February 18, 2019
Florida Space Day Returns to Tallahassee on February 18-19 (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Since the 1960s, when the nation watched Alan Shepard become the first American in space, Florida has been the leader in space exploration. And as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, it is a chance to reflect on Florida’s aerospace legacy and look toward modernizing and re-purposing that legacy to handle a new commercial space future. To promote those efforts, Florida Space Day returns to Tallahassee on February 18-19. (2/13)
Hundreds of Florida Companies Support NASA Deep Space Exploration (Source: NASA)
Men and women in all 50 states are hard at work building NASA’s Deep Space Exploration Systems to support missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. NASA Prime Contractors Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Jacobs, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman currently have over 3,800 suppliers contributing to the building of the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the Exploration Ground Systems program that will modernize the spaceport at NASA Kennedy Space Center.
While the Deep Space Exploration Systems Supplier Map highlights the United States, this endeavor reaches internationally, extending to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) collaboration with NASA in human spaceflight. With the support of many European suppliers, ESA is continuing to outfit the Orion spacecraft’s service module for Exploration Mission-1 and subsequent flights. These missions are critical to the space economy, fueling new industries and technologies, supporting job growth, and furthering the demand for a highly skilled workforce.
214 Florida companies support NASA's Exploration Ground Systems (EGS); 154 Florida companies support NASA's Orion program; 41 Florida companies are on NASA's SLS program. Florida is second overall only to California. Click here. (2/15)
Florida's 2019 Rocket Launch Schedule: Astronauts, Moon Landers and Mighty Rockets (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The new year is ramping up to be a historic one for the private space industry as it endeavors — along with its partners at NASA — to return humans to space from the United States. The Space Coast will be ground zero for those launches and other notable flights in 2019. Though the overall number of liftoffs will likely be lower than in 2018, when the Cape played host to 20 launches, the high-profile nature of 2019’s launch manifest is likely to bring crowds back to the region.
Private space, led by SpaceX and Boeing, will play prominent roles as the purveyors of the first crewed U.S. space flights to low-Earth orbit since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. In between, satellite, lunar lander and International Space Station resupply missions from SpaceX and United Launch Alliance will round out the year. Mark your calendars, here are the launches coming to the Space Coast in 2019. (2/13)
Florida Space Coast Launches—2018 Photo Contest (Source: Aviation Week)
Space has become one of the most dynamic sectors of the aerospace industry in recent years as upstarts challenge paradigms and traditional launch providers. In these photos, a mix of launch vehicles from new space and established providers carry civil, military and intelligence payloads into space. Click here. (2/13)
Orlando: A World Leader in Simulation Technology (Source: Orlando EDC)
Simulation-based technology has been a key ingredient to Orlando’s economy since it was developed to take man to the moon. Now, the technology spans many of Orlando’s core industries from aviation, aerospace and defense to education, healthcare and even gaming. Companies benefit from the region’s growing STEM workforce, the fastest growing metro for STEM jobs in the U.S., and a concentrated talent pipeline.
In fact, Orlando universities offer specialized programs and certifications, including University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Institute for Simulation and Training, Full Sail University’s Bachelor’s Degree in Simulation & Visualization and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University’s Simulation Science, Games and Animation program.
Defense contractors for simulation technologies especially have a distinct advantage in Orlando. The simulation and training command for all Department of Defense branches is located at UCF Research Park, the 6th largest research park in the U.S. Orlando-based companies including AVT Simulation, Engineering & Computer Simulations, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin have fulfilled billions in defense contracts for simulation technologies – just in the past year alone. Click here . (2/14)
Lockheed Martin Hiring Spree Adds 1,000 Central Florida Jobs, Boosts Work for Subcontractors (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Frank St. John has a good problem on his hands at Lockheed Martin’s Orlando campus. As the defense giant quickly grows its workforce here – having added more than 1,000 workers since summer 2017 – it has had to build more space to match. The result is a $50 million, 250,000-square-foot facility set to debut this month. But even that building will be nearly at capacity when it opens.
“We can’t get that building up fast enough,” said St. John, executive vice president of the firm’s Missiles and Fire Control division. “Once it opens, it will be immediately full.” Lockheed employs more than 8,000 in Orlando, split between its Missiles and Fire Control and Rotary and Mission Systems divisions. The company’s growth has been directly tied to a series of large contracts it has won that requires a significant portion of the work to be done here. Those include a $900 million U.S. Air Force contract for tech related to the agency’s long-range missile program and work related to the U.S. military’s high-profile F-35 aircraft.
The company also landed a $3.5 billion deal for maintenance and support on 300,000 training aids, simulators and other devices. The work from that deal has trickled down to a group of about 300 Central Florida-based subcontractors, helping support the defense industry’s growth here. The effort to build its future workforce has led to Lockheed Martin partnering with local schools. In November, the company granted $300,000 to Valencia College and $1.5 million to UCF to support programs that encourage building the STEM workforce. About 2,500 UCF alum work at Lockheed Martin. (2/6)
Pensacola MRO Project Lands $20M More (Source: GCAC)
The ST Engineering MRO expansion project got another $20 million Wednesday when the Florida Department of Transportation upped its commitment to a total of $45 million. "I am proud to announce City of Pensacola has secured the remaining funding for Project Titan, which will expand the Aviation Maintenance Overhaul Repair (MRO) campus at the Pensacola International Airport," said Mayor Grover Robinson."I am excited for this transformational project to move forward." He received the confirmation letter today.
FDOT is amending its work program to removing funding from several other projects to fund the airport project, an eight-week process. FDOT's work program and budget will still need to be reviewed by the Florida Legislature, but if approved, Pensacola will receive the funding in 2021. The $210 million expansion would add three more hangars to the one already in place at Pensacola International Airport. It would add another 1,325 jobs. (2/14)
Georgia County Considers Forming Spaceport Authority (Source: Tribune & Georgian)
Camden County Board of Commissioners has been working for the last five years to establish a commercial spaceport, but is a separate spaceport authority the way of the future? The board took no action on that question during a Tuesday evening work session, but agreed to place it on the Feb. 19 agenda for consideration. “That’s probably the latest we should act so it gets into the legislative hopper,” said Camden County Attorney John Myers.
If approved by commissioners on Feb. 19, the county would then work with state legislators to get the enabling legislation approved by the General Assembly during the current legislative session. Tuesday’s work session featured a presentation by two Savannah attorneys who have helped the board form other authorities in the past, such as the county’s solid waste authority.
