April 15, 2019
3 Landings, 1 Commercial Payload – SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Makes History – Again (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
After a wait of more than a year, SpaceX’s massive Falcon Heavy rocket has finally begun launching commercial payloads. Liftoff took place at 6:35 p.m. EDT from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The triple core-booster once again awed those watching with its power as well as the unique twin side-booster return to nearby landing pads, producing two sets of three sonic booms as the two 150-foot tall vehicles gracefully touched down.
During this time, the core stage continued to accelerate toward orbit for a minute after the side cores separated. It began targeting SpaceX’s Autonomous Drone Ship which was stationed roughly 600 miles downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. It landed successfully, unlike the first Falcon Heavy center core attempt more than a year ago. It’s landing marked the first time all three cores of a Falcon Heavy were successfully recovered. All three are expected to be refurbished and used for future flights, including the next Falcon Heavy mission, currently targeting June 2019.
The rocket's protective fairing separated as the payload was successfully lifted into orbit. SpaceX positioned to support ships downrange to retrieve the fairing's two halves, which returned to Earth under parachutes for a soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean. (4/11)
Falcon Heavy Launch Might Mean Moon Missions for Elon Musk (Source: Quartz)
The SpaceX rocket expected to vault a Saudi communications satellite into orbit on April 11 is also auditioning to explore space with NASA. The Falcon Heavy rocket is the most powerful operational rocket in the world, designed to fly the largest satellites into the highest orbits over the earth. The communications satellite being flown in this launch, Arabsat-6A, weighs about six metric tons (6.6 tons). The launch was scheduled for April 10 but poor weather conditions postponed the mission.
Though this is just the second flight of the rocket, a smooth mission could bring Elon Musk closer to his dreams of taking humanity out into the solar system. NASA has set a new goal of landing humans on the moon in 2024 that may require SpaceX’s help to achieve. SpaceX is still showing NASA that its rockets are safe enough to fly astronauts to the ISS. One requirement is that the company fly seven times using an approved system of pressurized gas canisters in its rockets. Those canisters, known as composite overwrap pressure vessels or COPVs, were linked to a 2016 fire that destroyed a SpaceX rocket and satellite.
SpaceX and NASA re-configured the system and have now flown it six times in the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket and twice in the reusable booster stage. This Falcon Heavy flight will feature the new COPVS in both stages of center booster, which could give NASA the data it needs to finally certify the design for human spaceflight. (4/9)
Arabsat CEO: Falcon Heavy Gives Our Satellite Extra Life (Source: Space News)
Arabsat chose SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch its newest satellite in order to give the satellite a longer lifespan, said Khalid Balkheyour, Arabsat’s chief executive. Arabsat chose the Falcon Heavy in order to extend the lifespan of the Arabsat-6A satellite beyond the 15 years a geostationary communications satellite is typically designed to last. “We needed more lifetime for the satellite, so we had the option: Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy, and we decided to go with Falcon Heavy,” he said.
Arabsat-6A is a large satellite, weighing 6,460-kilograms. Balkheyour said preliminary calculations show the satellite will get an extra boost from Falcon Heavy that should extend its life to between 18 and 20 years. Arabsat-6A is just the second to use Lockheed Martin’s modernized LM2100 satellite platform, which features over two dozen upgrades, including new avionics, flexible solar arrays and a reprogrammable mission processor. (4/11)
NASA Picks SpaceX for Asteroid Redirect Test Mission (Source: NASA)
NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center has selected SpaceX to provide launch services for the agency's Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission, the first ever mission to demonstrate the capability to deflect an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed -- a technique known as a kinetic impactor. The total cost for NASA to launch DART is approximately $69 million, which includes the launch service and other mission-related costs.
The DART mission is targeted to launch in June 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. By using solar electric propulsion, DART will intercept the asteroid Didymos' small moon in October 2022. (4/11)
SpaceX Drops Protest Against ULA for NASA Launch Contract (Source: Space News)
SpaceX has dropped a protest it filed in February of a NASA launch contract awarded to ULA. SpaceX said in February it filed the protest with the GAO because it believed it could carry out the launch of NASA's Lucy asteroid mission for a "dramatically lower" price than the $148 million contract awarded to ULA for an Atlas 5 launch. SpaceX, though, dropped its protest Thursday, according to GAO's online protest database, but the company declined to comment on why it did so. ULA had argued that it could provide the schedule assurance needed for the mission, which has a one-time 20-day launch window in October 2021. (4/8)
Ready for Orbit! Starliner Passes Environmental Qualification Testing (Source: Boeing)
“Test like you fly” is a mantra Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner team takes to heart, proven by the success of a recent environmental test campaign at Boeing’s Space Environment Test Facility in El Segundo, Calif. During testing, the first Starliner that will carry people to space was subjected to similar environmental conditions it will see on launch, ascent and orbit.
“Environmental testing is one of the most challenging campaigns of any spaceflight development program, and we succeeded in under 100 days," said John Mulholland, Vice President and Program Manager, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. "Thorough ground testing is a critical part of our strategy to ensure the shortest possible time between flight tests and long-duration missions for our NASA customer. "
In Boeing’s acoustic chamber, test teams subjected Starliner to intense sound waves that simulated liftoff and ascent. In the large thermal-vacuum chamber, the spacecraft experienced extreme temperature swings, from freezing cold to heat from solar radiation in a vacuum simulating the space environment. Finally, teams tested the spacecraft’s systems for potential electromagnetic interferences in a highly specialized, noise-free anechoic chamber. (4/12)
SpaceX Likely to Win NASA’s Crew Competition by Months, for Billions Less (Source: Ars Technica)
Publicly, some Boeing officials were denigrating SpaceX, emphasizing their own blue-blooded legacy. Boeing has had a successful working relationship with NASA dating back to 1961 and the first stage of the Saturn V rocket. By contrast, Boeing would note, Elon Musk seemed more interested in flashy marketing and never met his launch targets. "We go for substance," said Boeing's John Elbon. "Not pizzazz." Behind the scenes, Boeing was pushing hard to win all the commercial crew funding, and was encouraging NASA to go with the safe choice over spaceflight newcomers SpaceX and Sierra Nevada.
In the end, NASA's chief of human spaceflight, William Gerstenmaier, kept two providers, Boeing and SpaceX. This has proven a wise decision for reasons of both cost and schedule. It also offers a timely lesson as NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine considers new approaches to taking humans back to the Moon with a reasonable budget and schedule. In terms of cost, NASA is getting a better deal from SpaceX. In recent years, since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, NASA has paid Russia as much as $81.8 million per seat. Gerstenmaier has quoted a figure of $58 million for Commercial Crew.
$2.784 billion is the total amount NASA is paying for 12 operational flights to the space station from 2020 to 2024, or a total of 48 seats from both companies. Overall, NASA awarded Boeing $4.2 billion for its commercial crew contract and SpaceX $2.6 billion. According to our analysis, NASA will pay Boeing about $71.6 million per Starliner seat and SpaceX $44.4 million per Dragon seat. Why is NASA paying Boeing so much more? Probably because the company asked for it. (4/8)
Mars Is Getting Closer As SpaceX Lands Another $500 Million Investment (Source: Prime Unicorn Index)
SpaceX authorized enough shares for a $500 million raise at a valuation of $29 billion, if all shares authorized are issued. The rocket and spacecraft company was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 and has been making history ever since. The most recent round, Series K, follows the $273 million raised for Series J valuing the company at $26.12 billion. The terms surrounding the Series K include a Senior liquidation, meaning they will get paid first, and conventional convertible meaning they will not participate with common stock if there are remaining proceeds.
The most recent price per share is $204.00, an up round from Series J at $186.00. Interesting enough is that Series A thru F are all under $10.00 a share, it wasn’t until the 2015 round backed by Google, Fidelity, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, The Founders Fund, Valor Equity Partners, and Capricorn Investment Group that made the price per share skyrocket 10x+ the previous round. (4/11)
SpaceX’s First Dedicated Starlink Launch Announced as Mass Production Begins (Source: Teslarati)
SpaceX has announced a launch target of May 2019 for the first batch of operational Starlink satellites in a sign that the proposed internet satellite constellation has reached a major milestone, effectively transitioning from pure research and development to serious manufacturing.
