Latest Space News
Sun, 24 Jun 2018 18:49:57 +0000
“We’re executing exactly the way we’ve been executing to try to speed up acquisition,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., military deputy at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 22 Jun 2018 22:07:52 +0000
Nearly a month after the signing of a policy directive calling for commercial space regulatory reforms, Commerce Department officials said this week they’re moving ahead on a number of fronts. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 22 Jun 2018 03:12:12 +0000
The White House has directed NASA to study the possibility of converting one of more of its field centers into federal labs, revisiting a proposal made nearly 15 years ago. SpaceNews.com
Fri, 22 Jun 2018 00:04:04 +0000
The Falcon Heavy beat United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 in a competition under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. SpaceNews.com
Thu, 21 Jun 2018 23:41:21 +0000
To receive FIRST UP Satcom, a weekly SpaceNews newsletter for satellite and telecom professionals, sign up here. TOP STORIES Chinese hackers tried to gain control of U.S. satellites in late 2017, leading a cyber firm to notify the U.S. government. Symantec’s protection software blocked some of the tools used by attackers known as “Thrip” that attacked two […] SpaceNews.com
Thu, 21 Jun 2018 22:56:40 +0000
Blue Origin expects to start flying people on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle “soon” and start selling tickets for commercial flights next year, a company executive said June 19. SpaceNews.com
Thu, 21 Jun 2018 21:41:59 +0000
Canadian satellite antenna manufacturer C-Com said June 21 it successfully tested the building blocks of a phased array antenna it hopes to sell next year. SpaceNews.com
Thu, 21 Jun 2018 15:25:18 +0000
Rogers: Whether you call the new branch a Space Corps or a Space Force is not all that important. SpaceNews.com
Thu, 21 Jun 2018 10:45:26 +0000
A report released by the White House June 20 outlines a set of goals to address the small but “high-consequence” threat posed by near Earth objects (NEOs), but does not commit to spending more money to achieve them. SpaceNews.com
Wed, 20 Jun 2018 19:52:56 +0000
Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James: "The Air Force and the DoD have to come up with something to back up what the president said.” SpaceNews.com
Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:57:18 +0000
China has lowered the orbit of its Tiangong-2 space lab, likely in preparation for deorbiting the orbital facility and thus averting a similar scenario to the uncontrolled re-entry of Tiangong-1 earlier this year. SpaceNews.com
Wed, 20 Jun 2018 12:13:10 +0000
Those who loathe or love a Space Force “separate but equal” to the Air Force must think and act decisively and quickly. Regardless of whether the Space Force actually materializes, deliberation alone could finally spring us into action to deal with the looming threat of space Pearl Harbor. SpaceNews.com
Wed, 20 Jun 2018 11:12:05 +0000
An advisory group dubbed the “think tank” for the National Space Council formally kicked off its work June 19 with a broad but vague mandate to study space policy issues. SpaceNews.com
Wed, 20 Jun 2018 00:08:21 +0000
Fleet operators SES and Intelsat asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to extend the deadline for their customers to register C-band dishes before the commission decides on the band’s future use. SpaceNews.com
Tue, 19 Jun 2018 11:00:08 +0000
Trump’s proposal derives from a growing debate inside military and political circles about how to best meet the threat posed to American space assets by potential enemies: Russia and China, to be precise. SpaceNews.com
Tue, 19 Jun 2018 01:45:44 +0000
A former NASA astronaut used an appearance at a National Space Council meeting June 18 to argue that a key element of NASA’s plans to return humans to the moon should be reconsidered. SpaceNews.com
Mon, 18 Jun 2018 19:35:34 +0000
Trump: Creating a Space Force and promoting space exploration by NASA and the private sector will be “important for the nation’s psyche.” SpaceNews.com
Mon, 18 Jun 2018 13:22:16 +0000
President Trump will sign a new space policy directive June 18 addressing space traffic management issues, closely following the proposed policy that Vice President Pence announced in April. SpaceNews.com
Mon, 18 Jun 2018 08:45:21 +0000
A key senator says he’s keeping an open mind regarding who in the federal government should have responsibility for the oversight of “non-traditional” commercial space activities. SpaceNews.com
Sat, 16 Jun 2018 19:45:35 +0000
The House Appropriations defense subcommittee approved $49.5 million to create a new “program of record for commercial satellite communications." SpaceNews.com
More space news...

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June 18, 2018

Settling Into the New Job (Source: Space Review)
It’s been more than a month and a half since Jim Bridenstine was sworn in as NASA administrator, and perceptions about him are already changing. Jeff Foust reports on an interview Bridenstine had with reporters that dealt with topics ranging from his views on climate change to the role of commercial capabilities versus NASA-run programs. Click here. (6/11)
 
Bridenstine Considers Kavadni for Deputy Post (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Tuesday he'd like to see a current center director and former astronaut be nominated as his deputy. Bridenstine said he's been advocating for Janet Kavandi to be nominated for the position of deputy administrator. Kavandi is currently director of the Glenn Research Center and is a former astronaut who flew on three shuttle missions and later served in management positions at the Johnson Space Center. Bridenstine said that given the major development programs in progress at NASA, the deputy administrator needs to be someone with extensive technical and managerial experience. (6/13)

Marshall Director Todd May Leaving NASA (Source: Huntsville Times)
The director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center announced Monday his plans to leave the agency. Todd May said that he will step down as center director at the end of July to "begin a new chapter in life" but didn't disclose details about his plans. May, the former manager of the Space Launch System program, became acting center director in November 2015 upon the retirement of former director Patrick Scheuermann, and took the job on a permanent basis in February 2016. (6/11)

Astronaut Peggy Whitson Retires from NASA (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Peggy Whitson retired from NASA on June 15, 2018, after 32 years with the space agency—22 as an astronaut. Between 2002 and 2017, she participated in three long-duration International Space Station expeditions, accumulating 665 days orbit—a record for any U.S. space flyer.

Whitson, now 58, concluded her most recent mission in September 2017. Her nine-month stay aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 50, 51 and 52 was the longest for any woman and included multiple spacewalks. In fact, according to NASA, she carries the title for the most spacewalks by a woman—10 totaling 60 hours, 21 minutes. (6/16)

New NASA Position to Focus on Exploration of Moon, Mars and Worlds Beyond (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is taking a giant leap focusing the agency's exploration of the Moon, Mars and our Solar System. Effective immediately, Steve Clarke is SMD's Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration. He will serve as the agency's interface between the NASA mission directorates, the scientific community, and other external stakeholders in developing a strategy to enable an integrated approach for robotic and human exploration within NASA's Exploration Campaign. (6/13)

Bridenstine: Commercial Space is Key to NASA (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that commercial space policy changes are important to NASA. Speaking earlier this week, Bridenstine said that provisions in Space Policy Directive 2, signed in May, that streamline launch licensing processes are vital to NASA as a customer of launch services. He also said developing an oversight regime for "non-traditional" commercial space activities, like lunar landers, is critical, but declined to say whether that responsibility should be with the Commerce Department or Transportation Department. Bridenstine said that space traffic management, the likely subject of the next space policy directive, will need to balance safety of space operations with the desire to minimize the regulatory environment. (6/14)

An Open Letter to NASA’s Administrator: Let’s Beckon the Future Together (Source: Space News)
On behalf of the 65 industry members and Board of Directors of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, I would like to extend our congratulations at the start of your tenure as NASA administrator. The NASA exploration and science programs our members support contribute to the economy in all 50 states — leading to manufacturing, engineering and testing in communities across the country that otherwise might not have the opportunity to contribute to the space program. Click here. (6/1)

Senate Bill Restores Funding for NASA Science and Technology Demonstration Missions (Source: Space News)
A fiscal year 2019 spending bill approved by a Senate appropriations subcommittee June 12 offers $21.3 billion for NASA, including funding for several missions slated for cancellation in the administration’s budget request. The bill, approved unanimously by members of the commerce, justice and science (CJS) subcommittee during a brief markup session, provides the agency with more than $1.4 billion above the administration’s request for fiscal year 2019 and $587 million above what the agency received in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending bill.

However, it is about $220 million below what the House version of the bill offers the agency. The bill offers $6.4 billion for NASA science programs, including $1.9 billion for Earth science, the same as the House bill and $200 million above the administration’s request. The bill specifically funds four NASA Earth science programs — the PACE spacecraft, CLARREO-Pathfinder and Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 instruments and the Earth-imaging cameras on the DSCOVR spacecraft — targeted for cancellation in the budget request. (6/12)

NASA’s Unnecessary $504 Million Lunar Orbit Project Doesn’t Help Us Get Back to the Moon (Source: The Hill)
NASA is planning to build a human-tended space station in lunar orbit dubbed the Lunar Orbiting Platform-Gateway (LOP-G.) The lunar space station would accommodate crews of four for 60 to 90 days. The LOP-G crew “will also participate in a variety of deep-space exploration and commercial activities in the vicinity of the Moon, including possible missions to the lunar surface. NASA also wants to leverage the gateway for scientific investigations near and on the Moon.” 

The LOP-G started life as the Deep Space Gateway during the Obama administration. NASA tried to sell the DSG as a laboratory to test technologies that would be useful for the Journey to Mars program announced on April 15, 2010. The other thing that the Deep Space Gateway would do was to allow astronauts to control uncrewed rovers on the lunar surface in real time. 

The Deep Space Gateway got some traction when it was repurposed to serve as a base for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The ARM’s goal was to divert an asteroid and move it to lunar orbit. A crew of astronauts would travel to the DSG and study the asteroid during a two-to-three-month mission. Later, the ARM morphed to grabbing a boulder from an asteroid rather than moving the asteroid itself. The ARM subsequently died from lack of interest. Click here. (6/16) 

NASA Reaching Out On Lunar Gateway Concept (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s directorates are striving by September to reach a consensus on preliminary requirements for the human-tended Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) that would establish a permanent, U.S.-led human foothold in deep space with commercial as well as international partners. (6/14) 

Schmitt: The Right Rocket for the Moon and Mars (Source: Politico)
Establishing a continuous human presence on the Moon and Mars will be among humanity’s greatest achievements, but there is only one modern rocket specifically designed for such complex missions. Although many companies are developing launchers that may be adapted for human use later, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) was developed from the start to push human presence beyond low Earth orbit. This is the first launch system with that purpose since the development of the Saturn Moon rocket began in early 1960.

