|April 12, 2021
Biden Requests $24.7 Billion Budget for NASA, an Increase Over 2021 (Source: Space News)
The White House released a first look at its budget proposal for fiscal year 2022 that includes an increase in funding for NASA, particularly Earth science and space technology programs. The 58-page budget document, released April 9, outlines the Biden administration discretionary spending priorities. It provides only high-level details, though, with a full budget proposal expected later in the spring.
For NASA, the White House is proposing an overall budget of approximately $24.7 billion in fiscal year 2022, an increase of about 6.3% from the $23.271 billion the agency received in the final fiscal year 2021 omnibus spending bill. The document does not provide a full breakout of NASA spending across its various programs, but does highlight increases in several areas. NASA’s Earth science program, which received $2 billion in 2021, would get $2.3 billion in 2022, a 15% increase. The funding would be used to “initiate the next generation of Earth-observing satellites to study pressing climate science questions.” NASA’s space technology program, which received $1.1 billion in 2021, would get $1.4 billion in 2022, a 27% increase. (4/9)
Acting NASA Administrator Remarks on Biden Budget Request (Source: NASA)
“This $24.7 billion funding request demonstrates the Biden Administration’s commitment to NASA and its partners who have worked so hard this past year under difficult circumstances and achieved unprecedented success.
“The president’s discretionary request increases NASA’s ability to better understand Earth and further monitor and predict the impacts of climate change. It also gives us the necessary resources to continue advancing America’s bipartisan Moon to Mars space exploration plan, including landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under the Artemis program.
“We know this funding increase comes at a time of constrained resources, and we owe it to the president and the American people to be good and responsible stewards of every tax dollar invested in NASA. The NASA workforce and the American people should be encouraged by what they see in this funding request. It is an investment in our future, and it shows confidence in what this agency has to offer.” (4/9)
Bill Nelson’s NASA Nomination is Good for Florida (Source: Gainesville Sun)
It is refreshingly good news, both for Florida and for the future of American spaceflight, that President Joe Biden has nominated former Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to lead NASA. Perhaps the most unique candidate in the agency's history, Nelson has the distinction of being an experienced, well-liked former senator while also having been to space himself, having participated in the space shuttle Columbia’s mission in 1986.
Nelson’s commitment to building on these NASA initiatives over the next four years is critical not only to ensuring a healthy space industry in Florida but also to guaranteeing the United States meets its goal to remain the world leader in space exploration for the remainder of the century. Florida is home to much of the development for both programs. Nelson’s past congressional initiatives — such as the commercial crew program, which accelerated NASA’s work with the private sector — helped secure Florida’s prominent role in this industry.
Having a NASA administrator with this background bodes well for the state in terms of continuing to receive the agency’s and executive branch’s support. It's no surprise, then, that Florida's representatives are praising the move, with even Sen. Marco Rubio saying, in backhanded-compliment fashion, that Nelson’s nomination gives him “confidence that the Biden Administration finally understands ... the necessity of winning the 21st-century space race." (4/10)
Revive the US Space Program? How About Not (Source: The Guardian)
The US space program was a sprawling and expensive endeavor, perhaps too complicated a subject to understand in one sitting, but its cost was apparent. An “inner city” high school teacher quoted in a 1969 article from the Nation said: “Every time one of those things blasts off I can’t think of anything except all that money we need here on earth.’’ While the fantasy of “out there” was trotted around the world as the next step in human advancement, people on the ground were suffering.
Neil Armstrong said, “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges.” But that quintessential human being is a myth, those challenges unmet. There is a distinction to be made between the people of earth and the people from earth. In that gap, the most expendable cease to exist. (4/9)
NASA's Artemis Program Will Land the First Person of Color on the Moon (Source: CNN)
The Artemis program will land the first person of color on the moon, according to NASA. The new goal for the program, which seeks to land the first woman and the next man on at the lunar south pole by 2024, comes from the Biden-Harris administration. The administration submitted US President Joe Biden's priorities for 2022 discretionary spending to Congress Friday. It calls for an increase of more than 6% from the previous year, according to NASA. (4/9)
NASA Aims to Wow Public With Artemis Lunar Videos (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has started intense planning to capture public attention with high-definition video, photos and possible live streaming from the moon during upcoming Artemis missions. Grainy delayed footage -- sometimes only in black and white -- was a hallmark of the first Apollo moon landing in 1969. But even that captured 650 million viewers around the globe.
Artemis moon missions will feature images more like the heart-pounding video of the Mars rover Perseverance parachuting and blasting its way to the Red Planet's surface on Feb. 18, Artemis astronaut Scott Tingle said. NASA intended to land astronauts, including the first woman moon walker, by 2024, but that is likely to be delayed due to a lack of congressional funding. (4/2)
'Why We Go' Space Exploration Series Launches (Source: ASU)
The Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University and the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) are launching a monthly discussion series examining interplanetary exploration through conversations with diverse experts optimistically answering the question, “Why do humans go to space?” The four-part virtual series dives into the philosophy and passions behind the desire to travel into deep space. (4/7)
Perseverance Places Ingenuity Helicopter on Mars (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's Ingenuity mini-helicopter has been dropped on the surface of Mars in preparation for its first flight, the US space agency said. The ultra-light aircraft had been fixed to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on the Red Planet on February 18. Ingenuity had been feeding off the Perseverance's power system but will now have to use its own battery to run a vital heater to protect its unshielded electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Martian night. (4/4)
NASA Delays First Flight of Mars Helicopter (Source: Space News)
NASA announced April 10 it was postponing the first flight attempt of the Ingenuity helicopter on Mars by at least three days after detecting a problem during a final pre-flight test. In a brief statement, NASA said that the command sequence for an April 9 test of the vehicle’s rotors, where they would spin up to full speed, ended early when a “watchdog” timer expired. That timer oversees the command sequence and prevents the test from proceeding if there is an issue.
NASA did not elaborate on the specific issue that aborted the test, beyond that it took place when the flight computer on the 1.8-kilogram helicopter was trying to go from “pre-flight” to “flight” mode. Mission engineers will reschedule the test once they evaluate the telemetry from the vehicle. That test was the last before a first flight of Ingenuity, which was scheduled for the evening of April 11. NASA says that flight attempt will now take place no earlier than April 14. (4/10)
Mysterious Rumblings From Inside of Mars Detected by NASA Lander (Source: Sky News)
Scientists at NASA have reported an exciting detection by its Insight lander on Mars - mysterious rumblings coming from the interior of the planet. The researchers believe the seismic events may be caused by a sudden release of energy from the planet's interior, but the nature of that release remains unknown and puzzling.
Intriguingly, the new rumblings are believed to have originated in a location on Mars called Cerberus Fossae, where two other previous candidate events are believed to have originated. Although these rumblings have sometimes been called "Marsquakes" the planet is not believed to have a similarly active tectonic system like Earth's that causes earthquakes.
And curiously, the previous seismic events detected by the space agency's InSight lander - which arrived on the planet's surface in 2018 - occurred almost a full Martian year ago, or two Earth years, during the Martian northern summer. Scientists had predicted this season would offer the lander its best opportunity to listen for quakes because the winds on the planet would become calmer. (4/5)
What's Up With This Weird Green Rock on Mars? (Source: Space.com)
Perseverance's laser hasn't yet penetrated the mystery of a strange Martian rock near the rover's new digs. NASA's rover is waiting for its companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, to make the first-ever powered flight on another planet. Meanwhile, its instruments targeted a greenish-looking rock on the Red Planet's surface that has the science team "trading lots of hypotheses," according to the rover's Twitter feed — but please don't pick aliens as one of them. Click here. (4/2)
Sneaky New Bacteria on the ISS Could Build a Future on Mars (Source: WIRED)
In March NASA researchers announced that they’d found an unknown life-form hiding aboard the ISS. And they were cool with that. In fact, for an organization known for a sophisticated public communications strategy everyone was pretty quiet about this discovery. Almost too quiet. It’s true that the new life wasn’t, say, a xenomorphic alien with acid for blood. It was a novel species of bacteria, unknown on Earth but whose genes identified it as coming from a familiar terrestrial genus called Methylobacterium.
The researchers running the project named it M. ajmalii. Typically Methylobacterium like to hang out amid the roots of plants, not on the walls of space stations. Still, you’d think a probably-not-but-maybe-evolved-in-space microbe would merit a little more freaking out. Yet here we are. Nobody was exactly surprised—and the reasons why could define the future of human space exploration. It wasn’t even the first time these researchers found a new bacterium in space.
Odds are they hitched a ride on cargo, or on astronauts, and the microbe hunters only noticed them because they went looking. What’s more interesting, maybe, is figuring out which bacteria are zeroes on Earth but heroes in the rarified, closed-loop environment of a spaceship. This new ISS Methylobacterium might actually be useful. That genus is best known for things like helping with nitrogen fixation, turning complex nitrogen sources in soil into something a plant can use as a nutrient, which means it could help food grow on another world. (4/5)
Lava Tubes in Hawaii Could be a Dress Rehearsal for Mars Colonies (Source: Space.com)
When humans build the first bases and habitats on other worlds, they'll confront dangers and challenges unlike any faced by the astronauts who went before them. To prepare for such challenges, scientists are descending deep underground into lava tubes in Hawaii that simulate conditions on rocky alien worlds.
There, mission crew members navigate uneven volcanic terrain and endure the physical constraints of performing research in a hostile environment. Wearing bulky suits like those required for extraterrestrial exploration, the scientists study the geology and organisms found in lava tunnels and caverns at Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano.
This unique research station at Mauna Loa is run by the International Moon Base Alliance (IMBA), an association working toward developing the first international moon base, according to the IMBA website. It is part of the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (Hi-SEAS), which organizes analog missions for "astronaut" scientists, mimicking the experience of living on Mars and the moon. (4/6)
Build a Robot Base on Mars (Source: Space News)
The currently operational SpaceX Falcon Heavy could throw a 10-ton class lander to Mars. The soon-to-be-operational NASA SLS and SpaceX Starship booster will be able to send a 20-ton lander. So we have that part covered. The next thing we need is the lander. The Perseverance landing system can deliver one ton to the surface of Mars. To get started with human exploration, we need a 10-ton class lander. There are a number of ways to create such a system, using aeroshells, parachutes and landing jets, or perhaps a miniature version of Starship. The bottom line is if we can land one ton on Mars we can land 10. It requires no scientific breakthroughs, just engineering.
