September 16, 2019
Space Not Yet an Issue for 2020 Candidates, But Florida Primary Coming Soon (Source: Politico)
Space policy again got no love in the third Democratic presidential debate on Thursday night in Houston, home of the nation’s astronaut corps. Historically, space rarely comes up during presidential primaries with a few notable exceptions: In 2012, when former Speaker Newt Gingrich floated the idea of a moon base, and more recently in 2016, when President Donald Trump made a campaign promise to revive the National Space Council. President Barack Obama also promised on the campaign trail to increase NASA’s budget, according to Space.com.
So when might we hear about space on the campaign trail? The lead up to primaries in states with a large space presence like Florida could prompt candidates to talk about their plans and how they would impact the local workforce. “The Florida primary on March 17 will likely be the biggest hook there is for talking about space,” predicts Phil Larson, a former space adviser in the Obama White House. (9/13)
Backing NASA's Human Spaceflight Program Could Help Democrats Win Back The White House (Source: Forbes)
You wouldn’t know the nation has a human spaceflight program to read the issue sections of Democratic candidate websites. That is not a good sign for people who believe humanity has a future in the cosmos. Although John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, launched the effort that first placed Americans on the Moon, human spaceflight just isn’t a concern for the party’s current crop of presidential contenders. But it should be, for practical political reasons.
Democrats aren’t likely to win the White House in 2020 unless they secure Florida’s 29 electoral votes, and the Sunshine State’s Space Coast is where every U.S. astronaut mission to orbit has originated. It is where future manned missions to the Moon will originate, and any that go on to Mars (a destination that both Obama and Trump have embraced, at least in principle). So Florida has a big stake in the human spaceflight program. NASA figures it contributes over $2 billion to the state’s economy, and that amount will grow if the Trump plan is carried out.
Supporting NASA’s human spaceflight program gets candidates votes in Florida—not just from over 100,000 aerospace employees in the state, but from suppliers, relatives, retailers and hospitality workers who depend on the Kennedy Space Center for their livelihood. But here’s the thing about Florida that makes it different from other states with a lot of votes in the electoral college: Florida is up for grabs. Statewide elections are often won by only 1% of the vote, meaning either party has a shot at carrying the state. It isn’t like California or Texas, where the state’s electoral college votes are pretty much locked up for one party. Florida is in play for 2020, and a relative handful of votes could decide who wins the state. (9/9)
Ross Threatened Firings at NOAA Over Sharpiegate (Source: Parabolic Arc)
The New York Times reports that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threatened to fire top officials at NOAA unless they backed President Donald Trump’s claim that he was right when he tweeted about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama with worse damage than anticipated. Meanwhile, NOAA’s top scientist is investigating whether the statement backing Trump’s claim violates the agency’s scientific integrity rules.
Trump tweeted on Sept. 1 that Alabama would be one of the states hit by the Category 5 storm. The warning was quickly contradicted by the National Weather Service’s office in Birmingham, Alabama. Trump spent much of last week insisting he was right. While giving an update on the storm, Trump displayed a map on which someone had drawn a semi-circle in black ink on an official NOAA map that expanded Dorian’s expected path into Alabama. (9/9)
SpaceX Plans Dozens of Starlink Launches Before End of 2020 (Source: Space News)
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said Tuesday the company could launch as many as two dozen Starlink missions next year. During a World Satellite Business Week panel discussion, Shotwell said the company plans to average two launches of Starlink satellites per month next year, and as many as four before the end of this year depending on which of the company's other customers are ready to launch. SpaceX has performed 10 launches so far this year and Shotwell estimates the company will do seven to eight more before the end of the year. (9/10)
Space Florida Offers $100K to Aerospace Startups (Source: WMFE)
The state’s aerospace business agency wants to award $100,000 to an early-stage company doing business in the sunshine state. Space Florida and Florida Venture forum, a group of statewide investors, are reviewing applications for the second annual Florida Aerospace Capital Conference. If selected, early-stage aerospace companies will get the chance later this year to present in front of investors and win the $100,000 award offered by Space Florida.
While it might not seem like a lot, the award money could be a big break for a new startup. “At the very early stage it can literally make the difference between life and death for a growing company,” said Florida Venute Form President and CEO Kevin Burgoyne. More successful early-stage companies in the aerospace industry will attract more investors to the state, spinning off more opportunities to grow the industry. (9/11)
NASA Wallops ‘Fights Mother Nature’ To Restore Eroding Shoreline and Keep Rockets Flying (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Sitting right inside “hurricane alley,” NASA Wallops Flight Facility is in a never-ending struggle to keep the Atlantic at bay while powerful waves encroach inexorably on its launch pads. Those pads were built by Virginia taxpayers, most recently to boost commercial cargo runs to the International Space Station. But Wallops also hosts important Naval infrastructure, and integration facilities for Northrop Grumman’s Antares rockets and Cygnus spacecraft.
“It’s over a billion dollars worth of assets on the island,” said Keith Koehler, NASA Wallops news chief. “Wallops is typical of the barrier islands — they’re not wide, and they have served (to protect) the mainland over the years. So we’ve made the best of it.” Those efforts rebuilt a roughly 100-yard-wide beach to separate the Atlantic from the launch pads. But in the years since, the beach has shrunk to half that width. Recent studies show that the southern reaches of Wallops are losing 235,000 cubic yards of sand every year to erosion.
So in January the Virginia Marine Resources Commission approved a plan to haul that migrant sand back into place — 1.3 million cubic yards of material to be harvested from the north end of the island to restore a 19,000-foot stretch of beach on the south. They’re also installing a new set of breakwaters. The cost of the project isn’t set — the work is going up for bid. The work is expected to begin no earlier than November and should take about a year to complete. NASA has a 50-year permit to keep renourishing the beach, which Bull expects should be done every five to seven years. (9/9)
Virginia's Workforce Focus Improves on Georgia's and Louisiana's Programs (Source: Virginia Business)
In 2007, when Stephen Moret was CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber in Louisiana, he had a career-changing moment. A new employee from Georgia had raved about her state’s innovative workforce development program, so he arranged to take a tour. “It’s probably something the Georgia people regret to this day,” jokes Moret, now president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP). “I’ve never been more impressed with a single economic or workforce development program than I was with Georgia Quick Start,” he recalls. “It was just so impressive.”
Moret was so impressed, in fact, that when he was tapped as Louisiana’s secretary of economic development in 2008, his first order of business was to replicate Georgia’s Quick Start program — and improve upon it. And he hired the second-ranked Georgia Quick Start official to run it. That became Louisiana’s FastStart program. Launched that same year, it provides prospective companies with free recruitment and training services as long as they commit to creating a set number of jobs in the state.
FastStart quickly eclipsed Georgia as the top-ranked workforce development program in the nation. Business Facilities Magazine deemed it the “gold standard” for such programs. During the past 10 years, FastStart has developed custom workforce solutions for companies including Benteler, Electronic Arts, Gardner Denver, GE Capital, IBM and ConAgra. Now Moret’s set to do it again here in Virginia, as he prepares the VEDP to create a “world-class, turnkey, customized workforce recruitment and training incentive program” based on the Georgia and Louisiana initiatives. (9/3)
NMSU and Spaceport America to Announce STEM Partnership (Source: KFOX14)
Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University will host a reception celebrating Spaceport America's new home in Las Cruces, as well as a new collaborative agreement between NMSU and Spaceport America. Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport with research, testing, leasing, educational and commercial assets and New Mexico State University the state's land-grant and space-grant university that aims to serve the diverse needs of the state through comprehensive programs in education, research, extension and outreach, and public service will be partnering to provide advanced opportunities for aerospace and tourism students in New Mexico. (9/11)
It’s Showtime for Virgin Galactic’s Latest Cash Infusion Plan (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sir Richard Branson’s $808 million deal to merge Virgin Galactic with venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya’s Silicon Valley investment vehicle faced a crucial vote of confidence on Monday. Would-be shareholders voted on whether to back the entry via investment vehicle Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), or whether to withdraw their cash entirely.