Since the test flight of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch vehicle a few short months ago, many have questioned why we need SLS when commercial vehicles boast “bargain” prices. Their arguments center on the price-per-pound to orbit of commercial vehicles compared to SLS. However a price-per-pound comparison is practically meaningless in the context of real deep space mission requirements. We need to launch crew along with the systems and supplies needed to support human life for longer than a couple of days in order to begin building our next “home away from home” in deep space.

Depending upon location we will also need to launch a lot of infrastructure. For example, if lunar resources are to be used to support terrestrial fusion power, lunar settlement, and Mars exploration, large scale production and refining equipment and habitat and power facilities will be required. SLS is designed to evolve to meet these needs. For purposes of comparison, let’s assess just the current capabilities of SLS and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy in the context of each of deep space mission requirements. (6/15)

Budget Cutters May Doom the International Space Station (Source: The Hill)
If certain green eye-shade bureaucrats in Washington have their way, funding for the International Space Station (ISS), which already consumes a miniscule part of the federal budget, would be pared back to nothing within a few short years. Such a move would have ramifications far beyond the scientific and national security “black hole” into which our manned space program would plunge if the budget were thus decimated.

As things stand now, thanks to fiscal cutbacks and America’s failure to develop any spacecraft to replace the Space Shuttle (which was closed down in 2011), the only way an American astronaut can travel to the ISS is by paying Russia an average of $75 million per person to hitch a ride on a Soyuz space taxi. And even that program — which is dependent on Russia’s continued good faith in meeting its commitments — is set to expire next year.

In the absence of continued funding for the ISS, and without development of new launch and spacecraft vehicles, America’s manned space program will begin a sad fade to “lights out” starting next year. It is in this environment that NASA’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget includes a plan to end all federal funding for the ISS by 2025.  The good news is that this, in turn, has spurred strong opposition from those in Washington who understand the value of manned space exploration generally and the ISS in particular. (6/10)

Culberson: ‘My Goal is to Revolutionize the Space Program and Keep America at the Cutting-Edge' (Source: Rep. Culberson)
Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS), Congressman John Culberson (R-TX) spoke to the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) to underscore his commitment to their work. “As a native Houstonian, I grew up fascinated by the mysteries of outer space. I received my first telescope when I was about 12 years old and developed a great passion for astronomy. Now, as CJS Chairman, I proudly represent Houston’s Johnson Space Center, and I am laser focused on ensuring that the United States’ space program is the best on earth.

“I’m convinced that the commercial sector will unlock horizons in the space program that we cannot even imagine today. As human beings, there is something in our DNA that spurs us to want to know what’s over the next horizon and to unlock secrets of life and the universe. NASA is the only agency that can do that. As CJS Chairman, I’ve directed NASA to launch humanity’s first interstellar mission to that nearest earth-like planet on the 100th anniversary of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. The commercial sector will be a vital part that effort.

“I remain committed to ensuring that both NASA and the commercial sector have the funding they need to succeed, and that politics – from neither the left nor the right - is kept out of their work. My goal is to revolutionize the space program and keep America at the forefront so that NASA will be lifted above and beyond the glory days of Apollo.” (6/15)

Lawmakers Scold NASA for Cost Overruns (Source: The Hill)
Lawmakers at a hearing on Thursday scolded NASA officials over a recent report that found the space agency's major projects are running over-budget and over-schedule. “Unfortunately, NASA has been plagued for years with contract management issues which have resulted in substantial cost overruns and schedule slips,” said Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), chairman of the House Science Subcommittee on Space, at his panel's hearing.

The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that four of NASA's highest-profile programs — the Space Launch System, the Orion Spacecraft, the Commercial Crew Program and the James Webb Space Telescope — face significant cost and deadline problems. The Webb telescope, which is intended to be a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, recently delayed its launch by 19 months and will cost more than $8 billion.

The average launch delay for NASA increased from 7 months in 2017 to 12 months in 2018—the highest GAO has reported to date. Lawmakers weighed solutions to address NASA's issues, including the creation of a contractor watchlist, which would highlight underperforming contractors who would not be eligible for work for a period of time. The contractor watchlist is one proposal in the 2018 NASA Authorization Act. (6/14)

'Culture of Optimism' at NASA Leading to Cost Overruns (Source: Space News)
A House hearing on NASA project overruns pointed blame at the agency, contractors and Congress itself. At the hearing, NASA Inspector General Paul Martin said that a "culture of optimism" at NASA can lead to the agency developing unrealistic cost and schedule estimates for program, putting ultimate mission success ahead of adhering to those estimates. A provision in a NASA authorization bill approved by the House Science Committee in April would create a "watch list" for contractors who perform poorly on programs, but other witnesses said uncertainty about the timing of budgets from Congress, and use of flatline budgets, also causes problems for NASA programs. (6/15)

House Considers Space Traffic Management Bill (Source: Space News)
A House committee is considering space traffic management legislation. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science Committee, said at a panel discussion Monday that a bill addressing the topic was under development, but provided no details about what it might include. Committee staff later said they are talking with various stakeholders to find out their priorities, with the hope of passing a bill incorporating those issues later this year. The administration has been working on a space traffic management policy announced by Vice President Pence in April, but not yet formally approved. (6/12)

Job Openings - Space Traffic Controllers (Source: Space Daily)
In the not-too-distant future an international regulatory and enforcement agency may be looking for Space Traffic Controllers to fill hundreds of positions for well-trained professionals. It is likely that these positions will be located in an international metropolis such as Washington, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Rome or Moscow. Applicants must pass a rigorous training program including many hours in class and in simulators. They will probably be required to have prior training in spacecraft dynamics and orbital mechanics.

In a fashion similar to that of air traffic controllers, space traffic controllers may not actually control spacecraft movements. Instead, they may oversee assigned segment of the low-earth orbital zone. Their main responsibility will be to detect and report possible conjunctions between pairs of operating spacecraft and between spacecraft and debris. Once detected, Conjunction Alerts would be sent to the appropriate satellite operators who are then responsible for taking evasive actions.

Today, most spacecraft are not easily maneuverable or unable to maneuver in response to Conjunction Alerts. However, once Space Traffic Management Regulations are internationally accepted by all space-faring nations, all satellites may be required to carry transponders and a minimum set of equipment enabling them to respond to Conjunction Alerts. Furthermore, all satellite operators may be required to receive licensing for approved orbital "slots" from the appropriate international agency. (6/13)

The Next Space Age (Source: Space News)
Today, the private sector in the U.S. is on the cusp of unlocking the great economic potential of outer space. Innovators and entrepreneurs are investing in companies to mine asteroids, repair satellites and manufacture goods in outer space. But regulatory uncertainty and burdensome bureaucracy threatens to push American investment and jobs overseas. It should surprise no one that government rules on testing, launches, reentry, live video, pictures and activities in space are badly outdated.

That’s why Congress and the Trump administration are pursuing aggressive updates to the existing system. As step one, President Donald Trump reconstituted the National Space Council and appointed Vice President Mike Pence to chair the group, which also includes cabinet officials, policy experts and voices from industry and academia. One of Pence’s first initiatives, approved by the Council, was to “unlock new opportunities, new technologies and new sources of prosperity” by building a robust space economy.

The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act accomplishes these goals. The bill empowers the Commerce Department to lead the promotion and regulation of private space activities so American industry can innovate, grow and compete. It creates a competitive regulatory environment so America becomes the country of choice for private sector space activities. All this while also protecting national security and fulfilling our Outer Space Treaty obligations. Click here. (6/14)

SpaceX is Not a Threat to NASA (Source: The Hill)
SpaceX has astonished the world with the Falcon 9 rocket and its reusable first stage. The development has helped to drive down the cost of space travel and promises to open space to commercial development and more voyages of exploration. The rise of SpaceX and commercial space in general, including Blue Origin, is not sitting very well with the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle. It recently published an editorial arguing that Musk is threatening to supplant NASA, what the Chronicle called “the people’s space program.” The key paragraph reads thus:

“NASA appears just as starved of resources as before, despite the omnipresent talk among politicians of returning America to the moon and beyond. It’s just that now, some of the funding goes to SpaceX and to Musk. That money may well help Musk build a thriving business that helps humanity in other ways, but the space agency itself is still stuck in low gear. Musk would like to help solve that problem...by securing more public money for the company to fund missions beyond Earth and canceling NASA’s future rocket platform. In other words, SpaceX has made clear that its plan is to supplant NASA, not aid it.”

The problem is the paragraph contains a number of false premises. First, NASA has gotten some healthy funding increases in recent years, past $21 billion for the next fiscal year. Second, SpaceX and the other commercial space companies are not interested in supplanting NASA. They want to partner with the agency that sent men to the moon and built the International Space Station. The rise of commercial space represents a unique opportunity for NASA to achieve even greater glory. (6/10)

'Reusable' SpaceX Rockets a Gamble That Taxpayers Shouldn't Finance (Source: NewsMax)
Last Monday was a notable day in the space industry — one that featured lavish flamboyance but just a modicum of practicality. In the wee hours of the morning, SpaceX launched a rocket for its brow-raising broadband internet project that featured some reused parts — a carrot that CEO Elon Musk often dangles in the faces of conservative policymakers to win more government contracts.

They should not take his refurbished bait. Why not, you ask? Hasn't Musk said that the use of reused parts can potentially suppress space launch costs by a factor greater than 100? Am I merely a creature of the past? Do I hate cost savings and innovation? The truth is that Musk's promises many times don't meet up with reality. The investment world is finally learning this the hard way with Tesla, which still isn't making a profit and is now Wall Street's top short position, and SpaceX is also having difficulty delivering on promises.