R&D will continue as SpaceX Starlink engineers work to implement the true final design of the first several hundred or thousand spacecraft, but a significant amount of the team’s work will now be centered on producing as many Starlink satellites as possible, as quickly as possible. With anywhere from 4400 to nearly 12,000 satellites needed to complete the three major proposed phases of Starlink, SpaceX will have to build and launch more than 2200 satellites in the next five years, averaging 44 high-performance, low-cost spacecraft built and launched every month for the next 60 months. (4/8)
ULA Will Fly Vulcan Hardware on Atlas 5 (Source: Space News)
ULA will start flying hardware designed for its Vulcan rocket on the Atlas 5 to gain flight heritage. The first Vulcan technology to fly on Atlas 5 will be new payload fairings from Swiss supplier Ruag intended to be faster and cheaper to produce. The Atlas will also start using new solid rocket boosters from Northrop Grumman next year that are similar to those that will later be used with Vulcan. Phasing in that technology, a ULA executive said, helps reduce risk for the overall Vulcan development effort. (4/9)
Russia Maintains High Quality of RD-180 Rocket Engines for Atlas (Source: Sputnik)
Russia is maintaining a high quality of its RD-180 rocket engines, President and CEO of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Tory Bruno said. "They [Russians] are actually doing a very good job and they are being very responsive. The quality is maintained high and we have had no issues with supply from them [...] They have been delivering ahead of need and they still owe me some", Bruno said. The ULA has some two years' worth number of the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines, Bruno told Sputnik. (4/9)
Blue Origin Seeks Delay for Air Force Launcher Contract (Source: Space News)
Blue Origin is seeking a delay in the Air Force's upcoming launch competition. The company, working on its New Glenn rocket, believes the Air Force's hurry to select two providers to split, on a 60-40 basis, contracts for up to 25 launches between 2022 and 2026 would forestall competition. Blue Origin also thinks that a competition now would give an edge to SpaceX and United Launch Alliance. The Air Force intends to call for those proposals in the coming weeks with a solicitation known as the Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, although some on Capitol Hill have also been lobbying for a delay. (4/9)
Air Force Contract a "Must-Win" for OmegA (Source: Space News)
Northrop Grumman says that upcoming launch competition is a must-win for their OmegA rocket. The company, which won a $792 million Launch Service Agreement to share the cost of developing OmegA to carry military satellites, said it's making good progress on the vehicle, with two critical static-fire tests coming up in May and August. Northrop, though, said it would evaluate what it would do with the rocket if it is not selected in the Launch Service Procurement, including deciding to not continue the program "or maybe put it on the shelf." (4/9)
Northrop Grumman Ready to 'Start Cutting Metal' at KSC for New OmegA Rocket (Source: Florida Today)
As Northrop Grumman's upcoming OmegA rocket progresses toward a 2021 debut flight, company officials here on Monday said it's time to "start cutting metal" at Kennedy Space Center in preparation for the new launch system. The solid rocket fuel-powered vehicle, which recently secured nearly $800 million in support from the Air Force, will use former space shuttle architecture at KSC like an unused mobile launcher platform.
Northrop Grumman will also take advantage of the Vehicle Assembly Building, a crawler-transporter, and pad 39B – all of which will also support NASA's upcoming Space Launch System. The company expects work at KSC to begin this month, which keeps it on track for a 2021 liftoff. "The first thing you're going to see is mobile launch platform number three roll out to the west park site," said Mike Laidley. Sharing a pad with NASA means teams will have to configure OmegA's rollout through a series of steps that will also be necessary for SLS. The hardware changes at KSC will be significant.
The rocket will use the Vehicle Assembly Building for vertical stacking and other preparations, which will require dedicated tooling and systems. Before Omega can roll out to pad 39B for launch, it will need support from a mobile launch tower as the pad itself doesn't have one – it's what NASA refers to as a "clean pad concept." Northrop Grumman will have to build one, likely at great effort and expense as it will have to be taller than the rocket itself, which clocks in at nearly 200 feet. (4/9)
OmegA Missions to Transport Launch Tower to Pad, Can Potentially Support Moon Missions (Source: Florida Today)
A NASA crawler-transporter will pick up the stacked rocket and mobile launch tower in NASA's VAB and transport them to pad 39B for launch a few days later. This is a departure from space shuttle missions, which used an unmovable launch tower and sometimes sat on the pad for weeks. The short times on the pad will be critical as SLS and Omega will have to share it. Northrop Grumman's Kent Rominger says the OmegA launch system is currently not looking to get a human rating, but it can take 20,000 pounds to lunar orbit. (4/9)
Stratolaunch Aircraft Takes Flight (Source: CNN)
After years of development in the desert north of Los Angeles, a gigantic, six-engined megajet with the wingspan of an American football field flew Saturday morning for the first time. Stratolaunch Systems, the company founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, conducted the first test flight of the world's largest plane. Basically, Stratolaunch aircraft is a giant flying launch pad, designed to hurtle satellites into low Earth orbit. It aims to offer the military, private companies and even NASA itself a more economical way to get into space.
"Whatever the payload, whatever the orbit, getting your satellite into space will soon be as easy as booking an airline flight," said CEO Jean Floyd in 2018. The aircraft's wingspan measures 385 feet -- wider than any airplane on the planet. From tip to tail, it's 238 feet long. It weighs half a million pounds. It's so big, it has two cockpits, one in each fuselage (but only one is used to fly the plane. (4/13)
Six New Rockets Coming to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
If schedules hold, the Space Coast will live up to its name over the next two years as a half-dozen new rockets target launches from sites peppered across the Eastern Range. Company, government and military officials here at the 35th Space Symposium, an annual space conference, have reaffirmed their plans to launch rockets ranging from more traditional heavy-lift behemoths to smaller vehicles that take advantage of new manufacturing technologies.
Even if some of these schedules slip, at least one thing is apparent to several spaceflight experts here: The Eastern Range is seeing an unprecedented growth in commercial space companies and efforts. The rockets include NASA's SLS, Relativity Space's Terran 1, Blue Origin's New Glenn, ULA's Vulcan, Northrop Grumman's OmegA, and Firefly's Alpha. Editor's Note: Don't forget Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, Stratolaunch, Vector Space, and CubeCab all of which have identified the Cape Canaveral Spaceport as a future launch site. Click here. (4/12)
DARPA Picks Three Companies for Quick-Response Launch Effort, Potentially From Florida (Source: National Defense)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency chose three competitors for a challenge prize that will ask small launch providers to send payloads to orbit and rapidly turn around and repeat the feat. Virgin Orbit’s subsidiary VOX Space, Vector Launch and a third entrant that is choosing to remain anonymous for the time being are vying for more than $27 million in prize money, DARPA’s Program Manager for the Launch Challenge Todd Master said during a briefing at the Space Symposium April 10.
Competitors will have 30 days to prepare for a launch from a site they may not be familiar with and integrate a payload with which they are also unfamiliar. They will then be asked to repeat the process from a second site within two weeks. Each of the three contestants received $400,000 for making it into the final competition. Making it to the final three required the teams to obtain a Federal Aviation Administration launch license, which is a stringent process. The $400,000 is meant to offset the cost needed to obtain the FAA license, Master said.
None of the three teams have ever reached orbit. VOX Space will take off from a runway and employ Virgin Orbit’s plane-launched system. The other two will use vertical launch systems, Master said. The teams will receive $2 million for the first successful launch. The first prize for those who can complete the second launch is $10 million, second place $9 million and third is $8 million. Editor's Note: The Cape Canaveral Spaceport and the Cecil Spaceport in Jacksonville are among the potential launch sites for these new rockets. (4/10)
Air Force Reportedly Eyeing One of These 6 [Non-Florida] Bases to House US Space Command (Source: Business Insider)
The Air Force is narrowing down the best location to house the Defense Department's newest unified combatant command, and many of the bases in top contention are in Colorado. Air Force officials are still reviewing installations to house US Space Command, which officials have called a stepping stone to creating a US Space Force. "No candidate basing lists have been sent to the secretary of the Air Force for consideration," service spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
Citing an Air Force Space Command memorandum it obtained, CNN reported last week that the Air Force may choose from four Colorado locations, including Buckley Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Peterson Air Force Base, and Schriever Air Force Base. Other options are the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Editor's Note: Where's Florida? (4/9)
Florida Governor Not Giving Up on Luring Space Force HQ to Cape Canaveral (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials aren’t aborting pursuit of the operational command of President Donald Trump’s Space Force, despite a report Florida isn’t on the U.S. Air Force’s short list of potential bases. DeSantis wrote on Twitter he’s certain the window remains open for Florida, even as he linked to a report by CNN that an Air Force memorandum identified six military bases for the new command and that none are in Florida.
“USSPACECOM belongs in Florida,” DeSantis tweeted Thursday. He also wrote that Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez “and I remain confident of Florida's unique qualifications. Our commercial space industry is flourishing and no other state hosts more Combatant Commands.” Editor's Note: There seems to be some confusion between the Space Force and US Space Command. Not sure whether the confusion is among the media reporting on this or the politicians. (4/12)
Florida Lt. Gov. Nuñez Pushes for Florida as Headquarters for U.S. Space Force (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said Florida is “uniquely positioned” to become the headquarters of the proposed U.S. Space Force following a tour of public and private space facilities Friday. Nuñez, who oversees the state’s Space Florida partnership, said in an interview with the Sentinel on Friday that Florida has both the readiness and the capacity to compete with Colorado, Alabama, and other bidders to become the headquarters of the U.S. Air Force-affiliated military branch.
“Really the onus is on us as a state,” Nuñez said. “The governor is going to make a really hard and strong pitch and has already sent a formal request and continues to talk with everyone in the [Trump] administration.” The space industry, she said, has a “mutually symbiotic” relationship with Florida that has only increased as private space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin have started launching rockets from Kennedy Space Center. The spillover effect from the industry also helps out much of the rest of the state, she added. (4/5)
SASC Hearing Shows Bipartisan Concerns About Space Force (Source: Space News)
A Senate hearing showed that there remains considerable skepticism about the need for a Space Force. During a Thursday hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee, several members from both parties said they deeply skeptical of the Pentagon's Space Force proposal, and the testimony from the witnesses did not appear to sway their judgement.
They argued that it appeared that the Air Force was doing a good job managing space, undermining the administration's argument that space needed a separate force. They also opposed the part of the proposal that seeks congressional authorization to set up a new civilian personnel system exclusive to the Space Force that would be exempted from the statutory rules and protections applicable to most other federal employees. (4/11)
DOD Space Development Agency Hopes to Leverage Commercial Constellations (Source: Space News)
The head of the new Space Development Agency says he wants to disrupt the way the military does space programs by leveraging commercial capabilities. In his first interview since being named head of the agency, Fred Kennedy said his first priority is to refine a next-generation space architecture that can make use of the satellite manufacturing capabilities being developed by broadband constellation companies.