SCH was formed in 2017 and already trades on the New York Stock Exchange. It plans to merge with Virgin Galactic, bringing the space travel venture onto the market in an unconventional move which would avoid the traditional risks of an Initial Public Offering. The deadline for this is fast approaching, and looks set to be missed, however, which would see SCH go into liquidation.
In that case, investors get back $712m (£578m) next week. They will vote tomorrow on whether to allow this to happen or whether to postpone the deadline for a merger until December and subsequently keep their cash in the Virgin Galactic float. Virgin Galactic and Social Capital Hedosophia announced the merger, actually a reverse acquisition, two months ago. The deal would see Palihapitiya become chairman of the company and Adam Bain join the board. Bain previously served as chief operating officer of Twitter. (9/8)
Virgin Galactic Merger Deal Moves Forward (Source: Parabolic Arc)
At a meeting on Monday, shareholders of Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH) gave approval to the public company to move forward with an $808 million merger deal with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. “Holders of 66,333,089 of the Company’s ordinary shares, which represents 76.9% of the ordinary shares outstanding and entitled to vote as of the record date of August 8, 2019, were represented in person or by proxy,” Social Capital said in a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The shareholders approved two resolutions. The first extends the date for completing the merger from Sept. 18 to Dec. 18, 2019. The second resolution “extends the date on which the Trustee must liquidate the trust account established in connection with the Company’s initial public offering” if the SCH and Virgin Galactic do not complete the merger by Dec. 18. Under terms of the deal, SCH would own up to approximately 49% of the combined space tourism company, which would be publicly traded. SCH founder Chamath Palihapitiya would become chairman of the board. (9/10)
Solving the Commercial Passenger Spaceflight Puzzle (Source: Space Review)
In the second part of his analysis of commercial spaceflight passenger safety, Mike Snead examines how the airworthiness certification system developed for aircraft could be applied to crewed spacecraft. Click here. (9/9)
Colorado Workshop Focuses on Space Commerce (Source: Daily Camera)
The future of space commerce was examined from a constellation of angles Thursday in a daylong workshop devoted to that topic at the U.S. Department of Commerce campus in Boulder. The space economy, currently valued at between $350 and $450 billion globally, is estimated to likely soar to $1 trillion to $3 trillion over the next 20 to 40 years.
With that seemingly limitless potential will come an array of problems to be solved and challenges to be met, including space debris, the variability of space weather, civil space traffic management and technology transfer, to name just a few. In his opening remarks Office of Space Commerce Director Kevin O’Connell quipped that Boulder’s National Institute of Standards and Technology — which is under the umbrella of the Commerce department — was a fitting setting for the daylong session, because “We’re a mile closer to space than everybody else.”
The conference was cosponsored by the U.S. Office of Space Commerce and the University of Colorado Boulder. Appropriate, too, as National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Walter Copan pointed out that Colorado boasts the second-largest aerospace industry in the United States. (9/12)
Will Texas Lead The Coming Commercial Space Race? (Source: Texas Standard)
With launch sites in South and West Texas, and NASA in Houston, Texas plays an outsized role in the burgeoning commercial space industry. Last month, after several setbacks, the SpaceX StarHopper reached an unprecedented height during a short test flight in Boca Chica. Tech expert Omar Gallaga says commercial spaceflight is really just beginning, and it’s getting a big boost from well-funded, and well-known billionaire entrepreneurs. Click here. (9/12)
Texas Sees $4.7B Annual Economic Impact From JSC (Source: KPRC)
A study by the Texas state government has quantified the economic impact of the Johnson Space Center. The study, released Thursday by the Texas State Comptroller, concluded JSC has a $4.7 billion impact on the Texas economy, directly or indirectly supporting 52,000 jobs. Space Center Houston, which serves as the visitor's center for JSC, has 1.1 million visitors last year, 750,000 of which came from out of state. (9/13)
Blue Origin Progressing With New Launch Complex at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
Blue began renovating the site by demolishing many existing facilities – including the launch pads themselves. The company stated that much of the concrete from the old pads would be recycled into new roadways at the complex. Unlike many launch companies at Cape Canaveral, Blue Origin has decided to build their own, clean-sheet launch pad for New Glenn.
Like many of their projects, Blue has been quiet about the pad’s construction progress. Its location – far away from any public viewing areas – has also contributed to the lack of updates. However, NOAA recently undertook a post-Hurricane Dorian aerial imagery campaign of the eastern Florida coast – which included much of Cape Canaveral. During the campaign, NOAA captured a high-resolution view of LC-36 – showing how far the complex has come in its construction.
Notably, the imagery revealed that Blue has started foundation work for the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) at the complex. The HIF will be used to integrate and process New Glenn rockets before they are rolled out to the pad. Features around the launch pad itself are beginning to take shape. The foundation of the service structure is visible, along with those of the lightning mast and water tower. The tank farms – which store the propellants used by New Glenn – are also in the process of being installed. Click here. (9/11)
SES Picks SpaceX for Two Launches From Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SES)
SES has selected SpaceX as a launch partner to deliver its next-generation Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite constellation into space on board Falcon 9 rockets from Cape Canaveral. The two companies have disrupted the industry in the past when SES became the first to launch a commercial GEO satellite with SpaceX, and later as the first ever payload on a SpaceX reusable rocket. Their next launch, in 2021, will be another one for the records as the revolutionary terabit-scale capabilities of SES’s O3b mPOWER communications system disrupt the industry again. (9/9)
Launch Companies Look to Government for Business in Uncertain Market (Source: Space News)
Launch companies are looking to government business to provide stability in an uncertain commercial launch market. Executives with several companies said they did not believe GEO satellite launches will return to past levels of 20-25 satellites a year, and expect only a few constellations to be successfully deployed. Government orders, both for European and American companies, can help reduce overall business risk, they said. Executives with three companies competing for a U.S. Air Force launch contract — Blue Origin, SpaceX and ULA — said they were hopeful they would win one of two awards, but had varying views of what would happen if they lost. (9/11)
California's Vandenberg AFB Spaceport Eyed for Future Development and More Launches (Source: Santa Maria Sun)
Northwest of Lompoc, Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) encompasses 110,000 acres, more than 15 times the size of the town right next to it. The base is rich in aerospace expertise and extra land, and broad coalition of state, county, and local leaders are trying to figure out how to boost economic growth by allowing private companies closer access to launch pads and facilities that can fire a rocket into space.
Col. Anthony Mastalir, the new base commander, came with plans to improve infrastructure at the base. “I’m not in charge of expanding the number of launches,” Mastalir said. “But I need to be ready so that when the number of launches is ready to expand, range is ready to support.” ... “Quite frankly, there’s an opportunity here in California to capitalize on what lies ahead in terms of more economic growth and more jobs,” he said. “So I think the state has an interest in participating.”
Mastalir has had multiple discussion with Lenny Mendonca, a top economic adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom. California boasts the largest share, more than 20 percent, of the national aerospace business. But it has dwindled over the years. The state has lost business to tax friendly competitors like Texas. Leaders at virtually every level of government—local, county, state, the governor’s office, and U.S. Congress—want to bolster California as a competitor in the aerospace business. Now, Mastalir said, there’s interest at the highest levels of the military and national government to expand Vandenberg’s mission and responsibilities. (9/11)
Vector Forfeits Air Force Launch Contract, $4.9M Goes Instead to Aevum (Source: Space News)
The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center on Monday awarded a $4.9 million contract to space startup Aevum to lift experimental satellites to low Earth orbit. The Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer (ASLON)-45 space lift mission had been originally awarded to Vector Launch Aug. 7. But Vector formally withdrew Aug. 26 in the wake of financial difficulties that forced the company to suspend operations and halt development of its Vector-R small launch vehicle.
