|June 19, 2017
Falcon 9 Launch Scheduled for Monday (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
The launch of a commercial Bulgarian television broadcast satellite from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport is set for Monday after SpaceX ran through a mock countdown Thursday and test-fired a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket’s Merlin main engines. SpaceX pushed back the launch of the BulgariaSat 1 communications satellite two days — from Saturday to Monday — earlier his week after preparations for the static fire ran behind schedule. (6/16)
SpaceX Shift Back to LC-40 to Allow Heavy-Lift Upgrade at LC-39A (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
SpaceX hopes to resume launches from a Cape Canaveral launch pad later this summer. Space Launch Complex 40 was damaged last September when a Falcon 9 exploded during preparations for a static fire test. Repairs to the pad are in progress, with Space Florida contributing $5 million to pay for upgrades that will allow for a higher launch rate. Once the repairs are complete, SpaceX will shift Falcon 9 launches back to the pad from Launch Complex 39A, allowing workers to complete work there needed to support the first Falcon Heavy launch later this year. (6/13)
Air Force Budget Reveals How Much SpaceX Undercuts Launch Prices (Source: Ars Technica)
A 2014 GAO report on costs for the Air Force's launches of national security payloads on ULA rockets was critical of the non-transparent nature of ULA's launch prices and noted that the government "lacked sufficient knowledge to negotiate fair and reasonable launch prices." The Air Force pays both a firm, fixed-price for the rockets, as well as a cost-plus incentive fee known as an ELC contract. This ELC contact was essentially to maintain ULA's "launch readiness" for critical national security payloads.
Now, competitive transparency is allowing lawmakers to more directly compare ULA's costs against those of SpaceX and others. New law requires the Air Force consolidate launch costs into a single budget line beginning in FY-2020. The Air Force's new budget estimates combine the fixed-price and ELC contract costs and they are strikingly high: the "unit cost" of a single rocket launch in FY-2020 is $422 million, and $424 million for a year later. This represents the maximum amount per launch, if ULA is selected for all Air Force launches in 2020.
Last year the Air Force awarded SpaceX $83 million to launch a GPS satellite, and another in March 2017 to launch GPS satellite for $96.5 million. These represent "all-in, fully burdened costs" to the government, roughly comparable to that $422 million "unit cost" in the Air Force budget for 2020. SpaceX sells basic commercial Falcon 9 launches for about $65 million. But for military launches there are additional costs that add tens of millions of dollars to the total price. (6/16)
ULA Chief Disagrees with Article on ULA Launch Costs (Source: ULA)
ULA CEO Tory Bruno issued a tweet expressing his disagreement with the Ars Technica article on ULA launch prices. "Lots of questions re MISLEADING Ars article. Cherry picked odd number. Old InfoG explains 2013 contract. http://RocketBuilder.com for current". Click here for the infographic and tweet. (6/16)
Air Force Rethinks Military Space Plan After Bezos Rocket Component Blows Up (Source: Forbes)
The U.S. probably depends on satellites more than any other country. Without a GPS constellation to tell us where we are, orbital sensors that make weather forecasts possible, communications satellites linking us to distant locations, and early warning spacecraft capable of detecting aggression quickly, America would be in a world of hurt. Many of the overhead systems that deliver these benefits are operated by the Air Force, the lead service for military space missions.
But if the Air Force sticks with its current plan to rely on "commercial" providers for future launch services, it will soon be testing the outer limits of what market forces can really deliver.
The risk has become more apparent over the last couple of years as both Musk's and Bezos' firms suffered major setbacks due to what appear to be design problems in their technology. SpaceX lost one payload shortly after launch, another while it was being tested on the ground. Both events were catastrophic. More recently, Blue Origin saw a major component on its new BE-4 rocket engine called a powerpack blow up on the test stand. (6/16)
Senate Votes 94-6 To Let NASA Keep Using Russian Rocket Engines (Source: RadioLiberty)
The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on June 15 to allow NASA to continue using Russian-made rocket engines in an amendment to legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia. ULA currently uses Russian RD-180 engines to launch civilian and military satellites, although agencies are working to develop alternatives to the Russian engines as required by sanctions legislation passed in 2014.
Republican Senator Cory Gardner, the author of the amendment allowing NASA to keep using Russian engines, said the U.S. space program could have been seriously impaired. "The underlying language...would have unintentionally sanctioned our...aerospace industry," he said. "NASA would have potentially had to close up to seven space missions" which have already cost billions of dollars, he said.
The exception for NASA was strongly opposed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, who called it a gift to the Russian defense industry and "cronies" of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was approved by 94-6. Editor's Note: the RD-180 restriction remains in place for national security launches. (6/16)
Amendment May Keep Iran-Russia Sanctions Bill from Stopping ISS Launches from Wallops (Source: Daily Press)
An Iran-Russia sanctions bill threatened to torpedo Orbital ATK's commercial resupply missions for NASA from Virginia to the International Space Station until an amendment cleared the U.S. Senate Thursday to remove the bill's unintended consequences to civilian agencies.
The original bill would have sanctioned organizations that work with the Russian defense industry. Orbital, for instance, buys the first-stage engines for its Antares 230 rocket from the Russian manufacturer NPO Energomash, which also supplies engines for Russian military launches. "The fact is," Warner said from the Senate floor, "without this amendment, Orbital would be prevented from buying the Russian RD-181 engines for its rockets.
And that would do nothing to help America's space mission. The fact is, without those engines, Orbital would not be able to fulfill a $1.2 billion contract for launching from Wallops." In fact, Orbital is still in the midst of fulfilling its first $1.9 billion resupply contract with NASA, with four more missions due under that. (6/16)
Orbital ATK Plans Resumption of Antares ISS Missions From Virginia Soon (Source: Space News)
Orbital ATK said Monday it plans to resume using its Antares rocket to launch Cygnus cargo spacecraft later this summer. The company said the next Cygnus launch will be on an Antares currently scheduled for September, but could take place as soon as late July depending on NASA's needs. The company had used Atlas 5 rockets for three of the last four Cygnus missions, but said it expects to use the Antares for the four remaining missions on its current NASA cargo contract and the six missions on a follow-on contract awarded last year. The improved performance of the upgraded Antares will allow those missions to carry more cargo. (6/13)
Boeing, DARPA to Base XS-1 Spaceplane at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A reusable suborbital spaceplane the size of a business jet being developed by Boeing and the Defense Department’s research and development arm could be launching and landing at Cape Canaveral in 2020, officials said after the defense contractor won a competition last month to design and test the vehicle.
Designed for rapid reusability, the XS-1 spaceplane will take off vertically like a rocket — without a crew — deploy an upper stage after traveling beyond the edge of space, then return to landing on a runway for inspections and reuse.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, selected Boeing to finish designing the spaceplane last month. Boeing beat competitors Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems to win the $146 million contract. Boeing and DARPA are developing the spaceplane in a cost-sharing public-private partnership arrangement, but Boeing did not disclose how much it is spending on the program. (6/13)
|Increasing Competition in the Launch Vehicle Market (Source: LinkedIn)
The US Government relied on Delta and Atlas, they competed, then combined, and relied on a joint US/commercial market (EELV by ULA). Then came SpaceX, purely commercial, and now has created competition for ULA, bringing innovations and lower price points. Today Orbital-ATK announced they may enter that market, adding a third to the mix.
ULA's record of performance is world-class. However competitive forces are always needed to drive innovations and best value. The US Government has opened that door, and may open it again. While one must be mindful of striking a balance between healthy competition and over-supply, this seems to be a good trend. Space is "contested, congested, and competitive". US leadership must be maintained. It's critical to national defense. This seems like a trend that will help and driven by government and commercial forces. When we do that, we can achieve anything. (5/26)
NewSpace Thinking - Arianespace Valuation: $500 Million. Rocket Lab: $1 Billion (Source: Space Intel Report)
You know the power of New Space and the New Economy — as ideas, if not as business models — has reached a high-water mark when the former director-general of the European Space Agency seeks to explain the fact that a startup launch operator has a higher market valuation than Europe’s Arianespace.
Jean-Jacques Dordain, who is now on the advisory board for the Luxembourg government’s space-mining initiative, spaceresources.lu, did not defend the fact the valuations themselves, but rather to defend their ultimate value to society. “This is the characteristic of the New Economy, to invest in businesses of the future, not in current businesses,” Dordain said.