The advantage of an authority, said attorney Jonathan Pannell, was the ability to enter into long-term debt without having to first get the permission of voters. This, in turn, makes it easier to enter into years-long contracts, which could become necessary if the county wants to establish the spaceport as a public-private venture or issue revenue bonds to fund capital projects. The attorney also mentioned “liability reasons” and not being encumbered by the “gratuities clause” as further advantages of an authority to govern the spaceport. (2/7)
Georgia Spaceport Documents Reveal Casualty Potential Exceeding FAA Limits for Certain Rockets (Source: Protect Cumberland Island)
A document proving that the Cumberland Island National Seashore’s expected casualty rates from launches at Spaceport Camden exceed FAA limitations has been legally obtained from Camden County under the Georgia Open Records Act (GORA). The document, by Spaceport Camden consultant Andrew Nelson, contains a graphic which clearly indicates that Spaceport Camden was never realistically going to be permitted to launch a medium-large rocket over the Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Prepared for the law firm engaged to address the deficiencies in the Spaceport Camden draft Environmental Impact Statement, the document confirms that Nelson established the controversial designation "authorized persons" as a "term of convenience to describe Cumberland Island campers, National Park Service employees, and residents of Little Cumberland and Cumberland Islands to sidestep an obvious conflict between launching rockets and private property rights and the safety of those downrange. Neither the FAA or Camden County have control over the downrange population as they cannot evacuate or limit the number of owners or their visitors present on their private property.
In accordance with 14 CFR 417.107, a launch operator may initiate flight only if the risk to any individual member of the public does not exceed a casualty expectation of one in one million per launch for each hazard, including for those who remain on the islands. A launch operator who intends to conduct launches from Camden may need to identify closure areas to meet this requirement. Despite this FAA requirement, Mr. Nelson continues to tell county officials that campers, NPS staff, and private property owners and their visitors are not “members of the public,” but are instead “authorized persons.” Given the situation, it seems possible that the spaceport may be approved only for a notional smaller rocket on a single keyhole trajectory that might not be economically viable. (2/14)
Michigan Governor Kills State Spaceport Project (Source: Bridge)
Michigan's new governor has canceled plans to fund a commercial launch site in the state. A bill passed last December by the state legislature included a $2.5 million grant to fund work on a proposed launch site in northern Michigan, a project included at the request of the state's outgoing governor, Rick Snyder. New Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decided to kill the project this week because of a lack of details about what was known as the Michigan Launch Initiative. (2/13)
Virginia Nears $11 Million Appropriation for Spaceport Improvements (Source: SPACErePORT)
A report to the Virginia Subcommittee on Transportation, dated February 3, includes recommendations for funding two projects at Wallops Island for the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority. The first is an $8.5 million transfer from the state's Transportation Trust Fund to the Commonwealth Space Flight Fund for improving "waterfront facilities for multimodal unmanned vehicle test operations." An additional $2.5 million is recommended "for the completion of Launch Pad LC-2" at the spaceport for small rockets.
The $2.5 million is in addition to a $5 million state grant previously approved as an incentive for Rocket Lab. The $11 million has been approved by the Virginia Senate and awaits approval by the House of Delegates (2/17)
Wrobel Removed From Wallops Spaceport Director Job, Transferred to NASA HQ (Source: Eastern Shore Post)
William “Bill” Wrobel, director of NASA Wallops Flight Facility, is leaving the Eastern Shore for a new job in Washington, D.C., a spokesperson for NASA confirmed this week. A source close to the move told the Eastern Shore Post that the new job is a demotion and was based on Wrobel’s opposition to budget cuts several months ago. Wrobel was not available for comment.
“Wrobel is serving on a detail with the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.,” Jeremy Eggers, head of the NASA Wallops Office Communications, said Monday. “Dave Pierce has been named acting director of (the) Wallops Flight Facility,” Eggers said. “Dave has previously served as the Wallops deputy director and in management and engineering positions in our Balloon and Aircraft offices.” (2/8)
Shutdown Deal Includes Language to Protect SpaceX Texas Launch Site from Border Barrier (Source: Texas Tribune)
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said Thursday that he's added language to a compromise bill aimed at avoiding another government shutdown that would prohibit border fencing at five major landmarks in the Rio Grande Valley. Among them is a tract of land that will soon be home to the commercial spaceport for SpaceX. Cuellar is the only border-area member of the congressional committee that has been working for weeks to draft a proposed border security compromise. (2/15)
Back Pay for Contractors Left Out of Shutdown Deal, Affecting Hundreds of KSC Workers (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A provision that would have restored back pay following the government shutdown for federal contractors, including hundreds who work for NASA on the Space Coast, was left out of a funding deal that Congress reached this week. The 35-day government shutdown, from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25, left an estimated 1,400 workers at Kennedy Space Center without work.
Most of those employees were federal contractors, who work in tandem with civil servants as electricians, engineers, safety specialists and in other positions that involve spacecraft and rockets at the Cape. After the end of the shutdown, President Donald Trump passed an agreement ensuring civil servants — whether they worked during the shutdown or not — would get back pay for the five weeks of lost paychecks. Government contractors, whose back pay is dependent on their individual contracts with government agencies, were not included in that agreement.
Across the nation, it’s estimated that about 800,000 civil servants and 1.2 million government contractors were impacted by the shutdown. During the government closure, many were forced to cut expenses, dip into their savings, use vacation time and visit food pantries to scrape by. Edward Grabowski, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 2061, which represents about 600 NASA contractors on the Space Coast, said the funding deal at least diminishes the worry of a second potential shutdown this year — but without the back pay, his members are suffering. (2/15)
Back Pay for Contractors at NASA Not Included in Budget Deal (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Contract workers at NASA's Johnson Space Center were denied back pay for the 35-day federal government shutdown in a budget deal signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. “The rejection of federal contract worker back pay by the GOP leadership in this funding deal is outrageous and unfair,” Robert Martinez Jr., president of the Machinists Union International, said in a statement. “It was a 35-day disaster that created extreme stress for federal contract workers and continues to put their financial well-being at risk. We need Congress to act now.” (2/15)
| Newly Signed Funding Bill Gives NASA’s Budget a Significant Boost (Source: The Verge)
After enduring the longest government shutdown in history, NASA stands to receive a big boost in funding for fiscal year 2019, thanks to a new budget bill signed by President Trump today. The legislation, which funds the federal government through September 30th, 2019, would give NASA $21.5 billion — an increase over last year’s budget of $20.7 billion and much more than the $19.9 billion the agency asked for.
Practically every major program within NASA will receive a boost. The agency’s science programs, which cover planetary missions and Earth science, will receive a total $6.9 billion, up from $6.2 billion from last year. The human exploration program will get $5 billion, while it got $4.79 billion in 2018. And many of the NASA missions that the president tried to get rid of still live on. The most notable of these is the agency’s WFIRST mission, a new space-based telescope that NASA has been developing to look for planets outside our Solar System and search for dark energy in the Universe. (2/15)
National Debt Soars to $22 Trillion (Source: Yahoo Finance)
Despite President Trump's early promise to eliminate the national debt, according to the Treasury department, the total public debt crossed the $22 trillion mark on Monday, with some $30 billion in debt added this month alone. When President Trump took office, debt stood just over $19.9 trillion. In 2019 the U.S. will need $338 billion for paying interest on the debt, which reduces the levels of funding available for infrastructure and other national priorities.