Once we have a 10-ton lander, we can use it to send large robotic expeditions to Mars. Instead of landing one rover, we land a platoon of robots. These could include science explorers like Perseverance, and much bigger versions of the Ingenuity helicopter capable of wide-ranging reconnaissance. Smaller rovers armed with high-resolution cameras could create a high-definition map of the area, transmit to Earth, to allow millions of people here walk the landscape with virtual reality gear, directly assisting the robots in exploration by calling their attention to features of interest.
But the expedition would also include construction robots, possibly humanoid in form with arms and legs, capable of building a Mars base. These would set up a power system, and put in operation units for converting Martian carbon dioxide and water ice into methane and oxygen rocket propellant, and store it in tanks. With such a base set up and fully equipped with housing, power, a well-instrumented lab, a workshop, and supplies in advance, all astronauts will need to do is show up with a credit card, and check in. Everything they need to live and work on Mars, and return from Mars, will be there waiting for them. (4/7)
NASA Teases a Mars Base Made Of Mushrooms, A Swarm Of Spacecraft To Venus And A Giant Dish On The Moon (Source: Forbes)
Space agency NASA has dished-out $5 million to seven concepts for future space exploration—and they include some exceptionally creative ideas. They include space habitats made from fungi, “climbing robots” that could build a radio telescope on the far side of the Moon, a “swarm” of spacecraft to explore the clouds of Venus and spacecraft that can “jump” around Pluto.
These are all part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program and not yet official NASA missions. In fact, the projects are in such early stages of development that most will need a decade to figure out. In February 2021, NASA released details of 16 equally ambitious Phase I NIAC proposals, each of which received up to $125,000 for a nine-month study. (4/9)
NASA Selects Innovative, Early-Stage Tech Concepts for Continued Study (Source: NASA)
NASA encourages researchers to develop and study unexpected approaches for traveling through, understanding, and exploring space. To further these goals, the agency has selected seven studies for additional funding – totaling $5 million – from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The researchers previously received at least one NIAC award related to their proposals.
NASA selected the proposals through a peer-review process that evaluates innovation and technical viability. All projects are still in the early stages of development, with most requiring a decade or more of technology maturation. They are not considered official NASA missions.
Among the studies is a neutrino-detecting mission concept that will receive a $2 million Phase III NIAC grant to mature related technology over two years. Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe but are challenging to study since they rarely interact with matter. Therefore, large and sensitive Earth-based detectors are best suited to detect them. Nikolas Solomey from Wichita State University in Kansas proposes something different: a space-based neutrino detector. Click here. (4/8)
Nanoracks Selected for NASA Grant to Advance Outpost Work (Source: Parabolic Arc)
NASA has selected Nanoracks for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to outfit its upper stage Outposts to provide data services for other space vehicles. Nanoracks is developing a modular hardware bus known as a Mission Extension Kit (MEK) that will convert upper stage boosters into Outposts after they have deployed their payloads. The MEK will provide power, pointing, data down/uplink, and maneuvering capabilities to the stage. (4/7)
BWXT Awarded Additional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Work for NASA (Source: BWXT)
BWX Technologies is continuing its groundbreaking Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) design, manufacturing development, and test support work for NASA. NTP is one of the technologies that is capable of propelling a spacecraft to Mars, and this contract continues BWXT’s work that began in 2017. Under the terms of a $9.4 million, one-year contract, BWXT will focus primarily on nuclear fuel design and engineering activities. Specifically, BWXT will produce fuel kernels, coat the fuel kernels, design materials and manufacturing processes for fuel assemblies, and further develop conceptual reactor designs, among other activities. (4/1)
NASA Revises its Low Earth Orbit Commercialization Plans (Source: Space Review)
One element of NASA’s low Earth orbit commercialization strategy announced nearly two years ago had support for commercial space stations, but a lack of funding slowed that effort. Jeff Foust reports on how the agency is revamping its approach to assisting the industry on the development of stations that could one day succeed the ISS. Click here. (4/5)
Private Companies are Working Hard to Create Space Stations (Source: SlashGear)
Private companies are now rushing to design space stations to grab their part of the hundreds of millions of dollars NASA is offering. The agreement would have NASA helping to support the companies as they develop space stations and carry out the preliminary design review. The preliminary design review is a critical technical assessment of what it would take to get the space station flying by the end of fiscal year 2025.
Several companies have already announced that they will design space stations as requested by NASA. Those companies include Sierra Nevada Corporation and Axiom Space. Axiom is working to build its commercial space station and will have a module attached to the ISS before its space station can launch. NASA believes that partnering with private companies has saved it vast sums of money. Partnering with private companies and becoming a user of orbiting space stations rather than the owner will save it even more money in the future.
Saving money is critical to keeping NASA operating as budgetary issues are always a concern. Currently, there is no real ETA on when any of these private space stations may be ready to go into orbit, but we are likely multiple years away from that. (4/4)
Companies Race to Design Private Space Stations Before ISS Goes Offline (Source: Axios)
Companies are rapidly designing private space stations that could one day dominate operations in orbit around Earth. NASA is hoping private industry will start to take over operations in low-Earth orbit once the ISS comes to an end, creating a robust commercial market in that part of space. Commercially operated private space stations are a big part of NASA's vision to buy services from companies in orbit and then focus on further afield goals like getting to the Moon and Mars.
NASA detailed an initiative at the end of March asking companies to partner with them in the development of private space stations that might act as a destination for NASA astronauts and research in the future. Under these agreements, NASA would help support the companies as they develop the space stations and carry out preliminary design reviews — an important technical assessment of what it will take to get a station flying — by the end of fiscal year 2025.
On the heels of that announcement, Sierra Nevada Corporation announced its plans to build a private space station. Another company, Axiom Space, already has plans in motion to build its own commercial space station after first attaching a module to the International Space Station at some point in the coming years. (4/3)
Cosmonauts Identify Other Potential Air Leak Sites on Russian ISS Module (Source: Sputnik)
Russian cosmonauts have found three more potential air leaks in an ISS module. The three sites, all in one segment of the Zvezda module, were patched up Friday and Saturday by Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. The cosmonauts have been working for months to track down the sources of a small but steady air leak in the module. (4/5)
NASA Certifies New Launch Control System for Artemis I at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Space Daily)
When NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft lift off from the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the Artemis I mission, the amount of data generated by the rocket, spacecraft, and ground support equipment will be about 100 megabytes per second. The volume and speed of this information demands an equally complex and robust computer system to process and deliver that data to the launch team and corresponding mission systems in real time.
That computer software and hardware - called the spacecraft command and control system (SCCS) - is now certified for use on Artemis I. Shawn Quinn, director of NASA Engineering at Kennedy, and the KSC Engineering Design Certification Review Board signed off on the system at the conclusion of a recent design certification review for SCCS. (4/9)
NASA Drop Tests Orion at Langley (Source: Space.com)
NASA conducted a drop test of an Orion spacecraft prototype Tuesday. The agency dropped an Orion capsule model into a pool at the Langley Research Center in Virginia as part of a final series of tests of the spacecraft. Those tests collect data to compare to models of the capsule's performance when hitting the water, including the forces astronauts inside would experience at splashdown. (4/7)
Biden Requests Modest DoD Budget Increase (Source: Politico)
The Biden administration plans to request $715 billion for the Pentagon this coming year, a modest increase from the current level but below the level projected by the Trump administration in its final budget, according to three people familiar with the proposal.
That planned fiscal 2022 budget topline is up from the more than $704 billion allocated by lawmakers for this fiscal year. But it’s unlikely to satisfy factions of Republican defense hawks seeking to continue major increases in military spending, and progressive Democrats who want to enact steep cuts to the defense budget. (4/8)
Space Force to Establish a New Command in California to Oversee Technology Development and Acquisition (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Space Force on April 8 unveiled new details of its plan to establish a Space Systems Command in Los Angeles to oversee the development of next-generation technologies, and the procurement of satellites and launch services. The Space Systems Command, or SSC, will take over responsibilities currently performed by the Space and Missile Systems Center and by the Space Force launch wings in Florida and California that currently are not part of SMC. Altogether SSC will oversee a workforce of about 10,000 people.
The Space Force will re-designate the Space and Missile Systems Center as SSC headquarters. SMC, based at Los Angeles Air Force Base, in El Segundo, California, has a $9 billion annual budget and a workforce of about 6,300 military, civilian personnel and contractors. About 4,000 people who work for the space launch units at Patrick Space Force Base, Florida; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California will be reassigned to SSC. Both space launch wings currently report to the Space Force’s Space Operations Command.
SSC will be one of three Space Force field commands the service announced in June. The Space Operations Command was established in October and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A Space Training and Readiness Command is projected to open later this year. All three field commands are led by three-star generals who answer to Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations. The commands operate under the authority of the secretary of the Air Force, the civilian leader of the Space Force. The Space Force is confident SSC can be stood up this summer but the exact timeline depends on when a three-star commander is nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate. (4/8)
Opposition Grows to Putting Space Command HQ in Alabama (Source: AL.com)
Senators from California, New Mexico and Nebraska have joined Colorado in putting pressure on the Pentagon’s decision to locate the permanent headquarters of the U.S. Space Command in Alabama, according to a report this week. The senators are asking why and how the Pentagon “sidelined” a 2019 competition and relied on a new process to evaluate the finalists in 2020, according to a report in The Hill. The signees were Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM). (4/2)
Following Space Force Creation, Air Force Releases New Mission Statement Focused on Airpower (Source: UPI)
The Air Force released its new mission statement -- "To fly, fight, and win ... airpower anytime, anywhere." The statement is meant to emphasize the "primary advantage and capabilities airpower provides to the nation and joint operations." Currently, the 'mission' section of the branch's website reads, "The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace." Thursday's announcement notes that with the creation of the Space Force at the end of 2019, the Air Force can now focus on airpower and "core air domain missions." (4/8)
Space Force To Boost Threat Tracking (Source: Breaking Defense)
One of the first tasks for the fledgling Space Warfighting Analysis Center will be to flesh out a plan for improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors to keep tabs on space-based threats, says Maj. Gen. Leah Lauderback, hear of Space Force’s ISR Directorate. The new center, known as the SWAC, will “be able to get after the force design of what do we want an ISR enterprise to look like from a capability perspective, whether that’s on orbit or not,” she said. (4/2)
Technology Race Against China a Key Concern for Pentagon Acquisition Nominee (Source: Space News)
Michael Brown, a veteran tech industry executive who has led the Pentagon’s commercial outreach office since 2018, is President Biden’s pick for the Defense Department’s top procurement job, the White House announced April 2. Brown was nominated to serve as undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. He is currently the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, based in Silicon Valley.