The Rocket Systems Launch Program — part of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise — used a Federal Acquisition Regulation “simplified acquisition procedure” to expedite another agreement with a different contractor, the Air Force said in a news release. Aevum’s contract is $1.5 million higher than the one that had been awarded to Vector. (9/9)
Launch Deal Increases Space Destinations Aboard A Single 3D-Printed Rocket (Source: Forbes)
Relativity Space's 3D-printed rocket will help send satellites to more zones in orbit through a new agreement announced Wednesday (Sept. 11) with Momentus. A Terran 1 rocket launch for 2021 will launch Momentus customers to space, and then Momentus' "shuttle service" will boost the satellites into various orbits to perform their missions.
If one imagines a rocket like the main city bus that gets passengers to a station near their destination, the Momentus platform is similar to the feeder lines that brings passengers within reach of their doorstep. Momentus will give small and medium satellites, which can't carry a lot of fuel on board, flexibility to reach many more types of orbits than a ride on Terran 1 alone would provide. (9/11)
NASA Reschedules Long-Delayed Pegasus ICON Launch to Oct. 10 at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space News)
A long-delayed NASA space science mission has a new launch date. NASA said it has rescheduled the launch of the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite on a Pegasus XL rocket Oct. 10 from Cape Canaveral. Problems with the rocket delayed the launch several times, most recently last November. (9/10)
Smallsat Launch Services Feel Pricing Pressure (Source: Space News)
Companies that provide both dedicated and rideshare launch services for small satellites say that price remains a major factor for their customers, with pressure from growing competition to lower them. Companies working on many of the dozens of small launch vehicles currently under development have argued that the flexibility they provide, including giving smallsat operators control over when to launch and to what orbit, is worth the higher price such vehicles have over rideshare services, where smallsats are secondary payloads on larger rockets.
“We are a key part of a business plan for our customers, and that’s really the way launch needs to be looked at,” said Dan Hart, president and chief executive of Virgin Orbit, during a panel at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week here Sept. 11. Virgin Orbit is developing an air-launched small rocket, LauncherOne, that Hart said should make its first orbital launch attempt in the middle of this fall.
Hart argued that the smallsat community has matured in recent years into businesses where price alone is not the only factor in selecting a launch provider. “The question is always, what is the capability and what is the total value of a launch in that business plan,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that the flexibility, the ability to get to the right orbit on time, which schedule assurance, and being focused upon as a customer, are really important equities to this now-growing community.” (9/12)
Senate Bill Would Provide $22M for Air Force Small Launcher Program (Source: Space News)
The Senate's defense appropriations bill includes $22 million for a new small launch program. The funding for Tactically Responsive Space Launch, part of the Air Force's research, development, testing and evaluation account, is intended to "leverage new and innovative commercial capabilities" for Defense Department needs. The bill also includes a provision to study an inland hypersonic test and space launch corridor. The proposed Space Force would get the $72.4 million it requested, as well as full funding for the Space Development Agency. (9/13)
US May Have to Show Enemies Our Space Capabilities as a Deterrent (Source: Breaking Defense)
Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella, head of the Air Force Central Command, says the US may have to declassify some space technology in a bid to improve cooperation with allies and deter enemies. Deterring adversaries in space, and just as critically, enabling seamless integration with allies will require US policy makers and military leaders to make “tough decisions” about what can be made public about US and adversary capabilities, says the three-star general.
“That involves where some stuff that is behind the green door is going to have to come out, and those are some tough decisions that senior leaders are going to have to make — because the risks of not doing it may outweigh the technical concerns of doing it,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Guastella told the Mitchell Institute Sep. 6. Guastella explained that for deterrence to be credible, adversaries “have to know that you have something, and you have to demonstrate a willingness to use it.” He added, “clearly we have to think how we are going to do this. At some point, we have to reveal some things — not everything, but some things.” (9/9)
White House Sends Air Force Secretary Pick Barrett’s Nomination to the Senate (Source: Space News)
The White House officially sent to the Senate the nomination of Barbara Barrett to be the next secretary of the U.S. Air Force. Trump announced on May 21 that he intended to nominate Barrett but the vetting process and a review of her financial assets were not completed until August. Barrett was spotted in the Pentagon over the past two weeks where she received unclassified briefings and was prepped for her confirmation hearing. Sources say Barrett was briefed on space issues, including the potential reorganization of the Air Force if Congress authorizes the establishment of a space service under the Department of the Air Force.
Barrett is a former U.S. ambassador and Arizona gubernatorial candidate. In 2008 and 2009, she was the nation’s ambassador to Finland under President George W. Bush. She also served as senior adviser to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, is a former chairman of the State Department’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Working Group, U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy and U.S. Secretary of Commerce’s Export Conference. From 2013 until 2017, Barrett served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Aerospace Corporation.
Barrett earned bachelor’s, master’s, and law degrees at Arizona State University, and received honorary doctorates from ASU, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of South Carolina, Pepperdine University and Finlandia University. A space enthusiast and certified aircraft pilot, in 2009 Barrett trained at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and Kazakhstan, culminating in certification for space travel. (9/9)
SECAF Nominee Supports Space Force Creation (Source: Space News)
The White House’s nominee to be Secretary of the Air Force said establishing a Space Force was a "key imperative." Former U.S. ambassador Barbara Barrett, testifying at her Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, said the United States has to prepare to defend its assets in space and deter adversaries by investing in advanced space technology, training and education. She said she was in "full support" of the administration's proposal for the Space Force, and would recommend the Air Force and Space Force share resources in areas like infrastructure and recruiting. The Senate is expected to vote on her nomination next week. (9/12)
White House Pressures Congress to Advance Space Force (Source: Space News)
The White House is putting new pressure on Congress to accept its views on establishing a Space Force. The White House released a letter last week sent to leadership of the House and Senate armed services committees about its concerns with their versions of a defense authorization bill. The letter noted that the Senate bill in particular "does not provide the necessary legislative authority to establish the United States Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces." The letter seeks other changes in language about the Space Force, including removing restrictions on transfer of personnel. The White House also objected to a separate section that gives the Missile Defense Agency authority for new missile warning satellites, arguing that it undermines ongoing efforts by the Space Development Agency. (9/9)
Senate Supports DOD Funding for Space Priorities, Including Space Force (Source: Space News)
Senate appropriators included funding for Defense Department space priorities in a spending bill marked up Tuesday. The Senate Appropriations Committee did not disclose full details about their bill, but it does include funding for Space Force operations as well as the $1.2 billion requested for the National Security Space Launch program. The bill also creates a new research, development, testing and evaluation line for "tactically responsive launch" aimed at supporting venture class launch services. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill Thursday. (9/10)
Editorial: Is the Senate Ready to Protect American Interests in Space? (Source: The Hill)
Will America get the sixth branch of the military it deserves? The decision now rests with just four senators: Sens. James Inhofe (R-OK), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The stakes are huge both for American national security and the economic destiny of key U.S. states. Space Force is not a partisan issue. The idea, first suggested by the 2001 Rumsfeld Commission, emerged from a bipartisan House in 2017 in response to significant threats to our infrastructure and an ossified and federated bureaucracy incapable of reacting to emerging threats from China and Russia.
America has already lost two years due to political litigation in Congress and Pentagon resistance. The House and Senate have passed different bills so they must be reconciled by a conference committee. Simply put, the House bill does the job, and the Senate version is wholly inadequate to protect American power and interests in space.