“It’s extraordinary that we assign a much higher value to future businesses than to current business. Take the company Rocket Lab. It has conducted one launch, which was a failure. It has been valued at $1 billion. “Arianespace, which launches 10-12 times per year with success, is valued at much less than $1 billion as we saw from the sale of shares between CNES and Airbus. We assign more value to a business’s perspectives than to its current value. And space is not an exception to this rule.” (6/16)
Virgin Orbit’s CEO Will Use Psychology to Launch Satellites Faster Than Anyone Else (Source: Quartz)
Building a rocket is as much as an art as a science, according to Dan Hart, the newly-minted CEO of Virgin Orbit, one of a number of new launch-vehicle companies aiming to ride a wave of investment in small satellite businesses.
Hart, a long-time Boeing executive, joined Virgin Galactic, the space company financed by entrepreneur Richard Branson, earlier this year. Now, with Virgin Orbit spinning out as a stand-alone firm as Branson’s space companies focus on bringing products to market after years of delays, Hart is formally being made the company’s chief executive.
Orbit hopes to offer flights on its rocket, LauncherOne, for $12-15 million a pop. On a per kilogram rate, that would still be more expensive than SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Because the company will focus on smaller satellites, tailoring its services and launch timing to their needs, Orbit still expects to find enough customers for at least 10 launches a year before increasing the tempo to 20 if the demand is there. (6/13)
Suborbital Space Race? Virgin and Blue Will Get There When They Get There (Source: Space News)
There are a few things a would-be suborbital space tourist must have. One, obviously, is a bank account large enough to afford the six-figure ticket price for a spaceflight. He or she also needs a tolerance of the risks inherent in spaceflight and be in at least decent health to handle the g-forces of launch and reentry. Perhaps most importantly, though, a space tourist needs patience.
More than a decade ago, Virgin Galactic started selling tickets for suborbital flights of SpaceShipTwo, still in its early phases of development. They started with a group of 100 customers, called “Founders,” who paid $200,000 up front. Among those Founders is Namira Salim, a Pakistani-born artist and adventurer who has traveled to both the North and South Poles.
Neither Salim nor any other Founder customers have flown to space yet. However, Salim is not impatient. “Yes, it has taken a bit longer,” she said in an interview in Washington in May after an event by her foundation, Space Trust. “I’ve never complained because, you know, we have to do it right.” Click here. (6/15)
Branson Back to Making Predictions About SpaceShipTwo’s Schedule (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Now that the second SpaceShipTwo Unity has five glide flights under its belt, the “we’ll fly when we’re ready, we don’t make predictions” era appears to be officially over at Virgin Galactic. “I certainly would be very disappointed if I don’t go up next year. And I would hope it’s earlier than later in the year,” Richard Branson told British GQ. “The programme says that we should be [testing] in space by December, as long as we don’t have any setbacks between now and then.”
The prohibition on Sir Richard making schedule predictions was imposed after the ‘we’ll have a new ship ready to fly in six months’ estimate following the crash of the first SpaceShipTwo on Halloween 2014 turned out to be only so much hot air. (It took about two years.) Before the accident, Branson’s hopelessly optimistic and perpetually inaccurate predictions for the start of commercial flights were the subject of much public skepticism. (6/12)
Space Tourism Investment Prospects in the Near Future (Source: Space News)
By all accounts, 2018 should be the year of the space tourist. Like the Chicago Cubs who endured decades of “wait until next year,” credibly both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic should be positioned to fly paying passengers in late 2018. How will a successful commercial flight impact the economics of space tourism? What is the demand for such flights?
One key question for the space tourism industry is will there be repeat flyers? That is, until space tourism is a destination-based business (e.g. flights to a private space station or to the moon) will flyers pay to fly more than once after they have earned their astronaut wings? The answer to this is likely very dependent on the experience itself. Click here. (6/13)
The Rise and Fall of Suborbital Space Tourism Companies (Source: Space News)
Most of the X Prize teams faded away after Scaled Composites won the prize, unable to raise money or develop the technology needed for their vehicles. The few that would continue on would encounter problems of one kind or another that would delay or derail their efforts. Click here. (6/13)
World View and KFC Plan Stratospheric Balloon Mission for Chicken Sandwich (Source: GeekWire)
Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken is planning to fly its Zinger sandwich up to the stratosphere and back on a World View balloon platform. But no, the mission isn’t merely a publicity stunt. For World View Enterprises, the flight is expected to serve as a four-day shakedown cruise for its “Stratollite” system, which could eventually send military and commercial imaging payloads to the edge of the atmosphere for months at a time.
“When KFC first brought this to us, we had a good chuckle,” World View CEO Jane Poynter told reporters during a teleconference today. But then the Arizona-based company realized there could be a serious point behind the project. “If you can fly a chicken sandwich to the edge of space … you can fly really just about anything,” Poynter said. (6/13)
States Bet On Spaceports, Future Economic Benefits (Source: Forbes)
Spaceports are popping up over the country as private companies bet on a surge in commercial spaceflight and equally eager states maneuver to make room for them. The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has licensed 10 spaceports in seven states since 1996 — two in California, two in Florida, two in Texas and one each in Oklahoma, Alaska, New Mexico and Virginia.
According to the FAA, any U.S. citizen or entity can apply for a spaceport, or what it characterizes as a “launch and reentry site.” In evaluating applications, the FAA determines whether proposed spaceports would jeopardize public health and safety, property, national security, foreign policy interests or U.S. international obligations.
The administration stresses that it “does not provide any incentives towards generation of spaceport proposals, nor does the FAA make any proactive determinations of where spaceports should be located.” In recent years, spaceports have been supported by state governments that have offered tax incentives and investment, as well as new laws that allow for the growth of the commercial spaceflight industry. Click here. (6/15)
WTO Rules State Subsidies to Boeing are Illegal (Source: BBC)
In a landmark trade ruling, the World Trade Organization found tgat Boeing has illegally benefitted from billions of dollars from the most anti-competitive type of subsidy. These so-called "prohibited" subsidies are considered the most serious form of anti-competitive practice as they require an undertaking from the company in receipt of them to promise not to operate in other jurisdictions.
You can have the money if you promise you won't open plants elsewhere - in this case even in another US state. This particular subsidy was offered by Washington State - home of Boeing's vast Everett and Renton plants - and covers the development of its wide bodied 777X aircraft. Previous examples of this kind of ruling usually require immediate repayment - a sum that by some estimate could approach $9bn, a figure Boeing itself, however, hotly disputes. (6/10)
Florida Aerospace Workshop Sets Course to Develop 21st Century Talent Pipeline (Source: EDC of Florida's Space Coast)
On May 24, more than 50 industry, education, government, regional, state and national stakeholders gathered at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to forge a collaborative model to lead an effort ensuring regional employers have access to the talent needed to scale their businesses now and in the future.
While Florida is home to one of the nation’s most robust STEM graduate student pipelines; the fast-paced growth of the aerospace and defense industry, both nationally and locally, provides a unique opportunity to the Space Coast community and business leadership to resolve an emerging challenge within the sector.
“A workforce that meets the present and future needs of Space Coast employers is our core mission and in a world where competition for technical talent is intense, we need to be sure we drive innovative programs that build Brevard’s talent pipeline and create opportunities for area residents,” said Marci Murphy, president of CareerSource Brevard. Immediate next steps are for the aerospace workshop participants to identify specific strategies, with particular focus on apprenticeships, internships and university co-ops; and to identify funding sources to support the efforts. (6/15)
Students and Educators Become Rocket Scientists for a Week at NASA Wallops (Source: SpaceRef)
Have you wondered what it would be like to be a real rocket scientist? Approximately 150 university and community college students and instructors and high school educators will get that chance during Rocket Week June 17 through 23 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Nearly 130 university and community college students and instructors from across the country will build and fly experiments on a NASA suborbital rocket through the RockOn! and RockSat-C programs. Another 20 high school educators from across the United States will examine how to apply rocketry basics into their curriculum through the Wallops Rocket Academy for Teachers (WRATs). (6/14)
Weather, Range Issues Continue to Foil NASA Suborbital Launch at Virginia Spaceport (Source: DelMarVaNow)
A sounding rocket launch from Wallops was scrubbed again last night, this time because of weather. NASA said cloud conditions at two observing sites forced them to delay the launch until tonight. The Terrier-Improved Malemute will release particles in the upper atmosphere, creating artificial clouds visible along much of the Mid-Atlantic coast. Weather and range issues have postponed launch attempts for nearly two weeks. (6/13)
NASA Balloon-Borne Research Project Fails in Texas-Based Mission (Source: NASA)
For the second time in as many months, a NASA balloon mission has ended in failure. NASA said that it lost the Balloon Experimental Twin Telescope for Infrared Interferometry (BETTII) astronomy payload when the payload separated from its parachute while descending to the ground at the scheduled end of a brief balloon mission Friday.