For example, after already giving one set of prices to the federal government, the aerospace company will now hike its average price per kilogram by a staggering 50 percent for NASA and other government space flight missions. This is while other commercial space flight companies’ prices are going down. If the federal government lets SpaceX's reusable ambitions continue to fly (no pun intended) off the public's back, further cost increases will likely ensue. (6/11)

SpaceX Ponders Hypersonic Decelerator for Second-Stage Recovery (Source: Aviation Week)
As SpaceX makes progress toward what it hopes will be the successful recovery of the spent payload fairings of its Falcon 9 rockets for reuse on future missions, the company is also studying the use of inflatable aerodynamic decelerators as part of more ambitious reuse plans for the vehicle’s upper stage. Recovery of the upper stage, however, poses greater challenges than either the booster or the fairings because of its greater reentry velocity, relatively large mass and inherent instability.

SpaceX currently deorbits the upper stage into the South Pacific through a retroburn of the engine. However, the upper stage also "tumbles" during reentry, normally resulting in the breakup of the structure in the upper atmosphere. To stabilize the second stage and reduce its ballistic coefficient during reentry, SpaceX is therefore looking at several options—including a hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator (HIAD), a deployable, inflatable aeroshell with a built-in flexible thermal protection system able to protect the entry vehicle through atmospheric entry.

The concept, based on the idea of a packable heat shield, has been tested in recent years by NASA. Musk hinted that the company was evaluating atmospheric decelerators in mid-April when he tweeted, “This is gonna sound crazy, but . . . SpaceX will try to bring rocket upper stage back from orbital velocity using a giant party balloon.” Following a stabilized reentry behind the protection of the aeroshell, the second stage would then likely deploy airbags and a steerable parafoil, to be recovered by a vessel positioned downrange. In further comments on social media, Musk adds that SpaceX would “need to retarget [reentry burn] closer to shore and position a catcher ship like Mr. Steven.” (6/9)

SpaceX Revives the Space Coast (Source: Spectrum News)
Senator Bill Nelson took to Twitter this week to remind people that commercial space companies are now a thing of the present. Things are about to change after Senator Bill Nelson, a former astronaut, along with six other senators passed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017.

This year, SpaceX submitted plans to NASA to expand its operations at Kennedy Space Center. This is quite a change from how things looked back in 2013, Space Coast resident Joe Manke recalls. He says after the government shutdown, which lead to 97 percent of NASA’S workforce to be furloughed, people started moving away. "People started leaving and the housing market went down," Manke said. "That's how I was able to afford buying my house." (6/10)

DiBello: Booming Spaceport Will Drive Growth by 2030 (Source: Florida Today)
More than 100 rocket launches a year. Thousands of new high-tech jobs. Bustling downtown corridors developed to support the young workers drawn to a booming spaceport. It’s a bullish vision the Space Coast region could realize as soon as 2030 — if it begins planning now, Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello said Tuesday.

“This is not far-fetched and it is near-term,” DiBello told the National Space Club Florida Committee. “The growth of the industry is inevitable, and we can either let happen or we can manage it well.” DiBello invited local leaders, NASA and the Air Force to participate in meetings that will map out the new spaceport infrastructure as well as the roads, housing and amenities that will be needed to handle the projected growth.

The rosy forecast comes seven years after a low point in the area’s history, when NASA’s retirement of the 30-year space shuttle program resulted in roughly 8,000 layoffs of shuttle contractors and other indirect job losses. Those jobs and more have been recovered, DiBello said, through a more diverse industry portfolio based at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport as well as Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Click here. (6/12)

State Set to Support SpaceX, Blue Origin Facilities at KSC (Source: Florida Today)
The state is proposing to chip in nearly $18 million to help SpaceX and Blue Origin build new facilities at Kennedy Space Center that are expected to add at least 140 jobs. Next Wednesday in Tampa, Space Florida's board of directors will consider two proposals worth $14.5 million supporting SpaceX’s proposed spaceport expansion, including a hangar for Falcon rocket refurbishment and a control tower.

Another $3.4 million would support Blue Origin’s rocket manufacturing site in Exploration Park, a state-run complex on NASA property at the south end of KSC. If the agreements are approved, the Florida Department of Transportation would reimburse the companies for some or all of eligible expenses up to those amounts. The department budgeted about $31 million for improvements to spaceport infrastructure this year, and more than $100 million for the budget year that starts July 1, 2018.

Most of the work is described as “common infrastructure improvements,” such as access roads and utilities that could benefit multiple tenants or guests around a site, not just the two private, billionaire-led companies. SpaceX and Blue Origin have committed to investing $15 million and $30 million, respectively, of their own money in those improvements, and much more on the overall projects. (6/15)

SpaceX Hopes to Launch 4,000 Satellites, Mostly from Florida, NASA Report Says (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
paceX has plans to launch more than 4,000 satellites, the majority of which will head into space from the Space Coast, according to an environmental impact study done by the Elon Musk-led company and NASA. If it comes to fruition, the work would further solidify Cape Canaveral as the world’s busiest private launch center.

Buried in a 73-page study released in April was a reference to a project SpaceX has been pursuing that would establish a constellation of small, Internet-beaming satellites for the company. SpaceX has been working toward launching up to 4,425 satellites, the building blocks of a project called Starlink that could end up providing near-global access to Internet services. The company sent two demonstration satellites into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in February. (6/15)

SpaceX’s Ultimate Ace in the Hole is its Starlink Satellite Internet Business (Source: Teslatrati)
In a 2018 report on the current state of the satellite industry, the rationale behind SpaceX’s decision to expand its business into the construction and operation of a large satellite network – known as Starlink – was brought into sharp contrast, demonstrating just how tiny the market for orbital launches is compared with the markets those same launches create.

If a sought-after good is somehow sold for less, one would expect that more people would be able and willing to buy it. The launch market is similar, but also very different in the sense that simply reaching orbit has almost no inherent value on its own – what makes it valuable are the payloads. For there to be more demand for cheaper launches, the cost of the satellites that predominately fuel the launch market also needs to decrease.

Enter Starlink, SpaceX’s internal effort to develop – nearly from scratch – its own highly reliable, cheap, and mass-producible satellite bus, as well as the vast majority of all the hardware and software required to build and operate a vast, orbiting broadband network. Add in comparable companies like OneWeb and an exploding landscape of companies focused on creating a new generation of miniaturized satellites, and the stage has truly begun to be set for a future where the cost of orbital payloads themselves wind up dropping just as dramatically as the cost of launching them. (6/15)

Moon Express Among '10 Best Tech Startups in Florida' (Source: Tech Tribune)
Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) is a privately funded commercial space company blazing a trail to the Moon to unlock its mysteries and resources with low cost robotic spacecraft products & services using exponential technologies. Driven by long-term goals of exploring and developing lunar resources for the benefit of humanity, the company has short-term business on-ramps of providing lunar transportation and services for government and commercial customers.

NASA partnered with Moon Express in 2014 under its Lunar CATALYST program to help build the capability to return the United States to the surface of the Moon. In October 2015, Moon Express announced a launch contract with Rocket Lab USA for 3 launches to the Moon beginning in 2017. In 2016, Moon Express announced an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to utilize Cape Canaveral Launch Complexes 17 and 18 for the development of its spacecraft. Click here. (6/12)

Port Canaveral Projects Receive Priority Funding by Army Corps (Source: Rep. Bill Posey)
The Army Corps of Engineers announced that several important projects to Florida’s Space Coast will be made a priority and receive the funding they need to continue construction efforts. Among the projects included in the Army Corps FY2018 Work Plan are the Canaveral Harbor Sand Bypass and the Mid Reach beach re-nourishment efforts.

“Port Canaveral is a critical economic asset for Central Florida. Ensuring access to our waterways and safe transit of cruise and cargo vessels are vital to this region’s economy,” said Capt. John Murray, Port CEO. “We have a long-standing partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and are grateful to Congressman Posey for his efforts to ensure projects that are important to our operations received priority funding.”

In total $16 million was included in the Army Corps of Engineers work plan for the Canaveral Harbor Sand Bypass project while $28.375 million for the Brevard County Mid Reach beach re-nourishment. Congressman Posey worked with the Army Corps to get these projects included in their work plan. (6/12)

Georgia Spaceport Tied to Jobs, But Some See a Threat to Way of Life (Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution)
For Steve Howard, developing a commercial rocket launchpad could mean hundreds of jobs for Camden County residents searching for good-paying employment in an exciting industry. “The spaceport is the catalyst,” said Howard, who serves as the county’s administrator and Spaceport Camden project lead. “What you want is everything else — tourism, manufacturing. It’s giving people hope and opportunity and building for the future.”

But developing new industry on the coast often conflicts with homeowners who are used to a tranquil way of life. The spaceport project is no different. Property owners and environmentalists say they are concerned by the prospect of rockets launching over their homes and the Cumberland Island National Seashore.

“That’s why we are acting so vigorously in defending our rights to enjoy peace on Little Cumberland Island without rockets flying over our heads,” said Deby Glidden, an Atlanta resident who has owned property on the nearby barrier island for more than 40 years. If the FAA approves a site operator license for Camden County, rockets would be launched over portions of Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island. Homeowners hope that doesn’t happen. (6/15)

Georgia Spaceport Loses Supporter in State Legislature (Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
A state legislator who has been a strong supporter of a Georgia spaceport recently lost his reelection bid. State Rep. Jason Spencer lost a Republican primary last month to Steven Sainz, who is facing no Democratic opposition in the November general election. While Spencer had been a leading advocate for the proposed Spaceport Camden on the Atlantic Coast, Sainz said he'll back the spaceport only as long as property rights of local residents aren't violated. Some of those local residents are concerned about overflights of launches from the spaceport, which is in the midst of an FAA licensing review. (6/14)

Trump to Host Space-Policy Council Promoting Commercial Ventures (Source: Wall Street Journal)
President Trump on Monday is scheduled to attend for the first time a public meeting of the White House’s top space-policy council, underscoring a personal commitment to human exploration of the moon, and eventually Mars. Mr. Trump’s participation, according to people familiar with the details, is intended to highlight, and help boost momentum for, joint industry-government exploration concepts. 