The deliberations of the committee are secret, but in this case, accountability for success or failure will be clear: with the president and Pentagon on board and the House fully on board, any failure to establish an independent Space Force in law will rest squarely on the shoulders of the senators on the conference committee. And that’s a dangerous place to be. Nobody wants to be on record as having been the one who “lost space” and enabled a “red moon.” (9/11)
Space Development Agency Chief Makes Its Case (Source: Politico)
Derek Tournear, the acting head of the Space Development Agency, says he is focused on carrying out the nascent Pentagon agency's vision to rapidly acquire new military space technologies after the abrupt departure of his predecessor and amid an ongoing battle to convince Congress to start ponying up some funding.
Only then can it advance the eight capabilities laid out in the Pentagon’s August 2018 report on space organization, including global surveillance and missile tracking. ”Our mission is to answer all of those eight capabilities, but to work with everyone else to make sure that they get built out, not necessarily do it all on our own," he tells us in an exclusive interview.
Yet the new office has struggled to recruit. The 27-person outfit stood up in March is divided into eight “cells” to align with the eight capabilities but key positions remain vacant. Employees need to be willing to work at a fast pace and if they are coming from industry take a pay cut, Tournear, who took over as acting director in June, says. "We are a startup and as a startup you're going to have some hiccups along the way," he adds. Tournear also spoke about the plan to base small groups of SDA staff at outposts across the country, beginnin in Los Angeles, home of the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center. (9/13)
Hundreds of Satellites are Watching From the Skies. Should You Be Concerned? (Source: The Telegraph)
High above your head, many miles in the air, are thousands of satellites. Some of them are creating maps for social media, some are spy satellites owned by foreign governments. You can’t see them and you don’t know what they’re up to. Sounds scary, right? The fact that we can’t see them makes satellites especially worrisome. An invisible “eye in the sky” watching everything you do is the stuff of an Orwellian nightmare.
As the cost of space has come down, scores of companies have begun launching scores of satellites, doing everything from communication signals to mapping. Many of them are taking increasingly high-quality images of the earth. Should we be worried about what they can see? Click here. (9/10)
Putin Has Warned of an Arms Race in Space – and We Should All Be Worried (Source: Independent)
Last week Vladimir Putin suggested that a new arms race might be developing between Russia and the United States – one that could spread into outer space. Putin’s comments, made at the Eastern Economic Forum, are just the latest indication that we are entering a new phase in the global space race. The launch of Donald Trump's US Space Command followed a campaign promise in 2018, but the French declaration that it will develop anti-satellite laser weapons took the international space community by complete surprise, marking a notable change in policy.
The announcements demonstrate the same overarching trend: the weaponization of space by powerful states. Space is already a battleground for terrestrial tensions, and these moves clearly stem from a growing competitive mentality and lack of trust between nations – and if we are not careful, they could have disastrous results. The weaponization of space has two main frontiers: anti-satellite technologies, which are used to disrupt or block satellite transmissions, and "space-based weapons", which are capable of targeting earth and other objects in orbit. (9/11)
The Risks and Rewards of Growing US-China Space Rivalry (Source: The Diplomat)
Despite President Trump’s proposed cuts to NASA’s budget for 2018 and 2019, Congress has reversed the trend, increasing the agency’s budget by 8 percent for 2018 and 3.5 percent for 2019. This year’s $21.5 billion allocation is the best in a decade, adjusting for inflation. Trump’s proposed cuts were aimed at overall budget control. But they were also incompatible with rising U.S. ambitions in space, which include commitments to put people on the moon and in a base in lunar orbit in the 2020s, and to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
A growing factor in the US’ intensifying push is China. Beijing is quickly becoming a major space power, succeeding the Soviet Union as today’s rival to the U.S. in space. Last year, China launched more rockets into Earth’s orbit than any other country. In January, it landed a robotic probe on the unexplored far side of the moon. Beijing has also announced plans to establish a robotic outpost on the moon by the end of the next decade. Pessimists see only dangers in this growing rivalry. Competition in space between Beijing and Washington carries existential risk.
Militarization of space could make it difficult to leave Earth for peaceful purposes. Uncontrolled proliferation of satellites could create space debris that might threaten life on Earth. But competition over space exploration can also benefit humankind, including accelerating the enormous potential for more and better telecommunications networks, global positioning systems and spinoff technologies. As space infrastructure develops to support a more permanent human presence off-planet, we could see transformational gains — notably the opportunity to harvest virtually limitless energy through space-based solar power stations. (9/13)
Air Force Space Command Study Calls for Space Settlement (Source: NSS)
The National Space Society (NSS) commends Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) for its September 5th report on its Space Futures Workshop entitled “The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy.” AFSPC’s report recommended that a U.S.-led coalition establish a preferred future where space is a major contributor to a human economy, where “people live and work widely in space” and where “space settlement [is a] primary driver of the nation’s civil space program.”
In this recommendation, AFSPC’s report reflects the vision of the National Space Society. The report recommends that civil space programs be assessed by their ability to further “large-scale human space settlement” with deep private sector involvement. Included in the report is a call for the U.S.-led coalition to shape a “rules-based, democratic international order” in space where “norms of behavior, rules, and laws” are based on “fairness, open commerce, freedom of movement, and international cooperation.” (9/9)
Space Settlement Visionaries Update Plans (Source: GeekWire)
Fifty years ago, a Princeton physicist named Gerard O’Neill asked his students to help him come up with a plan for setting up settlements in space. Just a few years later, O’Neill published the resulting vision for freestanding space colonies as a book titled “The High Frontier” — a book that helped inspire Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ vision of having millions of people living and working in space.
Now the keepers of the “High Frontier” flame at the California-based Space Studies Institute are revisiting O’Neill’s original vision, with an eye toward updating it for the 21st century. One concept includes a rotating space hotel nearly 200 meters across that could host 400 people. The cost? $70 billion. Click here. (9/9)
Can Spaceflight Save the Planet? (Source: Scientific American)
The planet is warming, the oceans are acidifying, the Amazon is burning down, and plastic is snowing on the Arctic. Humanity’s environmental devastation is so severe, experts say, that a global-scale ecological catastrophe is already underway. Even those holding sunnier views would be hard-pressed to deny that our global footprint is presently less a light touch and more a boot stamping on Earth’s face. Against this dark background, one might ask if spending lavish sums to send humans to other worlds is a foolhardy distraction—or a cynical hedge against life’s downward spiral on this one.
Spaceflight, however, has the potential to be more than just a planetary escape hatch for eccentric billionaires. Whether in today’s Earth-orbiting spacecraft or the outposts that may someday be built on the moon and Mars, to exist beyond Earth, we must somehow replicate all of our planet’s life-giving essentials off-world. Technologies that recycle practically everything—that make water, air and food as renewable and self-sustaining as possible—are essential for current and future human spaceflight. (9/9)
We Need a Space Resources Institute (Source: Scientific American)
The global space industry is estimated to be worth more than $400B in 2018. By 2030, it could double in size because of new technologies and commercial innovation, including space resources. The US is well-situated to capture a significant share of that growth, but that is far from assured. A further focus on scientific research is needed. Recently, the bipartisan “Space Resources Institute Act” was introduced (HR 1029 and S 391). This proposal, which could further unlock space resource technologies, comes from four members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation.