The Obama administration created the office in 2015 to build ties with startups and venture investors, and help transition technologies from the private sector to military programs. The technological competition with China has been a top concern for Brown during his time at DIU. In 2018 he co-authored a paper on how Chinese venture investments are giving that country access to the “crown jewels of U.S. innovation.” (4/4)
Fix Space Force Acquisition Now! (Source: Breaking Defense)
If the Space Force wants to have a maximum impact in its second year, it needs to get acquisition right — right now. Acquisition is, sadly, nowhere near as exciting as the accoutrements or trappings of the service, but it will have a greater long-term impact on the Space Guardians than whatever camo uniform they adopt.
Getting acquisition right speaks to the culture of the service. There’s a unique chance here as this is the first time in nearly 70 years where the Defense Department can craft a wholly new service with new pathways to buy and field equipment. At its core this means building a culture of risk acceptance and tolerance — not avoidance. It means being willing to try new things and field new architectures without a guarantee that they will work and, if they fail, learning and improving. It means encouraging innovation and adaptation from the ground-up, not forcing consensus from the top down. (4/5)
USAF Test Pilot School Graduates First Space Test Fundamentals Class (Source: USSF)
The U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School graduated the first-ever Space Test Fundamentals class April 6, 2021, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Fifteen enlisted, officer, civilian Airmen and Guardians represent the first class dedicated to testing within the newly contested domain of Space. Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, the U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, was on-hand to give the graduation address.
“You were handpicked from a pool of over 160 applicants, not only to attend this inaugural Space Test course, but also to help us build this course and define its future as the initial Space Test cadre,” said Raymond. “You were the “Beta testers” of the course itself, simultaneously studying hard and developing the future of our space test education and training program.” The course enables the USSF to enhance its test and evaluation mission and multiply its ability to deliver combat-ready space forces. (4/8)
Space-Based Solar Power Getting Key Test Aboard US Military's Mysterious X-37B Space Plane (Source: Space.com)
A U.S. military space plane is being used to flight-validate the best ways to gather the sun's energy for power beaming from Earth orbit. In mid-March, the latest classified mission of the U.S. Space Force's X-37B robotic space plane winged past 300 days in Earth orbit. Most of the robotic space drone's duties on this mission, known as Orbital Test Vehicle-6 (OTV-6), are a tightly held secret. However, one known bit of research that the craft carries is the Photovoltaic Radio-frequency Antenna Module Flight Experiment, or PRAM-FX.
PRAM-FX is a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) experiment that's investigating transforming solar power into radio frequency (RF) microwave energy. PRAM-FX is a 12-inch (30.5 centimeters) square tile that collects solar energy and converts it to RF power. Paul Jaffe, the innovation power beaming and space solar portfolio lead at NRL, said that PRAM-FX is not beaming microwave energy anywhere. Rather, the experiment is gauging the performance of sunlight-to-microwave conversion. To be measured is how the PRAM is performing from an efficiency standpoint and also from a thermal performance stance, he said. (4/8)
Phase Four Wins Air Force Contract for Novel Thrusters (Source: Space News)
Electric propulsion developer Phase Four has won an Air Force contract to test its thrusters using a new fuel. The company will use a $750,000 Phase 2 SBIR from the Air Force's AFWERX program to test using iodine propellant on its Maxwell thruster. Iodine offers several advantages over conventional electric thruster propellants xenon and krypton, such as reduced volume and cost, but iodine corrodes cathodes. Maxwell does not use cathodes in its design, and thus the company believes it could be a viable alternative, particularly for small satellites. (4/9)
Ambulance Co. Loses Challenge To $5M Space Force Contract (Source: Law360)
A federal judge has shut down a Colorado ambulance service provider's efforts to tear up a nearly $5.3 million contract between the U.S. Space Force and a rival ambulance company over concerns that the agency failed to complete a fair awarding process, according to a March 18 opinion that was unsealed Tuesday. (4/7)
Spy Satellite Ready for Launch Atop Delta IV Heavy at California Spaceport (Source: ULA)
A national security payload of vital importance to the United States is mounted atop the only rocket in the world today capable of launching it -- ULA's Delta IV Heavy. With the vertical integration of the payload and rocket now complete, the final phase of the NROL-82 launch campaign is underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the targeted April 26 liftoff. The space asset being launched is a payload designed, built and operated by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). (4/8)
Russia in 2021 Will Send the Last RD-180 Rocket Engines to the USA (Source: RIA Novosti)
The last batch of RD-180 rocket engines under the current contract will be delivered to the USA this year, said Igor Arbuzov, director general of NPO Energomash. "These engines are ready, but the coronavirus pandemic does not give us the opportunity to take them to the US. We will deliver them this year. They are the last under the current contract," he said. In December 2020, the public procurement website reported that six RD-180 engines would be sent to the United States in 2021. With each ULA Atlas rocket using two RD-180 engines, these six engines will support three launches. (4/8)
ULA Betting On Long-Endurance Upper Stage for Vulcan (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance remains interested in pursuing a "long-endurance" upper stage for its Vulcan rocket. ULA had pursued a concept for several years called the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES), but shelved it in favor of a version of the existing Centaur upper stage. ULA CEO Tory Bruno said at a conference Wednesday that the company is still betting on long-endurance upper stages and believes the technology has a bright future. He said ULA is confident upper stage capabilities will pay off as more infrastructure is developed in space. (4/8)
SpaceX to Ramp Up Vandenberg Launch Cadence with Starlink Missions (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
After a lull in launches from America’s primary West Coast rocket base, SpaceX is set to resume a regular cadence of missions from Vandenberg Air Force Base as soon as July to deploy Starlink internet satellites into polar orbits. The launches from Vandenberg will allow SpaceX’s ever-growing Starlink network to fill in coverage gaps and provide internet connectivity over the poles. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday that the company plans to start launching more Starlink satellites into polar orbit this summer. So far, nearly all of the Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX have gone into 341-mile-high orbits tilted at an inclination of 53 degrees to the equator.
In November, SpaceX sought authorization from the FCC to fly 348 Starlink satellites in sun-synchronous orbits at an altitude of 348 miles. Those satellites would launch into polar orbits inclined 97.6 degrees to the equator, to provide Starlink service in the polar regions. The FCC approved SpaceX to launch the first 10 Starlink satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit aboard the Jan. 24 rideshare mission on a Falcon 9 rocket. FCC approval is still pending for the rest of the Starlink satellites in the lower-altitude sun-synchronous orbit. Officials said SpaceX could ramp up to a cadence of launching one Starlink mission per month from the California launch base. (4/6)
New Permits Shed Light on SpaceX Activity at Florida Facilities (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
SpaceX facilities in Florida originally used to build Starship prototypes are being repurposed for other work. SpaceX started work on a Starship prototype at a factory in Cocoa, Florida, in 2019, but stopped that effort to concentrate Starship development in Texas. That Florida facility, though, now appears to be making thermal tiles that will be used on Starship. SpaceX also halted work on a site on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center last year when it consolidated Starship work in Texas, but activity there may resume soon based on a permit to extend an access road at the site. (4/7)
SpaceX Shifts Fairing Recovery Approach (Sources: SPACErePORT, SpaceXfleet.com)
SpaceX had limited success catching its fairings in large nets attached to two ships based at Port Canaveral, but ended up fishing most of the fairing halves out of the water, where they floated awaiting retrieval, refurbishment, and reuse. Now the company has decided to abandon the ships, Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief, removing the netting and distinctive arms. They are likely leaving Port Canaveral for good. Elon Musk confirmed via Twitter that the Falcon-9 fairings will now be recovered from the water.
SpaceX's two Dragon recovery ships, GO Searcher and GO Navigator, have been fishing out fairings since March, with each ship capable of carrying two fairing halves. And a new larger ship, the Shelia Bordelon has successfully demonstrated it can retrieve and transport two fairing halves back to port. SpaceXfleet.com believes the Shelia Bordelon is a temporary part of the SpaceX navy, and that the two Dragon recovery ships can be deployed for longer durations to recover fairings from multiple launches without returning to port after each fairing recovery. SpaceX's quickening launch tempo may require this capability. (4/6)
Engine Problem Blamed for Starship Landing Explosion (Source: Space News)
Elon Musk said an engine problem caused a SpaceX Starship prototype to explode when attempting to land last week. Musk tweeted that a methane fuel leak in one Raptor engine triggered a fire that damaged part of the engine's avionics. That caused a "hard start" when the engine reignited for the landing, leading to the explosion. All four Starship failed test flights since December are linked to propulsion system problems, including issues getting sufficient propellant to the engines when landing as well as the failure of an engine to ignite for a landing burn. Musk said SpaceX is working "six ways to Sunday" to fix the problem for the next Starship prototype, SN15. (4/6)
Brownsville TX Residents Express Concern About Gentrification Caused by SpaceX (Source: KVEO)
Recent SpaceX activity has sparked a wide range of emotions in the community. While some are excited about the opportunities brought to Cameron County by the aerospace company, others worry that its presence may have unintended consequences. The concern was evident at the Brownsville City Commission Meeting on Tuesday. Every resident present for the public comment period expressed their concerns about the presence of SpaceX in the community.
Gentrification, the process where low-income communities are transformed by incoming wealthier residents that eventually displace the original inhabitants, was a concern frequently touched upon. “We will not accept the gentrification of downtown Brownsville, we will not accept the displacement of the majority of low-income people in downtown Brownsville,” said Brownsville resident Nansi Guevara during the meeting. (4/7)
SpaceX Wants to Fill In Wetlands at South Texas Launch Facility (Source: KRON)
SpaceX wants to fill in over 17 acres of wetlands near the company’s South Texas launch facility, which is drawing ire from environmentalists who are urging the public to object because they are uncertain of the effects this will have on Gulf currents, nesting sea turtles or other area wildlife. Monday is the last day the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will accept public comments on SpaceX’s proposal, which is posted on the Corps’ website. The company is proposing to fill in 10.94 acres of mud flats, 5.94 acres of estuarine wetlands, and 0.28 acres of non-tidal wetlands in remote Cameron County adjacent to Boca Chica Beach. (4/8)
Lockheed Martin Announces Block Buy of ABL Launches, From Florida, California, and UK Spaceports (Source: Lockheed Martin)
ABL Space Systems will provide Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] with routine launches of RS1 rockets to accelerate payload technologies into orbit. Lockheed Martin will purchase up to 26 vehicles through 2025 and then up to 32 additional launches through 2029. Launches could use a network of U.S. and international launch sites, including Vandenberg Space Force Base, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and in the United Kingdom.