But the move comes as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and retired Air Force Gen. Simon “Pete” Worden —two outspoken supporters of commercial ventures in space—have been sidelined from serving on an advisory panel to the senior-level Nationwide Area Council. (6/16)

National Space Council User Advisory Group Is Purging Innovation From Its Ranks (Source: NASA Watch)
Newt Gingrich and Pete Worden have been removed from the UAG for reasons that sources say have to do with issues that arouse while vetting Gingrich and Worden to serve on the UAG. That's the official excuse. Vetting is good thing to do especially for advisory groups. 

Oddly this "User" Advisory Group is more like a "Customer" Advisory Group with a majority of its members representing companies who already receive (and seek) huge amounts of money from NASA, DOD, DOC, etc. and have a vested interest in maintaining one or another aspect of the status quo. Actual potential users of space from the perspective of the U.S. government are virtually absent from this panel. This panel is all about serving the interests of Big Aerospace. (6/17)

Trump's Pick to Lead NOAA Riddled with Conflicts of Interest (Source: Axios)
For nearly a year and a half, NOAA has operated without a Senate-confirmed leader, setting a record for the position's vacancy. Despite support from most Republicans, former AccuWeather CEO Barry Lee Myers, has been mired in controversy and concerns over conflict of interest. Three past NOAA administrators expressed hesitation about his nomination, arguing that it would be nearly impossible for him to distance himself completely from his interests at AccuWeather.

Myers spent his career working at AccuWeather, which was founded by his brother Joel. However, he has no background in science, making him an unusual pick for the job. Arguably more concerning are the potential conflicts of interest associated with his family and prior lobbying work to encourage the privatization of NOAA's National Weather Service.

Myers was appointed to a NOAA working group in 2009, where he helped shape policy to keep the National Weather Service from expanding information access to smartphones and social media. At the same time, AccuWeather broadened their own mobile platform. In February, Myers clashed publicly with the NWS when AccuWeather sent out a false alert to devices on the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean that a tsunami was on the way after the NWS performed a test warning. Myers blamed the test warning, saying it was mislabeled. NWS investigated and found no error. (6/14)

Texas Congressman Firm on Space Command Proposal (Source: Space News)
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said he's not planning to compromise on military space reforms. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said he didn't know what was in the Senate's defense authorization bill regarding military space reorganization but that he supported retaining language in the House bill that includes, among other measures, creating a U.S. Space Command. Thornberry said he hopes to wrap up a House-Senate conference to iron out differences between their bills by the end of July. (6/14)

Senator Warns of Challenge From China in Space (Source: Space News)
A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee warns that the U.S. needs to take the challenge from China in military space activities more seriously. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) said Tuesday that he's long followed China's rise and argues that the country has viewed space as a "military effort" for three decades. China's 2007 anti-satellite weapons test should have been seen as a "Sputnik moment," he said, but the U.S. has been slow to recognize that challenge, underinvesting in space and other key technologies. (6/13)

Air Force ULTRA Seeks Improved Lightning Criteria for Increased Launch Tempo (Source: SPACErePORT)
The goal of ULTRA is to create a System-of-Systems that will enhance and can eventually replace the ground electric field mills, and will significantly improve Lightning Launch Commit Criteria (LLCC) evaluation capabilities. This improved capability will provide relief from existing LLCC and significantly increase launch availability and reduce the adverse effects of launch delays on the aggressive launch tempo expected in the near future. Also, ascent imagery will be improved by the addition of new views, covering aspects of launch vehicles that are currently unobserved during ascent. Click here. (6/12)

Air Force Space Procurement Not Broken (Source: Space News)
An Air Force general rejected claims that the service's space procurement process is broken. Speaking Friday in Washington, Lt. Gen. John "JT" Thompson, head of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), said that the Air Force was the "best in the world" in space activities. "You don't get that way if you don't have good acquisition processes and good acquisition organizations," he said. Nonetheless, SMC is undergoing a reorganization that will, he said, "value speed and innovation" to address new threats to space assets. (6/11)

Defense Budget Bill Creates Path for Future Network of Military, Commercial Communications Satellites (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon has to explain how it will buy communications services from the private sector to supplement military satellites, congressional appropriators said in a report last week. The language from the House Appropriations defense subcommittee picks up where it left off in March when it inserted $600 million in the 2018 Air Force budget for the procurement of two new military communications satellites. 

In a report accompanying the 2019 defense spending bill, the subcommittee directs the Pentagon to look further into the future of its space-based communications. The Pentagon must submit a “wideband and narrowband communications architecture and acquisition strategy” that includes both government and commercial space systems, appropriators wrote. (6/16)

Hypersonic Enabled Militaries in the 2030s (Source: Next Big Future)
For the next 7 years, there will be relatively small numbers of hypersonic missiles introduced. The US will have high-velocity projectiles for all of its conventional naval and army guns. Those will be fired at mach 3 which would be double the speed of a conventional projectile but below hypervelocity mach 5 and faster.

Materials, engines and other hypersonic related technologies will be improved. This will increase the speed and range of weapons. The first hypersonic drones will likely be created. This will enable reusable weapons. SpaceX should create the BFR rocket. This will be fully reusable and able to launch 150 tons into orbit. It is also being developed for Mach 25 hypersonic travel between any point on earth. This will transform access to space by lowering costs by over ten times while increasing launch capacity.

After 2025, the speed and range of next-generation hypersonic weapons will be increased. The numbers of hypersonic weapons will be greatly increased. Hypersonic drones will be deployed. Offensive capabilities will be far superior to defensive systems. Megawatt combat lasers would be somewhat effective in defending against hypersonic weapons. Click here. (6/12)

Airman Missing Since 1983 Maybe Didn't Defect With Space Secrets (Source: Washington Post)
Last week, nearly 35 years after he went missing, the Air Force finally found Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. living in California under the fictitious name “Barry O’Beirne.” Hughes was arrested at his residence without incident June 6 on charges of desertion. Upon launching its investigation into Hughes back in 1983, the Air Force did not immediately rule out defection to Russia as a possibility.

In the years after Hughes went missing, a slew of NASA catastrophes, such as the space shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986, as well as the explosion of the Ariane rocket in French Guinea, caused national security commentators to speculate whether the disasters were related and possibly the result of Soviet sabotage. Hughes’s disappearance, in the eyes of some, fit right into the puzzle.

In a 1986 Los Angeles Times commentary titled “Sabotaged Missile Launches?” for example, the former longtime New York Times foreign correspondent Tad Szulc wrote: “The French and American accidents are adding up to a bizarre pattern, surrounded by strange coincidences and unexplained events, deeply preoccupying Western intelligence. These include the apparent defection to the Soviet Union in 1983 of the U.S. Air Force’s leading expert on rocket self-destruct procedures” — meaning Hughes. (6/11)

Lockheed Loses Texas Tax Appeal Over Fighter Jet Sales (Source: Law360)
Sales of military aircraft built at a Lockheed Martin Texas facility that were eventually sold by the U.S. government to foreign governments were correctly sourced to Texas and are subject to Texas franchise tax, the state’s Court of Appeals ruled Friday in a case of first impression. Lockheed Martin claims sales of military aircraft should have been sourced to foreign nations, not Texas. (6/11)

Former ULA Lobbyist Joins Firefly as BizDev Chief (Source: Firefly)
A former United Launch Alliance executive has jointed small launch vehicle company Firefly Aerospace. Leslie Kovacs, formerly the director of executive branch affairs at ULA, has joined Firefly as its vice president of business development. Firefly is developing the Alpha small launch vehicle, whose first launch is scheduled for the third quarter of 2019. (6/14)

Vector Aiming for First Orbital Flight This Year (Source: Ars Technica)
Time for talk ending soon, Vector chief says. The launch company Vector has gotten a lot of good press in recent years, but now it is time to deliver, says company co-founder Jim Cantrell. "It's always important to have positive press, but we're kind of living on good deeds more than good press these days," he told Tucson.com. Vector is planning construction of a new, 100,000-square-foot rocket factory near Tucson International Airport.

When will the Vector-R fly? ... Cantrell has said the company's rocket will make its first orbital flight in 2018, and in the Tucson.com article he says that mission will come some time in October, when Vector plans to launch from a range in Alaska. It is safe to say the aerospace industry is skeptical as to whether this will actually occur. However, if Vector meets its deadline, the achievement will be commendable. (6/14)

SpinLaunch Raises $40M, Considers Hawaii, Alaska, Virginia, Florida for Launch Operations (Sources: Bloomberg, GeekWire)
A company that wants to build a catapult-like system to launch small payloads has raised $40 million. SpinLaunch said Thursday that it raised the Series A round from several major firms, including Airbus Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and Alphabet Inc.'s GV (formerly Google Ventures). SpinLaunch has provided few technical details about its approach, but past reports have indicated it plans to develop a rotational system that would hurl payloads at a fraction of orbital speed. That concept has generated significant skepticism about its viability in the space community, with questions on issues ranging from accelerations on payloads to aerodynamic forces once released from the catapult.  (6/14)

Pegasus Launch On Hold for Launch Vehicle Problem (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The launch of a NASA space science satellite is on hold because of an issue with its launch vehicle. The L-1011 aircraft carrying the Pegasus XL rocket for NASA's ICON spacecraft returned to California after detecting "off-nominal data" with the rocket during a ferry flight to Hawaii. Neither NASA nor Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (formerly Orbital ATK) disclosed details about the vehicle problem. The launch was scheduled to take place this month out of Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific, and the narrow window available for the launch from there suggests a lengthy delay for the launch. (6/11)

This Startup Got $40 Million to Build a Space Catapult (Source: Bloomberg)
Flying cars. Cures for death. And now ... space catapults. Bless you, California, for not letting reality get you down. On Thursday, a Silicon Valley startup called SpinLaunch Inc. will reveal the first details of its plans to build a machine meant to hurl rockets into space. To achieve that goal, SpinLaunch has secured $40 million from some top technology investors, said Jonathan Yaney, the founder.

