. “I love the idea of naming the school Sally Ride Elementary School,” said board member Linda Kobert, whose district includes the school on 11th Avenue in Taft, just before the board voted. (4/18)
A Vans x NASA Collaboration Is Rumored to Drop This Fall (Source: Sole Collector)
Over the years, Vans has become a frequent collaborator for everything from streetwear heavyweights like Supreme to classic cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants. Now, there is word that Vans will be dropping an extensive collection in collaboration with NASA to celebrate outer space.
Initial images of one of the pairs from the collab have surfaced online. This pair in particular is a Vans Old Skool that looks to resemble a space suit. White tumbled leather covers the upper, while a grey mesh is used on the tongue. Other details that allude to an astronaut's suit include a removable American flag patch on the heel, NASA branding on the lateral side panel, black tongue tabs that read "Shuttle" and "Mission," respectively, and a yellow foam lining. Click here. (4/17)
This New Beer Bottle Is Designed So You Can Drink Beer in Space (Source: Travel+Leisure)
A real-life space hotel is already taking reservations, and now those contemplating space travel in the very near future are one step closer to enjoying the world’s first beer made for zero gravity. Vostok, a venture of Australia’s 4 Pines Brewing Company and Saber Astronautics, has spent the last eight years developing the space-friendly beer. The company is named after Russia's Vostok program, which put cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into Earth's orbit in 1961, and was created with the sole purpose of creating a luxurious beer-drinking experience possible once commercial space travel takes off. (4/16)
Eutelsat Sells Hispasat Stake (Source: Space News)
After a lengthy government review, Eutelsat has sold its stake in satellite operator Hispasat for $373 million. Hispasat said Thursday that Eutelsat sold its one-third stake primarily to Spanish toll road company Abertis, with the Spanish government's Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology taking a small part. Abertis now owns nearly 90 percent of Hispasat. Eutelsat announced plans to sell its Hispasat shares last May, but had to wait for the Spanish government to complete a review of the sale. (4/20)
Boeing Bows Out of GPS 3 Competition (Source: Space News)
Boeing has decided to not challenge Lockheed Martin for the next production lot of up to 22 GPS 3 satellites. “We have not put in a proposal for GPS 3,” said Rico Attanasio, Boeing’s director of Department of Defense and civil navigation and communications programs. Bids were due this week. “As you can imagine, this was a very difficult decision for us,” Attanasio said. (4/18)
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