The payload was destroyed, but there were no reports of injuries or damage as it fell in a remote area northeast of Sterling City, Texas. Two more balloon flights are on hold while an investigation into this failure takes place. A balloon mission last month ended prematurely over the Pacific Ocean because a leak in the balloon, resulting in the loss of its cosmic ray instrument payload. (6/12)
ARCA to Perform First Flight of Aerospike Engine at Spaceport America (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
ARCA Space Corporation has announced the first test-launch of its Demonstrator 3 space vehicle at Spaceport America in August. This will mark the first space flight of an aerospike rocket engine. Aerospike rocket engines are described as significantly more fuel efficient than the current engines and could make launches attempting to bring satellite payloads to space more affordable.
Demonstrator 3 will perform a suborbital space flight up to an altitude of 100 kilometers above the New Mexico desert. In March, ARCA introduced the Haas 2CA, a single-stage-to-orbit rocket equipped with the Executor Aerospike linear rocket engine. The rocket was developed in ARCA’s Las Cruces facility. (6/16)
More Money Approved for Spaceport America (Source: El Paso Proud)
Spaceport America in New Mexico is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars from tax payers in Doña Ana County. A special board approved an item that will allow funds from the 2007 tax increase to go to the launch site. That means Spaceport. could see somewhere between 300 and 900-thousand dollars a year. As we reported, since 2009 Doña Ana County taxpayers have contributed nearly $50 million dollars to Spaceport. The Money was earmarked for building the launch site. Now, the funds can be used on other things like employees. (6/16)
Operator License for Spaceport Colorado Could be Less than a Year Away (Source: Denver Post)
A Colorado airport may finally get its commercial spaceport license next year. The FAA visited Front Range Airport, east of Denver, on Tuesday, and said the facility could receive an FAA spaceport license by early next year. The airport has been promoting itself as "Spaceport Colorado" for several years, but said efforts to receive an FAA license have been a "lengthy process," in part because of the need to coordinate airspace with nearby Denver International Airport. Even with the license, airport leaders say it will likely take five to eight years before commercial spaceplanes would be flying from the spaceport. (6/14)
VAFB Set to Host First West Coast Launch with Automated Safety System (Source: Santa Maria Times)
A first-of-its-kind launch is set to take place this month from Vandenberg Air Force Base. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a set of Iridium NEXT satellites, is slated to blast off from VAFB’s Space Launch Complex-4 on June 25. The launch will be the first under Col. Michael Hough, the new commander of VAFB’s 30th Space Wing, and it will also be the first from the West Coast utilizing an Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS), which is expected to decrease launch costs and offer improved safety.
Along with assumed increased safety, the AFSS is also able to support multiple crafts in simultaneous flight, which is anticipated to be significant as companies build rockets with the intention of landing multiple boosters. The system also significantly cuts infrastructure costs and creates faster launch turnarounds by requiring fewer instruments. (6/15)
Strange Acts in Senate to Protect Alabama Rocket Jobs (Source: Huntsville Times)
Freshman Alabama U.S. Sen. Luther Strange is winning praise for getting up to speed quickly on an Alabama priority and helping a Huntsville-area rocket manufacturer assure its supply of Russian engines. ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno praised Strange Friday for taking "strong action to protect Alabama jobs" by co-sponsoring an amendment to keep the Russian RD-180 engines coming.
ULA assembles rockets in Decatur that lift government and commercial satellites into orbit. "Without this amendment, ULA would not have had the ability to launch crucial science missions that both NOAA and NASA are depending on for their research," Bruno said.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the amendment to a bill that would sanction Iran and Russia for Middle East actions the United States considers destabilizing. One company facing the sanctions, NPO Energomash, supplies the RD-180 engine that powers ULA's Atlas 5 rocket and the RD-181 that lifts Orbital ATK's Antares rocket. (6/16)
How Utah Is Contributing To Safer Space Travel (Source: UPR)
Utah facilities continue to play a role in creating components of Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system. Orbital ATK is producing the abort motor at its facility in Magna, and the composite case for the motor at its Clearfield facility. (6/16)
NASA and Industry Team Successfully Test Orion Launch Abort Motor (Source: Orbital ATK)
Orbital ATK, along with NASA and Lockheed Martin, successfully performed a ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) at Orbital ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah. The launch abort motor is a major part of the LAS, which provides a tremendous enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts.
The mission for Orion’s LAS is to safely jettison the spacecraft and crew out of harm’s way in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial launch ascent. Today’s abort motor test, Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1), was the culmination of a series of component tests conducted over the past few years in preparation for qualification. The test will confirm the motor can activate within milliseconds and will perform as designed under high temperatures. (6/15)
NASA Closing Down Asteroid Redirect Mission (Source: Space News)
NASA is in the process of closing out its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) program. Agency officials said Tuesday that ARM is now in "an orderly closeout phase" after the administration announced plans to cancel the mission in its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal earlier this year. That closeout includes cancellation of selections of payloads and members of an investigation team for the mission that were announced last year. ARM would have sent a robotic spacecraft to a near Earth asteroid to grab a boulder and return it to lunar orbit to be visited by a crewed Orion mission. Many key technologies being developed for ARM, like solar-electric propulsion, will continue. (6/14)
NASA Finally has Roadmap Back to Moon, Mars (Source: Clarion-Ledger)
The words hit me like a brick to the face. They weren’t anything I didn’t already know, but hearing them out loud was overwhelming. And sad. “We can’t get to the moon right now. We can’t even launch an American into low earth orbit anymore. We can’t get to the International Space Station without paying $70 million per seat to the Russians — the Russians. Our only backup is the Chinese.”
Embarrassing. Stupid. Puzzling. Those words were spoken to me by Congressman Steven Palazzo, who passionately shares my view that we should be pushing hard to send astronauts back to the moon, on to Mars and beyond. It’s our last frontier. And ask yourself this: Do you really want Russia or China or, God forbid, North Korea to one day rule space? Talk about sitting ducks on earth … we would be defenseless. So would every other nation. (6/16)
The Tiny Edit That Changed NASA's Future (Source: The Atlantic)
On March 21 of this year, both parties in Congress and the Trump administration made a change to a federal document that amounted to only a few words, but which may well change the course of human history. Amongst the many pages of the 2017 NASA Authorization Act (S. 422) the Agency’s mission encompasses expected items such as continuation of the space station, building of big rockets, indemnification of launch and reentry service providers for third party claim and so on.
But in this year’s bill, Congress added a momentous phrase to the agency’s mission: “the search for life’s origins, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.” It’s a short phrase, but a visionary one, setting the stage for a far-reaching effort, that could have as profound an impact on the 21st century as the Apollo program had on the 20th. Click here. (6/13)
Budget Proposal Fails to Recognize NASA’s Growing Importance to Nation (Source: Space News)
Vice President Pence stressed the importance of NASA’s work to inspire young people and demonstrate American leadership to the world and pledged that “NASA will have the resources and support needed to continue to make history, to push the boundaries of human knowledge, and advance American leadership to the boundless frontier of space.”
We applaud Vice President Pence’s support for a great NASA, and industry stands ready to work to assure that NASA can meet this bold vision for American space leadership. Unfortunately, the administration’s FY2018 budget request seeks to cut NASA by more than $560 million and then hold spending flat through 2022, further eroding NASA’s buying power from levels that are already below those of the 1990s. This budget fails to address NASA’s growing — not shrinking — importance to our nation. (6/16)
KSC's Cabana Set for Senate Hearing (Source: Senate Commerce Committee)
KSC Director Robert Cabana and SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell will be among the witnesses at a Senate hearing next week. The hearing, scheduled for the afternoon of June 21, will focus on partnerships between the government and the private sector "to advance exploration and settlement."
Other witnesses include Tim Ellis, the co-founder and CEO of launch vehicle startup Relativity; Moriba Jah, a space situational awareness expert at the University of Texas; and Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks. The hearing is the third in a series by the Senate's space subcommittee on commercial space issues. (6/15)
National Space Council: Don’t Pull the Trigger Before You Load the Gun (Source: Space News)
Twice it was stood up, and twice it was knocked down. What makes the third time a charm? President Trump signed his first NASA authorization bill with Vice President Pence at his side. Pence said he will lead a revamped National Space Council. While the devil is in the details, it must be armed if it’s reestablished. Pulling the trigger on the National Space Council before it learns from the past is like firing an empty gun: it won’t have the desired effect. Click here. (6/16)
What the Heck Is the National Space Council? (Source: Motherboard)
During an address last week to the new class of NASA's astronauts, Mike Pence announced that President Trump will be restoring the National Space Council after it was disbanded 24 years ago. But what's the council, and how will it impact NASA?