There are a few reasons. The most recent can be attributed to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). According to estimates by the CBO, TCJA will add $1.9 trillion to the national debt. Congress also increased spending on the military and domestic programs in a spending bill that topped $1.3 trillion dollars. But that isn’t all. An aging population has increased spending on healthcare, while retiring Baby Boomers put a strain on Social Security. (2/13)
Trump's OSTP Chief Defends Reduced US Government Investment in Research (Source: Science)
The new head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy says a declining federal share of research funding is not necessarily a bad thing. In his first interview since becoming the president's science adviser, Kelvin Droegemeier said that the rise of investment from companies and foundations, as well as the massive federal debt, meant it was not "terrible at all" that the federal government now supports less than half of all basic science research in the country. Six years ago, though, Droegemeier said in congressional testimony that the government had an "essential" role in support of such research. (2/15)
Monteith at FAA: Shutdown Recovery Continues, Transparency for New Regulations (Source: Space News)
The new head of the FAA's commercial space office vowed to be open and transparent with industry. In a speech at the Commercial Space Transportation Conference Tuesday, Wayne Monteith said he understood some frustrations expressed by industry about the lack of insight into an ongoing rulemaking process to reform launch regulations. A draft version of those rules, whose release was delayed by the shutdown, is now expected out in late March. Monteith also explained that the FAA dropped out of co-sponsoring the conference, which it had been running annually for more than two decades, this year so that the office could devote its resources to recovering from the shutdown. (2/13)
JWST Lost Four Days of Processing During Shutdown (Source: Space News)
NASA is downplaying any additional delay for the James Webb Space Telescope that might have been caused by the recent government shutdown. The mission's spacecraft element, which includes the bus and sunshield, recently completed acoustic and vibration tests at Northrop Grumman, but neither NASA nor the company provided an update on the mission's schedule.
During a town hall meeting last week, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science, said that work on JWST continued for all but four days during the shutdown, and that it and other "excepted" missions will not see any significant changes to their launch readiness dates. There will be delays, though, for the release of grant solicitations and announcements of opportunity for future missions, like the next Discovery-class planetary science mission. (2/12)
A Space-Focused Alternative to a Green New Deal (Source: Space Review)
Proposals by those seeking to address climate change and other environmental problems, such as the Green New Deal, make little use of space-based resources or other capabilities. Taylor Dinerman argues that space can benefit the environment without jeopardizing growth. Click here. (2/11)
Retired Astronaut Mark Kelly Running for U.S. Senate as Democrat in Arizona (Source: Arizona Republic)
Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, launched his campaign to run for the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by the late John McCain. Kelly is the first Democrat to enter the field ahead of 2020 and is widely seen as a formidable candidate given his biography and likely ability to raise the millions of dollars needed to take on the GOP's incumbent candidate, Sen. Martha McSally.
McSally was appointed to the seat by Gov. Doug Ducey late last year and it is unclear if she will face a competitive primary challenger as she did in 2018. McSally lost her run for the Senate last year to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and, although she is seen as vulnerable by more liberal groups, this time she will be running as a sitting senator. During a phone interview from his home in Tucson, Kelly offered a glimpse of the type of campaign he hopes to run. Like Sinema did in 2018, Kelly is casting himself as an almost apolitical figure who can work in a cooperative spirit, even in today's hyper-partisan environment. (2/12)
New NRO Chief to Face Space Force Challenge (Source: Space News)
One of the big challenges facing the new director of the NRO is figuring out relationships with any future Space Force. Chris Scolese, director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, was nominated for the position last week. He has strong support from the Pentagon's top leadership, notably Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, a former NASA administrator. Scolese's position as an outsider could make him ideal to determining how the NRO should work with the Space Force, since he's not perceived as being from either the defense side or the intelligence side, said one former Pentagon official. Scolese would also be the first political appointee to run the NRO after a change enacted in 2014 legislation. (2/11)
DOD Space Restructuring Could Cause Confusion of Roles (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon's restructuring of military space could blur, rather than clarify, lines of authority. Currently, Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command, is the nation's top space commander, who also oversees the equipping, training and organizing of space forces under the Air Force. But creation of both a U.S. Space Command and a Space Force, though, will shift those responsibilities around, making some concerned it will be difficult to determine who is responsible for what. (2/15)
Space Force Budgeting Starts Small (Source: Space News)
The Pentagon is expected to request only a modest amount of money for the Space Force and related agencies in its fiscal year 2020 budget request. Draft documents call for $270 million for a Space Force headquarters and standing up the Space Development Agency and U.S. Space Command. Should Congress authorize the formation of a Space Force, the Defense Department will transfer additional resources from the Air Force to the Space Force in 2021, and from the Army and Navy in later years. (2/12)
Defense Intelligence Agency Report Aims to Educate Public on Space Security (Source: Space News)
The Defense Intelligence Agency released a new report on Monday on the national security challenges the United States faces in outer space. Titled, “Challenges to Security in Space,” the report is written for a layman audience and aims to educate the broader public. “It is intended to support a deeper public understanding of key space and counterspace issues and inform open dialogue and partner engagement on these challenges,” a DIA spokesman told SpaceNews.
“Challenges to Security in Space” explains why space is a “contested” domain and why other countries might attempt to disrupt U.S. satellites, for instance. The two major challengers discussed in the report are China and Russia. It also mentions Iran and North Korea as countries with emerging space capabilities. The report also includes a section on orbital debris as a significant concern and potential disruptor to future space operations.
“The advantage that the United States holds in space — and our perceived dependence on it — will continue to drive actors to improve their abilities to operate in and through space,” the report says. “Space-based capabilities provide integral support to military, commercial and civilian applications …. Longstanding technological and cost barriers to space are falling, enabling more countries and commercial firms to participate in satellite construction, space launch, space exploration and human spaceflight.” (2/11)
U.S. Program Aimed at Curbing Iran's Rocket Program (Source: New York Times)
The Trump White House has accelerated a secret American program to sabotage Iran’s missiles and rockets, according to current and former administration officials, who described it as part of an expanding campaign by the U.S. to undercut Tehran’s military and isolate its economy. Officials said it was impossible to measure precisely the success of the classified program, which has never been publicly acknowledged. But in the past month alone, two Iranian attempts to launch satellites have failed within minutes.
Those two rocket failures — one that Iran announced on Jan. 15 and the other, an unacknowledged attempt, on Feb. 5 — were part of a pattern over the past 11 years. In that time, 67 percent of Iranian orbital launches have failed, an astonishingly high number compared to a 5 percent failure rate worldwide for similar space launches. The setbacks have not deterred Iran. This week, President Hassan Rouhani singled out Tehran’s missile fleets as he vowed to “continue our path and our military power.”
The Trump administration maintains that Iran’s space program is merely a cover for its attempts to develop a ballistic missile powerful enough to send nuclear warheads flying between continents. Hours after the Jan. 15 attempt, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that Iran’s satellite launchers have technologies “virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles.” (2/13)
Russia Challenges US Defense in Space, Developing Capabilities (Source: Sputnik)
According to the new US intelligence assessment, Iran and North Korea are also developing threatening space-based technologies evidenced by jamming capabilities. Both countries, the report said, maintain independent space launch capabilities that can be used for testing ballistic missile technologies.