Based on the objective of “maintaining US preeminence in space,” the act would direct NASA to investigate the feasibility and need to establish a Space Resources Institute within six months. Specific objectives include: 1) Identifying, developing and distributing space resources, including by encouraging the development of foundational science and technology; 2) Reducing the technological risks associated with identifying, developing and distributing space resources; and 3) Developing options for using space resources to support current and future space architectures, programs and missions; and enable such architectures, programs and missions that would not otherwise be possible. (4/19)
NASA May Wade Into Lunar Legal Debate (Source: Space News)
Increased interest in the moon has renewed debate about the legal regime for space resources. A committee of the NASA Advisory Council, meeting last week, worked on recommendations calling on NASA to work with other U.S. government agencies on views about legal rights to extract and use resources, citing the importance of lunar water ice to the agency's plans to return to the moon sustainably. A 2015 law gave American companies the rights to resources they extracted from celestial bodies, based on the interest in asteroid mining, but views in other countries about such rights are mixed. A United Nations committee will set up a working group next year to study what the legal regime should be for space resources. (9/9)
Astronauts Mix Cement on ISS, Pave Way for Future Space Colonies (Source: Astronomy)
Concrete, in one form or another, has been a staple of human construction for some 5,000 years. Now, researchers have finally brought the ancient technology to outer space. For the first time, scientists have successfully mixed cement — a primary ingredient of concrete — in the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
As part of an experiment called the Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification, researchers sent the basic building blocks of cement — tricalcium silicate, hydrated lime, and distilled water — to the ISS. The ingredients were then mixed in pouches and allowed to harden for 42 days through a process called hydration. (9/9)
Innovative Model Created for NASA to Predict Vitamin Levels in Spaceflight Food (Source: Space Daily)
A team of food scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has developed a groundbreaking, user-friendly mathematical model for NASA to help ensure that astronauts' food remains rich in nutrients during extended missions in space. The new research, published in the journal Food Chemistry, gives NASA a time-saving shortcut to predict the degradation of vitamins in spaceflight food over time and more accurately and efficiently schedule resupplying trips. The investigation was funded with a $982,685 grant from NASA.
The researchers painstakingly prepared and stored 3,000-plus pouches of spaceflight food according to the exact NASA recipes, thermal processing and storage specifications that are used for astronauts' meals on the International Space Station. Xiao and colleagues showed for the first time how thiamine (vitamin B1) degrades over two years in three crew menu options: brown rice, split pea soup and beef brisket. Xiao says it was "quite surprising" to find that while the brown rice and split pea soup stored at 20 C demonstrated resistance to thiamine degradation, the thiamine in beef brisket was much less stable, retaining only 3 percent of the vitamin after two years. (9/13)
No Digging Required: Space Mining on the Moon and Beyond May Be Solar Powered (Source: Space.com)
Off-Earth miners will probably leave their pickaxes at home. The best way to extract water from the moon and near-Earth asteroids involves hitting the stuff with sunlight or other forms of radiation, if three NASA-funded projects are any guide.
And getting at this water is vital if humanity wants to extend its footprint beyond Earth's orbit, mining advocates say. Water provides life support for astronauts, of course, but it can also be split into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen, the chief components of rocket fuel. So, moon and asteroid mining could lead to the construction of off-Earth propellant depots, which would allow voyaging spacecraft to fill their tanks on the go. Click here. (9/4)
Made In Space to Step Up Off-Earth Production of Valuable Optical Fiber (Source: Space.com)
Off-Earth production of the valuable optical fiber ZBLAN will soon reach Phase 2, if all goes according to plan. California-based company Made In Space has already produced ZBLAN in orbit on four separate occasions, using a microwave-size machine that traveled to and from the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX Dragon cargo capsules. The results of these early tests were promising, Made In Space representatives said, so the company intends to ratchet things up. (9/11)
Bigelow Shows Off B330 Space Habitat Module (Source: KTNV)
Bigelow Aerospace showed off a prototype of its B330 expandable module Thursday. The module, developed under a NASA award, is being tested at Bigelow's Las Vegas facilities. The company said that the B330, initially intended for low Earth orbit facilities, could also be used for missions to the moon and Mars. (9/13)
Space Elevator to the Moon Could Be Doable — and Surprisingly Cheap (Source: NBC)
The idea of space elevators isn’t new; spaceflight visionaries have been talking about them at least since 1895. But Zephyr Penoyre and Emily Sandford envision a system that would be used not to ferry humans and cargo from Earth’s surface to Earth orbit — the goal of so-called classical space elevator concepts — but to provide transportation to and from the moon.
In a study published Aug. 25 on the online research archive arXiv, the students contend that it’s technologically and financially feasible to build such a "lunar space elevator," which was first publicly detailed by Jerome Pearson at a conference in 1977 and by Yuri Arsutanov in a separate paper published in 1979. “It shocks me how cheap it could be,” says study co-author Penoyre, a graduate student in astronomy at the University of Cambridge, adding that the $1 billion it might take to build such an elevator “is within the whim of one particularly motivated billionaire.”
Its central element is a cable that would be anchored to the moon and span more than 200,000 miles to a point above Earth's surface — perhaps an orbit about 27,000 miles from our planet. (The cable of a lunar space elevator couldn’t be anchored to Earth’s surface because the relative motions of the moon and our planet wouldn't permit it.) The simplest version of the Spaceline cable might be barely thicker than the lead in a pencil and might weigh about 88,000 pounds — within the payload capacity of a next-generation NASA or SpaceX rocket. It could be made from Kevlar or other existing materials rather than the exotic and hard-to-make carbon-based materials that have long been seen as the key to building a classical space elevator. (9/13)
Japan's Maezawa Sells Fashion Company, Plans Preparation for SpaceX Lunar Trip (Source: AFP)
The Japanese billionaire who bought a SpaceX Starship trip around the moon last year has sold his fashion company. Yahoo Japan will take a 50.1% stake in Zozo for $3.7 billion, including buying some of the shares owned by founder Yusaku Maezawa, who will step down as CEO. SpaceX announced a year ago that Maezawa would buy a flight of the Starship vehicle SpaceX is developing, sending it around the moon with several artists on board. Maezawa said that, by stepping down from Zozo, he can spend more time preparing for the flight. (9/12)
Amid Questions About Leadership, NASA is “Close” to Making a Key Hire (Source: Ars Technica)
Nearly two months have now passed since NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine essentially fired Bill Gerstenmaier, the agency's chief of human spaceflight. Since then, Bridenstine has been winnowing a field of potential candidates for this critical position at NASA—a position which has oversight of all human spaceflight activities, including the space station, commercial crew, and Artemis lunar programs.
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel on Friday urged Bridenstine to move quickly on finding a qualified replacement for the highly respected Gerstenmaier. A source close to Bridenstine disputed the notion that there is a vacuum in leadership at the agency, citing the interim appointment of five-time astronaut and former aerospace industry official Ken Bowersox to fill Gerstenmaier's job. However, this source said that Bridenstine is "close" to making a hire to permanently replace Gerstenmaier. (9/9)
NASA Glenn Director Janet Kavandi, a Former Astronaut, Retires (Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer)
NASA Glenn Director Janet Kavandi, a former astronaut who oversaw a growing budget and mission, has announced her retirement from NASA, effective Sept. 30. The patent-winning chemist turned astronaut joined NASA Glenn Research Center in 2015 as deputy director and became director the next year. Glenn’s budget climbed from $581 in fiscal 2015 to $850 million for fiscal 2019. (9/11)
NASA Announces New Director of Langley Research Center (Source: NASA)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Monday the selection of Clayton Turner as the next director of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Since 2015, Turner has served as Langley’s deputy center director. As center director, he will lead a diverse group of about 3,400 civil servant and contractor scientists, researchers, engineers and support staff, who work to make revolutionary improvements to aviation, expand understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, and develop technology for space exploration. (9/9)
Squyres Joins Blue Origin (Source: GeekWire)
A planetary scientist best known for leading a Mars rover mission is joining Blue Origin. Steve Squyres, a Cornell University professor of planetary scientist, will be the chief scientist for Blue Origin, the company said Wednesday. Squyres was the principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which landed in 2004 and, in the case of Opportunity, operated until 2018. Before being hired by Blue Origin, he served on a science advisory board for the company as it planned development of its Blue Moon lunar lander. (9/12)
Japanese Cargo Mission to ISS Grounded by Launch Pad Fire (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Japanese officials called off the launch of an H-2B rocket and HTV space station cargo ship Tuesday after a fire broke out on the launch pad at the Tanegashima Space Center. The fire occurred at around 1805 GMT (2:05 p.m. EDT) Tuesday, or 3:05 a.m. local time Wednesday, around three-and-a-half hours before the H-2B launcher was scheduled to lift off with an automated supply ship bound for the International Space Station.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation when officials briefed reporters on the fire four hours after cameras first observed the blaze near the base of the 186-foot-tall (56.6-meter) rocket. The launch pad was evacuated at the time of the fire, and the rocket’s manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, reported no injuries. (9/10)
Soyuz Cargo Craft Returns to Earth (Source: Space.com)
A Soyuz spacecraft with no humans, but instead a humanoid robot, returned to Earth Friday. The Soyuz MS-14 undocked from the International Space Station at 2:14 p.m. Eastern Friday, landing in Kazakhstan a little more than three hours later. On board the Soyuz was a humanoid robot known as FEDOR or Skybot F-850, which completed a series of tests on the station. Soyuz MS-14 launched last month to test the use of the Soyuz-2.1a rocket for future Soyuz crewed spacecraft launches. (9/9)
Putin Rebukes Officials Over Space Delays (Source: Space Daily)
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday gave a dressing down to space officials on a visit to Russia's long-delayed and corruption-tainted cosmodrome in the Far East. The Vostochny cosmodrome was originally supposed to be running manned launches from last year but the grand project has been consistently behind schedule. At a meeting with the head of the country's space agency Dmitry Rogozin and others, Putin asked for details on how close the spaceport is to completion.