Pence will head the council, which was an oversight entity formed during the Space Race. Historically, the council has overseen all American space activities, including NASA and the Pentagon's space programs. But the council has had different levels of power under different presidents. It was disbanded by Nixon and wasn't relaunched until 1989 by George H.W. Bush. Bill Clinton got rid of it again in 1993, meaning Trump will become just the second president since Lyndon Johnson to use the council. (6/13)
Defense Spending Could Trump Space Spending (Source: Space News)
Increased spending on space systems could be a casualty of defense budget negotiations. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, warned at a hearing this week that unless negotiations on a 2018 Pentagon budget start now, it's likely the Defense Department will start the fiscal year on a continuing resolution, keeping funding at 2017 levels. That, and the threat of sequestration-related cuts, could jeopardize plans in the budget proposal to increase spending on space systems, including missile warning and GPS satellites. (6/14)
NASA Transition Chief Takes DOD Job (Source: DOD)
The former head of the NASA transition team has taken a new job at the Pentagon. The Defense Department named Chris Shank as senior adviser to the secretary and under secretary of the Air Force, one of several appointments to senior positions announced Tuesday. Shank chaired the NASA transition team last fall for the incoming Trump administration before taking a position on the "beachhead team" at the Defense Department after the inauguration. (6/14)
Lawmakers Show Little Agreement on the Defense Budget (Source: Space News)
U.S. lawmakers indicated there is little agreement on President Donald Trump’s defense budget proposal — with space likely to be a casualty of the fallout. Military space programs made out fairly well in the budget request the White House sent Congress late last month. Unclassified space spending — most of it managed by the U.S. Air Force — would total $7.75 billion in 2018, a roughly 25 percent increase over 2017 levels. (6/13)
Wilson: Why I’m Directing The Air Force to Focus on Space (Source: Defense One)
For the service that I once served and now lead, one of the most important tasks ahead is getting space operations right.
In many respects, the Air Force and the nation are at a critical crossroads. We realize, as do our potential adversaries, that space is interconnected to American life and to U.S. military success. The time is now to integrate, elevate, and normalize space in the Air Force and thus assure continued American dominance in this most critical domain.
We will do this systematically and doggedly, drawing lessons from earlier periods in which airmen created the resources, tools, and tradecraft to assure freedom of access and freedom of operation for the U.S. military writ large. Today, we begin the process of standing up a new organization at the Pentagon that will be responsible for recruiting, training and equipping airmen involved in the space mission. The establishment of the deputy chief of staff for space operations is the next step toward ensuring that we maintain space superiority. (6/16)
Air Force Leader Warns Contractors About Proposing Proprietary Space Systems (Source: National Defense)
Companies whose proprietary space-related technologies can’t plug into open system command-and-control architectures will not be able to win Defense Department contracts in the future, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said June 16.
Threats to U.S. military space systems are growing and space is now viewed as a warfighting domain, she said at a conference in Washington, D.C., which was hosted by FiscalTrak and the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. In this strategic environment, command and control is a top priority.
“A lot of our space systems … were kind of one-offs or single constellations, and they had unique ground control and they weren’t integrated as part of the system,” she said. “In a very fast moving, dynamic environment you need to be able to have integrated command and control and not 12 or 13 independent systems with different people operating them.” (6/16)
GAO: Feds Disproportionately on the Hook in Case of Satellite Failures (Source: Defense News)
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report Friday analyzing the risk incurred by the government on expensive satellite programs, finding that the contracts leave the financial burden upon government agencies in cases of failure. The GAO studied twelve satellite programs at DOD, NASA, and NOAA. Program funding totaled at $52.1 billion.
Most government satellite acquisition contracts have on-orbit incentive structures, which are payments that are made based on the satellite’s performance in space. However, these can vary widely in what percent of the contract it encompasses. The study found that this contract structure is actually rather effective, though the government incurs disproportionate risk compared to contractors. The risk is often not realized because, according to the industry experts and satellite studies, failures are rare. But when a failure occurs, DoD carries a big financial burden. (6/12)
Classified Satellite Swings Close to ISS (Source: Ars Technica)
A close pass of the International Space Station by a classified satellite remains a mystery. USA 273 was launched May 1 on a SpaceX Falcon 9, and amateur satellite trackers noticed its orbit brought the spacecraft to as little as 4.4 kilometers from the station on June 3. Neither NASA nor the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates USA 273, have commented on whether the close flyby was deliberate or a coincidence. (6/14)
Acknowledging Some Overlooked Satellites (Source: Space Review)
Official satellite catalogs do not include everything in Earth orbit. Charles Phillips discusses why that creates a safety issue for those unlisted objects whose orbits are low enough to pose a reentry risk. Click here. (6/12)
Space Debris is More Than a Nuisance; it’s a Borderline Violation of International Agreement (Source: Space News)
Despite all the discussion about orbital debris, there hasn’t been much analysis of whether established rules and agreements are being violated by spacefaring countries that create the debris. This isn’t surprising since it is primarily the spacefaring countries that set these boundaries in the first place. Still, spacefaring countries that create debris and make no effort to remove it are, at best, negligent in their obligations, and at worst, in violation of their own commitments.
Article VIII of the Outer Space Treaty provides that a state “shall retain jurisdiction” and control over its objects. In sum, a state that has launched an object into space will always own and be responsible for that object. In addition, the Outer Space Treaty points to additional principled obligations against the creation of space debris. Click here. (6/15)
New Challenges for Planetary Protection (Source: Space Review)
Plans by both NASA and private ventures to send more ambitions missions, including eventually humans, to Mars create new challenges for protecting Earth life from Mars and vice versa. Jeff Foust reports on some of the issues being discussed by an ongoing committee review of planetary protection policies. Click here. (6/12)
Musk Reveals Vision for a SpaceX City on Mars (Source: Newsweek)
Elon Musk has revealed his vision for what a SpaceX city on Mars would look like, saying he wants people to believe setting up a colony on the Red Planet will be possible within our lifetimes. Musk has discussed the possibility of creating a human settlement on Mars for several years. SpaceX is currently planning to send a robotic mission to Mars by 2024, and says that manned missions could begin as early as 2024--long before NASA’s projected timescale of the early 2030s. Click here. (6/15)
Planetary Resources Pivots Again (Source: Parabolic Arc)
You might recall that last June the company announced it had raised a Series A round of funding totaling $21.1 million for an Earth-observation project called Ceres. The constellation of satellites would monitor ground targets using the infrared and hyperspectral sensors.
In the five years since the company came out of stealth mode, it has pivoted from focusing on asteroid missions to remote sensing and now back to asteroid missions. Planetary Resources main financial backer and partner is the government of Luxembourg, a postage stamp-size country that doesn’t have a lot of use for natural resource monitoring, but is very interested in asteroid mining. (6/15)
Musk Promises Update on Mars Plan – Including How He’ll Fund It (Source: GeekWire)
The newly published print version, appearing on the New Space website, recaps Musk’s 95-minute talk at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico last September – during which he laid out a decades-long plan to develop and launch fleets of giant spaceships to Mars, each carrying 100 passengers at a time.
The presentation has been online in video form for months, with accompanying slides, but the text-plus-graphics version is arguably easier to scan and digest. It’ll be available for free through July 5, after which time it’ll presumably be downloadable for a fee in the range of $51. Click here. (6/16)
The Bandwidth Black Hole That Will Kill Elon Musk’s Mars Dream (Source: New Scientist)
SpaceX's Mars dreams are in jeopardy because of a little-known problem: the deteriorating communications infrastructure between Mars and Earth. This set-up could be inoperative as soon the mid-2020s, leaving us unable to launch the next generation of landers and rovers, let alone get any useful scientific information from them. We need to get serious about building the interplanetary internet or, instead of colonizing a new planet, we’ll be going nowhere fast.
To understand the problem, consider what happens when communications come from Mars today. A rover usually sends it first to one of the five spacecraft orbiting the planet, which then relay the information to the Deep Space Network on Earth. This set of three facilities, each with an array of at least four antennae, is strategically placed around our planet so that any spacecraft can always communicate with at least one location.