The company remains tight-lipped about exactly how this contraption will work, although its name gives away the basic idea. Rather than using propellants like kerosene and liquid oxygen to ignite a fire under a rocket, SpinLaunch plans to get a rocket spinning in a circle at up to 5,000 miles per hour and then let it go—more or less throwing the rocket to the edge of space, at which point it can light up and deliver objects like satellites.

SpinLaunch has a working prototype of its launcher, although the company has declined to provide details on exactly how the machine operates or will compare to its final system. The startup plans to begin launching by 2022. It will charge less than $500,000 per launch and be able to send up multiple rockets per day. (6/14)

PLD Space Raises Additional $10 Million for Reusable Smallsat Launchers (Source: Space News)
Spanish startup PLD Space raised 9 million euros ($10.6 million) last month from public and private investors to develop a pair of reusable launch vehicles. PLD Space said June 11 that the funding provides the momentum needed to start building the first two Arion 1 suborbital rockets, designed to carry up to 100 kilograms each, for launches in the second half of 2019. Private investors count for 7.1 million euros of the most recent round, with the remaining 1.9 million euros coming from public sources. (6/11)

Aciturri Joins PLD Space Shareholder (Source: Aciturri)
Aciturri has become a shareholder in the PLD Space company, a Spanish firm based in Alicante dedicated to the development of suborbital and orbital launch vehicles. The project of the company PLD Space constitutes a commitment to the space sector that fits perfectly with our diversification strategy, and in which, besides our support as a financial partner, we believe we can contribute our knowledge and technology.

The latest funding round, recently closed, has allowed the company to complete its "Series A" of 17 million euros, thanks to which it will start manufacturing two ARION 1 rockets that will make their first flight in 2019. Additionally, it will expand during this quarter its propulsion test facilities at Teruel airport.

The ARION 1 is the first of the models that PLD Space is developing, and it is designed as a suborbital sounding rocket for research or technological development in micro-gravity environments and in the higher parts of the atmosphere. (6/11)

Rocket Lab Confirms Three Launches with Spaceflight (Source: Rocket Lab)
Rocket Lab, a US orbital launch provider for the small satellite industry, has today announced a partnership with satellite rideshare and mission management provider, Spaceflight, for three orbital launches across 2018/19. The first mission, scheduled for the end of 2018, will launch a BlackSky microsat along with several rideshare customers.

The second launch will be a commercial rideshare mission in early 2019. Rocket Lab and Spaceflight have also signed a letter of agreement, which is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks, for a third mission to fly a Canon spacecraft in late 2019. The three-launch deal cements Spaceflight’s first missions aboard the Electron launch vehicle. The missions join a busy manifest that will see Rocket Lab launch monthly by the end of 2018, scaling to a launch every to weeks in 2019. (6/11)

Japan Launches Reconnaissance Satellite (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
An H-2A rocket launched a Japanese reconnaissance satellite overnight. The H-2A lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 12:20 a.m. Eastern and placed the Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) Radar 6 spacecraft for the Japanese armed forces into orbit. The spacecraft carries a synthetic aperture radar system. The launch comes a few months after the launch of the IGS Optical 6 satellite. (6/12)

First Hot Firing for Europe's Newest Rocket Engine (Source: ESA)
Yesterday’s complex hot fire test of an engine technology demonstrator was the first in a series of planned tests guiding Europe’s next-generation upper-stage rocket engine design. By the end of the year, the Expander-cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator, or ETID, based at the DLR German Aerospace Center test facility in Lampoldshausen, will be ignited 20 times with each firing lasting up to 120 seconds on a test stand that provides a near-vacuum environment similar to space. 

Engineers will use the results from the test campaign to determine the hardware characteristics, including a precise thrust measurement to determine its “specific impulse” – indicating the exact performance of the engine design. Following four rounds of tests the configuration will be changed for further tests with different igniters and different hardware designs and materials. The aim is to bring them all to a technology readiness high enough to transfer them at minimum cost and risk to any subsequent development project for flight. (6/15)

ESA Moves Forward with Galileo Satellite Buy, Leaving UK Behind (Source: BBC)
The European Space Agency has approved the purchase of a new set of Galileo satellites in a setback to the UK. ESA approved plans to buy a fourth batch of 12 satellites that will serve as replacements once the full constellation is in orbit. The British government sought to delay the procurement while it negotiated a deal to allow it to remain part of the program even after the country exits the European Union next year. British science minister Sam Gyimah said that if the UK isn't given "full, fair and open industrial involvement" it would walk away from Galileo and consider options like its own satellite navigation system. (6/13)

India’s Space Odyssey (Source: The Hindu)
The Indian Space Research Organization launched the first indigenously made satellite, Aryabhata, into space in 1975. Though not a complete success, the project opened new possibilities for ISRO. April 19 is a special day in Indian satellite history. On this day in 1975, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched the first Indian-made satellite into space. It was named after the ancient Indian mathematician and astronomer, Aryabhata. In 1975, India built the satellite, but did not have the capability to launch it into space.

So ISRO used the Soviet Union's Kosmos-3M launch vehicle. In 2018, India has reached a record of launching over 100 satellites at the same time. ISRO has also sent spacecraft missions to the Moon and Mars. Today, ISRO is praised for its exceptional work and India is thought of as one of the best in the world in space exploration. It is interesting to see how the story began 43 years ago. (6/12)

Mauritius Wants India's Help to Become Civilian Satellite Launch Center (Source: Business Standard)
Mauritius has sought India’s help on satellite technology in a bid to emerge as a civilian satellite launch center. The island nation’s proposal has caught New Delhi by surprise. “Countries hardly ever share proprietary technologies like space and India is no exception,” a government official said. 

The proposal is unusual for India, which is negotiating two unconnected but high stake cooperation agreements with Port Louis. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) currently has a framework agreement with Mauritius, as it has with almost 40 other countries and space agencies. But those are meant to only share the knowledge from space research.

But sharing technology for space launch vehicles is quite different, sources said. Mauritius has long seen itself as a force multiplier for the African continent, lying about 2,000 km from the nearest beachhead. A space launch capability can signal a renewed interest among the African countries to do business with the nation that had long established itself as a tax haven. (6/17)

China's Beidou System Helps Livestock Water Supply in Remote Pastoral Areas (Source: Xinhua) 
A water supply system for livestock in remote pastoral areas has been trialled in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, local researchers confirmed Sunday. The trial of the new system, based on the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, was launched in the Kubuqi desert. "The system can provide water for livestock after receiving a short message sent by users through the Beidou system," said Chulu, who is in charge of the research and development of the system.

"Using the Beidou system, users can not only send short messages, but also know their own exact position, even in situations where no communication networks are available, such as ocean, desert or other wilderness," he added. "I am able to deliver water to my sheep and cattle wherever and whenever I want via this system," said Dalintai, a herder from Hanggin Banner who took part in the trial. Dalintai said that previously he had to ride a motorcycle to provide water for his livestock grazing miles away everyday in summer or every second day in winter. The new system can save him a lot of time and reduce fuel costs. (6/17)

Kazakhstan Appoints Vice Minister of Defense and Aerospace Industry (Source: KazInform)
Amaniyaz Yerzhanov has been appointed as Vice Minister of Defense and Aerospace Industry of Kazakhstan by the Government Decree, primeminister.kz reports.  Yerzhanov was born in 1960 in West Kazakhstan region. In 1982 he graduated from the Dzhambul irrigation and drainage construction institute, in 2001 the Kazakh State Management Academy. He holds PhD in Economics. (6/15)

Angola Eyes New Satellite as African Space Race Accelerates (Source: Space News)
While Angola’s first telecom satellite, Angosat-1, failed not long after reaching orbit late last year, the sub-Saharan African nation will get a second shot at satellite ownership with the planned 2020 launch of Angosat-2. Meanwhile, as the space race intensifies across the continent, a number of African countries, including Ghana, Morocco and Algeria, are developing their respective space programs, and local observers say that the African Union could bolster these efforts and act as a platform for international space cooperation. (6/12)

Australian Space Agency Won't Be 'NASA Down Under' (Source: SBS)
Fighting among states over a new national space agency is counter-productive because it's not going to be "NASA Down Under", a space expert says. Western Australia and Victoria have launched campaigns calling for the new federal agency to be based in their states, hoping to benefit from space industry jobs. But Australian Strategic Policy Institute space lead Dr Malcolm Davis says a decision on the agency's base needs to be made quickly to stop states fighting.

"What the states need to understand is the space agency is not going to be a NASA Down Under," Dr Davis told AAP on Monday. "It's not going to be an all-encompassing organization that builds hardware, launches hardware, runs space missions." Instead the agency will coordinate funding, research and policy in a bid to drive private sector investment. (6/11)

Australia’s Future in Space (Source: ASPI Strategist)
When I was the deputy secretary for strategy in the Defense Department, one of the things on my to-do list which never quite got done was to produce a public defense policy for space. Even back in palaeolithic 2009 it was slightly embarrassing that such a policy statement, classified and unclassified, didn’t exist. So many ADF capabilities relied on communications, IT, sensors and emitters that drew on systems operating in or through space.
Indeed, wherever Defense links into Australia’s national infrastructure for logistic support, or engages with government decision-makers, or works with friends and allies, our complete reliance on the enabling effects of space systems is matched only by our utter vulnerability to those systems being damaged. Why was I unable to produce such a policy statement? Looking back, four factors come to mind. One was the sheer number of players across the Defense tribes who felt they had a dog in the space fight. (6/14)

Space Sector: Lack of Action from Welsh Ministers, Warns Expert (Source: BBC)
The Welsh Government "just hasn't done anything" in Wales' space sector, according to a UK space expert. Dr Bleddyn Bowen, from the University of Leicester, called space a serious sector "we ignore at our peril." He wants Welsh ministers to set up grants to stimulate research for innovation in the Welsh space sector. The Welsh Government said it was involved in academic centres of excellence supporting the development of businesses within the sector.