Russia is likely pursuing directed energy weapons including lasers that could take out enemy satellites, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said in a new assessment entitled "Challenges to Securities in Space".
"Russia likely is pursuing laser weapons to disrupt, degrade, or damage satellites and their sensors", the report said Monday. Prior to July 2018, the report added, Russia began delivering a laser weapon system to the Aerospace Forces that is likely intended for an antisatellite (ASAT) mission. Moreover, the document also claims Russia is developing enhanced on-orbit dual-use technology that can be used to attack and permanently disable satellites. (2/13)
Angry Norway Says Russia Jamming GPS Signals Again (Source: AFP)
Norway's foreign intelligence unit on Monday expressed renewed concerns that its GPS signals in the country's Far North were being jammed, as Oslo again blamed Russia for the "unacceptable" acts. In its annual national risk assessment report, the intelligence service said that in repeated incidents since 2017, GPS signals have been blocked from Russian territory in Norwegian regions near the border with Russia. The jamming events have often coincided with military exercises on Norwegian soil, such as the NATO Trident Juncture manoeuvres last autumn and the mid-January deployment of British attack helicopters in Norway for training in Arctic conditions. (2/11)
GPS Has Been in Action for 30 Years and it’s Just Getting Started (Source: Quartz)
The first satellite of the modern US global-positioning system was launched on Feb. 14, 1989. The decision changed the world economy, making space a part of nearly everyone’s daily life. Just as the invention of the marine chronometer helped set the stage for the British Empire’s naval dominance in the 19th century, the space power of GPS underlies America’s post-Cold War hegemony.
The US military began experimenting with the technology in 1978, and approved its use by airlines after the Soviet Union accidentally shot down a straying Korean Air flight in 1983. By 1993, anyone on Earth could use GPS to find out where they are and what time it is. By 2000, the US government decided to stop intentionally degrading the signal out of security fears.
Now, global navigation satellite systems are a requirement for world powers: The US has begun upgrading its GPS system, with the first new third-generation satellite flying late in 2018. Also in December, BeiDou, the Chinese global-positioning system, became fully active. Russia’s own system, GLONASS, came fully online in 2011. And the European Union operates Galileo, which will be completed next year. These systems aren’t necessarily “rivals” to GPS—like the original system, their signals will be freely available to civilians, and many private manufacturers are designing devices to use several of the different systems. (2/14)
GPS Timestamp 'Rollover' Coming in April (Source: The Register)
Older satnavs and such devices won't be able to use America's Global Positioning System properly after April 6 unless they've been suitably updated or designed to handle a looming epoch rollover. GPS signals from satellites include a timestamp, needed in part to calculate one's location, that stores the week number using ten binary bits. That means the week number can have 210 or 1,024 integer values, counting from zero to 1,023 in this case. Every 1,024 weeks, or roughly every 20 years, the counter rolls over from 1,023 to zero.
The first Saturday in April will mark the end of the 1,024th week, after which the counter will spill over from 1,023 to zero. The last time the week number overflowed like this was in 1999, nearly two decades on from the first epoch in January 1980. You can see where this is going. If devices in use today are not designed or patched to handle this latest rollover, they will revert to an earlier year after that 1,024th week in April, causing attempts to calculate position to potentially fail. System and navigation data could even be corrupted, we're warned. (2/12)
Air Force Launch Procurement Under Scrutiny (Source: Space News)
The GAO review comes amid other investigations and calls for reviews of Air Force launch procurement. California lawmakers asked for a independent review last week of the Air Force's Launch Service Agreements, which went to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and ULA but not SpaceX. The Pentagon's inspector general is also carrying out an audit of the Air Force's process in certifying SpaceX rockets. Developers of small launch vehicles, meanwhile, are calling on the Air Force to develop a plan to efficiently procure such vehicles. (2/13)
SpaceX Launch Certification to Face Review by Pentagon Watchdog (Source: Bloomberg)
The Pentagon’s inspector general said it will begin an evaluation of the Air Force’s certification of SpaceX’s primary launch vehicles, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, years after a legal fight led to a victory for the company founded by Elon Musk. “Our objective is to determine whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide when certifying the launch system design for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” the inspector general said in a memo to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson sent on Monday.
The Air Force’s certification of SpaceX in 2015 allowed the company take on military payloads, bringing competition to the field of space launches that was dominated by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between top defense contractors Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. At the time, Musk said he was getting into the launch business in part to end a monopoly on military space launches.
The review will begin this month, the memo said, and will be undertaken at the Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, California. The memo didn’t give a reason for what prompted the evaluation. SpaceX officials declined to comment. The Air Force certified SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to carry military satellites after a bitter feud between Musk and the service. As a result, SpaceX agreed to drop a lawsuit challenging U.S. contracts for military satellite launches awarded to the ULA joint venture. Since the certification, SpaceX has won two competitions against ULA, including the job to launch the nation’s first GPS III satellite, which occurred in December. (2/11)
SpaceX Protests NASA Launch Contract Award (Source: Space News)
SpaceX has filed a protest over the award of a launch contract to United Launch Alliance for a NASA planetary science mission, claiming it could carry out the mission for significantly less money. The protest, filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Feb. 11, is regarding a NASA procurement formally known as RLSP-35. That contract is for the launch of the Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter, awarded by NASA to ULA Jan. 31 at a total cost to the agency of $148.3 million.
The GAO documents did not disclose additional information about the protest, other than the office has until May 22 to render a decision. NASA did not immediately respond for a request for comment on the protest. SpaceX confirmed that the company was protesting the contract. “Since SpaceX has started launching missions for NASA, this is the first time the company has challenged one of the agency’s award decisions,” a company spokesperson said.
“SpaceX offered a solution with extraordinarily high confidence of mission success at a price dramatically lower than the award amount, so we believe the decision to pay vastly more to Boeing and Lockheed for the same mission was therefore not in the best interest of the agency or the American taxpayers,” the spokesperson added. (2/13)
New SpaceX Raptor Engine Beats the Chamber Pressure of Russia’s RD-180 Engine, According to Musk (Source: Universe Today)
2019 has been shaping up to be an interesting year for SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk. After completing work on the miniaturized version of the Starship (Starship Alpha or “Starship hopper”) over the holidays, SpaceX moved ahead with the test-firing of its new Raptor engine in late January/early February. In accordance with Musk’s vision, these engines will give the Starship the necessary thrust to reach the Moon and Mars.
The test-firing took place at SpaceX’s Rocket Development and Test Facility, located just outside of McGregor, Texas. As Musk recently tweeted, the tests went very well, achieving the thrust necessary for both the Starship and its first-stage booster, the Super-Heavy. Musk also claimed that the engine broke the previous record for combustion chamber pressure, which was established by the Russian RD-180.