Using this system to send a single, high-definition color image from Mars to Earth takes at least 30 minutes. One 22-minute video will take nearly six days to transmit – and that’s assuming that no competing information, like scientific instructions or requests for emergency medical assistance, needs to be relayed at the same time. (6/16)
Boeing, Apple Could Build A New Internet In Space (Source: Investors Business Daily)
Here's a match made in heaven, or at least low Earth orbit: Boeing's aerospace expertise combined with Apple's consumer-product savvy. If the two form a partnership to provide broadband access via thousands of satellites, it could transform how you – and the machines that surround your life – will connect to the internet.
Boeing already has a plan to develop, launch and operate a constellation of 3,000 satellites in low Earth orbit. Apple is reportedly in talks with Boeing to be an investor-partner in the project. With Apple on board, hundred-year-old Boeing could beat out the likes of Facebook, Alphabet's Google and SpaceX in the race to create a new internet in space and capture hundreds of billions of dollars.
In the process, Boeing also could upend the telecom market and enable emerging technologies, ranging from smart devices to self-driving cars, that are expected to send the appetite for spectrum soaring. (6/16)
Entanglement Distributed Over 1200 km by Quantum Satellite (Source: PhysicsWorld)
Entangled photon pairs have been separated and sent to cities in China more than 1200 km apart. This is about 10 times further than had been achieved previously. The feat was performed using pairs produced on board a Chinese satellite and could lead to the development of long-distance quantum cryptography.
In August 2016, China launched the world's first satellite dedicated to testing the fundamentals of quantum communication in space. On board the $100m Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) spacecraft is a "Sagnac" interferometer that is used to generate two entangled infrared photons by shining an ultraviolet laser on a nonlinear optical crystal. Now, a team led by Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei has used the photon source to distribute entangled photons to pairs of three ground stations in China – each up to 1200 km apart. (6/16)
New Quantum-Entanglement Record Could Spur Hack-Proof Communications (Source: Space.com)
A Chinese satellite has split pairs of "entangled photons" and transmitted them to separate ground stations 745 miles apart, smashing the previous distance record for such a feat and opening new possibilities in quantum communication. In quantum physics, when particles interact with each other in certain ways they become "entangled." This essentially means they remain connected even when separated by large distances, so that an action performed on one affects the other.
Quantum entanglement has interesting applications for testing the fundamental laws of physics, but also for creating exceptionally secure communication systems, scientists have said. That's because quantum mechanics states that measuring a quantum system inevitably disturbs it, so any attempt to eavesdrop is impossible to hide.
But, it's hard to distribute entangled particles — normally photons — over large distances. When traveling through air or over fiber-optic cables, the environment interferes with the particles, so with greater distances, the signal decays and becomes too weak to be useful. (6/16)
Researchers Discover Shortcut to Satellite-Based Quantum Encryption Network (Source: Space Daily)
In a new study, researchers demonstrate ground-based measurements of quantum states sent by a laser aboard a satellite 38,000 kilometers above Earth. This is the first time that quantum states have been measured so carefully from so far away. "We were quite surprised by how well the quantum states survived traveling through the atmospheric turbulence to a ground station," said Christoph Marquardt from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, Germany. (6/16)
A Step Toward Democratizing Space (Source: Billionaire)
If you’re thinking this is a follow-up to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you’re not far off. Russian rocket scientist and engineer Igor Ashurbeyli is trying to form Asgardia, what he calls the first space nation, a non-profit NGO, which, in the long term, he plans to lead to the first human habitation in space.
It will start with the launch of a small unmanned satellite — Asgardia-1 — into orbit in September, containing data hand-picked by the hundreds of thousands individuals who have voluntarily signed up for free to become the first citizens of Asgardia. That satellite will ride a cargo spacecraft up to the International Space Station and, once docked, it will be ejected into orbit. It will become the first footprint of Asgardia. (6/15)
Orbiting ‘Space Nation’ Data Center Could Avoid All Earthly Laws (Source: New Scientist)
Self-styled “space nation” Asgardia is planning to put a data center in orbit, beyond the reach of Earthly laws, but lawyers say that leaving the planet isn’t enough to get around them. As more organizations seek to exploit space in this way, it’s time we decide how to govern the final frontier. Asgardia announced itself last year as a space-based nation, independent of countries on Earth, and has since convinced 180,000 people to become citizens by filling out an online form. (6/13)
Russian Billionaire in Hong Kong Touts World’s First Space Nation Asgardia (Source: South China Morning Post)
More than 28,000 Chinese, including over 1,000 Hongkongers, have joined the “world’s first space nation” founded by a Russian billionaire and scientist. Named “Asgardia” after the city of skies in Norse mythology, the unusual project is backed by a group of scientists keen to create an independent nation outside existing political and legal frameworks. Click here. (6/15)
How One Company Wants to Recycle Used Rockets Into Deep-Space Habitats (Source: The Verge)
As NASA works toward sending people into deep space, the agency is looking for new types of space habitats that astronauts can live in far from Earth. One company, Nanoracks, has a design idea in mind — but rather than build something completely new, the company has a bold plan to recycle space hardware to create living quarters. Their plan: turn used rocket tanks into suitable places for deep-space explorers to live.
And now, Nanoracks has signed a contract with NASA to start turning this habitat concept into reality. Last summer, the company was one of six picked to be part of the second round of NASA’s NextSTEP program, an initiative to create concepts and ground prototypes of novel deep-space habitats. Now with a finalized contract, Nanoracks can get to work on developing its concept, called Ixion, and eventually turning a spent rocket tank into a habitat that can then be tested out in space. (6/15)
Study Ongoing to Convert Centaur Into ISS Module (Source: NanoRacks)
NanoRacks has started work on a NASA study to examine converting a Centaur upper stage into a space station module. NanoRacks said Monday that it has formally signed the contract with NASA for the study, announced last summer as one of six awards in the latest phase of the agency's NextSTEP program. The NanoRacks concept, called Ixion, would involve refitting a Centaur upper stage left in orbit after a launch into a module that is docked to the ISS. NanoRacks' partners on Ixion include Space Systems Loral and United Launch Alliance. (6/13)
Russian Soyuz Launches Cargo to ISS (Source: NASA)
A Soyuz rocket successfully launched a Progress cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station this morning. The Soyuz-2.1a rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:20 a.m. Eastern and placed the Progress MS-06 spacecraft into orbit. The spacecraft, carrying more than three tons of supplies and fuel, will dock with the station's Zvezda module Friday morning. (6/14)
Space Station Welcomes Food and Supplies from Russian Ship (Source: Space.com)
A robotic Russian cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station Friday (June 16), delivering tons of fresh food and other supplies for the orbiting lab's crew. The Progress 67 spacecraft linked up with the space station in a smooth docking at 7:37 a.m. EDT as both vehicles sailed 258 miles over the Philippine Sea. (6/16)
NASA's Wild Fabric is Basically Chain Mail From the Future (Source: WIRED)
At $10,000 per pound to orbit, it pays to keep things light. To minimize the weight of its payload, NASA has experimented with inflatable materials that can balloon into habitats, and tangles of lightweight rods that can shift shape on different terrains. Now, designers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have developed a foldable fabric that could pull triple duty during outer space missions.
Researchers at JPL spent the last two years developing a metallic space fabric made of interlocking stainless steel squares. It looks like chain mail, but unlike the ancient armor, NASA’s fabric isn’t welded together. Instead a 3-D printer extrudes stainless steel as a continuous sheet of material with different properties on each side. Click here. (6/16)
5 Healthcare Developments That Were Born in Space (Source: Mashable)
Space might just be the next frontier in our quest for better health. That’s because numerous healthcare developments we’ve come to rely on over the years got their start with astronauts. The microgravity climate of the International Space Station combined with the unique needs of making mechanical repairs in space and research efforts beyond our universe have led to some pretty amazing technologies – many of which we benefit from today. Discover how the healthcare industry has come to rely on space as a breeding ground for innovation. Click here. (6/16)
When Flatworms Go to Space, They Grow Two Heads (Source: Ars Technica)
Among the hundreds of scientific tests happening on the International Space Station, only one has yielded a result worthy of a B-movie starring Ice Cube. It turns out that flatworms undergo an odd and as-yet-unexplained transformation in space. When profoundly injured, they grow a second head.