He said he wants to take a similar approach to ground terminals and other systems. The agency won't be bound by traditional Defense Department procurement systems, but Kennedy said he doesn't see it as a near-term threat to the existing Space and Missile Systems Center and its role in space acquisitions. (4/9)
Air Force Pointedly Refutes SDA Call for DOD Use of Commercial LEO Constellations (Source: Space News)
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson shot back at the new director of the Space Development Agency Fred Kennedy, who has laid out a plan to disrupt the military space business by bringing more commercial technology into space systems in order to speed up innovation in the face of competition from China and Russia. Wilson forcefully challenged the SDA vision (see story below) arguing that the military’s current constellations of satellites in higher orbits are “the best in the world” and that shifting to LEO systems would put U.S. forces at risk.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has been a strong proponent of the new agency and decided to place it under the authority of Undersecretary of Defense Mike Griffin, who like Kennedy, is a strong believer that military space acquisitions must change radically and that commercial LEO systems should be leveraged as soon as possible. Wilson cited a 90-day “Space Strategy Study” that was recently completed by the Air Force and the intelligence community and concluded that LEO-based systems would be vulnerable during military conflicts and that DoD should not be taking that risk. (4/10)
Pentagon Admits Plan to Launch 1,300 Satellites Might Not Prevent Chinese or Russian Attacks (Source: Daily Beast)
A new Pentagon space agency wants to launch nearly 1,300 small satellites and, in the process, totally reinvent the way the military operates in orbit. The goal: to help the U.S. satellite constellation survive a sneak-attack by China or Russia. With hundreds of satellites in orbit, no single satellite is critically important, or so the thinking goes. If the Chinese or Russians were to knock out one or even dozens of satellites, scores more could take their place.
But the new “mega-constellation” plan from the Space Development Agency might not actually work. The agency’s own director, Fred Kennedy, said it probably was “no panacea” against an enemy attack. It could be prohibitively expensive to deploy so many sats. Rocket launches are getting cheaper. But they might not yet be so cheap that the Pentagon could afford to conduct hundreds of them in a short span of time. (4/10)
Hyten: New DOD Space Development Agency Should Track Hypersonic Missiles (Source: Space News)
The head of U.S. Strategic Command says that the SDA should be given the task of developing satellites to track hypersonic missiles. Gen. John Hyten has been insistent that the Pentagon needs a layer of satellites in lower orbits to track targets much closer to Earth than the existing missile warning constellation that operates from geostationary orbit. Tracking hypersonic missiles, he said, requires global coverage and the most efficient way to get that, he said, is from a large constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit. The job of designing a space sensor layer for hypersonic defense will be assigned to the SDA, which has special authorities to acquire and test technologies with less red tape than traditional programs. (4/11)
Evolving Military Space Plans Create Uncertainty for Industry (Source: Space News)
Ongoing and proposed government organizations of military space have put companies into a holding pattern. Those proposals, from the establishment of the Space Development Agency and the proposed Space Force to the reorganization of the Space and Missile Systems Center, have left many companies uncertain about the future of key national security space efforts.
"There's a lot of uncertainty, and people are trying to figure out what this means," said Steve Isakowitz of the Aerospace Corporation, who said the administration's desire to move quickly is running into problems in Congress. "People have been waiting for a series of shoes to drop." (4/9)
National Security: An Industry Where Fair Markets Just Don't Cut It (Source: The Hill)
Everyone loves the feeling of sipping their fair-market coffee while having a breakfast of sustainably-grown toast, free-range chicken eggs and locally-sourced greens. We love that feeling because we know that somewhere, someone is having a better life because we are helping local businesses around the world become more competitive in the increasingly cutthroat global market.
This is the epitome of free trade supporting fair trade. We assist the small business owners because that is where we choose to spend our hard-earned money. But when the government begins to use this purchasing model, especially in the national defense industry, problems in the market start to arise. When it comes to protecting America’s homeland, we expect the highest standards and best quality services available — bar none. In the case of national security, “fair” markets just don’t cut it. Click here. (4/5)
Defense Contractors See Growth in Space (Source: Space News)
With the Trump administration making a big push to create a Space Force and recent moves by the Pentagon to stand up a Space Development Agency and a U.S. Space Command, some companies in the defense industry are positioning themselves to compete for a share of the U.S. military’s $14 billion space budget. “We are expanding into the space domain,” said Damian DiPippa, general manager of mission intelligence solutions at ManTech International, a $2 billion defense contractor that provides technical support services to the military and intelligence agencies.
ManTech is looking to apply its cybersecurity expertise to space. Satellites and supporting ground systems used by DoD and the intelligence community for communications and other critical missions have become enemy targets, DiPippa said in an interview. “Protecting these assets and the critical intelligence they carry is a top priority.”
Parsons is another defense contractor that is rapidly moving into the space business. Most of its space work thus far has been in geospatial intelligence, cloud computing and data analytics. It is now expanding to space launch support, said David Weissmiller, Parsons’ director of space strategy and business development. The company in February won a contract worth up to $100 million over five years from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Launch Enterprise Directorate to serve as the prime contractor for the integration of small satellites with launch vehicles. (4/8)
Air Force "Pitch Day" Offers Quick Funding for New Space Tech Ideas (Source: Space News)
The Air Force will offer technology development contracts on the spot at a "pitch day" even this fall focused on space. The upcoming "Space Pitch Day" would be the Air Force's second live pitch event following the inaugural one in New York City in March, where in one day 51 small businesses were awarded $8 million worth for contracts and were paid instantly by swiping a government credit card. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said the Air Force wants to narrow the focus to space, and it is especially interested in technologies "that we didn't even know we needed." The Air Force is hoping candidates cover a wide range of space technologies, including satellites and small rockets. (4/11)
USAF Contract Promotes AI for Space Situational Awareness (Source: Space News)
The Air Force has awarded a contract to a company that says it can use artificial intelligence to improve space surveillance. The $6 million award to Slingshot Aerospace covers customization of the company's Orbital Atlas predictive space situational awareness software for possible military use. The company says its tool will allow the Air Force to shift from routine catalog maintenance of objects in orbit to "a more tactical, predictive solution." The decision to try out a commercial system like Orbital Atlas for space control activities comes as the Air Force seeks to augment government-developed technology to detect and characterize space threats. (4/8)
US Satellites Reported to Have Approached Russian, Chinese GEO Satellites (Source: Sputnik)
Following the launch of the first geosynchronous surveillance satellites by the US in 2014, little was known about their operation, as Washington kept a veil of secrecy around them. But a recent report has shed light on the first two years of their activities. The Secure World Foundation has published a report revealing details on the activities of the secret Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP), launched by the US in 2014 with the declared mission to detect and track space objects in geosynchronous orbit.
According to the report, the US remains secretive about the activities of four operational GSSAP satellites, but by using the data from the ISON space surveillance network, operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the foundation has managed to reconstruct their movements since their launch in 2014. The SWF indicates that they have made approaches to Russian, Chinese, Pakistani, and Nigerian satellites, both civilian and military ones, using maneuvering engines. (4/9)
Indian ASAT Test Allowed Demonstration of US Space Fence (Source: Space News)
Last month's Indian anti-satellite test helped demonstrate the capabilities of the new Space Fence. The radar facility on Kwajalein Atoll was running a test at the time of the ASAT test, and the system "performed nominally," according to Lockheed Martin, the contractor for the Space Fence. The Air Force is scheduled to begin initial operation of the ground-based radar, which sends out a curtain of radio frequency energy wider than the continental United States, in the fourth quarter of this year. (4/12)
India’s ASAT Test and Changing Perceptions of Space Warfare (Source: Space Review)
India’s recent test of an anti-satellite weapon got a muted reaction from many other governments. Taylor Dinerman argues that the test demonstrates that space warfare may be something that space powers will have to learn to live with. Click here. (4/8)
Chunks of Satellite Destroyed by India Orbiting Above Space Station (Source: Sputnik)
Around 60 fragments of India's Microsat-R military satellite are currently flying in orbit, 46 of which are located above the apogee of the International Space Station (ISS), according to a US Air Force's catalog. The catalog currently includes 57 Microsat-R fragments flying in orbits at altitudes from 159 kilometers to 2,248 kilometers (99-1,397 miles). The ISS orbit apogee is around 400 kilometers. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine slammed the test, saying that it created at least 400 pieces of debris, increasing the risk of the ISS colliding with debris by 44 percent. (5/8)
Japan's Astroscale to Expand Into US With Debris Removal Venture (Source: Space News)
Astroscale announced Wednesday it has raised $30 million and will open an office in the United States. The Tokyo-based company developing technologies to remove space debris said it added $30 million to a $50 million Series D round the company announced last fall, bringing the total it has raised to date to $132 million. The company says the funding gives it "more runway" as it works to demonstrate its capabilities and identify customers in an emerging, uncertain market. Astroscale will establish a U.S. office in Denver to better position it to win business from American companies and government agencies. (4/10)
Companies Vie to Develop Ways to Dispose of Space Junk (Source: Financial Times)
A new space race is ready for lift-off: garbage disposal. The danger to satellites and space stations from millions of pieces of orbital wreckage after more than 60 years of space exploration has become a commercial opportunity and one of the best-funded companies in the sector is based in Asia. “Cleaning up space is critical,” said Nobu Okada of Japan-based company Astroscale. “People know about global warming. People know about ocean clean-up. But they don’t know anything about the space debris issue.”