The RD-180 was the product of the Soviet-era Energia rocket program, which sought to create a super-heavy launch vehicle that would take the reusable Buran spacecraft (Russia’s version of the Space Shuttle) into orbit. While the program was discontinued, the engine survived and was even imported to the US, where it became part of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas III rocket and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V. (2/11)
The “Impossible” Tech Behind SpaceX’s New Engine (Source: Hackaday)
Many of the best known rockets to have ever flown have used engines based on what is known as the gas-generator cycle, including the Saturn V, the Soyuz, the Delta IV, and even the Falcon 9. In fact, outside of the Space Shuttle, you could probably argue that nearly every milestone in the history of spaceflight was made with a gas-generator cycle engine. It’s a technology that dates back to the V-2 rocket, and is one of the key breakthroughs that made liquid-fueled rockets possible. But despite its incredible success, the technology is not without its faults.
The defining characteristic of what’s known as an open cycle engine is that the exhaust from the preburner gets dumped overboard as a waste product. In some rockets this unburned fuel can be seen as a black streak alongside of the otherwise bright exhaust plume. It’s never been a secret that there were performance gains to be had by closing the cycle, that is, capturing the preburner exhaust and feeding it into the engine’s combustion chamber. But the sooty exhaust produced from the unburned kerosene is unsuitable for recirculating through the engine. It ended up being easier to simply build larger rockets than try to capture this lost fuel.
In the 1950’s, Soviet scientists came up with something of a compromise. Instead of using a fuel-rich mixture in the preburner which produced an exhaust that couldn’t be safely recirculated into the engine, they experimented with running the preburner oxygen-rich. Unfortunately this idea solved one problem while creating another, as there was no metal that could survive the incredibly hot oxygen-rich gas produced by the preburner. In fact, American scientists had deemed it impossible, and believed claims that their Soviet counterparts were working on the concept to be Cold War propaganda. Click here. (2/13)
NASA Tests Another RS-25 Engine (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
One of the leftover rocket engines used during the 30-year Space Shuttle program was tested again today, Feb. 13, 2019, at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Known as RS-25 engines, it was formerly called the Space Shuttle Main Engine. Its development began back in the 1960s to be a reusable engine. However, for its use on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) they will not be reused and will end up at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
During their tenure with the Shuttle Program, the engines acquired a 99.95 percent success rate. NASA had planned to use the engines as part of the now-cancelled Constellation Program. When the Ares V rocket was selected to continue as the re-dubbed SLS, the RS-25 was also spared (the announcement of such was made on Sept. 14, 2011) and continues to be tested. (2/13)
Building a Better Booster (Source: Space Review)
Northrop Grumman recently tested a new solid rocket booster that will be used on ULA’s Atlas and Vulcan rockets. Jeffrey L. Smith, in the first of a two-part article, describes the development of that booster and the technical challenges involved. Click here. (2/11)
FAA Certificate Offers New Details on Stratolaunch’s Plans for Test Flights of World’s Largest Aircraft (Source: GeekWire)
The FAA has cleared the world’s largest airplane for takeoff — but it’s not yet clear exactly when Stratolaunch, the aerospace venture founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, will put the plane in the air. Stratolaunch’s unique aircraft, code-named Roc, measures 385 feet from wingtip to wingtip, longer than three Boeing 737s lined up end to end. The company hopes to win full FAA certification for the Roc and use it for airborne rocket launches as soon as next year.
Scaled Composites, the California-based company that built the Roc for Stratolaunch, told the FAA last August that the aircraft was ready for inspection. Ten days after that inspection, the FAA issued an experimental airworthiness certificate clearing the way for flight tests at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Scaled told the FAA that this “envelope expansion flight testing” would involve approximately 15 flights over 40 hours. The certificate does not allow commercial operation. (2/11)
Branson Hunts Galactic Cash After Grounding $1 Billion Saudi Deal (Source: Sky News)
Sir Richard Branson is hunting new funds for his commercial space ventures, months after halting a $1bn (£775m) Saudi-funded deal amid an international furore over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Sky News has learnt that the Virgin Group founder has hired LionTree Advisors, a corporate finance firm, to help raise hundreds of millions of pounds to inject into Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit.
Discussions with prospective investors, including sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, high net worth individuals and strategic partners, are already under way, according to people close to the process. LionTree's appointment is understood to have been made on the back of expressions of investor interest that followed Galactic's test flight in December to the edge of space. Sources said this weekend that Sir Richard was seeking funding that would value Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, which launches satellites for commercial customers, at a combined sum of well over $2bn. (2/16)
Exolaunch Plans Ambitious Launch Campaign (Source: Space News)
Exolaunch, the German launch services provider formerly called ECM-Space, is preparing its most complex small satellite cluster to date. This spring or summer, Exolaunch plans to send 40 small satellites, including a 16-unit cubesat for in-space transportation startup Momentus, into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket. The cluster includes satellites from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, Finland, France, Spain, Sweden, Israel, Australia, Russia, Ecuador, Thailand, Estonia and the Czech Republic.
Since its first launch in 2013, Exolaunch, a spinoff of the Technical University of Berlin, has helped send 54 satellites into orbit, ranging in size from one-quarter of a single cubesat to a 110-kilogram small satellite. In 2019, Exolaunch plans to send more than 60 cubesats and microsatellites into space on multiple launch vehicles. To date, Exolaunch has sent cubesats and microsatellites to orbit on Soyuz rockets. (2/11)
Orbex’s Prime Launcher Combines Innovations (Source: Aviation Week)
Executives from Orbex, an Anglo-Danish startup opening its UK headquarters and rocket integration facility in Forres, Scotland, say astronautical and commercial imperatives have aligned to drive novel design elements for its Prime small satellite launch vehicle. “Essentially, we sat down and tried to rethink the look for a modern-day rocket with a modern-day fuel, if you are not bound by anything,” Jonas Bjarnoe, Orbex’s chief technical officer, said. Click here. (2/13)
Launch of Rocket From High-Altitude Balloon Makes Space More Accessible to Microsats (Source: Space Daily)
Team members of Leo Aerospace LLC, who created the startup while they were students at Purdue University, prepare to launch a rocket from a high-altitude balloon in the Mojave Desert in southern California. The test launch of the "rockoon" in December was a success. Leo Aerospace is seeking to make space more accessible for those wanting to deploy small satellites.