Scientists who study tissue regeneration have long been fascinated by flatworms because of the worms' ability to regrow after being cut in half. The worms can even regrow heads. But as Tufts University biology researcher Junji Morokuma and his colleagues explain in a paper for the journal Regeneration, they have never seen a worm grow two heads after amputation. But that's just what happened when an amputated flatworm was sent to the ISS back in January 2015. (6/13)
German Group Plans Bakery on ISS (Source: CollectSpace)
An experiment flying to the ISS next year will be the first to attempt to bake bread in space. The "Bake in Space" experiment, developed by a German group, will attempt to create bread rolls using a compact low-energy oven and a special dough. The experiment will test if the system can create a "palatable, but crumb-free" bread. Concerns about crumbs floating in weightlessness have kept bread off spaceflight menus for decades, with tortillas substituting for them in many cases. (6/12)
Florida Company Encouraged by Results of ISS Agri-Biotech Research (Source: ZGSI)
Zero Gravity Solutions, a South Florida agricultural biotechnology company, announced favorable results from their initial educational research experiment using the BAM-FX micronutrient product on the International Space Station (ISS). A second educational experiment utilizing BAM-FX, launched to the ISS aboard the SpaceX 11 Cargo Mission to the International Space Station on June 3, 2017 has reached the ISS.
The second experiment, currently on board the ISS, incorporates hardware designed by the team of Valley Christian High School students, contains dried filter paper impregnated with a plant growth solution, with and without BAM-FX, to which broccoli seeds were affixed. These filters were rehydrated on command once safely in orbit on the ISS. Click here. (6/14)
NASA Prepares for Future Space Exploration with International Undersea Crew Off Florida Coast (Source: Space Daily)
NASA will send an international crew to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean this summer to prepare for future deep space missions during the 10-day NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 22 expedition slated to begin June 18.
NEEMO 22 will focus on both exploration spacewalks and objectives related to the International Space Station and deep space missions. As an analogue for future planetary science concepts and strategies, marine science also will be performed under the guidance of Florida International University's marine science department. (6/14)
Why Most Astronauts are Men (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has selected another class of astronauts, some of them young enough to be assigned a mission to Mars if the U.S. space agency maintains anything like its announced schedule for pushing human exploration into deep space. All of them are impressive, and if past is prologue almost all of them will be up for whatever the job throws at them. As has been the case with every group of U.S. astronauts but one, there are more men than women. (6/14)
Women Have Advantages As Astronauts, But History Gives Men A Head Start (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA has selected another class of astronauts, some of them young enough to be assigned a mission to Mars if the U.S. space agency maintains anything like its announced schedule for pushing human exploration into deep space. All of them are impressive, and if past is prologue almost all of them will be up for whatever the job throws at them. As has been the case with every group of U.S. astronauts but one, there are more men than women. (6/14)
Meet Jessica Watkins, The Only Black Woman In NASA’s Newest Astronaut Class (Source: Huffpost)
Watch out, universe. NASA’s newest class of astronauts includes one woman with some serious black girl magic. NASA announced its first class of astronaut candidates since 2013 on Wednesday. The twelve candidates from various backgrounds and fields of study met some pretty rigorous requirements and made it to the top of the pool of 18,300 applicants, a record number for NASA. Among them is one black woman: Jessica Watkins. Click here. (6/13)
The Millennial Astronaut Who Wants to Go to Mars (Source: The Atlantic)
When Jessica Watkins was growing up, NASA was launching space shuttle missions into low-Earth orbit about every few months. But Watkins, one of NASA’s newest astronauts, doesn’t really remember watching the launches on television. Her first enduring memory of American space exploration came in 2004, when a pair of robotic rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on the surface of Mars. Click here. (6/16)
How to Keep Tabs on Atlantic Hurricanes (Source: The Economist)
America’s suite of hurricane sensors has grown since 1961. The current Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1st, sees the country running a stack of instruments that reach from orbit to a kilometer beneath the ocean. TIROS-3’s successors keep a constant watch on storms’ tracks and sizes. Gulfstream jets fly over and around storms, dropping sensors into them to measure wind speeds. Propeller-driven planes fly right into storms, measuring their properties with radar and its modern, laser-based cousin, lidar. Unmanned drones fly in even deeper. And floats, buoys and aquatic drones survey storms from below.
All of the data these machines gather are transmitted directly to computer models which are used to forecast two things. The first is what track a hurricane will follow, and thus whether, where and when it will make landfall. The second is how much energy it will dump on North America if it does indeed cross the coast—a value known as its intensity.
This season will be the first in which a constellation of microsatellites called CYGNSS (Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System) watches storms as they roll in towards the east coast. The eight-satellite swarm, which was launched in December, listens for radio signals that come from GPS satellites directly above it in space, and for the same signals when they have been reflected from the ocean’s surface beneath the hurricane being studied. Differences between the reflected signal and the original are a consequence of the state of that surface, and CYGNSS can use them to infer wind conditions there. (6/8)
Is the Earth-Observation Industry Consolidating, or Just Evolving? (Source: Space News)
Do three events constitute a trend? For many in the Earth-observation industry, the answer seems to be yes. Three deals in less than three months appeared to herald a new wave of consolidation among both established companies and startups. It started in early February when Google announced it was selling its Terra Bella satellite imaging company — originally known as Skybox Imaging — to Planet for an undisclosed sum.
Three weeks later, Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) announced it was acquiring DigitalGlobe, itself the product of the merger of other remote sensing companies, for $2.4 billion. Two months later, in a far smaller deal, EagleView Technologies announced it was buying OmniEarth. (6/14)
DOD Considers South America for Geospatial Intel Gathering (Source: Space News)
South America can serve as a laboratory for testing new geospatial intelligence capabilities, according to a senior military official. U.S. Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, head of U.S. Southern Command, said his command is using geospatial intelligence, including satellite imagery, to keep track of activities by drug cartels. Such intelligence is also used for disaster recovery and monitoring illegal mining and deforestation. Tidd said he is open to using new approaches and technologies, including stratospheric balloons. (6/12)
French Startup Raises $1.9 Million for Smallsat Electric Propulsion (Source: Space News)
A pair of French entrepreneurs have raised 1.7 million euros ($1.9 million) for a new electric propulsion system to address the small satellite market. ThrustMe, a startup formed in February, raised the money from Kima Ventures and a collection of U.S. and European angel investors in order to fund a technology demonstration in the next 18 months. The startup also plans to use the funding to double its headcount to 14 and to secure customers. (6/16)
Space Florida and Israel Innovation Authority Announce Joint Funding Winners (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida and the Israel Innovation Authority have announced fourth-round winners of industrial research and development funding tied to the Space Florida-Israel Innovation Partnership Program. In October 2013, Florida and Israel created a $2 million recurring joint fund to support research, development and commercialization of aerospace and technology projects that benefit both Israel and Florida.
For this year's collaboration, 22 joint proposals were submitted by teams of for-profit companies in Florida and Israel, and five teams have been selected. They include projects focused on genetics; 3D printed electronics; UAS vehicle systems for mosquito control; and 3D printed ceramic materials. Click here for details. (6/13)
More Calls for an Australian Space Agency (The Australian)
Executives of two companies are urging the Australian government to do more to support the country's space sector. The CEO of Speedcast and founder of startup Fleet said the government should create a national space agency that could support space initiatives. They note that Australia is one of only two of the 35-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) members without a space agency, which they argue makes the country far less competitive in the global space industry than the United States or Europe. (6/13)
The State of Planetary and Space Sciences in Africa (Source: EOS)
Africa has an enormous potential to provide insights into planetary and space sciences, but it has remained largely untapped. Fostering a new generation of scientists promises far-reaching benefits. Click here. (6/15)
Russian Rockot Rocket Retirement Next Year (Source: Sputnik)
Khrunichev plans to retire the Rockot small launch vehicle after a final launch early next year. The company said the small rocket, a converted SS-19 ICBM, will launch the Sentinel-3B satellite for Europe's Copernicus Earth-observation program in the first quarter of 2018, after the launch in September of the Sentinel-5P satellite. The announcement came on the 20th anniversary of the government decree to convert the missiles into launch vehicles. (6/13)
Kamaz Truck Driver Dies in Fire at Rocket Stage Drop Zone (Source: Tass)
The driver of a Kamaz truck operated by Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia rocket-and-space enterprise has died while extinguishing a fire in the Kazakh steppe, which erupted at the drop zone of the stages of the Russian Soyuz-2.1a carrier rocket, the Roscomos Space Corporation reported on Thursday.
"According to the available information, the Kamaz truck driver, an employee of JSC NPO Mashinostroyenia, has died while extinguishing the fire. JSC NPO Mashinostroyenia (not affiliated to Roscosmos) oversees maintenance of the drop zones. The fire engulfed the Kamaz vehicle after a particularly strong gust of wind," says a report obtained by TASS. (6/15)
Russian Institute to Start Long-Haul Mars Mission Simulations in November (Source: Sputnik)
The first among a series of psychological experiments designed to look into problems that might arise in a mixed crew on its way to Mars will start in November at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) of the Russian Academy of Science, a statement released by the Institute said Thursday.