Lockheed Martin benefits from ABL's lower-cost launch vehicle by accelerating risk reduction with demonstration missions, which lay the groundwork for future large efforts. As a new entrant, ABL gets the benefit of a long term partnership and stable launch manifest for its future growth. ABL provides launch services with the RS1 launch vehicle and GS0 deployable launch system, which are both under development with funding from the U.S. Space Force. RS1 is capable of delivering up to 2,976 lbs to low Earth orbit. GS0 is a containerized system operable by a small team to rapidly launch RS1 from new sites in the U.S. and around the world. (4/5)
Georgia Requests More Time For Spaceport Camden Review; County Hires Former Kemp Aides (Source: WABE)
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has asked for more time to release an impending decision about a proposed spaceport in South Georgia’s Camden County, citing among other reasons, “the complexity of the proposed project.” The state agency is required to review whether the proposal violates any Georgia laws protecting the coastal environment.
Camden County is proposing to build a commercial spaceport on the coast in Woodbine, Georgia, featuring a rocket launch trajectory over salt marsh and tidal waters, as well as the Cumberland Island National Seashore. A spaceport operator license would not allow the county to actually launch rockets; each launch would still require an additional federal license. (4/9)
Rocket Lab to Attempt Another Stage Recovery (Source: Rocket Lab)
Rocket Lab will attempt to recover the first stage on its next Electron launch. The company announced Thursday that it will bring back the first stage from that launch, scheduled for May, splashing it down in the ocean for recovery by a boat. Rocket Lab recovered the first stage from an Electron launch last November, and has made a number of upgrades based on its examination of the stage. Rocket Lab ultimately plans to recover returning stages in midair with a helicopter for later reuse. (4/9)
China Rising: More Space Partners, More Space Capabilities (Source: Space News)
A new report projects that, by 2040, China will be the most significant rival to the United States in space. Global Trends 2040, a quadrennial unclassified forecast written by an advisory board for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, predicted that China will have more foreign partners for its space activities, and more users of its Beidou navigation service. The report also predicts governments by 2040 will routinely conduct on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing activities, enabled by advanced autonomy and additive manufacturing, with similar services offered commercially. (4/9)
Why China's Space Program Could Overtake NASA (Source: CNN)
China has a good chance of becoming the dominant space power in the 21st century, and it's not just looking to copy NASA on the way to the top. Instead, the country is paying close attention to what innovative US companies like SpaceX are doing as well. To get ahead in space, communism is learning from capitalism. China's main space contractor revealed plans to develop the ability to reuse its Long March 8 booster, which is powered by kerosene fuel, the same type of power that fuels SpaceX rockets. By 2025, Chinese officials said, this rocket would be capable of landing on a sea platform like SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster.
And it is not just the Chinese government contractors that are emulating SpaceX. A growing number of semi-private Chinese companies have also announced plans to develop reusable rockets. Chinese firms such as LinkSpace and Galactic Energy have released schematics that seem to mimic SpaceX technology. (4/1)
China Launches "Space Environment" Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a space environment satellite Thursday. A Long March 4B rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 7:01 p.m. Eastern. It carried a Shiyian-6 satellite, which Chinese media said will be used for space environment surveys, although it disclosed no additional details about it. (4/9)
China Plans New Coastal Launch Site (Source: Space Daily)
The port city of Ningbo in Zhejiang province is building a 20 billion yuan ($3.05 billion) rocket launch site to meet surging demand for putting satellites into orbit and further develop the industrial cluster of the commercial aerospace sector, according to the local authorities. Highlighted in the recently revealed draft for mega projects in Zhejiang during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25), the launch center will come up in Xiangshan county of the coastal city and will be able to put 100 satellites in orbit every year upon completion.
The Xiangshan center, located 30 degrees north of the equator, is suitable for launching satellites, thanks to its convenient transportation and an advantageous environment. It is scheduled to be spread over 67 square kilometers, including a 35-sq-km launch site and a 32-sqkm space industrial base. (4/8)
Chinese City Boasts Space Cluster (Source: Space News)
The Chinese city of Guangzhou is developing a cluster of space companies. The city is hosting the new headquarters for the space business of Geely Technology Group, a Chinese automaker that has announced plans for a low Earth orbit satellite constellation for navigation, connectivity and communications needed for self-driving cars.The city is also home to CAS Space Exploration, a launch company related to the Chinese Academy of Sciences developing solid- and liquid-fuel rockets, including those that would be able to land and be reused. The implication is that Geely satellites would launch on CAS Space rockets as part of a Guangzhou space cluster, but Geely didn't comment on its launch plans. (4/6)
Europe and China Discuss Space Issues (Source: Space News)
ESA and Chinese officials also met recently to discuss space activities. Aschbacher and Zhang Kejian, administrator of the China National Space Administration, held a video call last week and discussed a range of topics. That included ongoing activities such as ESA's telemetry, tracking, and control support for the Chinese exploration program. An ESA official said the agency had no position on Chinese-Russian lunar cooperation, such as the proposed International Lunar Research Station. (4/8)
ESA Leader Calls for European Summit on Space (Source: Space News)
ESA's new leader outlined his priorities for the agency over the next four years. The ESA Agenda 2025 document, released Wednesday, sets five priorities for ESA, ranging from improving relations with the European Union on space activities to new efforts to support space commercialization in Europe. Josef Aschbacher, who became ESA's director general last month, said Europe needs a "serious debate" on its future in space, calling for a European "Space Summit" in the spring of 2022 to bring together European heads of state to discuss new initiatives. Aschbacher said he hopes to finalize negotiations on a new cooperative agreement with the EU on space activities by this summer. (4/8)
ESA Invites Ideas to Open Up In-Orbit Servicing Market (Source: ESA)
ESA is seeking to open the way to a new era of in-space activities such as refueling, refurbishment, assembly, manufacturing, and recycling. The Agency is now soliciting ideas for In-Orbit Servicing activities from European industry and academia. A first stage ‘request for information’ has been posted on ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform, sponsored by ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher. Respondents are invited to propose both a servicer spacecraft concept and identify a customer to be serviced, with the aim of putting forward a concept or concepts for ESA’s next Ministerial Council in 2022. (4/1)
Ariane-6 Tests Mimic Liftoff (Source: Space Daily)
Ariane 6 early combined tests at Latesys in Fos-sur-Mer, in France, have simulated the moment of liftoff when the umbilicals separate from the launch vehicle. These tests are part of the critical path towards the first flight of Europe's new Ariane 6 launch vehicle. They validate the interfaces and mechanical behaviour during separation of this complex cryogenic connection system. More extensive combined tests will be carried out at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana which will include the fluidic supplies. (4/7)
DLR Creates the Rocket Fuel of the Future (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Sustainability and environmental compatibility are also increasingly important standards in space travel. To achieve this, scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Lampoldshausen are developing fuels for next-generation space applications. The focus is on application-relevant properties such as improving environmental compatibility, safety, behavior at different temperatures and reducing fuel costs. (4/3)
Russia Continues Discussions with China Toward Lunar Cooperation (Source: Space News)
A Roscosmos official said more discussions are planned with China regarding cooperation in lunar exploration. At a press conference Friday, Sergey Krikalev, executive director for human spaceflight at Roscosmos, said Russia and China were "ironing out certain details" about an agreement announced in February to cooperate on an International Lunar Research Station. Additional agreements between two countries could be announced in June at the Global Space Exploration Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia. That conference is proceeding with plans to take place in person despite the ongoing pandemic, with 600 to 700 people expected to attend. (4/5)
Russia is Dialing Up its Military Space Ambitions (Source: Axios)
Russia is staging shows of military might in orbit as its civil and commercial space sector loses its longstanding edge. These demonstrations threaten to undermine responsible behavior in space, and could put U.S. military — and possibly commercial — assets in orbit at risk. The U.S. in particular relies on space-based tools for situational awareness, communications, intelligence gathering and other key aspects of warfighting. Russia has steadily been building its military capabilities in orbit, according to a pair of reports about space weapons released last week. (4/6)
The Status of Russia’s Signals Intelligence Satellites (Source: Space Review)
While Russia has been making progress building up its military space capabilities in some areas, it is lagging in others. Bart Hendrickx examines long-running efforts by the Russian military to develop a series of signals intelligence satellites. Click here. (4/5)
Russia Prepares Land-Based Infrastructure Plan for Revived Sea Launch Operation (Source: TASS)
Specialists of the Center for Operation of Space Ground Based Infrastructure (TsENKI) have completed preliminary consideration for the outline of the onshore segment of the Sea Launch floating spaceport, Chief Executive Officer of the company Ruslan Mukhamedzhanov said. "It is needed to support acceptance of launch vehicle components from manufacturing plants. TsENKI specialists completed preliminary activities for the outline of the onshore segment required for Sea Launch complex functioning," the top manager said.
The Sea Launch floating space port consists of the Odyssey spacecraft launch platform and the command ship. The program was effective until 2014, with 32 launches of the Zenit launch vehicle completed. Operations were paused in 2014 and the S7 Group acquired the complex in September 2016. In spring 2020, the command ship and the launch platform berthed at the Slavyanka Shipyard in the Far East. (4/11)
Russia's Kosmokurs Closes, Citing Red Tape (Source: Moscow Times)
A Russian space tourism company is shutting down. Kosmokurs said Tuesday it was scrapping plans to develop a suborbital vehicle because of "insurmountable difficulties" in securing use of a spaceport and getting regulatory approvals. The company, founded in 2014, had intended to develop a suborbital vehicle capable of carrying up to seven people and had the support of Roscosmos, but had disclosed few specifics about its plans or progress before announcing it would shut down. (4/6)
The Fiery Chief of Russia's Troubled Space Program (Source: Space Daily)
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's troubled space agency Roscosmos, is hardly your typical bureaucrat. Brash and brazen, the former diplomat has made his name with provocative tweets and boisterous claims. But he is equally well-known for leading the once-prized Soviet space program during years of corruption scandals and technological stagnation.
Now "the fig leaf has fallen off," said Andrei Ionin of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics. Russia is losing its market share in satellite launches, its new Vostochny Cosmodrome is underused and scandalized by corruption. Rogozin is not solely responsible for the setbacks, with many problems dating back long before his arrival. But the 57-year-old has struggled to return the space program to the glory days of 1961 when the Soviet Union launched the first man into space -- Yuri Gagarin. The 60th anniversary of Gagarin's flight is on Monday.