Astroscale has raised $102m from investors including developer Mitsubishi Estate, venture capitalist SBI Investment and airline group ANA Holdings. Mr Okada said no other company with a mission solely to clean up space debris has raised as much. The company is tipped to announce further funding for its most recent investment round this week, which coincides with the opening of its US office. Astroscale, as well as the RemoveDEBRIS project in the UK and US group Rocket Lab, are pitching the destruction of discarded rocket parts and defunct satellites as a business proposal.
Estimates for the amount of space junk vary but the European Space Agency believes there are 900,000 pieces of debris larger than 1cm and most are located in low earth orbit — no further than 2,000km from the ground. That number is set to increase as one of the hottest sectors of the space industry — the race by private companies such as SpaceX and Amazon to develop lower cost rockets to deploy so-called nanosatellites into orbit — heats up. “Debris removal is a small but growing market,” said Laura Forczyk, owner of Atlanta-based space consulting firm Astralytical. “Until recently, there wasn’t a financial incentive for companies to take on the task of removing orbital debris. Now we’re seeing this become a viable business case.” (4/10)
Thales Alenia Space Mulls Satellite Servicing Venture (Source: Space News)
Franco-Italian satellite manufacturer and space hardware provider Thales Alenia Space says it wants to get into the satellite servicing market, provided it can secure a government customer to kickstart the business. Roberto Provera, Thales Alenia Space’s director of human spaceflight and transportation programs, said the company envisions having a servicing business by 2024 or 2025, and is currently in concept development. The company’s servicer would have a strong focus on debris removal, he said. (4/9)
Intelsat In-Orbit Satellite Failure Includes Potential Debris Field (Source: Space News)
An Intelsat communications satellite has suffered back-to-back anomalies that have taken it out of service. Intelsat said April 10 that the propulsion system on the three-year-old Intelsat-29e satellite "experienced damage," the cause of which it did not identify, resulting in a fuel leak. The Boeing-built satellite was launched in January 2016 by Arianespace.
While attempting to restore services from the satellite, Intelsat said a second problem surfaced that resulted in a loss of communications with the satellite. Commercial space situational awareness company ExoAnalytic Solutions said its network of ground-based telescopes identified debris around Intelsat-29e on April 8. Intelsat-29e is the first of Intelsat's Epic series of high-throughput satellites. (4/11)
Made In Space Unveils Small Satellite Interferometry Tool (Source: Space News)
Made in Space unveiled a product April 8 to help customers conduct interferometry missions on small satellites. Possible applications for the new product, Optimast-Structurally Connected Interferometer (Optimast-SCI) include space situational awareness and detection of near-Earth objects. Traditional space-based interferometry missions bring along large deployable structures to separate their telescopes or other instruments.
Hinges and mechanical systems on the deployable structures allow them to be folded in launch fairings and extended in orbit. Made In Space proposes instead equipping satellites weighing roughly 150- to 300-kilograms with technology to manufacture in orbit a 20-meter optical boom interferometer with a modular internal optics bench the firm developed with Lowell Observatory. (4/8)
Rocket Fuel That's Cleaner, Safer and Still Full of Energy (Source: Space Daily)
It may be possible to create rocket fuel that is much cleaner and safer than the hypergolic fuels that are commonly used today. And still just as effective. The new fuels use simple chemical "triggers" to unlock the energy of one of the hottest new materials, a class of porous solids known as metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. MOFs are made up of clusters of metal ions and an organic molecule called a linker.
Satellites and space stations that remain in orbit for a considerable amount of time rely on hypergols, fuels that are so energetic they will immediately ignite in the presence of an oxidizer (since there is no oxygen to support combustion beyond the Earth's atmosphere). The hypergolic fuels that are currently mainly in use depend on hydrazine, a highly toxic and dangerously unstable chemical compound made up of a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms. Despite precautions, around 12,000 tons of hydrazine fuels end up being released into the atmosphere every year by the aerospace industry.
"This is a new, cleaner approach to making highly combustible fuels, that are not only significantly safer than those currently in use, but they also respond or combust very quickly, which is an essential quality in rocket fuel," says Tomislav Frisci. "Although we are still in the early stages of working with these materials in the lab, these results open up the possibility of developing a class of new, clean and highly tunable hypergolic fuels for the aerospace industry," says Hatem Titi, a post-doctoral fellow who works in Frisci's lab. (4/8)
Amazon Hired Former SpaceX Management for Bezos' Satellite Internet (Source: CNBC)
Amazon’s satellite internet plan is increasingly looking like the one Elon Musk has at SpaceX, with thousands of spacecraft that are compact in size. Among the reasons for the similarities, people tell CNBC, is that Jeff Bezos has hired some of Musk’s previous senior management. Former SpaceX vice president of satellites Rajeev Badyal and a couple members of his team are now leading Amazon’s Project Kuiper, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.
Project Kuiper represents Bezos’ plan to launch 3,236 small satellites into space to provide high-speed internet to anywhere in the world. The plan puts Amazon in the middle of a race among at least five other companies aiming to launch next-generation satellite networks with global broadband coverage.
Badyal previously ran the “Starlink” division at SpaceX, which launched its first two test satellites last year. SpaceX initially planned for the network to consist of a similar constellation of 4,425 satellites in low Earth orbit. Late last year, the FCC approved an addition of 7,518 satellites to the constellation, bringing Starlink’s planned total to 11,943 satellites in orbit. (4/7)
Can Jeff Bezos Make Money in Space? (Source: Wall Street Journal)
After spending the past decade eclipsed by the exploits of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space company is over being small and done with being quiet. Ten years ago the company consisted of the Amazon magnate himself, a few researchers and an experimental lander that fit on a flatbed truck. There was no sign outside its industrial park headquarters in a Seattle suburb, and the boss didn’t talk to the media, period. Click here. (4/12)
NASA Demos CubeSat Laser Communications Capability (Source: Space Daily)
Two NASA CubeSats teamed up on an impromptu optical, or laser, communications pointing experiment. The laser beam is seen as a brief flash of light close to the center of the focal plane, to the left of Earth's horizon.
The light originated from the laser communications system onboard one of two Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) spacecraft. The laser flash was recorded by a short-wavelength infrared camera, one of three cameras comprising the CubeSat Multispectral Observation System (CUMULOS) payload, onboard the Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) spacecraft. At the time of the demonstration, the OCSD and ISARA spacecraft were both 280 miles above Earth and about 1,500 miles apart. (4/10)
NASA Invests in 18 Potentially Revolutionary Space Tech Concepts (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Smart spacesuits and solar surfing may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but they are just two of the technology concepts NASA has selected for further research as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The program will fund 18 studies to determine the feasibility of early-stage technologies that could go on to change what’s possible in space.
The funded technologies have the potential to transform human and robotic exploration of other worlds, including the Moon and Mars. One researcher, for example, will study an affordable way to mine the ample ice at the Moon’s polar regions. NASA aims to send astronauts to land on the Moon’s South Pole in five years. Click here for the list of projects.
Editor's Note: One of the projects is being done at Kennedy Space Center on the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The project, titled "Solar Surfing" involves a materials-science study to determine the best protective materials to enable heliophysics missions closer to the Sun. This is a Phase-2 project, which means it may last up to two years and be funded as much as $500,000. (4/10)
What Spy-Satellite Companies Can Teach NASA About Climate Change (Source: The Atlantic)
The sky has filled with eyes, and NASA is starting to notice. Over the past several years, venture-funded start-ups have hurled hundreds of inexpensive satellites into orbit. For-profit companies have used smartphone technology to make compact satellites that look down at Earth and monitor its every oceanic gurgle, erupting volcano, or forest conflagration. Hundreds of these satellites might gaze down at the same time; they are organized in what are called (rather poetically) “constellations.”
NASA has now taken heed of these new arrangements. Earlier this year, it asked 36 scientists to figure out whether imagery and data from three satellite companies could be put to serious scientific use. On Thursday, the San Francisco–based start-up Planet announced that it is one of the three companies participating in the pilot program.
Among NASA’s goals: Decide whether data from the three satellite companies can be used to create a dashboard of what are called “essential climate variables.” These core clues to planetary health—which include figures tracking the size of leaves, the health of Arctic permafrost, and the extent of groundwater reservoirs—could function as a kind of early-warning system for environmental upheaval. (4/11)
Vector Sues Lockheed Martin for Patent Infringement (Source: Space News)
Vector says it only reluctantly filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Lockheed Martin. Vector filed a complaint April 5 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging Lockheed Martin infringed on three patents related to GalacticSky, Vector's software-defined satellite technology. Vector co-founder Shaun Coleman said his company isn't eager to spend millions on litigation but was forced into doing so to protect its intellectual property. Lockheed Martin announced last month SmartSat, its own software-defined satellite project, and declined to comment on the suit. (4/11)
Rocket Lab Designs Kick-Stage to Serve as Satellite Payload (Source: Space News)
Rocket Lab announced Monday it is offering a new smallsat bus derived from the kick stage of its Electron rocket. The Photon bus will be able to carry more than 150 kilograms of payload and support a wide range of applications. The company says that Photon, bundled with Electron launches, will allow companies to get their payloads to space faster than if they built their own satellites. Rocket Lab has not announced any customers yet for Photon but says it is in discussions with a number of potential users, with a first flight expected in 2020. (4/8)
Virgin Orbit Signs Launch Services MOU With Germany's Exolaunch (Source: Space News)
Virgin Orbit has signed a memorandum of understanding with German launch services provider Exolaunch. The agreement covers plans to use Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne system for both dedicated and rideshare missions as soon as 2020. Exolaunch, which brokers smallsat launch services, says it will provide "diverse smallsat clusters" for LauncherOne missions. (4/12)
Virgin Orbit Plans Launches From Guam Airbase (Source: Virgin Orbit)
Virgin Orbit announced that the Pacific island of Guam will become an additional launch site for the company’s LauncherOne service. With its remote location and close proximity to the equator, Guam serves as an excellent base of operations from which the company’s unique, 747-launched rocket can efficiently serve all inclinations, a boon to the rapidly expanding small satellite market. Most excitingly, the new location enables LauncherOne to deliver more than 450 kg to a 500 km equatorial orbit.