Space technology can be used in space for exploration missions and on earth for unmanned aerospace and satellite technology for telecommunications, weather and environmental analysis. It is an area of policy reserved to Westminster but the Welsh Government can support Wales' space academia and industry, working with the UK Space Agency, which also coordinates British activity through the European Space Agency. (6/11)

Next Generation Russian Crew Vehicle Enters Initial Testing (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
The Russian Federatsiya project – which is preparing the path for the launch of a new crewed spacecraft – passed a major milestone when it recently entered aerodynamic testing. The tests involved a model of the future spaceship and its Launch Abort System (LAS) fitted with numerous pressure sensors. Another milestone was achieved when work on the interior of the spacecraft was conducted, as noted by Roscosmos in recent days.

The development path for this new spacecraft – which is also referenced as “Federation” in its English translation – began in February 2009, when Roscosmos issued a solicitation for a spaceship intended for Lunar manned missions. They called it PPTS (Prospective Piloted Transport System), which was also known as the Future Manned Transportation System.

Two companies participated in the tender: GKNPTs Khrunichev, the builder of the Proton launcher, and RKK Energiya, which has provided Soyuz spaceships for almost fifty years. RKK Energiya’s proposal, called Manned Transportation Spaceship of New Generation, or PTK NP, was eventually selected just two months later, in April 2009. Click here. (6/12)

Female Applicants Fail to Qualify for Russia’s Cosmonaut Team (Source: Tass)
Female applicants have failed to qualify for a group of 13 candidates, from whom new members of Russia’s national cosmonaut team will be selected, said a source in the domestic space industry. "Thirteen persons have been cleared by the main medical commission and the final stage will involve selection at the inter-departmental commission, which will be held in late June," the source said, specifying that "there are no females among the thirteen candidates who have been cleared for the final selection stage."

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos and the Cosmonaut Training Center declined to comment on this information. The inter-departmental commission recommends individuals for the beginning of general space training with further employment at the Cosmonaut Training Center and their inclusion in the team of candidate cosmonauts. (6/15)

The Doors are Open for More Women and Diversity in Space Industry (Source: Florida Today)
America is on its way to Mars — powered by an amazing team of people from all across the country, including here in Florida where work is already underway on critical upgrades at the Kennedy Space Center to handle the deep space missions. It’s the culmination of a new day for American space travel that is reflected across the workforce in Boeing, where I am a rocket structural engineer helping build NASA’s Space Launch System rocket to power deep space missions like the trip to Mars.

Boeing’s space team is increasingly diverse, a huge leap forward from the days when only certain kinds of people were thought to have the right stuff. While my classmates scrambled for recess, I chose math and the playground of my mind.

A supportive middle school science teacher taught me how the things we learned in class connected to the real world and urged all of us to develop our creativity and imagination. As we enter this new American space age, every student should have that kind of mentor, especially girls who sometimes get cut down when they step out of traditional lanes. (6/14)

The Failure of Our Imagination in Space (Source: The New Yorker)
Of the more than five hundred people who’ve so far made the journey, only sixty-one have been women (of these, forty-seven were American). The dawning era of private spaceflight is not proving to be especially inclusive, either. In February, Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, tested its Falcon Heavy rocket, the company’s biggest to date, which is designed to carry massive payloads and have reusable parts. 

Afterward, in a column for the San Diego Tribune, the astrophysicist Alison Coil wrote about how disheartening it was to look at the cheering crowd of SpaceX employees and notice that it was a “sea of almost entirely white men.” “The exclusion of women and racial minorities from the pioneering astronauts corps of the 1950s and 1960s was a deliberate gesture,” De Witt Douglas Kilgore argues in his book “Astrofuturism: Science, Race, and Visions of Utopia in Space,” from 2003. 

Musk and his fellow “astropreneurs” talk about democratizing space travel; Branson has said that his company’s goal is to make space accessible, because “by doing that we can truly bring positive change to life on Earth.” In this view, the fastest way to get more women into space is by backing space-tourism startups, trusting that they will open the cosmos to the masses (once the super-wealthy have had their fun). (6/15)

Unearth Your Potential and Become a Space Nation Astronaut, For Real! (Source: Travel Tester)
After the final dismantling of the NASA Space Shuttle Program in 2013, space exploration has shifted more towards private players, such as aerospace companies like SpaceX, Axiom Space, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Moon Express, which is backed by Buzz Aldrin. But since this year, there is a new player in the field, looking to become the number one social and educational element of this new movement. Finnish startup and space media company Space Nation is using NASA’s learnings to develop a unique program… that you can be a part of!

The company started as the childhood dream of Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola, a pig-farmer’s son from a rural area in Western Finland. In 2010, he met Mazdak Nassir, a film-director who later became the co-founder of Space Nation. They have teamed up with Peter Vesterbacka, who is the builder of the global phenomenon Angry Birds.

Since its founding in 2013, Space Nation has broken crowd-funding records, acquired a lab space on the International Space Station (ISS) and became the first space tourism company to become an affiliate member of the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization UNWTO. (6/9)

Want to Take a 10-Day Trip to the Space Station? It'll Cost You $55 Million (Source: Space.com)
You can now sign up for a 10-day mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) — if you've got $55 million to spare. That's the price just announced by Axiom Space, a Houston-based company that's organizing expeditions to the ISS and working to build the first commercial space station. The $55 million covers the orbital stay, transportation to and from the ISS, and a 15-week astronaut-training program.

Axiom Space aims to launch its first customers in 2020, company representatives said. Axiom Space is also developing its own station, the modules of which will launch toward, and link up with, the ISS. The Axiom station will be ready to accommodate paying passengers by 2022 if all goes according to plan, company representatives have said.

The commercial outpost will still be attached to the ISS at that point. When the huge, $100 billion orbital outpost is ready to be deorbited, the Axiom station will detach and begin flying freely. (Exactly when this will happen is unclear; the ISS is currently funded through 2024, but it's possible that operations could be extended beyond that date.) (6/15)

Axiom Space Offers Vacation Aboard the International Space Station (Source: Robb Report)
According to mid-century science fiction, humans should be taking regular vacations to outer space by now. And while these visions certainty haven’t come to pass at a Jetsons-style level, if you can wait two more years, Axiom Space promises to make that a reality—for travelers with deep enough pockets, of course. This week, the Houston-based company announced that beginning in 2020, it will offer 10-day missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and, ultimately, aboard a separate, Philippe Starck–designed Axiom commercial space station.

Adventurous travelers with $55 million to spare (and who are over 21 and have also passed a medical fitness exam) will enjoy 15 weeks of training to prep them for launch, then ten days of “living” in space, complete with custom-crafted meals, daily activities, a private designer sleeping pod, and Wi-Fi—a must for posting photos and videos that only one in 13 million people alive today have had the opportunity to take. The launches will be able to take place all year-round, and voyagers yearning for more can upgrade to a 60-day mission (for an extra $25 million).

The race to launch earthlings into the great unknown has been heating up in the last several years, with commercial space travel in development by well-known names like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, as well as companies like Orion Span already taking reservations for a space hotel set to launch in 2021. But while many of the other ventures will take passengers to the edge of space, Axiom will be the first to actually take them into orbit. That, and an agreement with NASA to access the ISS, are just some of what Axiom co-founder, CEO, and President, Michael Suffredini, says differentiates his company from others in the space race—and what allows them to open up a whole galaxy of possibilities. (6/15)

Spacewalk Prepares ISS for Commercial Crew Capsules (Source: NASA)
Two NASA astronauts are talking a spacewalk today outside the International Space Station. Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold are scheduled to spend six and a half hours outside the station to install high-definition cameras near a docking port that will be used by future commercial crew vehicles. The two will also replace a camera assembly on the station's starboard truss and close the aperture door of an environmental imaging instrument mounted on the Kibo module. (6/14)

To Improve Space Clothing, German Astronaut Will Work Up a Sweat (Source: Space.com)
Alexander Gerst, a German astronaut for the European Space Agency, is about to sweat for science. Gerst, who arrived at the International Space Station as part of the European Space Agency's Horizons mission on June 6, will help conduct the first experiments to explore how the human body, clothing and climate interact, in relation to comfort, under zero-gravity conditions.

Central to the study, known as SpaceTex2, will be the examination of three shirts, each with a different cooling performance, that were developed following the original SpaceTex experiments on the space station in 2014. Gerst will have to perform six training sessions on the ergometer (space bicycle) or the treadmill while wearing the functional shirts. These sessions will happen outside of the 2 hours of exercise space station astronauts undergo daily to prevent bone and muscle loss. (6/16)

Do We Need a Single International Language in Space? (Source: Space.com)
Nowadays, most humans leaving Earth must do so through Russian territory. Space fliers ride on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which lifts off from a special parcel of Russian territory in Kazakhstan. Their spacecraft mission is commanded by a Russian citizen and a large chunk of their destination — the International Space Station — has modules and operations in Russian, too.

This means that all astronauts going to the ISS, no matter how many languages they speak, also need to learn Russian. And astronauts and cosmonauts all over the world need to learn at least some English to work with NASA. English is a challenging language for foreigners to learn. Do we need an international space language? Experts say it may be time to consider it, especially since the ISS could run out of funding and wrap up operations in the 2020s and the space world is changing rapidly. (6/13)

Mars-Bound MarCO Twins Will Go Where No CubeSat Has Ever Gone (Source: Air & Space)
CubeSats, those pint-size satellites that ride along on most every orbital launch these days, are quietly transforming the space business. So far, though, their impact has been limited to missions in Earth orbit. That’s about to change. If all goes well, NASA’s latest Mars lander, due to launch on Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, will be accompanied by two tiny companions making the trip to the Red Planet.