"I expect a more responsible attitude from you and a dynamic pace when organizing work," Putin said in televised comments. "All the infrastructure being built on the ground here must meet the latest demands and standards to ensure launches of our advanced rocket systems," the president said. The cosmodrome in the Amur region is one of Russia's most important space projects, designed to reduce its reliance on the Baikonur launch site it rents from Kazakhstan to ferry astronauts. State television hailed it as "the country's main construction site". Russia hopes the facility will restore its Soviet-era supremacy. (9/6)
Roscosmos to Build Cheap Soyuz-2M Rocket for Commercial Satellites Launch Service (Source: Sputnik)
Russian state space corporation Roscosmos is working on a cheaper version of the Soyuz rocket to cut launch costs for commercial satellites, Russian space travel operator Glavkosmos (GK) Launch Services CEO Alexander Serkin said. Serkin noted that the GK Launch Services, in partnership with Roscosmos, is working on ways to reduce the Soyuz rockets' costs. According to the CEO, a modification of the Soyuz-2M rocket is being developed for this purpose on the basis of the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle, but without the Frigate upper stage.
The cost of launching the Soyuz-2M will be about $30 million, and it will be able to take 2-3 tonnes of payload into sun-synchronous orbit. "The price has gone down in the past few years. It's a trend that will continue," Serkin said. In October 2018, GK Launch Services announced that the cost of the commercial launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket with the Frigate upper stage was $48.5 million, and $35 million without it. (9/13)
Russia's RD-180 Engine Could Power NextGen Soyuz Rocket (Source: TASS)
Russia says it will use the RD-180 engine in a new version of the Soyuz rocket. Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said the Soyuz-6, a medium-class rocket based on the Soyuz-5 already under development, will use RD-180 engine, but didn't state when that vehicle would be ready. The RD-180 currently powers the Atlas 5, which will be phased out in the 2020s as United Launch Alliance transitions to the new Vulcan rocket. (9/9)
UK Spaceport Charm Offensive (Source: Cornish Stuff)
The council’s leading Cabinet will be asked next week to approve providing capital and revenue funding for the project for a horizontal launch site from Newquay Airport. Under the plans the spaceport would be used to launch small satellites into orbit and has received backing from Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit firm. Earlier this year a £20m funding package was announced which would include £12m from Cornwall Council, £7.85m from the UK Space Agency and £2.5m from Virgin Orbit. (9/11)
India Slow to Provide Status on Lunar Lander (Source: The Print)
The Indian space agency ISRO remains silent on the status of the Chandrayaan-2 lander. The agency has said little since it lost contact with the Vikram lander during its final descent to the surface, beyond a brief statement that the lander had been located in images taken by the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter. ISRO continues efforts to contact the lander, but likely only had until the end of next week before the solar-powered lander goes into a two-week lunar night. (9/10)
India Finds Lunar Lander (Source: Space News)
ISRO Chairman K. Sivan told Indian media on Sunday that the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter had located its Vikram lander on the surface 500 meters from its planned landing site, but there were few details on the condition of the lander and no communications with it. ISRO hasn't formally commented on the status of the lander since shortly after the landing attempt. (9/8)
NASA to Share Vikram Landing Site Imagery with India (Source: Hindustan Times)
NASA said it would share “before and after” images of the location where Chandrayaan 2’s Vikram lander made a hard-landing in the early hours of September 7. “NASA will share any before and after flyover imagery of the area around the targeted Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Lander landing site to support analysis by the Indian Space Research Organization,” a NASA statement to the New York Times said. The US space agency is also attempting to re-establish communication with Vikram lander, which has not transmitted any signal since September 7. (9/13)
Schrödinger’s Lander (Source: Space Review)
On Friday, India attempted to land its Vikram spacecraft on the surface of the Moon, but contact was lost with the spacecraft during its descent. Jeff Foust reports on the uncertain status of the lander and the lessons it and other setbacks offer for future missions to the Moon. Click here. (9/9)
South Korea Delays Lunar Mission to 2022 (Source: Korea Herald)
South Korea has postponed its first lunar mission from 2020 to 2022. The country's science ministry said the lunar orbiter mission, previously scheduled for launch in December 2020, will now fly in July 2022. Mass growth in the spacecraft, to be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9, has been an issue. The South Korean government first proposed the lunar orbiter mission more than a decade ago, but its launch date has fluctuated from administration to administration since then. (9/11)
Arianespace CEO: Satellite Demand Picking Up Across Sizes, Capabilities (Source: Space News)
Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel says demand for geostationary satellites is growing, and a variety of sizes and capabilities are finding customers. "We see the dominance of electric propulsion, a very large breadth of masses and the possibility of aggregating these satellites with the platform," he said. Of the 11 geostationary satellites ordered industry-wide in 2019, nine rely on electric propulsion. The satellite masses range from 300 kilograms for Astranis, a startup planning to provide internet links via satellite, to ViaSat-3 weighing in at 6,500 kilograms.