The addition of Guam to that list enhances the flexibility of Virgin Orbit’s launch operations, adding a low-latitude site with clear launch trajectories in almost all directions, giving Virgin Orbit’s customers unparalleled control over where and when their small spacecraft are deployed.
Officials at US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) have issued a letter of support for Andersen Air Force Base to host launches and other exercises with LauncherOne and its dedicated carrier aircraft—a critical step en route to a first launch from the island, which could occur in as little as a year’s time. Additionally, the largest commercial airport on the island, A.B. Won Pat International Airport, has begun the process of seeking its launch site operator’s license from the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, in order to serve as a future launch site for Virgin Orbit. (4/10)
Texas Port Link to SpaceX Perhaps One Year Away (Source: Brownsville
The South Port Connector Road was in the works long before SpaceX appeared on the horizon, though it will come in very handy in terms of the Port of Brownsville’s relationship with the rocket company, by connecting the port with S.H. 4 just down the road from SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch complex. At the annual State of the Port event on March 19, Brownsville Navigation District Chairman John Reed said in his presentation that “the port expects to play an important role in the operation of SpaceX, similar in scope to what’s happening at Cape Canaveral in Florida.” (4/7)
Spaceport America Opens its Doors to Visitors (Source: Albuquerque Journal)
Hundreds of families visited New Mexico’s Spaceport America to see the facility firsthand and learn more about plans for Virgin Galactic to offer commercial flights. Brothers Sean Anderson, 5, Nathan Anderson, 10, and Owen Anderson, 7, of Rio Rancho, operate a Rio Rancho Robo Racers’ robot during Sunday’s festival at Spaceport America. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)
“I’m really looking forward to commercial service,” said Virgin Galactic astronaut pilot Frederick “CJ” Sturckow after giving a presentation to the crowd. “After you’ve been in space yourself, one of the funnest things is to share that experience with someone else.” The former NASA astronaut joined Virgin Galactic in 2013 and was on SpaceShip Two’s VSS Unity alongside test pilot Mark Stucky in December. Many of those at the open house were eager to find out when Virgin Galactic would begin passenger flights to space. (4/8)
Space Florida Funding Remains Contentious in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
In the last weeks of Florida's annual Legislative Session in Tallahassee, funding for Space Florida's operations budget is agreed upon by both the House and Senate. However, only the Senate has included the agency with funding for its innovative financing programs. The House and Senate are expected to hash out their differences after the Easter break. (4/12)
Hypersonic Flight Technology Just Passed a 'Hugely Significant' Milestone at Colorado Spaceport (Source: CNBC)
It has been decades in the making but finally, on March 25, Reaction Engines achieved what could prove to be a pivotal moment in the advancement of air-breathing, high-speed propulsion when its pre-cooler technology was successfully tested at conditions representative of over Mach 3. The breakthrough test—conducted at the Colorado Air and Space Port—comes 30 years after Reaction Engines was quietly formed in the UK around an innovative engine cycle concept to enable access to space and hypersonic air-breathing flight from a standing start. (4/8)
Space Is Poised for Explosive Growth. Let’s Get It Right. (Source: Wall Street Journal)
In the 19th century, urban planners wrangled the chaotic metropolises of Paris and New York into “planned cities,” turning warrens of streets into orderly grids, building sewage systems and transit lines, and allowing for new types of architecture, such as apartment buildings. Today, we face a similar inflection point in developing the nearest reaches of space. Click here. (4/8)
Wilbur Ross: We've Gotta Get Back to the Moon—to Exploit the Hell Out of It (Source: Daily Beast)
Late last month, out of the blue, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the United States would land an American on the moon by 2024—four years ahead of schedule. Now we know why the Trump administration is in such a hurry to get back to the lunar surface: The administration wants to mine the moon, staking a claim on these supposed lunar riches before any other country (most likely China) can—and before the end of Pres. Donald Trump’s possible second term.
At the annual Space Symposium conference in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross suggested that there’s so much money to be made on the moon that America better get there first, risk and uncertainty be damned. “As more countries land on the moon, we risk a Wild West situation without clarification of ownership rights,” Ross said. But this proverbial lunar gold rush is risky. Congress might not fund it: some critics were already saying a previous NASA effort to land a man on the moon was half-baked and not worth the cost.
Even with a Congressional appropriation, NASA expects it will have to cut other space programs to make way for moon work. Government officials admitted at the conference that some of the technology it needs doesn’t yet exist. Also, no one really knows how much cobalt, gold, helium, iron, palladium, platinum and tungsten lies under the lunar dust. Even more murky is exactly what it would take to dig it up and process it on the moon or send it back to some factory on Earth. (4/9)
Space Investment Reaches New Record of $3.2 Billion (Source: Space News)
A new report concluded that space investment hit a record high of more than $3.2 billion in 2018. That total, exceeding the $3 billion recorded in 2016, came without a single deal larger than $1 billion, the report published by Bryce Space and Technology this week noted. The report found growth in both the amount of venture capital investment and the number of investors, especially outside the United States. Bryce expects investment will continue to grow in 2019, driven in large part by the development of broadband satellite megaconstellations. (4/11)
Update on Investment in Commercial Space Ventures (Source: Bryce)
Since 2000, start-up space ventures have attracted around $21.8 billion of investment, including $8.4 billion in early and late stage venture capital, $3.1 billion in seed financing, and $4.7 billion in debt financing. More than 220 angel- and venture-backed space companies have been founded and funded since 2000. Twenty-four of these companies have been acquired, at a total value of about $3.7 billion. Most investment activity has occurred recently, and since 2015, annual investment has consistently reached at least $2 billion. In 2018, investment reached $3.2 billion, a record amount. Click here. (4/9)
A New Age Of Space Exploration And Business Opportunities (Source: International Business Times)
We might call this new era space 2.0, successor to space 1.0, the first space age that lasted roughly from 1957 through 2000. The differentiating factor between the two is business. The first space age was born of competition between the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union for geopolitical influence, and while some of that lingers still in the United States’ competition with China, this new space age is increasingly about commercial interest — and that’s a good thing.
Then, the singular focus was putting humans on the moon. Today, we have a vast orbiting network of research, telecommunication and weather satellites, planetary probes, and the International Space Station, all competing for limited funding. Though these programs return vast benefits in terms of government spending in the private sector and stimulus to STEM-related education and more, they are not inherently profitable. Space 2.0, however, will be.
We are already seeing the extended commercial benefits of space 1.0. GPS satellites efficiently guide cars, trucks and seagoing vessels to destinations all over the globe every minute of the day, resulting in increased efficiency and profits. Other satellites provide visual information critical to vehicle fleet tracking, resource identification for mining, and the optimization of farming and agriculture. Weather prediction and climate change dynamics are all created from orbital data. (4/1)
Science, Commerce, and the Moon (Source: Space Review)
This week SpaceIL’s Beresheet spacecraft will attempt a landing on the Moon, a precursor of sorts for future commercial missions whose payloads will include NASA-selected scientific instruments. Jeff Foust reports that, as scientists and lander developers get to know each other, there’s still some work to do to match up expectations with capabilities. Click here. (4/8)
To Get to the Moon in 2024, the Rocket is Just NASA's First Headache (Source: Space Daily)
Companies are waiting for NASA to issue formal solicitations for elements of its exploration plan. "We don't know when those are going to be because NASA is all thrown into a loop right now," Draper's Alan Campbell said. "They're still trying to figure it out," he said. "We can't really work on their problems until they tell us, 'These are the problems we want people to work on.'"
It's a similar wait for hundreds of other companies, ranging from aerospace giants to the most specialized of sub-contractors. The first problem is linked to the super heavy rocket required for the lunar mission, the skyscraper-sized Space Launch System (SLS). But walking on the Moon will require more than a rocket and a capsule: NASA wants to assemble a mini-station in lunar orbit, called the Gateway, where the astronauts will make a stop-over before their descent to the lunar surface.
The most urgent priority, according to industry executives, is for NASA to come up with the full requirements for the lander that would take the astronauts from the Gateway to the Moon. Some of the more experienced firms caution that it may already be too late to build one in keeping with the accelerated timetable. (4/11)
NASA's $17-Billion Moon Rocket May Be Doomed Before it Ever Gets to the Launch Pad (Source: NBC)
NASA has been toiling away on a monster rocket for the past eight years — but how much action the skyscraper-size Space Launch System will see once it’s completed is now anybody’s guess. SLS will be bigger and more powerful than any rocket since the Saturn V behemoth that took the Apollo astronauts to the moon 50 years ago. NASA has said the rocket will send Americans back to the lunar surface as early as 2024, with an uncrewed test flight tentatively scheduled for 2020.
But the orange-and-white rocket has fallen three years behind schedule — and is way over budget. Almost $17 billion has been spent so far on the space vehicle, which was projected to cost $10.6 billion when its construction was approved in 2011. Experts say each SLS flight will cost at least $1 billion, or about 11 times more than SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. Laura Seward Forczyk of Astralytical blames so-called cost-plus contracts, in which NASA pays SLS contractors for all project expenses plus a fee that allows them to earn a profit even if there are cost overruns or delays.