After suffering humiliations at the hands of NASA and Space X, Rogozin has begun boasting of Russia's grand plans to catch up, including a mission to Venus and a rocket capable of 100 round-trip flights to space. But many observers are skeptical. "Russia doesn't have any new spacecraft," a former Roscosmos official said on condition of anonymity. "There is only a model." Experts believe the real goal of Rogozin's grand pronouncements is to convince the Kremlin to inject larger sums of money into the Roscosmos budget. (4/9)
Russia Delivers New Crew to ISS (Source: Space News)
A Soyuz spacecraft delivered a new crew to the International Space Station early this morning. A Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 3:42 a.m. Eastern and placed the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft into orbit. That spacecraft docked with the ISS at 7:05 a.m. Eastern. The spacecraft carried Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei to the station. Dubrov and Vande Hei could remain on the station for up to a year, depending on Russian plans to fly spaceflight participants on the next Soyuz mission in October. (4/9)
Turkey May Sign Space Cooperation Agreement with Russia Soon (Source: TASS)
Turkey may sign an agreement with Russia soon on cooperation in space, the chief of Turkey’s space agency Serdar Huseyn Yildirim told TASS in an interview ahead of the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s space flight. "We are building bilateral relations with countries and with international organizations, which we have identified in accordance with our national goals. We keep working on common conditions of cooperation with different countries, including Russia," said Yildirim. (4/5)
UAE Picks First Woman Astronaut (Source: Khaleej Times)
The UAE has a new feather to its cap with the selection of the first female astronaut. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, took to Twitter to announce the two new Emirati astronauts. The country has announced that the first woman astronaut Nora Al Matrooshi will be joined by her colleague Mohammed Al Mulla – making them the two chosen Emirati astronauts to form the second batch of the UAE Astronaut Program. (4/10)
Brazilian Space Agency Articulates Partnerships Focused on Alcântara (Source: Parabolic Arc)
It is located in Alcântara, Maranhão, the largest space vehicle launch center in the country. Created 38 years ago, and having started operating in 1991, it is preparing to launch private launches from 2022. With the successful launch of the Brazilian satellite Amazonia 1, in India, Brazil confirms its ability to design, integrate and operate satellites and other state-of-the-art systems. Henceforth, depending on size and mass, satellites may be launched from the Alcântara Space Center (CEA).
According to the president of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB/MCTI), Carlos Moura, when making the first orbital launch from Alcântara, Brazil will become part of a restricted club of countries that are capable of placing satellites in orbit. And about CEA, Moura points out: “There is no point in developing technological services in Alcântara, having a world-class spaceport, and the population does not benefit from it. What we want is an integrated development, that everyone benefits from the opportunities offered by the space sector.”
Currently, one of the biggest challenges in the municipality of Alcântara is the difficulties related to logistics. Improving access to the region is fundamental to local development and, for that, the idea is to strengthen, for example, waterway transport between São Luís and Alcântara. More than focusing on middle activities and segments to support spatial development, AEB also encourages residents of the area to occupy technical posts in the Center. For this, it is necessary to boost the training of local labor. The partnership with the Federation of Industries of the State of Maranhão (Fiema) and other associated entities has been one of the relevant points of this planning. (4/8)
Australian 'Space Command' Could be a Force for Good - or a Cause for War (Source: Space Daily)
As the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) celebrated 100 years with a spectacular and well-attended flyover in Canberra yesterday, many eyes were lifted to the skies. But RAAF's ambitions go even higher, as its motto "through adversity, to the stars" hints. The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshall Mel Hupfeld, announced the intention to create a new "space command".
Having a dedicated space command will bring Australia into line with Canada, India, France and Japan, all of which recently created similar organizations within their armed forces. Unlike the US Space Force, which is a separate branch of the military in addition to the army, navy and air force, Australia's space command will oversee space activities across the Australian Defense Force. Creating a space command is a smart move - but we must be careful to ensure it doesn't add fuel to a cycle of military escalation in space that has already begun. (4/2)
French Space Forces Reach For Higher ‘Orbit’ (Source: Breaking Defense)
France led its first multinational military space exercise last month, with Germany, Italy and the US, marking the country’s effort to re-vamp its forces and operations to meet 21st century threats. The exercise signals the French government’s intent to reach for a higher ‘orbit’ as a sovereign nation in order to be able to face any future space conflict. Up until now, Paris was a participant in US-led space wargames.
The ASTERX exercise, took place in Toulouse March 8-12. It was described by Gen. Michel Friedling, head of the French Space Command, as a ‘’stress test’’ for the country’s space command processes and systems. Assessing future space operational needs through this kind of exercise is one of the first tasks for the government of French President Emmanuel Macron in its full speed effort launched in 2019 to overhaul the country’s space policy. (4/9)
Space Mining is Not Science Fiction, and Canada Could Figure Prominently (Source: The Conversation)
In this era of climate crisis, space mining is a topic of increasing relevance. The need for a net-zero carbon economy requires a surge in the supply of non-renewable natural resources such as battery metals. This forms the background to a new space race involving nations and the private sector. Canada is a space-faring nation, a world leader in mining and a major player in the global carbon economy. It’s therefore well-positioned to actively participate in the emerging space resources domain. (4/4)
NASA to Support South Korean Lunar Mission (Source: Space.com)
NASA has selected a team of scientists to participate in a South Korean lunar orbiter mission. The nine scientists will be part of the overall science team for the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) mission launching in 2022. NASA is cooperating on the mission, led by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, by providing an instrument and offering communications and navigation support. KPLO, South Korea's first mission beyond Earth orbit, will characterize the lunar surface and look for traces of water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the poles. (4/6)
Mo Brooks Nabs Trump Endorsement in Alabama Senate Race (Source: Politico)
Former President Donald Trump is endorsing Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) in the Alabama Senate race, a nod that could dramatically reshape next year's GOP primary for the state's open seat. In a state where Trump received more than 60 percent of the vote, his endorsement was widely sought after. Brooks and his rival, businesswoman Lynda Blanchard, had aggressively lobbied for the former president’s backing. (4/7)
Democrats and Republicans Find Common Ground — on Mars (Source: Politico)
After decades of partisan battles, there’s finally something that can unite Washington — and it’s 150 million miles away. Democrats and Republicans alike are giddy for NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter, which is expected to take off on Mars as early as Wednesday for the first powered flight on another planet. And some of the top space supporters on Capitol Hill are hopeful this excitement among their colleagues and the broader American public will translate into bigger budgets for NASA to pursue its most ambitious missions. (4/10)
Space Coast Official Had Ties to Gaetz and Greenberg (Source: Florida Today)
At an October fundraising dinner in Cape Canaveral, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) — already a subject, perhaps unknowingly, of a Department of Justice sex-trafficking probe against associate and former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg (R-FL) — touted his longtime friendship with Brevard County Commissioner John Tobia (R-FL). Speaking to the crowd of Republican donors, Gaetz joked that Tobia would "steal my girlfriends" when the two men shared an apartment as state legislators in Tallahassee, according to three people who attended the closed-door event. Tobia wasn’t in attendance at the fundraiser and said he’s not going to try to guess what Gaetz meant by his ribbing at the October dinner.
Tobia called the allegations against Gaetz "extremely, extremely serious" and said he didn't "have any knowledge of the alleged activities." No Brevard politician has been implicated in the federal investigation. Tobia also revealed that Greenberg was a former constituent, and he once took a boat ride with Greenberg to view Greenberg's property on an island in the Indian River Lagoon. The meeting, which took place in 2017, was around when Greenberg was alleged to have committed some of the offenses for which he now faces federal prison.
Tobia was first elected to the Florida House in 2008, followed by Gaetz in 2010. Ideological kindred spirits, the pair shared strong conservative views that put them to the right of most of their colleagues, occasionally standing together under pressure to conform from establishment leaders. The alliance coalesced into the "Liberty Caucus," a rogue-ish faction of the Republican wing that reportedly scored fellow legislators on their conservative bona fides. (4/9)
Space Florida, Florida Venture Forum to Host Annual Aerospace Innovation & Tech Forum on June 10 (Source: FSGC)
The Florida Venture Forum and Space Florida will host the annual Aerospace Innovation & Tech Forum on June 10, 2021. This virtual half day event will feature aerospace and innovative tech companies from related industries.
Companies are invited to apply to present and compete for the Space Florida’s “Accelerating Innovation” (AI) awards, totaling $100,000. Selected presenting companies must have a focus in aerospace and related innovative technologies to be eligible to compete for up to $100,000 in total allocated awards. The Grand Prize winning company will receive $40,000. The first-place runner-up company will receive $30,000 and two second-place companies will receive $15,000 each. Click here. (4/8)
Space Fund Attracts $536M in First Week of Trading (Source: Wall Street Journal)
A space-themed exchange-traded fund (ETF) has attracted more than half a billion dollars in its first week. Investors put $536.2 million into the ARK Space Exploration and Innovation ETF, also known as ARKX, as of Tuesday, far head of the average for new ETFs. ARKX features holdings in a number of companies, ranging from conventional aerospace firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin to others, like Chinese ecommerce companies and tractor manufacturer Deere, whose association with space is tenuous at best. (4/8)
SpaceFund Venture Capital Announces First Close of Second Fund (Source: SpaceFund)
SpaceFund announced it has reached and surpassed the planned first close of $5 million for its $20 million BlastOff Fund today. The Houston and Austin-based company says commitments to the fund have reached $9 million as of Monday morning. SpaceFund began life at the end of 2019, announcing its first LaunchPad fund in the fall of that year. The proof-of-concept fund closed in August of 2020 and has already invested in 13 exciting space startup companies. Continuing SpaceFund’s strategic plan, the BlastOff Fund will build on those investments and expand the firm’s portfolio with larger investments, including some in later-stage companies. (4/6)
Bridenstine to Chair Voyager Space Holdings Advisory Board (Source: Space News)
Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will chair Voyager Space Holdings' advisory board. Voyager, which has acquired several space companies, most recently Nanoracks, said Bridenstine will provide expertise for its "aggressive and ambitious growth plan." Bridenstine joined the board of directors of Viasat last week and is also a senior adviser for private equity firm Acorn Growth Companies. (4/8)
Mike Gold Leaves NASA for Redwire (Source: Redwire)
A NASA official is joining Redwire. The company announced Tuesday it was hiring Mike Gold as its new executive vice president of civil space business development and external affairs. Gold was associate administrator for space policy and partnerships at NASA, and worked on projects such as the Artemis Accords. He previously worked for Bigelow Aerospace and Maxar. Redwire, which announced plans to go public last month through a merger with a SPAC, has acquired several space manufacturing and component companies over the last year. (4/7)
Canada's MDA Goes Public with IPO (Source: MDA)
Canadian space technology company MDA went public this week. The company completed its initial public offering of stock and started trading Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company raised about $400 million Canadian ($320 million) in the IPO, plans for which it announced last month. The proceeds will support future initiatives by the company, including a new synthetic aperture radar satellite. The stock, which sold for $14 a share in the IPO, closed trading Thursday at $16.45 a share. (4/9)
AST SpaceMobile Begins Nasdaq Trading, Toward Constellation for Cellular Connectivity (Source: AST SpaceMobile)
AST SpaceMobile will begin trading Wednesday on the Nasdaq exchange after completing its merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). AST announced Tuesday it completed its merger with New Providence Acquisition Corp. after shareholders of that SPAC voted to approve the deal last week. AST will trade on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ASTS starting today. The merger provided AST with $462 million, which the company will use to further development of a constellation of satellites to provide cellular connectivity services. (4/7)
Orbcomm to be Acquired by GI Partners (Source: Orbcomm)
Orbcomm announced Thursday it will be acquired by a private equity company. GI Partners, which invests in data infrastructure, is paying $11.50 in cash per share of Orbcomm stock, valuing the company at $1.1 billion. Orbcomm operates a network of satellites to provide machine-to-machine connectivity in markets like logistics. The deal is expected to close in the second half of the year, pending approval by Orbcomm shareholders and regulatory approvals. (4/8)
Orbcomm Sale to Accelerate Growth (Source: Space News)
Orbcomm says its sale to a private equity firm will allow it to accelerate its growth. GI Partners will acquire Orbcomm for about $1.1 billion, including net debt, in a deal announced Thursday. Orbcomm said it is free to seek an alternative buyer in a "go-shop" period that ends May 7. If the deal does go through, company CEO Marc Eisenberg said it will allow the company to "rapidly advance our long-term strategy" in the industrial internet-of-things market. (4/9)
OneWeb Continues Planning for Navigation Services (Source: Space News)
OneWeb is continuing to study the possibility of offering navigation services as part of its broadband satellite constellation. In a presentation this week, OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said the company expects to test "a demo capability" later this year using its first generation of satellites currently being launched, working in cooperation with "certain bodies in the U.K.