"The IBMP will conduct the SIRIUS (Scientific International Research In Unique Terrestrial Station) project, which will include modeling conditions of long-term interplanetary flight of a mixed crew in completely autonomous conditions ... Within the project, a series of experiments with duration from 14 days to a year is set to be conducted. The first 14-day long experiment is planned to be carried out in November 2017," the statement reads.
The experiment should demonstrate how a crew of six people from different countries, including two women, would interact among themselves while being almost completely stripped of contact with the Earth. Leadership dynamics, inter-gender interaction, personal space issues, biochemistry and immune system issues are to be studied during the test. (6/16)
Russian Firm Plans Cooperation with China on Lunar Mission (Source: Space Daily)
Russia's Lavochkin Research and Production Association is ready to work with China on designing lunar exploration missions, including orbital and return ones, said Sergei Lemeshevsky, the Russian company's director general. CNSA chief Xu Yansong said that China and Russia were in talks on lunar exploration cooperation, because China's Chang'e-4, Chang'e-5, Chang'e-6 missions were quite similar to Russia's Luna-26, Luna-27, Luna-28.
"Variants of cooperation on spacecraft Luna-Resurs (Luna 26/27) and Luna-Grunt (Luna-29) actually exist, we are ready to discuss the variants of mutual cooperation," Lemeshevsky said. The head of the Russian company noted that the firm was working closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) on Luna-Glob (Luna-25), which is supposed to launch in 2019 and to perfect soft-landing technologies. (6/13)
What China's Space Ambitions Have to do With Politics (Source: Space Daily)
Experts told Sputnik they believe China's space ambitions are driven not only by the goal of space exploration itself but also by politics. Tommy Yang - China's commitment to its space exploration programs is driven by the same sense of national pride that fueled the "space race" between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1960s, experts told Sputnik.
China's space programs topped the What China's Space Ambitions Have to Do With Politicss this week after Chinese authorities unveiled more details of the nation's Lunar exploration and manned spaceflight missions during the 2017 Global Space Exploration Conference in Beijing. (6/13)
China Launches X-Ray Space Telescope to Study Black Holes (Source: Gadgets)
China successfully launched on Thursday its first X-ray space telescope to study black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts, state media reported. A Long March-4B rocket carried the 2.5-tonne telescope into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), named Insight, will allow Chinese scientists to observe magnetic fields and the interiors of pulsars and better understand the evolution of black holes. (6/15)
China to Launch Four More Probes Before 2021 (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch a further four space probes before 2021 as part of the efforts to develop space science, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence Friday. The China-Italy Electromagnetic Monitoring Experiment Satellite will be launched this August to study phenomena related to earthquakes from space.
The China-France Oceanography Satellite is expected to be launched in 2018. It will study ocean-surface wind and waves to improve forecasts for ocean waves and strengthen disaster prevention and mitigation. An astronomical satellite jointly developed by China and France will be launched in 2021 to study gamma rays and provide data for research in dark energy and the evolution of the universe.
China plans to launch the country's first Mars probe in 2020, which is expected to orbit the red planet, land and deploy a rover in just one mission. These will be the major probes in the country's space program in the coming years, following Thursday's launch of the country's first X-ray space telescope, the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope. (6/16)
Spat Threatens China’s Plans to Build World’s Largest Telescope (Source: Science)
China's astronomers are united in wanting a world-class giant optical telescope, one that would serve notice that they are ready to compete on the global stage. But a squabble has opened up over the telescope's design. On one side is an established engineering team, led by a veteran optics expert responsible for the nation's largest existing telescope, that is eager to push ahead with an ambitious design.
On the other are astronomers reveling in a grassroots priority-setting exercise—unprecedented for China—who have doubts about the ambitious design and favor something simpler.
Now, a panel of international experts has reviewed the designs and come out squarely in favor of the simpler proposal, according to a copy of the review obtained by Science. But the conclusion has not ended what one Chinese astronomer calls "an epic battle" between the high-ranking engineers accustomed to top-down control over projects and the nascent grassroots movement. (6/15)
Trudeau Under Pressure to Reject China Bid for Satellite Firm (Source: Space Daily)
Pressure ratcheted up Tuesday on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to effectively deny a Chinese firm's purchase of Canadian satellite communications company Norsat, over national security concerns.
Its purchase by Hytera Communications was approved earlier this month, after a routine security analysis. But since then, opposition parties, two former Canadian spy masters and a US congressional commission have raised concerns over the sale, which was put on hold Monday after a US hedge fund came forward with an unsolicited rival bid. (6/13)
GSLV Mark III: ISRO’s New Launch Vehicle (Source: Space Review)
Last week, India successfully launched the first GSLV Mark III, the country’s most powerful launch vehicle to date. Ajey Lele explains the importance of this rocket in making the country increasingly self-sufficient in space. Click here. (6/12)
India Plans GSLV Engine Upgrade (Source: New Indian Express)
India plans to have a new rocket engine ready by 2021 to upgrade its GSLV rocket. The Indian space agency ISRO is developing an engine that uses kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants that would replace the existing liquid-fuel engine used on the core stage of the GSLV Mark III, further increasing its payload performance. The engine should be ready for tests by 2019, with a first flight planned for 2021. (6/13)
GSLV MK III Lifts Less Luggage Than Lighter Rockets (Source: NDTV)
The "Baahubali" or "fat boy" of Indian rockets -- GSLV Mk III -- weighs several tonnes more than some of the other expendable rockets in the world but its carrying capacity is far less, say experts. The rocket powered by its own cryogenic engine at the upper stage, placed communication satellite GSAT-19 weighing 3,136 kg or 3.1 tonne.
"The GSLV Mk III rocket weighs 640 tonne with a capacity to carry four tonne satellite. But when one compares the ratio of the GSLV Mk III's weight to its carrying capacity to geo transfer orbit (GTO - where communication satellites will be placed) with rockets of other countries, the former ranks low," an industry expert told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
For instance, Japan's H-IIB rocket weighs 531 tonne but can place an eight tonne rocket in GTO. Similarly, Soyuz, Russia (312 tonne, payload to GTO 3.2 tonne); Falcon, USA (549 tonne, payload to GTO 8.3 tonne) and Proton, Russia (693 tonne, payload to GTO 6.3 tonne); Long March, China (weight 879 tonne, payload to GTO 14 tonne) and Ariane 5, Europe (777 tonne, payload 10.9 tonne). (6/17)
Foundation Creates Asteroid Institute (Source: GeekWire)
The B612 Foundation is establishing an "Asteroid Institute" as it sets aside plans for a large space telescope. The foundation, devoted to planetary defense issues, is working with the University of Washington on the institute, supporting two postdoctoral fellows at the university to develop tools to track near Earth objects and assess their impact threats. The foundation has been best known for proposals for a space telescope called Sentinel to track such objects, but foundation leaders say they are no longer pursuing the project because of other efforts, like NASA's proposed NEOCam mission. (6/14)
It’s Time to Explore Uranus and Neptune Again — and Here's How NASA Could Do It (Source: The Verge)
A group of researchers from NASA and various US universities have come up with plans to explore two of the least visited planets in our Solar System: Uranus and Neptune. That’s because compared to the other worlds in our cosmic neighborhood, these ice giants have been sorely neglected.
To fix that, researchers released a report this week detailing four different types of missions that could be sent to Uranus and Neptune sometime in the next decade or so. The concepts include vehicles that could orbit the planets for 10 to 15 years and even carry probes to dive into the worlds’ atmospheres. The main focus of each mission would be to figure out what the planets are made of — and how their interiors are structured. Click here. (6/16)
Cassini Makes Another Ring Dive at Saturn (Source: Space.com)
Cassini made its eighth dive into the gap between Saturn and its rings Saturday as the mission approaches its end. The spacecraft passed closer to the planet than in two previous orbits, which reduced the risk of a collision with particles from the ring. Cassini is in the "Grand Finale" phase of its mission that will conclude with a plunge into the planet itself in mid-September. (6/13)
Jupiter is Likely Older Than Other Planets in Our System (Source: New Scientist)
Jupiter is not only the biggest planet in the solar system, but also the oldest. A new study published Monday concluded that the core of the giant planet likely formed within the first million years of the solar system, based on the comparison of isotopic ratios in two classes of meteorites traced to asteroids that formed either inside or outside the orbit of the planet. The finding also supports one model of the formation of the solar system, called the "Grand Tack," where Jupiter formed first and drifted towards the sun until Saturn formed and pulled Jupiter back. (6/13)
Mars Mania is Completely Rational (Source: Space News)
In April, NASA’s robotic probe Cassini attracted widespread media coverage as it neared the end of its expedition of Saturn and its moons. While NASA celebrates the remarkable success of Cassini, it is hard not to look towards the future and ask, ‘what’s next?’