A startup that plans to use high-altitude balloons to deploy rockets has successfully fired a test launch, moving closer to its goal of helping end the backlog of microsatellites that wait months or longer to "hitch" a ride on larger rockets. Leo Aerospace LLC, a Purdue University-affiliated startup based in Los Angeles, launched its first "rockoon," a high-power rocket from a reusable balloon platform, from the Mojave Desert in southern California in December. (2/13)
Relativity Hires Former SpaceX Execs (Source: Space News)
Launch vehicle developer Relativity has hired three former SpaceX executives for its leadership team. The company said Thursday it hired Josh Brost as its vice president of government business development and David Giger as its vice president of launch vehicle development, while Tim Buzza, who has been serving as a part-time adviser to Relativity since last summer, will come on full time as a distinguished engineer. The three, who all held senior positions at SpaceX, said they were attracted to Relativity because of the market niche it was targeting — the high end of the small launch vehicle sector — as well as its use of advanced technology, notably additive manufacturing, to produce its rockets. (2/15)
The New Space Race Gets a Reality Check (Source: Inverse)
Humanity could be on the verge of a breakthrough in space exploration, but one of its architects is a virtual unknown. Rick Tumlinson, 63, has spent the past three decades pushing for a new space race, testifying before Congress to “peel the fingers of the aerospace industrial complex” off of transportation and pave the way for the likes of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Last year, he founded the SpaceFund, a venture capital firm aimed at bringing money into this new era.
Last month, Tumlinson’s team released “Reality Rating,” a database that ranks companies based on how well the hype lives up to their true potential. It’s the sort of information that could prove useful for investors, just as humanity gains the ability to send people and items into space cheaper than ever. "here are a lot of young male engineers who like rockets, who are playing into the excitement of what is about to happen. They see these announcements of these multi-thousand satellite constellations and think, my system will work better. There’s nothing negative at all about what’s happening; it’s exciting. But they are all going to run into what I call Darwin’s Spreadsheet, the harsh realities of business." (2/15)
SpaceX Could Disrupt NASA Plan to Return Humans to the Moon (Source: The Hill)
NASA has issued to private industry what it calls a “Phase A Offering” for ideas for a lunar landing system that will return humans to the moon’s surface in or about 2028. NASA’s lunar lander concept is a three-stage vehicle that would depart from and return to the Lunar Gateway. The stages would include a transfer vehicle to take astronauts to low lunar orbit, a descent stage that would take them to the lunar surface, and an ascent stage that would return the astronauts to lunar orbit. The ascent stage would dock with the transfer vehicle that would then return to the Gateway.
SpaceX is building a prototype of a rocket ship designed to fly humans and cargo to deep space, called “Starhopper.” Starhopper will fly to increasingly higher altitudes and then land in order to test both launch and landing systems. The gleaming, stainless steel rocket is supposed to lead to a two-stage spaceship, formally known as the Big Falcon Rocket, which will consist of a first stage called “Super Heavy” and a second stage called “Starship.” Starship, after topping off fuel in low Earth orbit, will fly to the moon and Mars.
Surprisingly, Starship is not a three-stage vehicle, but a single-stage one. Moreover, it doesn’t need the Lunar Gateway to reach the moon, though the cis-lunar facility might prove useful to operate as a staging area for a reusable lunar lander. (2/14)
NASA Has Taken a Significant Step Toward Human Landings on the Moon (Source: Ars Technica)
For two years, the Trump administration has made various noises about returning humans to the Moon. There have been bill signings with Apollo astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt. Vice President Mike Pence has traveled to NASA facilities around the country to make speeches. And the president himself has mused about the Moon and Mars.
However, beyond talk of returning humans to the Moon, much of the country's civil space policy and budgeting priorities really hadn't changed much until late last week. On Thursday, NASA released a broad agency announcement asking the US aerospace industry for its help to develop large landers that, as early as 2028, would carry astronauts to the surface of the Moon.
The new documents contain a trove of details about how the agency expects to send people back to the Moon with what it calls a "Human Landing System." This activity, the documents state, "will once again establish US preeminence around and on the Moon. NASA is planning to develop a series of progressively more complex missions to the lunar surface, utilizing commercial participation to enhance US leadership." Click here. (2/11)
NASA Ready to Risk Failed Launches and Landings to Return to Moon (Source: Fortune)
NASA is aiming for a speedy — and lengthy — return to the Moon using commercial operators and is willing to accept higher risks to achieve it. “We care about speed. We do not expect that every one of those launches or every one of those landings will be successful,” associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said Thursday. “We are taking risks.”
Zurbuchen and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced a bevy of lunar projects during the briefing, including fleshed-out details of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts, which invite commercial firms to bid for the rights to develop vehicles to carry science and technology payloads that will ultimately operate on the surface of the Moon. (2/15)
Moon Rush: NASA Wants Commercial Lunar Delivery Services to Start This Year (Source: Space.com)
NASA is eager to get back to the surface of the moon. In November, the agency tagged nine American companies as eligible to bid on delivering robotic NASA payloads to the moon, via Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts. Thursday (Feb. 14), NASA officials announced that the first "task order" for such a delivery will likely come out in a month or so — and that flight is expected to follow in relatively short order.
"For us, if we had any wish, I would like to fly this calendar year," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said during a webcast "media roundtable" at agency headquarters in Washington. "We care about speed. We want to start taking shots on goal," Zurbuchen said, noting that NASA will provide the eligible companies with financial incentives to get off the ground faster.
NASA is willing to take some risks in these early days to help spur the development of the CLPS program and the commercial lunar-delivery business as a whole, he said, adding: "We do not expect that every one of those launches, or every one of those landings, will be successful." The nine companies NASA selected in November are Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and Orbit Beyond. (2/14)
Spaceflight to Launch First Privately Funded Lunar Lander (Source: Space Daily)
Spaceflight Inc has announced it will launch two payloads on its first rideshare mission to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). The mission is scheduled for no earlier than mid-February 2019 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launching from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The primary payload on the mission is a telecommunications satellite for the South East Asia region. It was built by SSL, a Maxar Technologies company, which also procured the launch vehicle.
Spaceflight will manage the launch of the two secondary payloads, Israeli non-profit SpaceIL's lunar lander, and the U.S. Air Force Research Lab's (AFRL) experimental small satellite, S5. This will be Spaceflight's first mission beyond Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) and its first combined launch with SSL. In addition to securing capacity aboard the launch vehicle, Spaceflight is handling all the mission management and integration services for the lunar lander. (2/12)
Russia Mulls Delivering Takeoff-Landing System to Moon in 2029 (Source: Sputnik)
Russia is planning to launch the Don super-heavy carrier rocket in 2029 to deliver a takeoff/landing complex to the Moon, a space industry source told Sputnik. "The goal of the mission will be to deliver a takeoff/landing complex to the Moon to test the landing on its surface in order to ensure the future landing of Russian cosmonauts on the Earth's natural satellite", the source said.