Arianespace has booked nine contracts since Jan. 1: two contracts apiece for Ariane 5, Ariane 6 and Soyuz plus three Vega contracts. Arianespace also announced plans this year to move the planned launch of the ViaSat-3 communications satellite from an Ariane 5 to an Ariane 6 rocket. Orders for geostationary satellites are beginning to rebound in a market that is far more varied than in the past, said Israel. (9/9)
China's Heavy-Lift Rocket Could Fly Again This Year (Source: Space News)
China could return the Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket to flight before the end of the year. The rocket has not flown since its second launch in July 2017 ended in failure because of a malfunction of one of its first stage engines. If China does conduct a Long March 5 launch in 2019, it likely will be late in the year because of the time needed to transport the vehicle to the launch site and perform prelaunch preparations. The Long March 5 is needed for a number of major Chinese missions, including the Chang'e-5 lunar sample return mission and its first Mars lander, expected to launch in 2020. (9/10)
China Launches Three Satellites on Long March 4B Rocket (Source: Xinhua)
China launched three satellites on a Long March 4B overnight. The rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 11:26 p.m. Eastern and placed into orbit the ZY-1 02D Earth resources satellite. It also carried two smallsat secondary payloads, one from a Chinese university and the other from a Chinese company. There was little advance notice of the launch. (9/12)
China's Space Station Core Module Passess Review (Source: Space News)
Although the core module for China's space station has passed a major review, its launch could be delayed. The China Manned Space Agency said earlier this month that the Tianhe module has passed a design and prototype review, allowing assembly of the flight version of the 20-ton module to proceed. That module was set to launch in 2020 as the first step in assembling a space station that was to be complete in 2020, but a Chinese official said earlier this week that the station will now be completed between 2022 and 2024. (9/13)
Chinese Company Inks Deal with Satellogic for Earth Imaging (Source: Space News)
Satellogic has signed a deal with a Chinese company giving it access to its constellation of Earth imaging satellites. The $38 million agreement gives ABDAS, a Chinese data science company, exclusive access to Satellogic's satelites for images of Henan Province in China. The deal is the first such agreement for Satellogic, which also sells imagery and data products. Satellogic currently has eight satellites in orbit, producing multispectral and hyperspectral imagery, and plans to launch 16 more in the next eight months. (9/13)
French Military Satellites Could Sell Access to Other Governments (Source: Space News)
Airbus and Telespazio will team up to sell excess capacity on future French military communications satellites. The two companies, working with the French defense procurement agency, said they will offer excess X-band and military Ka-band capacity on the Syracuse 4 satellites, launching in 2022, to allied governments. The companies did not disclose how much capacity could be offered, but said it could provide continuity for those governments currently buying excess capacity on British Skynet satellites that will be approaching end of life by the early 2020s. (9/11)
UK and Airbus Consider Constellation of Radar Satellites (Source: BBC)
The British military has awarded a study contract to Airbus for a constellation of SAR satellites. Project Oberon would deploy several smallsats to provide imagery in all weather and lighting conditions. Airbus believes that, if the U.K. Ministry of Defence decides to go forward with the system, it could start launching satellites in 2022 and have the full system operational in 2025. (9/12)
GEO Satellite Market Concerns Satellite Makers and Launchers (Source: Space News)
Launch companies aren't alone in their skepticism about a rebound in the GEO market. Commercial orders of geostationary communications satellites have reached double-digits for the first time since 2016, with 10 ordered through the end of August. While optimistic about 2019's buying rate, experts say this year's uptick is more a reflection of how tough the last few years have been than an indication of a full market recovery. Others noted that just counting orders isn't an accurate reflection of the market, given the wide range of sizes of GEO satellites now being ordered. (9/11)
Pixxel Picks Soyuz-2 Rocket to Launch Demo Satellite (Source: GK Launch Services)
Pixxel has signed a launch contract with GK Launch Services for its first tech demo mission to be launched in Q2-Q3 2020 from Baikonur on GK-operated Soyuz-2 mission. The contract was arranged with the support of Precious Payload’s launch booking platform. Pixxel is an Indian space startup building a constellation of earth imaging satellites to provide global coverage every 24 hours. The startup is the only Asian participant in the Techstars Starbust Space Accelerator where it is working with JPL NASA, US Air Force, Lockheed Martin, SAIC and IAI among other space stalwarts. (9/12)
Satellite Industry Shifts Away From Export Credit Financing (Source: Space News)
Export credit financing, which less than a decade ago was a critical element of satellite industry business plans, has now largely faded from the market as private financing becomes more accessible and affordable. Export credit agencies, or ECAs, like the Export-Import Bank of the United States played a significant role in funding development of commercial satellites through the first half of the decade, particularly for systems that struggled to win financing without the guarantees that such agencies offered.
“The undertaking flat out could not have been accomplished without export credit finance,” said Tom Fitzpatrick, chief financial officer of Iridium, discussing the company’s $3 billion Iridium Next effort during a panel discussion at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week conference here Sept. 9. The company’s financials at the time it started Iridium Next were not strong enough, he said, to support more conventional private funding. (9/9)
Flat-Panel Antennas Broaden Market for Broadband Satellite Services (Source: Space News)
Inexpensive flat-panel antennas could be a "game-changer" for satellite broadband services. Companies operating satellite broadband services say such antennas are needed for consumer applications as well as some Internet of Things services. Other markets, though, are less reliant on such antennas, including maritime and energy where more conventional antennas are sufficient. (9/11)
To Do Business, Reprogrammable Satellites Now the Requirement for Manufacturers (Source: Space News)
Manufacturers say software-defined satellites that can redesign beams and capacity have shifted from a wish-list feature to a requirement for operators. Satellite operators are still buying multi-ton geostationary satellites at below average rates, but for manufacturers to close even a limited number of sales, so-called “flexible” satellites that can dynamically move capacity around are a must-have. (9/11)
Saturn Satellite Networks Acquired by NovaWorks (Source: Space News)
Small GEO satellite startup Saturn Satellite Networks has acquired smallsat technology company NovaWurks. Saturn and NovaWurks did not disclose the terms of the transaction, but the chairman of Saturn said it was "well into seven figures." Saturn is a firm founded by former executives of fleet operator ABS of Bermuda to build Nationsat, a digital platform for small geostationary satellites. Saturn plans to use modular satellite technologies called "satlets" developed by NovaWurks to accelerate development of Nationalsat. (9/10)
Boeing Unveils Small Satellite Line (Source: Space News)
Boeing announced a new line of small GEO satellites that offer high-performance payloads. The 702X series of satellites weigh 1,900 kilograms unfueled, using digital payload technology that reduces the mass of the satellites by half. The new platform is based on the O3b mPower spacecraft it is building for SES’s medium-Earth-orbit constellation of high-throughput satellites. Boeing is the latest company to offer small GEO communications satellites, some as small as a few hundred kilograms, intended for niche opportunities where faster fill rates, smaller geographic footprints, and lower costs are necessary for getting the business case to close. (9/9)
Spire Begins Weather Forecasting Support with Cubesat Constellation (Source: Space News)
Spire has unveiled its first product from its weather forecasting unit. Spire Forecast is a product designed to provide the maritime industry with detailed information on atmospheric conditions. The product uses data from Spire's constellation of more than 70 cubesats that collect radio occultation data. Spire separately announced this week that its constellation now collects 5,000 daily radio occultation profiles. (9/12)
Xenesis Unveils Laser Comm Plan (Source: Space News)
Laser communications startup Xenesis announced a deal last week to sell optical transceivers. Under the four-year, $212.5 million deal, Hartwell Capitol will distribute Xen-Hub, Xenesis’ optical communications transceiver, in several countries. Xenesis emerged from stealth mode in 2018 with plans to sell a small optical transceiver developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory capable of speeds up to 10 gigabits per second from low Earth orbit satellites to the ground. (9/9)
Using Satellites to Advance Archaeology (Source: WGN)
Sarah Parcak talks about what a “space archaeologist” does, the advancement of technology and how it has helped improve her work, what got her interested in archaeology, how much more there is to discover, what she is looking for when she is on an archaeological dig, how crowdsourcing is helping archaeology and why she believes that we are in a golden age of archaeological discovery. Click here. (9/9)
Maxar to Provide Fish Mapping (Source: Space News)
Maxar will provide oceanographic data and saltwater fishing recommendations for SiriusXM’s new Fish Mapping service. Maxar will use its geospatial analytics system to combine a variety of data sources to support anglers. This is not a new business for Maxar, which has created oceanographic datasets that highlight fishing recommendations for more than 20 years. (9/10)
Avanti to Delist From London Stock Exchange (Source: Space News)
Avanti shareholders approved a proposal to delist the stock of the satellite operator. Shareholders controlling 92% of Avanti’s stock voted in favor of delisting from the London Stock Exchange, well above the 75% threshold for approval. Avanti disclosed plans to delist last month, saying that complying with regulatory requirements imposed on publicly traded companies takes too much time and money without producing benefits. Avanti is the third satellite operator to withdraw from public trading this year, following AsiaSat and Inmarsat. (9/9)
SpaceX Plans to Change Starlink Constellation Orbits (Source: Space News)
SpaceX is proposing a change in the design of its constellation of Starlink satellites. In an FCC filing, SpaceX proposed to increase the number of orbital planes for the constellation from 24 to 72, which the company said will increase launch efficiency and allow it to start services in the continental United States in perhaps half as many launches. SpaceX, which launched its first 60 Starlink satellites in May, said in the filing it expects to carry out "several" more Starlink launches before the end of this year. (9/9)
SpaceX May Deploy Satellite Broadband Across US Faster Than Expected (Source: Ars Technica)
SpaceX says it plans to change its satellite launch strategy in a way that will speed up deployment of its Starlink broadband service and has set a new goal of providing broadband in the Southern United States late next year. In a filing on August 30, SpaceX asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to "adjust the orbital spacing of its satellites." With this change, each SpaceX launch would deploy satellites in "three different orbital planes" instead of just one, "accelerating the process of deploying satellites covering a wider service area."