It will be NASA’s first planetary mission launched from the West Coast, and the first time CubeSats have been sent into deep space. Mars Cubesat One, or MarCO, consists of two briefcase-size robots (MarCO-A and -B) equipped with their own solar arrays, communications, navigation and propulsion. They’ll get a boost out of Earth orbit with the InSight lander on its Atlas V rocket, then separate and fly on their own for the six-month coast to Mars. The 30-pound CubeSats will use a compact, cold-gas propulsion system to make course adjustments along the way. (5/4)

NASA Continues Mars Sample Return Mission Studies (Source: Space News)
NASA doesn’t expect to make decisions on how it will carry out a Mars sample return effort until late next year despite recent discoveries that have offered additional evidence that the planet was once, and may still be, habitable.

In results published in the journal Science last week, scientists working on data from the Curiosity Mars rover announced the discovery of organic molecules in ancient Martian rocks, as well as seasonal variations of methane concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.

While both discoveries are consistent with the existence of past or present life, they are alone not proof since both the organic molecules and methane gas production can be explained by alternative, non-biological processes. However, they have excited scientists who are seeking more data to determine the habitability of Mars. (6/12)

Huge Dust Storm Threatens Mars Rover (Source: Space News)
Despite being caught in an "unprecedented" dust storm, NASA officials said Wednesday they were optimistic the Opportunity Mars rover would survive. The dust storm has turned day into night in the region of Mars there the rover is located, depriving it of solar power. The rover is likely in a low-power sleep mode, only running a clock to periodically wake up a computer to check on power levels. Project managers said they believed the rover could survive in this state for an extended period as conditions should prevent the rover from getting too cold. As Opportunity waits out the storm, NASA plans to use orbiting spacecraft, plus the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, to study the growing dust storm to understand how such storms develop. (6/13)

In-Orbit Services Poised to Become Big Business (Source: Space News)
A transition is happening in the satellite business. Fast-moving technology and evolving customer demands are driving operators to rethink major investments in new satellites and consider other options such as squeezing a few more years of service out of their current platforms. Which makes this an opportune moment for the arrival of in-orbit servicing.

Sometime in early 2019, the first commercial servicing spacecraft is scheduled to launch. The Mission Extension Vehicle built by Orbital ATK on behalf of subsidiary SpaceLogistics, will the first of several such robotic craft that are poised to compete for a share of about $3 billion worth of in-orbit services that satellite operators and government agencies are projected to buy over the coming decade.

Servicing satellites in geosynchronous orbit is a “nascent industry” with significant future potential, said Carolyn Belle, senior analyst at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, research firm Northern Sky Research. Companies are weighing “service-or-replace trade-offs.” In an uncertain business climate, satellite manufacturers and operators are looking for new ways to manage their fleets, and might find life-extension services a compelling option. (6/4)

Swarm Seeks Fresh FCC Satellite Launch Clearance While Still in Penalty Box (Source: IEEE Spectrum)
Swarm Technologies, the stealthy Internet of Things startup that launched four satellites illegally in January, is asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch three more, even before the FCC has decided on a punishment for its first offence.

Its new application says that Swarm “urgently needs to demonstrate the viability of its proposed satellite-based communications network to technical and business partners, potential investors, and potential customers.” It is proposing to launch three Cubesats on a SpaceX rocket due to take off from Vandenberg Air Force in California later this year.

The application comes as the FCC continues to mull whether or how to punish Swarm for the unauthorized launch of four tiny SpaceBee satellites on an Indian rocket in January. The FCC denied Swarm’s original application for the SpaceBees last year, citing concerns about their trackability from the surface and thus the possibility of collisions on orbit. (6/13)

How We Can Prevent Outer Space from Becoming the Wild West (Source: CBC)
In January, an Indian rocket arced across the sky over the island of Sriharikota as it soared into space. On board were several satellites, including an Indian mapping satellite, one from Canada and one from an asteroid mining company. The rocket also contained four satellites that were actually denied permission to launch in the first place.

The rogue satellites belonged to Swarm Technologies, a private artificial intelligence company headed by Canadian-born Sara Spangelo and based in Silicon Valley. The satellites — called SpaceBees — are only about 10 centimetres across. And therein lies the problem: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied the company permission to launch from the U.S. precisely because the satellites were too small to accurately track, and posed a potential danger to other satellites.

But if you're not allowed to launch from the U.S., why not launch from another country that's willing to take your money? So, that's exactly what Swarm did. The unapproved launch incident highlights a regulatory challenge in the era of "new space," with the arrival of commercial companies on the space stage. Observers say the challenge is how to regulate a burgeoning industry, and prevent Earth's orbit from becoming the new Wild West. Click here. (6/17) 

Myhrvold Disputes NASA's Asteroid Estimates (Source: New York Times)
A debate between a NASA near Earth asteroid project and a former Microsoft executive has entered a new phase. Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft chief technologist, recently published peer-reviewed papers criticizing asteroid size estimated developed by NASA's NEOWISE mission. "The science is terrible," he said of the NASA work, and argued that the agency should put on hold planning for a follow-on mission, NEOCam. In a statement, NASA said it was "confident the processes and analyses performed by the NEOWISE team are valid" despite the research by Myhrvold. (6/14)

How Much is a Moon Rock Really Worth? (Source: Washington Post)
A Tennessee woman is suing NASA for the right to keep a vial of what she says is moon dust, given to her by astronaut Neil Armstrong in the 1970s. The financial stakes in the lawsuit are potentially quite high: Just last summer, for instance, a bag containing a trace of moon dust from Apollo 11 sold at auction for $1.8 million. The Tennessee woman, Laura Cicco, has a lot more than just a trace: “probably 10 to 15 cubic centimeters” of the stuff, her lawyer estimates.

Putting a valuation on that much moon dust is nearly impossible, given the rarity of the material and the legal murkiness surrounding ownership of it (more on that in a bit). But that doesn't mean we can't try. According to NASA, human astronauts have ferried a grand total of 842 pounds of lunar material from the moon's surface to Earth during the Apollo missions. Unmanned Luna missions sent by the former Soviet Union brought back about three quarters of a pound more. Material from the moon can also end up on Earth in the form of lunar meteorites. Click here. (6/13)

Embry-Riddle Gets $1 Million Grant for New Aviation and Engineering Research Center (Source: ERAU)
A new project at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus is expected to create 387 new jobs and spur $1.6 million in private investment. Partially funded by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce through its Economic Development Administration (EDA), the project will establish Embry-Riddle’s Applied Aviation and Engineering Research Hangar. This facility will be the new home of the Eagle Flight Research Center (EFRC), a hub for engineering research and development. (6/11)

Embry-Riddle Team Selected to Construct New Space Tool (Source: ERAU)
Using 3D printing, fiberglass and stainless steel, a team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University developed a tool that could help NASA explore underneath ice-covered surfaces in space. Embry-Riddle was one of 25 teams across the U.S. selected to participate in a simulated microgravity challenge at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

As part of the Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams (Micro-g NExT) challenge, undergraduate students designed, built and tested various tools that address an authentic, current space exploration challenge. The space tools were tested this week at Johnson's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), which includes a 6.2-million-gallon indoor pool used to train NASA astronauts for spacewalks.

Micro-g NExT, which is sponsored by NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, is designed to encourage research and development in new technologies and engage students in real-world engineering and problem-solving concepts that may be needed on future exploration missions. (6/11)

Alpha Centauri Stars Not Hostile to Life (Source: Space.com)
The star system closest to the sun is not hostile to life. Astronomers studying Alpha Centauri A and B using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory found that the two stars have X-ray emissions comparable to those seen from the sun. Life on any planets orbiting the stars "should have a fighting chance" in that radiation environment, astronomers said. That's in contrast to Proxima Centauri, a dwarf star that distantly orbits Alpha Centauri that produces powerful flares, rendering the planet found orbiting it uninhabitable. (6/13)

Dissolving the Fermi Paradox (Source: Cornell University)
The Fermi paradox is the conflict between an expectation of a high probability of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and the apparently lifeless universe we in fact observe. The expectation that the universe should be teeming with intelligent life is linked to models like the Drake equation, which suggest that even if the probability of intelligent life developing at a given site is small, the sheer multitude of possible sites should nonetheless yield a large number of potentially observable civilizations.

We show that this conflict arises from the use of Drake-like equations, which implicitly assume certainty regarding highly uncertain parameters. We examine these parameters, incorporating models of chemical and genetic transitions on paths to the origin of life, and show that extant scientific knowledge corresponds to uncertainties that span multiple orders of magnitude. This makes a stark difference.

When the model is recast to represent realistic distributions of uncertainty, we find a substantial probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it. This result dissolves the Fermi paradox, and in doing so removes any need to invoke speculative mechanisms by which civilizations would inevitably fail to have observable effects upon the universe. (6/11)

Three Baby Planets Discovered by Astronomers in Our Galaxy (Source: Mashable)
Finding young planets in our galaxy is still very much at the forefront of science. But with the help of the world's most expensive ground-based telescope, two teams of astronomers are convinced they've found not one, but three baby planets. The young planets orbit a star called HD 163296, which is located about 330 million light years away from us in the constellation of Sagittarius (The Archer).

It's the first time the $1.4 billion Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope has discovered new planets, thanks to a special technique to help hunt them down. Both teams of astronomers looked to unusual patterns in the flow of gas within a planet-forming disc around a young star. (6/13)

How Tidally Locked Planets Could Avoid a 'Snowball Earth' Fate (Source: Space.com)
Tidally-locked planets in the habitable zone of stars may be able to avoid global ice ages, according to a study that models the interplay of where ice forms and how it reflects sunlight. Meanwhile, a second study has found that planets that are strongly tilted are more likely to experience sudden ice ages.

The "habitable zone" around stars, where it's warm enough for liquid water to exist on an Earth-like world's surface, has long been the gold standard in assessing the potential for life on other worlds, but as our understanding of astrobiology deepens, scientists are looking for other clues to habitability. The kind of days, nights and seasons that shape conditions on alien worlds can differ radically from Earth's.