For the White House, the answer remains Mars. Recently, President Donald Trump showed his enthusiastic support for NASA’s mission to the red planet during a call with astronaut Peggy Whitson, boldly declaring, “we want to try and do it during my first term.” But, beyond the impossibility of such a near-term goal, is there sufficient motivation for a manned mission to Mars? Click here. (6/15)
Mistaken Brown Dwarf is Actually Two Planets Orbiting Each Other (Source: New Scientist)
Finding massive planets is nothing new these days. But finding them orbiting each other instead of orbiting a star is unprecedented. An object initially thought to be a single brown dwarf is actually a pair of giant worlds. It’s not yet clear how this binary system formed, but the discovery may help redefine the line between planets and brown dwarfs – failed stars with tens of times the mass of Jupiter.
This pair of planets is made up of two balls of gas the size of Jupiter but almost four times more massive, separated by some 600 million kilometers, and slowly circling each other once per century or so. The young couple only emits light at infrared wavelengths, with residual heat from their formation, just 10 million years ago. (6/15)
New Evidence That All Stars are Born in Pairs (Source: Phys.org)
Did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes—though not an identical twin. And so did every other sunlike star in the universe, according to a new analysis. Many stars have companions, including our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, a triplet system. Astronomers have long sought an explanation.
Are binary and triplet star systems born that way? Did one star capture another? Do binary stars sometimes split up and become single stars? Astronomers have even searched for a companion to our sun, a star dubbed Nemesis because it was supposed to have kicked an asteroid into Earth's orbit that collided with our planet and exterminated the dinosaurs. It has never been found.
The new assertion is based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud filled with recently formed stars in the constellation Perseus, and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all sunlike stars are born with a companion. (6/15)
Why Aren't The Van Allen Belts A Barrier To Spaceflight? (Source: Forbes)
Objects which encounter our atmosphere from space are generally travelling much faster than any winds we’d encounter during a storm here on Earth (thank goodness), and so the air resistance they hit is significant; the atmosphere, if hit directly, is almost as solid a barrier as encountering rock. Crew-carrying spacecraft will never plunge straight down into the atmosphere, but encounter it at a shallow angle, which allows the craft to encounter the atmosphere’s resistance less abruptly.
The Van Allen belts, on the other hand, are not actually part of our atmosphere. They’re well beyond it, extending hundreds of miles outwards into space. There are two, both donut-shaped rings surrounding our planet, and are a consequence of our planet’s magnetic field.
The innermost Van Allen belt sits somewhere between 400 to 6,000 miles above the surface of our planet. Even if the innermost belt is at its closest, the ISS (and the space shuttle in its day) are more than 100 miles away from the Van Allen Belts. For near-Earth missions, the Van Allen belts are not a hazard to spacefarers. (6/16)
Compact Fusion Rockets Could Be the Future of Interplanetary Space Missions (Source: Seeker)
Fusion-powered rockets that are only the size of a few refrigerators could one day help propel spacecraft at high speeds to nearby planets or even other stars, a NASA-funded spaceflight company says. Another use for such fusion rockets is to deflect asteroids that might strike Earth and to build manned bases on the moon and Mars, the researchers say.
Instead of chemical rockets or ion drives, scientists have also suggested using fusion rockets propelled by the same nuclear reactions that power stars. These rockets would not only be efficient, but also generate vast amounts of electricity.
However, so far, no one has built a fusion reactor that generates more energy than it consumes. Moreover, the fusion reactors that are under development are huge, making them difficult to hoist into space. But now, researchers funded by NASA are developing small fusion rockets. The aim for the fusion drives is to get about 1 kilowatt of power per 1 kilogram of mass. A 10-megawatt fusion rocket would therefore weigh about 10 metric tons. "It would probably be 1.5 meters in diameter and 4 to 8 meters long," Paluszek said. (6/12)
Former Orlando Radio Broadcaster Retires as NASA Commentator (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
George Diller, the longest-serving NASA launch commentator and a former Sarasota resident who famously called the space shuttle program's return to flight in 2005, has retired after 37 years.
Diller rotated as the voice of the space shuttle program and served as the launch commentator for NASA Television. He gave commentary for the final space shuttle mission with Atlantis in 2011; the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990; probes launched to the moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Pluto; and the Atlas V rocket that carried the Mars Laboratory and Curiosity rover. (6/13)
A Hidden Figure in Plain Sight (Source: Space Review)
Fifty years ago this month, the US Air Force selected the first African-American astronaut, Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. John Charles recalls Lawrence’s life and tragic death, and the gradual integration of the astronaut corps. Click here. (6/12)
Aldrin on Battling Depression, Alcoholism, and Why Mars is the Next Frontier (Source: The Telegraph)
Buzz, at 87, was still sprightly and pugnacious, white-haired with a scrubby beard, his skin stretched tautly across a sharp V of cheekbones. He wore a ‘Future Martian’ T-shirt, two Omega watches (neither of them the one he wore to the moon), along with a dozen bangles and charm bracelets.
Buzz was in the UK with his girlfriend, Michelle Sucillon, who’s not only very beautiful (and 30 years younger than him), but who treated him with touching solicitude. ‘You’ve got a long time with Alex,’ she said chidingly as she left us together. ‘But that doesn’t mean you can give him those rambling answers of yours.’
Buzz’s story is a salient and a sad one. In the days before we met, I read everything he’d written about his long life – the early memoir Return to Earth, then the more recent Magnificent Desolation and the upbeat No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon. Click here. (6/16)
Navy Veteran Discovers Rare NASA, Spy Drone Photos in Trash (Source: Click2Houston)
Yvette Quinn was convinced the list of aerospace engineers she discovered in a neighbor’s trash a few weeks ago was solid gold for international con men. The Navy veteran said she was concerned because the list of scientists had secret and top secret clearance along with their Social Security numbers in plain view.
Charles Jeffrey, a top space flight memorabilia appraiser for the American Space Museum in Titusville, Florida, said the find of the Gemini – Titan II press manual and the Titan manual tucked away in the stacks of photos was “history.” “Yeah, you have history,” Jeffrey said. “They were designing some of the very first unmanned aircraft drones.” Click here. (6/15)
Boeing Reorganizes Defense and Space Business Unit (Source: Bloomberg)
Boeing is reorganizing the management of its defense and space business, cutting 50 jobs in the process. The company announced Tuesday that Boeing Defense, Space & Security would break up its two current units, Boeing Military Aircraft and Network & Space Systems, into four smaller groups. The Space and Missile Systems unit, to be led by Jim Chilton, will include the company's current space business, such as satellite manufacturing, ISS operations and the company's stake in United Launch Alliance. The move is intended to streamline management of the business and be more responsive. (6/14)
Orbcomm Acquiring Inthinc (Source: Space News)
Orbcomm has acquired another company in its effort to transform from a satellite operator to a broader provider of hardware and tracking services. Orbcomm announced this week that it is buying inthinc, a Salt Lake City provider of vehicle telematics and driver safety products, for $35 million. The acquisition is the tenth by Orbcomm since 2012 as it expands its business into hardware, applications and device management. (6/14)
Nammo Acquiring Moog Space Propulsion Unit (Source: Nammo)
Norwegian defense company Nammo is acquiring the European in-space propulsion business of Moog. Nammo said it is purchasing the U.K. and Ireland businesses of Moog for an undisclosed sum. Those units make liquid-fuel engines and related components for use on spacecraft. About 60 employees will join Nammo as a part of the deal. (6/13)
Donate to SPACErePORT (Source: SPACErePORT)
The SPACErePORT is a free weekly e-newsletter distributed to over 1500 subscribers. It is supplemented by a monthly Florida Defense Contracts Monitor; a daily-updated blog (here); a Twitter feed (here) with over 1800 followers; a spaceports-focused LinkedIn Group (here) with over 200 members; and the FastForward supersonic transport LinkedIn Group (here). If you enjoy receiving this stuff, donations are encouraged using the Tip Jar link here. Thanks! (6/19)