"This adjustment will accelerate coverage to southern states and US territories, potentially expediting coverage to the southern continental United States by the end of the next hurricane season and reaching other US territories by the following hurricane season," SpaceX told the FCC. The Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons each begin in the spring and run to November 30 each year. (9/12)
Colliding Satellites Could Create a Belt of Space Junk Around Earth (Source: Vice)
More than 1,300 active human-made satellites are flying in low orbit right now. They ceaselessly glide, boosting up and down to avoid bits of space junk and occasionally each other in a robotic ballet hundreds of miles above their human controllers. In a few years, there could be ten times as many artificial satellites in low-Earth orbit alone (the band of space where the International Space Station resides) thanks to private companies that have proposed launching spacecraft to deliver services such as beaming the internet down from space.
That huge influx of corporate satellites is going to complicate things in space, where there are effectively no traffic rules—like a highway with no cops and everyone driving blindfolded. Already, stress fractures have appeared in the global system that keeps satellites from colliding. Although the possibility of two satellites colliding above our heads seems new and rather frightening, it has happened before. The first-ever recorded collision between two human-made satellites occurred 10 years ago, in 2009, and drastically changed how the world approaches space traffic management and debris mitigation.
"We tend to think of the probability as astronomically low, and it is pretty low, but given enough rolls of the dice it will eventually happen." According to NASA, space debris "is the No. 1 threat to spacecraft, satellites, and astronauts." In space, a 10-centimeter projectile packs the same punch as 7 pounds of TNT on Earth. This debris moves fast, and unlike satellites it cannot be maneuvered—all we can do is track it and try to get out of its way if it appears catastrophic. (9/9)
Water Found on a Potentially Life-Friendly Alien Planet (Source: National Geographic)
In a first for astronomers studying worlds beyond our solar system, data from the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed water vapor in the atmosphere of an Earth-size planet. Although this exoplanet orbits a star that is smaller than our sun, it falls within what’s known as the star’s habitable zone, the range of orbital distances where it would be warm enough for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface.
The discovery, announced this week in two independent studies, comes from years of observations of the exoplanet K2-18b, a super-Earth that’s about 111 light-years from our solar system. Discovered in 2015 by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, K2-18b is very unlike our home world: It’s more than eight times the mass of Earth, which means it’s either an icy giant like Neptune or a rocky world with a thick, hydrogen-rich atmosphere. (9/11)
Research Redefines Lower Limit for Planet Size Habitability (Source: Space Daily)
In a recent paper, Harvard University researchers described a new, lower size limit for planets to maintain surface liquid water for long periods of time, extending the so-called Habitable or "Goldilocks'' Zone for small, low-gravity planets. This research expands the search area for life in the universe and sheds light on the important process of atmospheric evolution on small planets.
Generally, planets are considered habitable if they can maintain surface liquid water long enough to allow for the evolution of life, conservatively about one billion years. Astronomers hunt for these habitable planets within specific distances of certain types of stars - stars that are smaller, cooler and lower mass than our Sun have a habitable zone much closer than larger, hotter stars. The inner-edge of the habitable zone is defined by how close a planet can be to a star before a runaway greenhouse effect leads to the evaporation of all the surface water. But, as Arnscheidt and his colleagues demonstrated, this definition doesn't hold for small, low gravity planets. (9/12)
What is Space-Time? The True Origins of the Fabric of Reality (Source: New Scientist)
Let's say you want to meet a friend for coffee. You have to tell them where you are going to be – your location in space – but you also need to let them know when. Both bits of information are necessary because we live in a four-dimensional continuum: three-dimensional space and everything within it, from steaming coffee machines to stars exploding in faraway galaxies, all happening at different moments of one-dimensional time.
“Space-time” is simply the physical universe inside which we and everything else exists. And yet, even after millennia living in it, we still don’t know what space-time actually is. Physicists have strived to work it out for more than a century. In recent years, many of us have been trying to figure out what might be the threads from which the fabric of reality is woven. We have ideas, each with its own selling points and shortcomings. But for my money, the most exciting one is the most surprising.
It is the idea that space-time emerges from a weird property of the quantum world that means particles and fields, those fundamental constituents of nature, can be connected even if they are at opposite ends of the universe. If that is correct, we might finally have found a bridge between the two irreconcilable totems of physics, placing us on the threshold of a theory of quantum gravity. We would also have the most startling demonstration yet that the world we see isn’t the world as it is. (9/12)
Mysterious Object From Interstellar Space ‘Approaching Our Solar System’ (Source: The Sun)
A mysterious object from deep space is fizzing towards the Solar System – and scientists have no idea what it is. Dubbed "C/2019 Q4", the high-speed body appears to be on a path originating from another star system that will see it fire past Mars in October. That would make it only the second interstellar visitor ever known to have reached the Solar System. The first, a cigar-shaped object called Oumuamua, careened past Earth in 2017. (9/12)
Towering Balloon-Like Structures Discovered Near Center of the Milky Way (Source: Phys.org)
An international team of astronomers, including Northwestern University's Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, has discovered one of the largest structures ever observed in the Milky Way. A newly spotted pair of radio-emitting bubbles reach hundreds of light-years tall, dwarfing all other structures in the central region of the galaxy. The team believes the enormous, hourglass-shaped structure likely is the result of a phenomenally energetic burst that erupted near the Milky Way's supermassive black hole several million years ago. (9/11)
Intersections in Real Time: the Decision to Build the KH-11 KENNEN Reconnaissance Satellite (Source: Space Review)
The idea that reconnaissance satellites can return high-definition images in near real time is taken for granted today, but took technology advancements and political persistence to make possible. Dwayne Day examines the efforts by the CIA in the 1960s to develop such spacecraft. Click here. (9/9)
NASA Remixed an Ariana Grande Song to Promote its Mission to Put a Woman on the Moon (Source: CNN)
NASA is relying on a bit of star power to educate youth about space and promote its upcoming mission to the moon. Interns for the US space agency remixed Ariana Grande's "NASA," and rewrote the lyrics to promote NASA's work. "As we look forward to sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024 with our Artemis missions, interns working at NASA's Johnson Space Center remixed Ariana Grande's song 'NASA' to share their excitement for deep space exploration," the space agency said. (9/8)
Natalie Portman Joins Hollywood Space Race with 'Lucy in the Sky' (Source: Space Daily)
NASA may have grounded its space shuttles, but more Hollywood A-listers than ever are exploring the final frontier, with Natalie Portman launching one of two astronaut movie premieres at Toronto's film festival. "Lucy in the Sky" opens with Portman drifting through space in her astronaut suit, begging her bosses for a few more moments to gaze at the cosmos before returning to the humdrum reality of life on Earth.
Eva Green's character in French movie "Proxima" also portrays the immense challenge of life as an astronaut -- an elite club, still more so for women -- but focuses on the grueling build-up to lift-off. The actresses follow a string of marquee stars donning spacesuits in recent years including George Clooney and Sandra Bullock ("Gravity"), Matt Damon ("The Martian"), Matthew McConaughey ("Interstellar"), Ryan Gosling ("First Man") and Brad Pitt in the upcoming "Ad Astra." (9/12)
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