Given the problems, has the time come to scrap the SLS and rely on commercial rockets to put astronauts back on the moon? Some key stakeholders seem to be wondering just that. Ditching the SLS may be difficult, given the political clout of the members of Congress representing districts in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi where the rocket components are being built and tested. (4/8)
Lockheed Martin Unveils Orion-Based Moon Lander Concept (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Lockheed Martin unveiled a design for a human-rated lunar lander that could be built quickly to meet Vice President Mike Pence’s challenge to return humans to the Moon by 2024. The two-stage lander concept was presented April 10, 2019, during the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where engineers from Lockheed Martin discussed ideas on how to accelerate lunar lander capabilities.
NASA’s current plan to return humans to the Moon is expected in two phases, as outlined by the agency’s administrator, Jim Bridenstine, earlier this week. The first phase is about speed and involves building an initial Lunar Gateway (described as a reusable command module in orbit around the Moon) likely with just a power and propulsion module and a utilization module with docking ports. (4/11)
NASA's New Race to the Moon Defers Sustainability Elements (Source: Space News)
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said NASA would take a two-phase approach to its revised lunar exploration plans, focusing on speed and then sustainability. Bridenstine said the agency would initially develop only the essential capabilities needed for getting humans to the surface of the moon by 2024, the goal set two weeks ago by Vice President Mike Pence.
After that, the focus would turn to long-term sustainability of human missions to the moon. He said all the elements of the earlier plan, like the lunar Gateway and landers, would still be developed, but may be done on different schedules compared to the plan that called for a human return by 2028. Bridenstine did not give any cost estimates for the new plan, but said the agency, along with OMB and the National Space Council, will have a revised budget request ready as soon as next week to deliver to Congress.
Editor’s Note: A primary focus on racing to plant a flag, whether to beat China or an attempt to secure a positive legacy for the Trump presidency, runs the risk of another Apollo-like outcome. If the sustainability is not baked-in, we could be left with another flag-placement after the funding spike subsides. (4/10)
Trump's Space Revolution (Source: American Thinker)
Prior to his inauguration, President Trump promised America plenty of winning, and when it comes to the space industry, that is exactly what he’s delivered. America is once again leading the free world. Whether it be the scientific discoveries, technological innovations, or military capabilities needed to expand America’s influence into the final frontier, the Trump administration is fostering those processes. As a result, the United States is on the cusp of a space revolution. Click here. (4/7)
Space Council Advisory Group Seeks Role in NASA Human Spaceflight Planning (Source: Space News)
The advisory group for the National Space Council wants a role in reviewing NASA's revised human spaceflight plans. The Users' Advisory Group discussed developing a task force that would provide a "red team" review of the agency's architecture for landing humans on the moon by 2024. The group didn't formally approve the proposal, but its chairman, James Ellis, said he would refine that proposal and have the group consider it at its next meeting.
Separately, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Monday that he has named former aerospace executive Mark Sirangelo as a special assistant to lead development of those revised plans and creation of a new mission directorate within the agency that will implement them. (4/9)
Counting the Many Ways the International Space Station Benefits Humanity (Source: Space Daily)
The third edition of NASA's "International Space Station Benefits for Humanity" book now is available. The new edition fills more than 200 pages with the many benefits of conducting research on the orbiting microgravity laboratory and includes new assessments of the economic value - as well as greater detail about the scientific value - of the International Space Station.
The station has maintained a continuous human presence in space since Nov. 2, 2000, and is the only laboratory that allows scientists to manipulate every variable - including gravity. In the more than 18 years of crewed operation, thousands of researchers on the ground in more than 100 countries have conducted more than 2,500 experiments in microgravity, and that number continues to grow. Click here. (4/8)
NASA Selects Two New Research Institutes for Smart Habitats (Source: Space Daily)
As exploration missions venture beyond low-Earth orbit and to the Moon - and eventually Mars - NASA must consider automated technologies to keep habitats operational even when they are not occupied by astronauts. To help achieve this, NASA has selected two new Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) to advance space habitat designs using resilient and autonomous systems.
The selected proposals create two multi-disciplinary, university-led research institutes to develop technologies critical to a sustainable human presence on the Moon and Mars. The smart habitat, or SmartHab, research will complement other NASA projects to help mature the mission architecture needed to meet challenging exploration goals. Each STRI will receive as much as $15 million over a five-year period. Click here. (4/9)
Three Prototypes in Space Settlement Challenge Receive UAE Support (Source: Space Daily)
Three proposals to build settlements in space have been chosen to receive support from the Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Accelerated Research, MBR CAR. The initiative, sponsored by the Dubai Future Foundation, has completed 35 scientific studies as part of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Settlement Challenge, in collaboration with Guaana, a new scientific research funding platform. Click here. (4/8)
NASA Researchers Catalogue Microbes and Fungi on ISS (Source: Space Daily)
A comprehensive catalogue of the bacteria and fungi found on surfaces inside the International Space Station (ISS) is being presented in a study published in the open access journal Microbiome. Knowledge of the composition of the microbial and fungal communities on the ISS can be used to develop safety measures for NASA for long-term space travel or living in space.
Dr Kasthuri Venkateswaran, at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the corresponding author said: "Specific microbes in indoor spaces on Earth have been shown to impact human health. This is even more important for astronauts during spaceflight, as they have altered immunity and do not have access to the sophisticated medical interventions available on Earth.
The researchers found that microbes on the ISS were mostly human-associated. The most prominent bacteria were Staphylococcus (26% of total isolates), Pantoea (23%) and Bacillus (11%). They included organisms that are considered opportunistic pathogens on Earth, such as Staphylococcus aureus (10% of total isolates identified) and Enterobacter, which is associated with the human gastrointestinal tract. On Earth, they are predominant in gyms, offices, and hospitals, which suggests that the ISS is similar to other built environments where the microbiome is shaped by human occupation. (4/9)
ISS Teeming with Bacteria and Fungi That Can Corrode Spacecraft (Source: Independent)
The International Space Station is brimming with bacteria and fungi that can cause diseases and form biofilms that promote antibiotic resistance, and can even corrode the spacecraft, a new study has found. The station, built in 1998 and orbiting around 250 miles above the Earth, has been visited by more than 222 astronauts and up to six resupply missions a year up until August 2017.
NASA scientists discovered microbes mainly came from humans and were similar to those found in public buildings and offices here on Earth. The study is the first to provide a comprehensive catalogue of the bacteria and fungi lurking on interior surfaces in closed space systems. Microbes are known to survive and even thrive in extreme environments. The microbes that are present on the International Space Station could have been in existence since the station’s inception, he added, while others may be introduced every time new astronauts or payloads arrive. (4/8)
Human Health Can Be 'Mostly Sustained' for a Year in Space, NASA Twins Study Concludes (Source: CNN)
Spending 340 days aboard the International Space Station between 2015 and 2016 caused changes in astronaut Scott Kelly's body, from his weight down to his genes, according to the results of the NASA Twins Study, released Thursday. The majority of changes that occurred in Kelly's body, compared with his identical brother, Mark, on Earth, returned to normal once he came back from the space station. The study results suggest that human health can be "mostly sustained" for a year in space, the researchers said. (4/11)
The First Detailed Study of How Mice Behave in Space Reveals Strange, Coordinated Zooming (Source: Gizmodo)
New research based on experiments done on the International Space Station shows that mice adapt quickly to microgravity conditions. Unexpectedly, however, some of the mice began to exhibit a rather curious circling behavior, zipping around the walls of their metal cage with reckless abandon. New research published today in Scientific Reports is providing the most comprehensive analysis to date on the behavior of mice in space. Studies of mice in space have been done before, including experiments done on the Space Shuttle, but the primary point of those efforts was to assess the viability of working with mice in microgravity. (4/11)
Astronauts Conduct Spacewalk for ISS Maintenance (Source: NASA)
American and Canadian astronauts have started a spacewalk this morning outside the International Space Station to carry out maintenance of the station. NASA's Anne McClain and the Canadian Space Agency's David Saint-Jacques started a spacewalk at 7:31 a.m. Eastern that is scheduled to last six and a half hours. The two will install a redundant power path for the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm and cables for wireless communications outside the station. The spacewalk is the third and final EVA in a series that started last month, with the first two focused primarily on replacing batteries in the station's power system. (4/8)
Astronauts vs. Mortals: Space Workers, Jain Ascetics, and NASA’s Transcendent Few (Source: Space Review)
NASA astronauts are almost universally considered to be exceptional people, physically and mentally. Deana L. Weibel discusses this elevation of astronauts above ordinary people, which can even have religious overtones. Click here. (4/8)
A Place for Women in Space (Source: Foreign Policy)
This bias has deep roots. In 1962, commenting on whether women should be allowed in the space program, the German-American aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun, a former Nazi, joked: “The male astronauts are all for it. And as my friend Bob Gilruth says, ‘We’re reserving 110 pounds of payload for recreational equipment.’”
To be sure, a half-century has moved NASA toward gender parity. The 2013 intake of new astronauts to train for space travel was split evenly between four women and four men, and the 2017 class comprised five women and seven men. Further, “Both NASA and ESA have updated their style guides to get rid of [phrases like] ‘manned spaceflight’ and moved to more inclusive terms like ‘human spaceflight,’” said Kate Arkless Gray. Yet a gendered lag persists in the design of the organization’s mission tools, which can sometimes see women struggle—literally—to fit in. That hindrance isn’t limited to spacewalks.