According to the source, the prospective Don super-heavy class carrier rocket will be capable of delivering a payload of up to 130 metric tons to a low-Earth orbit, and a payload of up to 32 metric tons to the lunar orbit. Dmitry Rogozin, the Roscosmos chief said last week that the Moon exploration is a highly important task for Russian space corporation, which was set by Russian President Vladimir Putin, stressing that the task will be implemented. (2/15)
Putin Talks Super-Heavy Launcher (Source: Space News)
The head of Roscosmos discussed a proposed super-heavy launch vehicle last week with Vladimir Putin. In a Feb. 4 meeting at the Kremlin, Dmitry Rogozin discussed planning for Yenisei, a vehicle that will combine elements of two other vehicles in development, the Angara and Soyuz-5. The vehicle will be able to place 70 tons into low Earth orbit with a first launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in 2028, a date that is likely to be overly optimistic given delays suffered by other vehicle development programs. The discussion of Yenisei was likely a high point of Rogozin's meeting with Putin, which focused primarily on financial problems at Roscosmos. (2/11)
China's Pouring Serious Money Into Potential Rivals of SpaceX and Blue Origin (Source: CNBC)
Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin have long dominated the news with their respective advances in private space travel industry. But two private Chinese companies are also making big moves and gaining billions in investments as China's state space agency announces its own ambitious goals. Here's what's going on in the global space race. Click here. (2/15)
NASA Safety Panel Urges Caution As Commercial Crew Flights Near (Source: Aviation Week)
NASA’s independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) is sounding an urgent note as the agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) prepares for test flights of SpaceX and Boeing vehicles intended to restore the U.S. human launch capability lost when the space shuttle was retired in 2011. The nine-member ASAP, which includes some former astronauts, addressed 11 areas of concern in its latest annual report, released publicly late last week.
The panel stressed that NASA must not lose its edge when it comes to rigorous hard and software testing as it moves from the development to the flight phases of new initiatives intended to transition human low Earth orbit operations to the private sector. This will free the agency to lead commercial and international partners toward a sustained human return to the Moon and future exploration of Mars and other deep-space destinations.
Given the upcoming missions involving the CCP’s SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner as well as NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion, the ASAP calls on policymakers to review and revise as necessary provisions of the agency’s 2005 Authorization act that call on the White House to rapidly establish a nonpartisan panel of experts to investigate any U.S. spaceflight tragedy involving loss of life. (2/11)
Starliner Structural Testing Complete (Source: Boeing)
At Boeing’s test facility in Huntington Beach, Calif., a team of engineering and lab test technicians completed structures testing on Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. The two-year test series was designed to prove the Starliner spacecraft will keep crews safe during repeated missions to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
Teams conducted testing on a Structural Test Article (STA) while the flight worthy spacecraft was built in parallel at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test series was a complex and challenging endeavor for the vehicle itself and the team that had to reconfigure it over and over again for pressure testing, modal testing, loads testing, shock testing, separation performance testing and model validation.
Each test was demanding in terms of planning, setup and execution. For example, vibrational testing on the STA required specific frequencies, which meant setting up about 750 accelerometers at various points on the vehicle to measure its reaction. “Knowing how the STA reacts to those vibrations is critical, as it tells us whether it will maintain control during travel to and from space, and during docking with the ISS,” said Boeing Test & Evaluation Test Leader Robert Bauer. (2/12)
Revised Soyuz Schedule Could Accommodate NASA Commercial Crew Certification (Source: Sputnik)
A revised schedule of Soyuz missions could give NASA more time to certify commercial crew vehicles. A Russian industry source claimed that NASA and Roscosmos are planning to stretch out two upcoming missions to the ISS so that astronauts Nick Hague and Drew Morgan would spend nine months each, instead of the usual six, on the ISS. That would ensure that there was at least one NASA astronaut on the ISS through April 2020, about three to four months longer than prior plans. That revised schedule would provide breathing room for commercial crew test flights currently scheduled for this summer but widely expected to slip to later this year. (2/12)
NASA Moves to Buy More Soyuz Seats for Late 2019, Early 2020 (Source: Ars Technica)
While NASA's commercial crew program continues to demonstrate progress—the first test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon may occur as soon as March 2—there are no guarantees the vehicles will be ready for operational flights to the International Space Station by early 2020. NASA's last contracted flight with Russia is for a mission set to launch in July. The Soyuz MS-13 vehicle will carry cosmonaut Aleksandr Skvortsov, NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano for a six- or seven-month stay on the International Space Station.
After this, NASA would be at risk of having no more of its people on the orbiting laboratory. The agency's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel warned the agency last year that due to potential delays in the commercial crew program, NASA should look into buying more Soyuz seats from Russia. "Senior NASA leadership should work with the Administration and the Congress to guarantee continuing access to ISS for US crew members until such time that US capability to deliver crew to ISS is established," the safety panel recommended. (2/15)
A Very Relatable Moment on the International Space Station (Source: The Atlantic)
Accidents happen during home-improvement projects, even in space. The mishap unfolded on the International Space Station, which orbits about 250 miles above Earth, circling the planet every hour and a half. Earlier this month, NASA astronauts had gathered in the bathroom to install a pair of stalls for an extra enclosure that would provide some more privacy. As they worked, they twisted off a metal bit that connects a water unit to a hose that astronauts use for toothbrushing, bathing, and other hygiene routines. And that’s when two and a half gallons of water came bursting out.
The crew responded as they would on Earth: They grabbed a bunch of towels and scrambled to mop up the water. They attached a new bit to the unit and completed their work. The incident was detailed in one of NASA’s daily dispatches that describe events on the ISS. History has treated astronauts as nearly mythical figures, but their day-to-day activities are usually quite tedious. The thought of them frantically trying to stop a leak in the bathroom makes them wonderfully relatable. (2/12)
Cygnus Departs ISS for Release Cubesats Before Reentry (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A Cygnus cargo spacecraft left the ISS Friday. The station's robotic arm unberthed the Cygnus and released it at 11:16 a.m. Eastern Friday. The Cygnus maneuvered away from the station, going into a higher orbit to deploy several cubesats, and will later lower its orbit to release another cubesat prior to reentering Feb. 25. The spacecraft, named "S.S. John Young" by Northrop Grumman, launched in November on the NG-10 cargo mission to the ISS. (2/11)
NanoRacks Completes Sixth Cubesat Deployment from Cygnus Spacecraft (Source: Space Daily)
NanoRacks has completed the Company's sixth CubeSat deployment mission from Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft. Cygnus (S.S. John Young) departed the International Space Station on February 8th, 2019 and performed a number of on-orbit activities, including yet another historic NanoRacks deployment.
Cygnus maneuvered to a higher-than-Space Station altitude (445 kilometers) where the NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployment mission released two of the three CubeSats on board into orbit, MySat-1 and the second CHEFSat satellite. The spacecraft then lowered to an altitude of 300 kilometers to deploy KickSat-2.