One qualifier is a planet's axial tilt, also known as its obliquity. The Earth spins at an angle of 23.5 degrees relative to the sun, meaning most sunlight hits the equator, while the poles are so cold they form ice caps. However, a planet tilted over by more than 55 degrees could potentially form an equatorial ice belt, as well as poles that would be incredibly hot during the summer and extraordinarily cold during the winter, and so life living in polar regions would have to adapt to both extreme heat and cold. (6/17)

NASA Will Visit an Undersea Volcano in Hawaii to Figure Out How to Hunt for Aliens (Source: Mashable)
NASA will soon visit Hawaii's Lo'ihi volcano, which sits more than 3,000 feet beneath the Pacific Ocean, all in the name of one day hunting for life out in the solar system. The NASA expedition, called SUBSEA, endeavors to visit underwater volcanoes — which are often rich in colorful mats of microbial life — to better grasp how life might exist in deep, harsh, lightless places in our solar system.

Lo'ihi is an active volcano sitting about 50 miles off the coast of the Big Island. NASA — which will launch the mission in August — will use the rocks and bacteria it collects from the volcano to plan ambitious robotic explorations of these water worlds, should the agency get funding. (6/11)

Life Recovered Rapidly at Impact Site of Dino-Killing Asteroid (Source: FSU)
About 66 million years ago, an asteroid smashed into the Earth triggering a mass extinction that ended the reign of the dinosaurs and snuffed out 75 percent of life. While the asteroid killed off scores of species, a new study from Florida State University scientists, in collaboration with lead researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, has found that the crater it left behind was home to sea life less than a decade after impact, and contained a thriving ecosystem within 30,000 years — a much quicker recovery than other sites around the globe.

“This study provides the first evidence that life, at least more simplistic organisms, recovered relatively quickly within the impact crater that marks the demise of the dinosaurs,” said Jeremy Owens, an assistant professor in Florida State’s Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science and a member of the Geochemistry Group at the FSU-based National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, where he conducted measurements for the study. (5/30)

Antarctica’s Ice Sheet Is Melting Three Times Faster Than We Thought (Source: Daily Beast)
Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting three times faster than previously forecasted, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal Nature by 80 scientists. The team said that the ice sheet is melting so fast that 219 billion tons of ice is pouring into the ocean annually—enough to raise sea levels by a half millimeter per year. Between 1992 and 1997, Antarctica was losing 49 billion times of ice per year; from 2012 to 2017, that number increased more than eightfold. (6/13)
 
In a First, NASA’s Predator Drone Flew Solo in Commercial Airspace (Source: Fast Company)
NASA says its unmanned aircraft, which it uses to support Earth science missions and aeronautical technology development, has edged drones one step closer to flying in the same airspace as commercial and private planes. The space agency said its remotely piloted Ikhana aircraft was able today to complete its first-ever mission without an accompanying chase plane. The technology it carried could open the door to a sky where large unmanned systems safely mingle with other air traffic in order to monitor and fight forest fires or conduct emergency search and rescue operations, NASA says. (6/12)

How Blockchain Technology Can Track Humanity’s Lunar Heritage Sites (Source: Space Review)
One challenge for future human lunar exploration is keeping track of past exploration sites in order to preserve their heritage. Roy Balleste and Michelle L.D. Hanlon describe how the blockchain can be used to help create a database of those sites to aid in efforts to protect them. Click here. (6/11)
 
The Earth, Space Settlement, and the Hard Drive Analogy (Source: Space Review)
In a recent interview, Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the Red Mars trilogy about humans living on Mars, dismissed the idea of actual human settlements there or elsewhere beyond Earth. John Strickland takes issue with Robinson’s assessment and argues that establishing a human presence beyond Earth remains critical to civilization’s future. Click here. (6/11) 
 
The Origin of Civilian Uses of GPS (Source: Space Review)
Many articles today claim that the civilian use of GPS started only after an off-course Korean airliner was shot down by the Soviets in 1983. Richard Easton argues that GPS, from its beginnings long before that incident, planned to have civilian applications. Click here. (6/11)

Rocket Week Launching for Students and Educators at NASA Wallops (Source: NASA)
University and community college students will get a boost in their studies and support in launching their careers during Rocket Week June 15-22, 2018, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Nearly 200 university and community college students and instructors from across the country will build and fly experiments on a NASA suborbital rocket through the RockOn! and RockSat-C programs.

Another 20 high school educators from across the United States will be at the Facility to examine how to apply rocketry basics into their curriculum through the Wallops Rocket Academy for Teachers (WRATs). The week culminates at 5:30 a.m. EDT, June 21, with the launch of a NASA Terrier-Improved Orion suborbital sounding rocket carrying the students’ experiments. The rocket is 36 feet long and the payload weighs 667 pounds. (6/11)

Send a Rocket Into Space and Win $1M in Base 11 Space Challenge (Source: GeekWire)
Students from colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada are being recruited for the Base 11 Space Challenge, a $1 million competition to encourage the development of a liquid-fueled, single-stage rocket powerful enough to reach 100 kilometers (62 miles) in altitude. That height marks the internationally accepted boundary of space. 

Deadline for winning the $1 million grand prize is Dec. 30, 2021, and there’ll be smaller incentive prizes awarded along the way. The program aims to boost participation by women and minorities in aerospace. For details and instructions on how to enter, check out the Space Challenge website. Click here. (6/15) 

Spaceport America Cup Welcomes Back Rocket Teams from Around the World (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
The Spaceport America Cup welcomes back teams representing universities from around the world next week for the largest international intercollegiate rocket engineering competition. Cheers and excitement will fill the air at Spaceport America’s Vertical Launch Area for the second annual Spaceport America Cup. On June 19 -23, Spaceport America will host more than 1,500 college students from around the world, along with participating aerospace companies, recruiters, media and spectators.

The university rocket teams are composed of students from many backgrounds and disciplines. It takes more than rocket scientists to make the project come to life. For the past year, Spaceport America officials, along with rocket competition experts at the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association, have spent countless hours to facilitate this event. Student teams are from Canada, Egypt, Great Britain, India, Mexico, Poland, Turkey, Switzerland, as well as 31 of the 50 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia. (6/15)

Pope Gets Flight Suit From Italian Astronaut (Source: Reuters)
If Pope Francis ever decides to go to space, he already has the flight suit for the trip. Astronauts visiting the pope Friday presented him with a personalized flight suit that features a small white cape. "Since clothes make the man, we thought we'd have a flight suit like ours made for you," said Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who spoke with Pope Francis from the space station last year. (6/11)

Ikea Set to Launch collection Inspired by Space Travel (Source: Sunday Times)
I don’t know about you, but after about 45 minutes in Ikea, I usually feel as though I’m suffering from a lack of oxygen and gravity. Perhaps, then, it is appropriate that the Swedish furniture and lifestyle brand — and home-wrecker — should be launching a range of modular products inspired by space travel. It is due in stores by 2020, by which time humanity may have given up on the ridiculous notion of looking for a new planet to live on and decided to get on with the much less dangerous and expensive business of cleaning up the one we have. (6/17)

Filmmaker Ridley Scott Designs Mission Patch for CASIS (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
he acclaimed director of space-based science fiction films like “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “The Martian” has put his touches on a mission patch for a research lab that does work for NASA. Ridley Scott, who received an Academy Award nomination in 2016 for “The Martian,” created a patch that will represent Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, payloads intended for the International Space Station this year.

CASIS helps NASA manage research done through the U.S. National Laboratory on the ISS, which provides low-gravity environments that allow for tests at prime neutral conditions. The patch depicts a female astronaut in full gear, floating in space, looking toward the space station. Click here. (6/13) 

Theater Club at NASA Center Gives Scientists Creative Outlet (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Susan Breon wears two hats: scientist and musician. By day, she's a cryogenics engineer at NASA 's Goddard Space Flight Center , where she works on what she calls a "baby step toward a mission to Mars." By night, she participates in Goddard's Music and Drama Club, often known as MAD. She played keyboard for the club's spring musical.

"The work here can get very intense," said Breon, a 30-year NASA veteran. "We did our thermal vacuum testing a couple of months ago, and it was an around-the-clock, 24/7 operation." The club members include scientists, engineers and managers who work for NASA on projects including weather satellites and space telescopes, and they say the club is a creative outlet for them. (6/11)

Oxford Space Systems Raises $8.9M (Source: Space News)
British startup Oxford Space Systems has raised $8.9 million to expand its spacecraft components business. The company said Longwall Ventures, a U.K.-based early stage investor, led the round, with several other funds participating. Oxford is developing deployable space structures like antennas, competing against established companies in that sector such as Harris and Northrop Grumman. The company says it's seeing a "huge amount of interest" in its products and just moved into a new facility at the Harwell Space Cluster. (6/14)

Inmarsat Rejects Echostar Takeover Bid (Source: Space News)
Inmarsat rejected an unsolicited proposal by EchoStar to acquire the mobile satellite services operator. Inmarsat said Friday that the proposal "very significantly undervalued Inmarsat" but did not disclose the details of the proposal. EchoStar has $3.3 billion in cash reserves and is seen by many observers as a key player in a widely anticipated consolidation of the industry to deal with overcapacity. However, one analyst noted that EchoStar has "historically have been fairly cheap in what they've been willing to pay" for such deals, which could hinder those plans. (6/9)

Harris Corp. Marks Four Decades with HQ on Space Coast (Source: Florida Today)
Harris Corp. is celebrating its 40th year anniversary of the company headquarters relocating to Melbourne from Cleveland, Ohio. That’s big in itself. It’s also the three-year anniversary of the company’s acquisition of Exelis Inc., a deal which many feared could have led to Harris moving its headquarters to McLean, Virginia, where Exelis had been based.

But it all worked out, both 40 years ago, and three years ago. Harris is solidified here on the Space Coast and its hard to overstate the company's importance. Harris has 17,000 workers globally and 6,600 in Florida. In the Sunshine State, all but 200 of Harris’ Florida workforce is concentrated in Brevard. (6/8)

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