The default human form is assumed by designers and inventors across industries to be male. Because work environments are set up to accommodate an average male body, women operate to a constant disadvantage. Women wear safety gear designed for men, handle machinery built for men, use man-sized surgical tools, work in offices set to temperatures that suit men—and which can cause illness for women—suffer greater exposure to harmful chemicals, and use gadgets (such as phones) designed to fit men’s hands. These gadgets also carry male-biased software such as voice recognition, which is more likely to register male speech. (4/8)
Russian Cargo Ship Reaches ISS in Record Time (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Progress MS-11 cargo spacecraft reached the International Space Station (ISS) in record three hours and 22 minutes after launch from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on Thursday, a Sputnik correspondent reported from the Mission Control Center outside Moscow. The resupply mission was carried out on a two-orbit, super fast-track rendezvous profile with the orbital outpost. Usually, the Russian space freighters use a standard two-day or short six-hour rendezvous profiles to reach the ISS. (4/5)
ESA Boosts Startup to the Moon (Source: Space Daily)
European Space Agency operations specialists are helping flight planners at new European space startup PTScientists, headquartered in Berlin, pilot their way to the Moon. PTScientists are planning to launch lunar landers and rovers as a regular service in the future, with an inaugural flight expected in 2020. Specialists from ESA's European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, are providing consultancy on flight dynamics and flight operations as well as preparing for driving two lunar rovers. (4/8)
Israeli Beresheet Lander Crashes on Moon (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
What would have been a historic first in space exploration was not meant to be as SpaceIL’s Beresheet spacecraft failed to successfully land on the Moon. A landing in the Sea of Serenity was supposed to have occurred at about 3:25 p.m. EDT on April 11 following a roughly 15-minute descent burn. While the burn started successfully, an off-nominal event occurred midway through the descent that included an issue with an internal measurement unit and the spacecraft’s main engine that required a signal to be sent to reset the engine.
It is unclear when or if SpaceIL will try again. The first steps will likely be to understand exactly what when wrong during this failed descent. Either way, the company was able to achieve a lot, becoming the first private organization to not only launch a spacecraft to the Moon, but to successfully orbit around it. (4/11)
We Now Know Why Israel’s Lunar Lander Crashed Into the Moon (Source: BGR)
In the immediate aftermath of the lander’s crash it as unclear exactly what went wrong. An issue with the spacecraft’s engine was suspected, but the lander’s signal was lost shortly after the engine came back online so answers were hard to come by. Now, after studying the data from the landing attempt, SpaceIL has a better idea of what went wrong.
“Preliminary technical information collected by the teams shows that the first technical issue occurred at 14 km above the Moon,” SpaceIL explained in a tweet. “At 150 meters when the connection with #Beresheet was lost, it was moving at 500 km/h, making a collision inevitable...Our engineers think that a technical glitch in one of the components caused the main engine to shut down – making it impossible to slow the spacecraft’s descent. By the time the engine was restarted its velocity was too high to land properly.” (4/13)
Canadian Space Agency 2019-20 Planned Spending Set at $329 Million (Source: SpaceQ)
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) released its 2019-20 Departmental Plan (DP) today which outlines spending of $329M, about $18M more than was forecasted last year but continues an expected downward trend. Of the five priorities listed in the CSA 2019 DP, one is a new initiative, while another shows how Canada is looking beyond the US for opportunities. (4/11)
India to Launch Military Satellite to Detect Enemy Radars, Sensors and Devices (Source: Sputnik)
India is set to launch a locally built advanced military satellite, along with 28 other satellites from international partners, on 1 April from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota. This will be the 47th mission of ISRO's C45 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The launch is also aimed at demonstrating the PSLV's capability to place satellites into orbit. (3/26)
NASA Resumes Cooperation with ISRO After ASAT Test (Source: Space News)
NASA suspended cooperation with its Indian counterpart in one area in the immediate aftermath of India’s March 27 anti-satellite test, only to reinstate it less than a week later. In a letter to K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Al Condes, NASA associate administrator for international and interagency relations, said that NASA was suspending its participation in a working group between the two agencies related to human spaceflight issues, two days after India announced it had intercepted one of its satellites with a ground-launched missile. (4/7)
'Wolf Amendment' a Barrier to Beneficial U.S. - China Cooperation in Space (Source: Space News)
There are opportunities for the U.S. and China to expand cooperation in space that could have broader benefits. At a recent panel discussion, experts said that the "Wolf Amendment," widely seen as barring bilateral cooperation between NASA and Chinese organizations, only restricts such cooperation, and that there is room to expand that cooperation while considering ways to either relax that provision or do away with it entirely. Broader civil space cooperation between the countries could improve overall engagement between the countries in space issues, including military space activities. (4/9)
Russian S7 Space Firm to Cancel Deal with Ukraine's Rocket Maker (Source: Sputnik)
Russia's privately-owned S7 Space company will scrap a contract it has with a Ukrainian state rocket maker, Yuzhmash, on the production of 12 Zenit launch vehicles, the Russian firm's co-owner said. "Yes, we are going to," Natalya Fileva, who owns the company together with her husband, Vladislav Filev, said, adding she could not name the exact date of the cancellation.
Sputnik first learned about the plan to terminate the 2017 deal on the production of rockets for S7 Space's Sea Launch project from industry sources. Yuzhmash said they would not initiate the breakup. The company launched over 30 rockets from the buoyant spaceport in Long Beach, California by 2014 but the project was stalled amid a row between Ukraine and Russia. (3/26)
ESA-Russian Probe Fails to Detect Methane on Mars (Source: Nature)
The ESA-Russian Trace Gas Orbiter has failed to detect traces of a key gas in the Martian atmosphere. Initial results from the mission, published this week, indicated the spacecraft could not detect any methane in the atmosphere of Mars. That result surprised scientists given that other spacecraft, including the Curiosity rover and the Mars Express orbiter, have detected traces of methane, a gas that could have biological or geological origins. In one case last June, the Trace Gas Orbiter detected no methane at the same time that Curiosity detected it at concentrations 10 times above the threshold of detection for the orbiter. (4/11)
If Mars Had Water, Where Did It Go? (Source: Gizmodo)
On Earth, water reacts with rocks on and below the ocean floor. Those water-altered rocks are carried into subduction zones by the motion of tectonic plates. This moves 150-300 metric tons of water a year from the surface to the interior of the Earth—a pretty efficient way to remove water from the surface. That mechanism doesn’t work on Mars because there is no plate tectonics or subduction.
The orbiters and robots that we have sent to Mars have identified rocks and minerals that formed in the presence of water, including some of the same minerals and rocks found on Earth’s ocean floor. We know that some of these rocks and minerals only form at pressures and temperatures deep below the surface of Mars; water must have been present deep below the surface.
There must have been a thicker atmosphere and more water early in Mars history, but we still don’t completely understand how much there was or how long it was stable. So where did the water go? Some of it was lost to space (Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field to protect it from solar wind), some of the water reacted with volcanic rocks and then got trapped in minerals, and some of the water is still there today, frozen into the ice caps and in permafrost layers below the ground. (4/8)
The "Space Nation" Warns That an Asteroid Could Wipe out Humanity (Source: Futurism)
The leader of Asgardia, which styles itself as humanity’s first “space nation,” has a warning for world leaders: a life-threatening asteroid impact is “inevitable” unless we do something to stop it. “In the last 100 years, the Earth has been hit at least three times by space objects, each with an explosive power many times greater than the Hiroshima atomic bomb,” Igor Ashurbeyli said. “Future life-threatening impacts are inevitable unless defenses are built.” (4/8)
Two Rockets Dropped Tracers Into the Northern Lights and the Result was Glorious (Source: Ars Technica)
Two sounding rockets launched from a small spaceport in northern Norway. The two skinny rockets soared to an altitude of 320km, and along the way each released a visible gas intended to disperse through and illuminate conditions inside the aurora borealis. This NASA-funded AZURE mission, which stands for Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment, is one of a series of sounding rocket missions launching over the next two years as part of an international collaboration known as The Grand Challenge Initiative – Cusp.
The goal of these flights is to study the region where Earth's magnetic field lines bend down into the atmosphere, and particles from space mix with those from the planet. Friday night's mission involved two Black Brant XI-A rockets, a three-stage sounding booster with a long heritage dating back to Canadian military research in the 1950s. The Black Brant rockets launched within two minutes of one another from the picturesque Andøya Space Center in Norway. Click here. (4/7)
This Single Mission Could Solve 2 of the Biggest Mysteries of the Universe (Source: Live Science)
What in the world is dark energy, the name we give to the driving force behind the observed accelerated expansion of the universe? And on the opposite end of the scale, what exactly are neutrinos, those ghostly little particles that zip and zoom through the cosmos without hardly interacting with anything? At first glance, these two questions seem so radically different in terms of scale and nature and, well, everything that we might assume that we need to answer them.
But it might be that a single experiment could reveal answers to both. A European Space Agency telescope is set to map the dark universe — looking as far back in time, some 10 billion years, when dark energy is thought to have been raging. One particularly intriguing ingredient is the neutrino. Since the neutrino is so light, it travels at nearly the speed of light. This has the effect of "smoothing out" structures in the universe: Gravity simply can't do its work and pull neutrinos into compact little balls. So, if you add too many neutrinos to the universe, things like entire galaxies end up not being able to form in the early universe.