However, he said a full-fledged navigation service would likely have to wait until the second generation of the system. Masterson didn't elaborate on how that navigation service would work, given OneWeb satellites operate in different orbits and at different frequencies than existing navigation satellite systems. The company is also working to raise the $1 billion in additional funding needed to complete the first-generation constellation. (4/9)
Satellite Operators Jockey to Address Starlink Threat (Source: Space News)
Other satellite operators are weighing approaches to compete with the growing Starlink constellation. SES says it's taking a hybrid approach, using both its geostationary satellites as well as the O3b constellation in medium Earth orbit. The company believes that governments are interested in a seamless network that takes advantage of having multiple orbits to route traffic based on customer demand. Hughes Network Systems is taking a similar approach thanks to its partnership with OneWeb. Viasat believes that GEO satellites provide more cost-effective services, but even that company is considering a LEO constellation. (4/7)
SpaceX Expanding Seattle Presence to Support Starlink (Source: GeekWire)
SpaceX is expanding its facilities in Seattle. The company is leasing a 125,000-square-foot office complex under construction in the suburb of Redmond a block from its existing offices. Those facilities serve as the headquarters for its Starlink program, including manufacturing of the satellites for that broadband constellation. (4/9)
Latest Starlink Launch From Florida Brings System Close to Global Coverage (Source: Space News)
SpaceX launched another batch of Starlink satellites Wednesday as the company gets close to providing continuous global coverage. The company is a few launches away from providing continuous global coverage with Starlink, but will continue to launch satellites after that to add capacity. The FCC has yet to rule on a license modification that would allow SpaceX to fly more satellites in the 550-kilometer orbit currently used by the constellation. (4/8)
LeoStella Hopes to Build DoD Satellites (Source: Space News)
Satellite manufacturer LeoStella is exploring options to do business with the U.S. government. The company is weighing options to compete for the Space Development Agency's next order, which is projected to be for about 150 satellites that will form a space communications layer in low Earth orbit. LeoStella, a joint venture of BlackSky and Thales Alenia Space, said the agency's approach to "pull satellites off a production line and repurpose them" for military applications is enticing to it. LeoStella now can produce 40 satellites a year but designed its factory floor space so it can increase capacity to 200 a year. (4/5)
Germany's DLR to Use Lockheed Martin Software for Space Traffic Management (Source: Space News)
The German space agency DLR will use space traffic management software developed by Lockheed Martin. DLR, which operates the German space situational awareness center along with the German Air Force, selected Lockheed Martin's iSpace, a system that is used by the U.S. military, U.S. intelligence agencies and the government of Australia. That system collects data from hundreds of optical, radar, infrared and radio sensors operated by governments, commercial companies and academia to provide space situational awareness. Lockheed said iSpace will be used to task German sensors to monitor objects of interest and space events such as collisions, maneuvers, breakups and launches. (4/6)
Numerica Plans Telescopes for Satellite Tracking (Source: Space News)
A startup is deploying a network of telescopes with sensors that can track satellites even in daytime. Numerica is installing six telescopes in the United States, Australia and Spain to monitor satellites in the geostationary belt and beyond, funded by $3 million the company won in 2019 at a pitch day event hosted by the U.S. Air Force to attract space industry firms to the military market. Daytime imaging today is performed by a handful of very large and expensive telescopes, and Numerica argues its technology will make it easier to track satellites. (4/6)
Telesat Moves Forward with Lightspeed LEO Constellation (Source: Space News)
Telesat is moving forward with its LEO constellation, Lightspeed, finalizing its financing and launch plans. Dan Goldberg, president and CEO of Telesat, said at a conference Tuesday that the company expects to complete financing of the $5 billion system in the next couple of months, using a mix of debt and equity to fund the 298-satellite constellation. The company is also in talks with launch providers, beyond its existing contract with Blue Origin, and expects to announce agreements in the coming months. Goldberg said Telesat elected to pursue a LEO system after concluding it was the most effective way to provide broadband services, but still sees a role for GEO satellites for the foreseeable future in other markets, like direct-to-home television. (4/7)
Microsoft Plans Automated Satellite Image Processing for Azure Orbital (Source: Space News)
Microsoft plans to incorporate automated satellite image processing technology developed by Thales Alenia Space into its Azure Orbital platform. Thales Alenia's DeeperVision software is designed to automatically analyze images as soon as they are received from satellites through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Microsoft unveiled Azure Orbital last year to connect satellites to its Azure cloud infrastructure, including equipping data centers with ground stations to help customers retrieve information from Earth observation, remote sensing and communications satellites. (4/7)
CAES and Swissto12 Offer 3D-Printed Satellite Components (Source: Space News)
Two companies are working together to bring 3D-printed satellite RF technology to the U.S. market. CAES (formerly known as Cobham Advanced Electronic Solutions) is partnering with Switzerland-based additive manufacturing specialist Swissto12 to offer the technology to U.S. government and commercial customers. Swissto12 says its technology allows 3D printing of RF components that can't be produced with conventional 3D-printing systems, and has flown such components on satellites operated by Eutelsat and Inmarsat. CAES, the former electronics unit of British defense and aerospace contractor Cobham, will work with Swissto12 to offer the technology to customers like the Defense Department. (4/7)
Blue Origin Plans to Hire 80 Technicians, Machinists in Kent, Washington (Source: Kent Reporter)
Kent-based Blue Origin plans to hire 80 skilled technicians and machinists in Washington state who are passionate about the aerospace company’s mission to lower the cost of access to space. Blue Origin plans to fill the positions within two months to support continued company growth, according to a company post on linkedin.com. (4/9)
Hundreds of Tourists Have Begun Training for Space (Source: AFP)
Several hundred people have already booked their tickets and begun training for a spectacular voyage: a few minutes, or perhaps days, in the weightlessness of space. The mainly wealthy first-time space travelers are preparing to take part in one of several private missions which are preparing to launch. The era of space tourism is on the horizon 60 years after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space.
Two companies, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin LLC, are building spacecraft capable of sending private clients on suborbital flights to the edge of space lasting several minutes. Glenn King is the director of spaceflight training at the National Aerospace Training and Research Center, a private company based in Pennsylvania that has already trained nearly 400 future Virgin Galactic passengers for their trips.
“The oldest person I trained was 88 years old,” King said. The training program lasts two days — a morning of classroom instruction and tests in a centrifuge. (4/11)
Why I Have Paid $250,000 to Go to Space with Virgin Galactic (Source: The Telegraph)
Last summer, I got the first glimpse of what Virgin Galactic’s commercial passenger cabin would look like during an unveiling and virtual tour of the interior of the VSS Unity, which will be used later this year to shoot the first commercial passengers into space for a 90-minute extravaganza, including four minutes of weightless cabin roaming.
In May, the spaceship will take its next text flight with two pilots, followed by two more with full crews in the summer, the second of which will demonstrate the full private astronaut experience, with Richard Branson aboard. There will then be one more flight in the autumn, before the Future Astronauts begin their journeys next spring.
This week, Virgin Galactic unveiled VSS Imagine, its second spaceship model, which feels symbolic because coupled with VSS Unity, it’s the beginning of a ‘fleet’ and given the company’s plan to take tens of thousands of commercial customers into space, a fleet they will need. They invited ‘Future Astronaut’ Dee Chester, to witness it being towed out of the hangar at Spaceport America in New Mexico for the first time. She is one of the first six hundred people to buy a $250,000 ticket for a trip to space with Virgin, joining its Future Astronaut community. “I watched Alan Shepard blast off in an 83-foot missile 1961 and just said ‘I want to do that.’" (4/3)
Could SpaceX ‘Space Tourism’ Rocket Despite $55 Million Ticket? (Source: Doha News)
A 2018 survey found that almost half of Americans are interested in orbiting Earth in a spacecraft. The survey did not factor in the ticket cost though. A different survey in 2008 found that the average price people are willing to pay for space tourism is $2,000. That’s 0.004% of the actual $55 million price that was charged for this mission. There are two things to keep in mind though.
Firstly, $2000 is the average price that people are willing to pay, but space tourism is likely to remain a luxury for those with very high disposable income. Secondly, as technology develops, the price of future trips will decrease over time. Novel technology such as reusable rockets will play a huge role in this price drop. Despite SpaceX’s publicity and recent milestones, it’s not the only company pushing the industry forward. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin offer a taste of space tourism.
Blue Origin is working on a reduced space tourism experience too, and ticket prices are expected to be a few hundred thousand dollars. It remains to be seen if consumers will favor SpaceX’s expensive but full experience, or if the “cheaper” reduced trips will be the ones to take off. (4/10)
Elon's Secret Sauce (Source: Quartz)
Ken Davidian, a researcher at the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space, argues that commercial space follows an evolutionary model; reductively, a variety of options are presented to the market, which selects some to be retained, and the process begins anew. “Commercially successful results cannot necessarily be predicted,” he writes. “This is because evolution is a locally adaptive process whose course is not pre-determined. This also emphasizes that few people in an emerging commercial market know what they are doing, or why.”