This means that we can use the cosmic web itself as a giant laboratory of physics to study neutrinos. By examining the structure of the web and breaking it down into its various parts (clusters, voids and so on), we can get a surprisingly direct handle on neutrinos. ESA's Euclid mission will help uncover both neutrino and dark energy properties. The Euclid satellite will map the locations of millions of galaxies, painting a very broad portrait of the cosmic web. And within that structure lie hints to the history of our universe, a past that depends on its ingredients, like neutrinos and dark energy. (4/8)
Alien Life Could Thrive On Four Earth-like Planets Close To The Solar System (Source: Forbes)
Alien life could be evolving right now on some of the nearest exoplanets to our solar system, claim scientists at Cornell University. Their proof is you. It's been presumed that the high levels of radiation known to be bombarding many of the rocky Earth-like exoplanets discovered so far by astronomers precludes life, but that theory is turned on its head by new research.
The researchers say that all of life on Earth today evolved from creatures that thrived during an era of much higher levels of UV radiation assault. So why not life on alien worlds? It also poses another question: does the evolution of life actually require high levels of radiation? They found that even for planet models with thin, unprotective atmospheres and those with ozone-poor atmospheres, surface UV radiation remains below early Earth levels, even during flares for the red dwarf stars they orbit. So any, or all, of them could support life. (4/11)
Gravitational Observatories Hunt for Lumpy Neutron Stars (Source: Scientific American)
Gravitational waves—the ghostly ripples in spacetime first predicted by Einstein and finally detected a century later by advanced observatories—have sparked a revolution in astrophysics, revealing the otherwise-hidden details of merging black holes and neutron stars. Now, scientists have used these waves to open another new window on the universe, providing new constraints on neutron stars' exact shapes. The result will aid researchers in their ongoing quest to understand the inner workings of these exotic objects.
So far, 11 gravitational-wave events have been detected by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) interferometers in Washington and Louisiana and the Virgo gravitational-wave observatory in Italy. Of these events, 10 came from mergers of binary black holes, and one from the merger of two neutron stars. In all cases, the form of the waves matched the predictions of Einstein's theory of general relativity.
For the binary black hole events, the passing waves lasted less than a second; for the merging neutron stars, the emissions occurred for about 100 seconds. But such rapid pulses aren't the only types of gravitational waves that could be streaming through the universe. In particular, solitary neutron stars might be emitting detectable gravitational waves as they spin—signals that could reveal important new details of the stars' topography and internal composition. (4/8)
Scientists Photograph Black Hole for the First Time Ever (Source: Daily Beast)
A team of 200 scientists unveiled the first-ever picture of a black hole Wednesday morning—a remarkable leap in astrophysics that provides an unprecedented glimpse into the depths of the universe’s abyss. “We have seen what we thought was unseeable,” Shep Doeleman, the director of the Event Horizon Telescope project, said at a press conference Wednesday morning. “We have taken a picture of a black hole.”
The photo of a glowing, irregular orange ring surrounding a small black circle, shows a massive black hole at the center of the nearby Messier 87 galaxy. It’s impossible to actually see the black hole, because it’s so dense that they suck in all the nearby light. Instead, the picture shows the hole’s silhouette, cast against the intense brightness of the hot gases and plasma that scientists think surround it. Click here. (4/10)
Traveling to Another Dimension? Choose Your Black Hole Wisely (Source: Daily Beast)
This dense and hot singularity punches a hole in the fabric of spacetime itself, possibly opening up an opportunity for hyperspace travel. That is, a short cut through spacetime allowing for travel over cosmic scale distances in a short period. Researchers previously thought that any spacecraft attempting to use a black hole as a portal of this type would have to reckon with nature at its worst. The hot and dense singularity would cause the spacecraft to endure a sequence of increasingly uncomfortable tidal stretching and squeezing before being completely vaporized.
My team at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a colleague at Georgia Gwinnett College have shown that all black holes are not created equal. If the black hole like Sagittarius A*, located at the center of our own galaxy, is large and rotating, then the outlook for a spacecraft changes dramatically. That’s because the singularity that a spacecraft would have to contend with is very gentle and could allow for a very peaceful passage.
The reason that this is possible is that the relevant singularity inside a rotating black hole is technically “weak,” and thus does not damage objects that interact with it. At first, this fact may seem counter intuitive. But one can think of it as analogous to the common experience of quickly passing one’s finger through a candle’s near 2,000-degree flame, without getting burned. (1/17)
Prepare to Jump to Light Speed: Inside the Mission to Go Interstellar (Source: New Scientist)
The furthest tendrils of human activity, Voyagers 1 and 2, which launched in 1977 and are only now reaching the outer edge of the solar system, would be overtaken by this time tomorrow by an object flying at the speed of light. But getting to Proxima Centauri, our solar system’s nearest star, would take it four years and three months. It is a velocity well beyond our reach. The quickest we could currently get to Proxima Centauri, using our fastest rockets, is 80,000 years. Small wonder interstellar travel hasn’t been much of a priority. But what if we could get to the Proxima system in 20 years?
At a highly publicized press conference in 2016, a team claimed to have assembled the scientific know-how to make a mission to Proxima Centauri not only possible, but doable within our lifetimes. Breakthrough Starshot, backed by a Silicon Valley billionaire and tapping into NASA expertise, provoked mostly cautious enthusiasm. Three years later, with a better sense of the challenges and published research to support the team’s optimism, the plans are gathering speed. If they succeed, we could be a decade or two away from embarking on the most ambitious mission of all time, and discovering the truth about a solar system different from our own. (4/11)
Arizona: Student-Led CatSat Mission Selected for Flight by NASA (Source: Space Daily)
An inflatable space antenna designed by University of Arizona students is one of 16 small research satellites from 10 states NASA has selected to fly as auxiliary payloads aboard space missions planned to launch in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The selections are part of the 10th round of NASA's CubeSat Launch Initiative.
CubeSats are a type of spacecraft called nanosatellites, often measuring about four inches on each side and weighing less than three pounds, with a volume of about one quart. CubeSats are built using these standard dimensions as Units or "U," and are classified as 1U, 2U, 3U, or 6U in total size. CatSat is a 6U CubeSat led by UA students from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and various departments including aerospace and mechanical engineering, astronomy, computer science, and systems and industrial engineering. (3/19)
Male Colleague Defends Female Black Hole Software Scientist After Internet Trolling (Source: The Hill)
Katherine Bouman, a 29-year-old researcher who worked on the crucial algorithm that led to capturing the first-ever image of a black hole, has become the target of online sexist trolls seeking to discredit her work on the historic project. After the first-ever image captured of a black hole was revealed online, another image began to make the rounds on social media.
The photo that showed Bouman with her hands clasping her face as she reacted to the team’s achievement became an instant symbol for female representation in STEM. But since she's received her newfound fame, a number of sexist trolls on Reddit and Twitter have circulated memes contrasting Bouman's work with that of Andrew Chael, a white male scientist who is also a member of the Event Horizon Telescope team behind the black hole project.
In memes that have quickly gone viral on the platforms, trolls said Chael was actually the one responsible for “850,000 of the 900,000 lines of code that were written in the historic black-hole image algorithm” and had done all of the actual work in the project. But Chael was quick to correct that narrative, arguing it was sexist, with a thread of his own. “So apparently some (I hope very few) people online are using the fact that I am the primary developer of the eht-imaging software library ... to launch awful and sexist attacks on my colleague and friend Katie Bouman. Stop,” he began in the Twitter thread. (4/13)
Former CASIS Executive Charged With 'Expensing' Prostitutes for Travel Reimbursements (Source: Florida Today)
Federal prosecutors have charged a former executive of the Brevard County-based nonprofit that runs the International Space Station's national laboratory for using government funds to pay for escort services, and for falsifying tax returns. Charles Resnick, served as chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, which is primarily funded by about $15 million annually from NASA.
According to a 10-count indictment filed Thursday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa, Resnick created phony receipts and other documents when filing expense reports that hid spending on prostitutes and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015. "Expenses incurred for escorts, prostitutes, and commercial sexual activities were not part of the ordinary, necessary, and reasonable travel expenses or related expenses for which employees could be reimbursed," the indictment reads. (4/12)
Grapes on Mars? Georgia Winemakers Aiming High (Source: Space Daily)
The nation of Georgia is immensely proud of its ancient wine-making tradition, claiming to have been the first nation to make wine. Now it wants to be the first to grow grapes on Mars. Nestling between the Great Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea, Georgia has a mild climate that is perfect for vineyards and has developed a thriving wine tourism industry. Now Nikoloz Doborjginidze has co-founded a project to develop grape varieties that can be grown on Mars. (4/9)
Navy Museum Features Apollo 11 VR Attraction in Pensacola (Source: Destin Log)
The National Naval Aviation Museum has a new Apollo 11 virtual reality (VR) attraction designed to let visitors walk in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. The 5-minute, $10 experience includes climbing aboard the rocket — a row of 12 chairs facing a replica Houston Mission Control — where seats shake, pitch and roll to simulate the feeling of being hurled into space. After launch, riders get a 360 degree view of earth and space while heading to the moon. Animation of the historic 1969 landing allows guests to see what the astronauts might have witnessed and felt while on the moon’s surface. This year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. (4/5)
Two Veteran Space Shuttle Astronauts Inducted Into Hall of Fame (Source: Florida Today)
Both were from small towns in middle America destined for great things. Janet Kavandi remembers looking up at the night sky from rural Missouri where the Milky Way would be on full display. James Buchli came home from a 13-month tour of Vietnam to a below-freezing North Dakota winter.
Together, they would uproot and go on to fly more than a combined 20 million miles in orbit, circling the earth hundreds of time each. Buchli flew four shuttle missions between 1985 and 1991. Kavandi flew three between 1998 and 2001. The two longtime Space Shuttle astronauts were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday as part of the 18th class of space explorers to be recognized. Only 99 astronauts ever have been inducted. (4/6)
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