The question of why SpaceX succeeded where so many others failed is at the heart of any narrative about the firm. Timing, in some sense, is everything: The convergence of technological advances, political circumstances, and business culture at the turn of the century gave SpaceX opportunities its predecessors didn’t have. Much of Musk’s obsession with hiring top talent, for example, is cribbed from Steve Jobs and Silicon Valley.
But if success in consumer technology were enough, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin would be in orbit by now. Musk’s single-minded drive to challenge the cozy space establishment and empower engineers to build the most cost-efficient rocket made SpaceX what it is. He could be generous with rewards, dispensing all-expenses paid vacations and soft-serve machines. (4/8)
$200,000 Streaming Rigs and Millions of Views: Inside the Cottage Industry Popping Up Around SpaceX (Source: CNN)
For a few hours one recent Saturday, Jack Beyer stood on the roof of his Land Rover, watching as SpaceX employees toiled under a 160-foot-tall silver rocket prototype that towered like an otherworldly visitor over the otherwise barren landscape. Beyer, a Los Angeles-based photographer and contributor to the space news site NASASpaceflight.com, had by that point been staying at a South Texas hotel for a month, watching and waiting and filming as SpaceX prepared to launch the prototype — an early iteration of Starship.
Beyer is only one member of one part of what has become a cottage industry around SpaceX's launch operations. It's a mutually beneficial relationship. Musk — who has said that he doesn't spend money on advertising — has embraced the people documenting the updates at this development facility for a vast online audience. Their recordings and online updates serve as promotion for SpaceX, and sometimes even allow Musk to keep tabs on South Texas operations when he's out of town.
The size and passion of Musk's fandom means people like Beyer can earn decent money doing that job. They may have to spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment, but in return they get access to hundreds of thousands of doting fans, and millions of YouTube views. Beyer said the channel's contributors are paid for their work, though most of them keep side gigs to pay the bills. But lately, Beyer has made it a full-time job. The contributors to NASASpaceflight aren't the only ones doing this. Tim Dodd, who uses the moniker Everyday Astronaut, has amassed nearly 1 million subscribers on his YouTube channel. (4/9)
YouTuber Records Himself Trespassing at SpaceX’s Starship Facilities (Source: The Verge)
A YouTuber recorded himself entering SpaceX’s Starship rocket facilities in south Texas last month, freely sauntering on site. No security stopped him from wandering around the underside of SN11, the 16-story-tall rocket prototype that would launch and explode just a few days later. The video was posted to a small YouTube channel called Loco VlogS, which is run by “Caesar.” Caesar did not respond to multiple emails and DMs asking for comment.
For space enthusiasts, SpaceX’s sprawling rocket campus in Texas just a few miles north of the Rio Grande is a tantalizing museum of rocketry just laying out in the open, housing millions of dollars worth of tech — some of which SpaceX has pitched to the Air Force and NASA. It doesn’t have the towering walls or advanced security one might expect a company to have for safeguarding sensitive (and potentially dangerous) rocket hardware. (4/8)
SpaceX Rocket Debris Crashes Onto Washington State Farm (Source: GeekWire)
A tank from a SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage landed on a farm in Washington state. The composite overwrapped pressure vessel survived a reentry seen in Pacific Northwest skies last month and landed on a farm in Grant County, in the central part of the state. SpaceX retrieved the tank last week, according to the country sheriff, who declined to say where exactly the tank landed. The pressure vessel, used to store helium for pressurizing the rocket's propellant tanks, is more likely to survive reentry than other components of the upper stage. (4/5)
Apparent SpaceX Rocket Debris Found on Oregon Coast (Source: Beach Connection)
Lincoln County Sheriffs reported Friday they found what appears to be charred debris from the Falcon 9 rocket that created such a startling show in the skies over the west coast in late March. This comes after another piece was found in eastern Washington last week. The chunk of fuel container-like debris was found in Waldport after washing up in the Alsea Bay, according to the sheriff's office. “The debris was removed from the Alsea Bay by a fisherman and was briefly stored near a local business,” the office said. (4/9)
Taking Out the Trash (Source: Politico)
The space industry is working in a “combat zone” of debris, says Charity Weeden, vice president of global space policy at Astroscale. It’s as simple as this, Weeden said: All of the talk about a trillion dollar space economy, or people living on the moon, won’t happen if there is trash whizzing around threatening to destroy satellites or kill people. She shared with us some ideas for how the White House can address the problem and who should lead the effort:
There are a couple big things the Biden administration should be doing. It should commit to actually managing the space environment … and it should establish logistical infrastructure in space. No one is in charge of space environmental management. There are lots of agencies operating in space, but no one puts it all together and manages the process. … The Biden administration should look across the board and determine who needs to be the grand organizers of space environment management. Who should that be? If the National Space Council is continuing, that could be a place where this is debated and decided. (4/9)
OneWeb, SpaceX Satellites Dodged a Potential Collision in Orbit (Source: The Verge)
Two satellites from the fast-growing constellations of OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink dodged a dangerously close approach with one another in orbit last weekend, representatives from the US Space Force and OneWeb said. It’s the first known collision avoidance event for the two rival companies as they race to expand their new broadband-beaming networks in space.
On March 30th, five days after OneWeb launched its latest batch of 36 satellites from Russia, the company received several “red alerts” from the US Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron warning of a possible collision with a Starlink satellite. Because OneWeb’s constellation operates in higher orbits around Earth, the company’s satellites must pass through SpaceX’s mesh of Starlink satellites, which orbit at an altitude of roughly 550 km.
One Space Force alert indicated a collision probability of 1.3 percent, with the two satellites coming as close as 190 feet — a dangerously close proximity for satellites in orbit. If satellites collide in orbit, it could cause a cascading disaster that could generate hundreds of pieces of debris and send them on crash courses with other satellites nearby. (4/9)
Australian Firm Develops Technology to Blast Space Junk From Orbit (Source: 1News)
Experts say millions of pieces of debris pose a risk to astronauts and billions of dollars worth of satellites. Leading the effort is Dr Ben Greene, CEO of space intelligence firm EOS. He says it will be a “real breakthrough for space technology worldwide”. The technology will help protect $900 billion-worth of satellites and crucial space infrastructure orbiting earth. “We depend on space for our banking, navigation, movement of groceries and supplies across the country,” Greene said. Aimed at billions of stars, the laser pinpoints a piece of junk, another laser far more powerful and invisible to the naked eye is fired at the debris to shunt it from orbit. (4/9)
More Than 5,000 Tons of Extraterrestrial Dust Fall to Earth Each Year (Source: CNRS)
Micrometeorites have always fallen on our planet. These interplanetary dust particles from comets or asteroids are particles of a few tenths to hundredths of a millimeter that have passed through the atmosphere and reached the Earth's surface. To collect and analyze these micrometeorites, six expeditions led by CNRS researcher Jean Duprat have taken place over the last two decades near the Franco-Italian Concordia station (Dome C), which is located 1,100 kilometers from the coast of Antarctica. Dome C is an ideal collection spot due to the low accumulation rate of snow and the near absence of terrestrial dust.
These expeditions have collected enough extraterrestrial particles (ranging from 30 to 200 micrometers in size)5, to measure their annual flux, which corresponds to the mass accreted on Earth per square meter per year. If these results are applied to the whole planet, the total annual flux of micrometeorites represents 5,200 tons per year. This is the main source of extraterrestrial matter on our planet, far ahead of larger objects such as meteorites, for which the flux is less than ten tons per year. (4/8)
Extra-Terrestrial Particles Discovered in Antarctica Reveal Ancient Meteoritic Impact 430,000 Years Ago (Source: SciTech Daily)
Research led by the University of Kent’s School of Physical Sciences has found new evidence of a low-altitude meteoritic touchdown event reaching the Antarctic ice sheet 430,000 years ago. A research team of international space scientists, led by Dr. Matthias van Ginneken from the School of Physical Sciences‘ Centre for Astronomy and Planetary Science, has found new evidence of a low-altitude meteoritic touchdown event reaching the Antarctic ice sheet 430,000 years ago.
Extra-terrestrial particles (condensation spherules) recovered on the summit of Walnumfjellet (WN) within the Sør Rondane Mountains, Queen Maud Land, East Antarctica, indicate an unusual touchdown event where a jet of melted and vaporized meteoritic material resulting from the atmospheric entry of an asteroid at least 100 m in size reached the surface at high velocity. (4/4)
Evangelical Prediction: Asteroid Will Strike Earth in 2029, Unleashing an ‘Alien Virus’ That Will Give Rise to the Antichrist (Source: Right Wing Watch)
While televangelist Jim Bakker’s daily television program has always been a repository for misinformation, baseless conspiracy theories, and End Times fearmongering, his show has gotten decidedly stranger in recent days.
Earlier this week, Bakker interviewed right-wing conspiracy theorist Steve Quayle, who spent two programs warning about aliens, demons, trans-dimensional beings, and “diseases that are designed to initiate cannibalism in human beings” and turn them into literal zombies. On the heels of those programs, Bakker interviewed End Times conspiracy theorist Tom Horn, who warned that an asteroid will strike the Earth in 2029, unleashing an alien virus that will give rise to the Antichrist.
Horn discussed his recent book, “The Wormwood Prophecy,” which claims that the government is covering up the fact that an asteroid known as Apophis will strike the Earth in 2029. While scientists say that Apophis will simply pass by our planet in 2029, Horn insists that it will actually strike the Earth and fulfill the prophecy. (4/8)
NASA to Launch Spaceship to 'Punch' Asteroid, Stop Future Impacts (Source: Jerusalem Post)
Stopping an asteroid impact is something that has been tossed around in both science fiction and serious scientific discussions. Various solutions have been proposed and displayed. But NASA scientists actually have a plan in place to "punch" an asteroid away, or rather, have a spaceship collide with it head-on.
The concept seems ridiculous, almost like an April Fool's Day joke. But the project is very real, and is well into the planning and development phases. The project is known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission, and has been developed by NASA and John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory along with several NASA centers. (4/4)
OSIRIS-REx Completes Final Fly-By of Bennu (Source: NASA/GSFC)
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft completed its final close approach to the asteroid Bennu Wednesday. The spacecraft came within 3.5 kilometers of the asteroid's surface in its first flyby since touching down on the surface to collect samples in October. Images and other data from the flyby will be transmitted back to Earth over the next week. The spacecraft will begin its journey back to Earth next month. (4/8)
NASA Psyche Mission to Test Electric Thruster Tech (Source: Ars Technica)
An upcoming NASA mission will be the first deep-space test of an electric thruster technology. The Psyche mission to the main belt asteroid Psyche will use Hall thrusters, which are in common use in commercial satellites in Earth orbit but have yet to be used in a deep-space mission. Both NASA and Maxar, which is building the spacecraft, believe the technology is mature enough for use on such a mission. The technology, they added, makes the mission feasible within its Discovery-class budget of about $1 billion. (4/7)
Probing for Life in the Icy Crusts of Ocean Worlds (Source: Phys.org)
Long before NASA's Perseverance rover touched down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, one of its highest-level mission goals was already established: to seek out signs of ancient life on the Martian surface. In fact, the techniques used by one of the science instruments aboard the rover could have applications on Saturn's moons Enceladus and Titan as well Jupiter's moon Europa.
Enceladus, Europa, and even the hazy moon Titan are thought to hide vast oceans of liquid water containing chemical compounds associated with biological processes below their thick icy exteriors—very different environments from modern Mars. If microbial life exists in those waters, scientists may be able to find evidence of it in the ice as well. But how to find that evidence if it's locked deep in the ice?
Enter WATSON. Short for Wireline Analysis Tool for the Subsurface Observation of Northern ice sheets, the 3.9-foot-long (1.2-meter-long) long tube-like prototype is undergoing development at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. It has been coupled to Honeybee Robotics' Planetary Deep Drill, and this combination was successfully tested in the extreme cold of Greenland's ice. A smaller version of WATSON could one day ride aboard a future robotic mission to explore the habitability potential of one of these enigmatic moons. (4/7)
NASA’s Spitzer, Not Hubble, Reveals Our Most Awe-Inspiring View Of The Universe (Source: Forbes)
Only by observing it can we know what the Universe is like. Looking in (mostly) visible light, like Hubble does, reveals wholly impressive sights. But Hubble’s views are fundamentally limited in two ways. First, this light can only reveal objects where intervening dust is absent. Second, Hubble’s views are deep, but are extremely narrow-field. As a result, only a few patches of sky possess deep, revealing views.
Only deep, wider-field views will provide a grander perspective. Infrared light — which is largely transparent to light-blocking dust — is ideal for this task. NASA’s Spitzer, which operated from 2003-2020, first revealed a full square degree to unprecedented depths. On large, cosmic scales, every point in these images represents its own galaxy. S-CANDELS, a follow-up to the original Spitzer Extended Deep Survey (SEDS), went even deeper.
Across 13 billion years of cosmic history, galaxies are clustered, rather than distributed randomly. It’ll require hundreds of James Webb observations, stitched together, to match S-CANDELS. (4/5)
Finding From Particle Research Could Break Known Laws of Physics (Source: New York Times)
Evidence is mounting that a tiny subatomic particle called a muon is disobeying the laws of physics as we thought we knew them, scientists announced on Wednesday. The best explanation, physicists say, is that the muon is being influenced by forms of matter and energy that are not yet known to science, but which may nevertheless affect the nature and evolution of the universe. The new work could lead to a breakthrough in our understanding of the universe more dramatic than the discovery in 2012 of the Higgs boson, a particle that imbues other particles with mass.
Muons are akin to electrons but far heavier. When muons were subjected to an intense magnetic field in experiments performed at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, in Batavia, Ill., they wobbled like spinning tops in a manner slightly but stubbornly and inexplicably inconsistent with the most precise calculations currently available. The results confirmed results in similar experiments in 2001 that have tantalized physicists ever since.
The measurements have about one chance in 40,000 of being a fluke, the scientists reported, a statistical status called “4.2 sigma.” That is still short of the gold standard — “5 sigma,” or about three parts in a million — needed to claim an official discovery by physics standards. Promising signals disappear all the time in science, but more data are on the way that could put their study over the top. Wednesday’s results represent only 6 percent of the total data the muon experiment is expected to garner in the coming years. (4/7)
Experiment Challenges "Standard Model" of Particle Physics (Source: Science News)
An experiment may have discovered a flaw in the "standard model" of particle physics. Physicists at Fermilab announced Wednesday that an experiment found that muons, a heavier version of electrons, behave unexpectedly when placed in a magnetic field. The precession of the magnetic poles of the muons diverged slightly from predictions, which could be evidence of new physics outside of the current standard model of subatomic particles. (4/8)
These Weird Lumps of 'Inflatons' Could be the Very First Structures in the Universe (Source: Space.com)
An ultra-high-resolution simulation of a tiny slice of the universe — a million times smaller than a proton — has revealed the very first structures to ever exist. And these dense structures are weird. The first trillionths of a second after the Big Bang, the universe was a hot, soupy place, place, heated to over a trillion degrees. Though scientists can't directly observe this moment in time, they can reconstruct it using high-powered computer simulations.
The new simulations, more detailed than ever before, showed how in these first instances gravity caused quantum particles known as inflatons to lump together. The results showed for the first time how these lumps then formed complex and dense structures that weighed between a few grams to 20 kilograms — roughly heavier than a postage stamp but lighter than a bulldog — packed into a space smaller than an elementary particle. (4/6)
Dark Matter 'Annihilation' May be Causing the Milky Way's Center to Glow (Source: Space.com)
A mysterious glow coming from the center of the Milky Way might be caused by annihilating dark matter — elusive matter that emits no light. According to new research, heavy dark matter particles may be destructively colliding at the center of the galaxy, creating elementary particles, as well as gamma rays — the unexplained light seen emanating from the galactic center.
The source of this unexplained light, called the galactic center excess (GCE), has been debated by scientists ever since it was discovered in 2009. When analyzing data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, scientists noticed a faint glow of gamma rays that couldn't be explained by known sources. In the years since, scientists have proposed a range of sources, from dark matter to more conventional sources, such as extremely fast-spinning stars called millisecond pulsars.
The results suggest that the dark matter particles have a mass of about 60 gigaelectron volts — roughly 60 times that of a proton. When these dark matter particles collide, they annihilate into muons and antimuons, or electrons and positrons. If this hypothesis is correct, dark matter particles like these could be made and detected here on Earth with existing experiments, such as the Large Hadron Collider, and will help scientists narrow their search. (4/5)
Is There an Ancient Black Hole at the Edge of the Solar System? (Source: New Scientist)
Beyond the giant planets of the outer solar system lies a vast wilderness. Most astronomers think it is inhabited by a population of small, icy worlds similar to Pluto, and several groups have dedicated themselves to tracking down these dwarf planets. In the process, some have come to suspect that something bigger is lurking out there: a planet several times the mass of Earth.
They believe that this hypothetical world, known as Planet Nine, betrays its presence by the way its gravity has aligned the orbits of a group of these small, icy bodies. The problem is that no one can imagine how a planet big enough to do that could form so far from the sun. “All we know is that there’s an object of a certain mass out there,” says Jakub Scholtz, a theorist at Durham University in the UK. “The observations we have can’t tell us what that object is.” But if not a planet, then what? Scholtz suspects it could be something even more exotic: a primordial black hole, one forged in the big bang.
If he is right, it would be a stunning discovery. Primordial black holes would give us a new window onto the early universe. They might even comprise dark matter, the mysterious substance that holds galaxies together. All of which explains why cosmologists have been scouring the universe for them. But no one had dared to dream we might find one in our own backyard. The question now is, how can we determine what the mysterious source of gravity lurking at the fringes of our solar system really is? (3/31)
UCF Student Researcher Uses Machine Learning to Understand Far Away Planets (Source: UCF)
Michael Himes is a fourth year doctoral candidate studying planets lightyears away (also called exoplanets) by using machine learning to better understand their atmospheres. This type of research could have big impacts on the future of understanding what is out in the universe, potentially including the remote detection of life.
Himes began harnessing the capabilities of machine learning at the beginning of his physics doctoral program while researching exoplanets and their atmospheres. Machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, enhances this kind of research as it can be used to clarify what is known about the exoplanet much faster than traditional methods. First the machine learning model must learn about exoplanets. To accomplish this, Himes inputs millions of data points about known exoplanet atmospheres including varying temperatures and compositions. By doing so he is teaching the computer model what different planetary atmospheres look like when observed from Earth. (4/5)
The Paper Chase: Declassifying and Releasing Space History Documents From the Cold War (Source: Space Review)
Historians have taken advantage of declassified archives and other resources to reveal new details about the early Space Age. Dwayne Day talks with Asif Siddiqi to share their wish lists for documents they would like to see to learn more about those programs. Click here. (4/5)
Reaching Out to Aliens is a Terrible Idea (Source: Guardian)
Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilization. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully. (4/3)
How New Satellite Data Sources Enhance Investigative Journalism (Source: TechJournalist)
The right satellite images can be the ‘smoking gun’ in an investigation against mischief and wrongdoing. Our own investigations have proven the value of satellite data. Whether it’s images portraying crimes against humanity, severe environmental misconduct or just clues that something might go wrong for further verification, visual intelligence can be an essential mean to present a corpus delicti.
For my own investigations, this has proven to be highly effective. But there are caveats to conventional satellite data. Clouds constitute one major problem. They can cover at the wrong time an area of interest and miss the action. Culprits may know this and try to avoid, for instance, illegal at-sea transhipments in cloudless weather conditions or cut forests illegally when they can hide behind from the spying eyes of satellite images.
The latest generation of satellite earth monitoring technology has several answers to this problem.
One of such companies proposing alternatives to the conventional visual remote sensing data is HawkEye 360. The company uses formation-flying satellites to build a class of radio frequency (RF) data. The data by the space tech startup based in Virginia, US could prove valuable for investigating land-based conflicts, fish fraud and IUU fishing activities more broadly, sanction breaking at-sea transfers, to name a few examples. It says it provides the data to governments and private parties, who uses it in various ways such as for defense programs, wildlife protection, and maritime applications. (4/9)
Space Tourist Heading to Bottom of the Sea (Source: CNBC)
A future space tourist is first heading to the bottom of the ocean. Larry Connor will participate in an expedition next week to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific. Connor, head of the real estate company The Connor Group, is helping fund the expedition. Earlier this year, Connor was named as one of the crew on Axiom Space's Ax-1 mission to the International Space Station, launching early next year. Connor would become only the third person to go both to space and to the deepest part of the ocean. (4/8)
Disney+ Cancels Right Stuff Series (Source: Deadline.com)
"The Right Stuff" didn't have the right stuff for Disney+. The streaming service has reportedly canceled the series about the Mercury 7 astronauts after one season. The series premiered on Disney+ last fall, but was only a "modest performer" for the service and got mixed response from critics. Warner Bros. Television, the studio producing the series, is looking for another streaming company to pick up the show for a second season. (4/5)
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