The deployment of MySat-1 marks an additional historic moment for NanoRacks, being the first payload that NanoRacks has launched and deployed from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). MySat-1 is a joint program from Yahsat, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, and Northrop Grumman, and is the first satellite built at the Yahsat Space Lab in Masdar City, and among the first to be developed by local students. (2/15)
CASIS Seeks Rebranding for ISS (Source: Space News)
The organization that runs the portion of the International Space Station designated a national laboratory hopes a change in branding will encourage more use of the facility. The Center for the Advancement of Science In Space (CASIS), the nonprofit with a NASA agreement to use the resources of the ISS designated a national lab by Congress, has in recent months branded itself as simply the ISS National Lab. That change, the head of CASIS said at its annual public board meeting Friday, is intended to increase awareness about the organization and the national lab in a bid to also increase utilization of the station. The organization will retain CASIS as its formal legal name. (2/11)
New Research Opportunities on International Space Station (Source: Space Daily)
European research has been a part of the International Space Station since the very first expeditions to our orbiting science facility in 2001. "ESA regularly announces new research opportunities to conduct experiments that are out-of-this world. We are very pleased to be able to offer these new opportunities from the Life as well as Physical Sciences area that will hopefully unveil exciting discoveries," says Jennifer Ngo-Anh, ESA's head of human spaceflight research.
Astronauts have generally spent six months on the Space Station in the last few years but the international partners that run the research platform are looking to do more one-year missions as well as short-duration missions. With new flight opportunities on the horizon for astronauts on both longer and shorter flights ESA is looking for experiments that can be conducted in two months or less.
Investigating how the human body adapts to life in space is crucial to better understanding the complexities of exploring our Solar System. European research discovered that at a cellular level it only takes 42 seconds for organisms to return to normal after being exposed to weightlessness. Why this amount of time and what processes are involved remain open questions - especially when it comes to the entire human body. ESA has an electromagnetic levitator in Europe's Columbus space laboratory that can heat and solidify metals as they float in weightlessness. Removing gravity and the metal's container from the equation allows researchers to investigate the processes of how metals form in greater detail. (2/11)
Refabricator to Recycle, Reuse Plastic Installed on Space Station (Source: Space Daily)
The first integrated recycler and 3D printer was successfully installed onboard the International Space Station into the station's experiment racks. This technology demonstration, called a Refabricator, will turn plastic materials of various sizes and shapes into feedstock used to 3D print items. The entire process happens in a single automated machine about the size of a mini refrigerator.
"The Refabricator is key in demonstrating a sustainable model to fabricate, recycle and reuse parts and waste materials on extended space exploration missions," said Niki Werkheiser, manager of in-space manufacturing at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Refabricator was developed and built by Tethers Unlimited, Inc. for NASA's in-space manufacturing project at Marshall with funding from NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. (2/11)
Developing a Flight Strategy to Land Heavier Vehicles on Mars (Source: Space Daily)
The heaviest vehicle to successfully land on Mars is the Curiosity Rover at 1 metric ton, about 2,200 pounds. Sending more ambitious robotic missions to the surface of Mars, and eventually humans, will require landed payload masses in the 5- to 20-ton range. To do that, we need to figure out how to land more mass. That was the goal of a recent study.
Normally, when a vehicle enters the Mars atmosphere at hypersonic speeds of about Mach 30, it slows down quickly, deploys a parachute to slow down more then uses rocket engines or air bags to finish the landing. "Unfortunately, parachute systems do not scale well with increasing vehicle mass. The new idea is to eliminate the parachute and use larger rocket engines for descent," said Zach Putnam at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2/12)
Musk Expects SpaceX Ticket to Mars Will Cost $500,000 (Source: C/Net)
It's time to start chucking some cash into your Mars vacation fund. SpaceX's interplanetary Starship hasn't even left Earth yet, but Elon Musk is already speculating about the price of a ticket to Mars. In a tweet on Sunday, Musk said he's confident that moving to Mars will one day cost less than $500,000 (£390,000, AU$710,00), though that price tag is "very dependent on volume."
Musk thinks the ticket price could eventually dip below $100,000, cheap enough that "most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth and move to Mars if they want." A half-million bucks sounds like a lot of money, but compare that to the over $200,000 price to experience weightlessness on a Virgin Galactic flight or $9.5 million for a vacation on a proposed luxury space station. One of the most important tidbits in Musk's tweet is that the return ticket will be free. If you move to Mars and decide you don't like the potatoes, you can head on back to Earth. (2/11)
Mars One Goes Bankrupt (Source: Space News)
The company that was to finance Mars One has been liquidated, dealing a severe setback to the venture’s quixotic goals of one-way human missions to Mars. Mars One Ventures AG, the commercial arm of the overall Mars One effort, was liquidated in a Jan. 15 case in a civil court in the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt, according to a Jan. 16 filing by the canton’s commercial register. The filing offered little information about the bankruptcy case or how the company was liquidated. Bas Lansdorp, founder of Mars One, confirmed that the company was bankrupt, but provided few additional details.
Mars One has an unusual structure involving two organizations. One is the Mars One Foundation, a non-profit organization responsible for implementing its goal of establishing a permanent human settlement on Mars. The other was Mars One Ventures AG, which held the exclusive rights to monetize the project through such things as the sales of sponsorships and broadcasting rights, providing a share of those revenues to the Mars One Foundation.
Lansdorp emphasized that the bankruptcy filing affected only the for-profit company, Mars One Ventures. However, with the collapse of that company, financing of the non-profit foundation is uncertain. Mars One has provided few financial updates since it announced in December 2016 that Mars One Ventures had gone public after an acquisition by InFin Innovative Finance AG, a Swiss firm previously working on mobile payment technologies that was already traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. (2/11)
NASA Puts a Key Satellite in Place for its Mars 2020 Mission (Source: Engadget)
NASA is preparing for the Mars 2020 mission by bringing the MAVEN probe, which will act as its antenna and connection to Earth, closer to the red planet. Over the next few months, the spacecraft will fly closer and closer to Mars until it's only 2,800 miles above the surface, down 1,050 miles from its current orbit. That will boost the probe's communications capabilities: As MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky explained, "It's like using your cell phone. The closer you are to a cell tower, the stronger your signal."
To tighten MAVEN's orbit, NASA will fire its thrusters in the next few days to lower its altitude a bit. It will then rely on the drag provided by the red planet's upper atmosphere to slow it down every time it circles and planet and to change its trajectory in a technique known as "aerobraking." NASA says aerobraking, which can be described as something like putting your hand outside a moving car, will allow the agency to achieve its goal while using very little fuel.
In addition to providing a stronger signal for the rover, the move will also allow the spacecraft to communicate with Mars 2020 more frequently. By orbiting at a lower altitude, the probe can circle Mars 6.8 times per (Earth) day instead of just 5.3 times, giving it a way to receive more data. MAVEN, which stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, was deployed to take a closer look at the Martian atmosphere and water. Since it entered the Martian orbit in 2014, it was able to help scientists determine that solar wind and radiation were responsible for stripping Mars of most of its atmosphere and that the planet has two types of auroras, among other discoveries. (2/12)
InSight Prepares to Take Mars's Temperature (Source: Space Daily)
NASA's InSight lander has placed its second instrument on the Martian surface. New images confirm that the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, was successfully deployed on Feb. 12 about 3 feet (1 meter) from InSight's seismometer, which the lander recently covered with a protective shield. HP3 measures heat moving through Mars's subsurface and can help scientists figure out how much energy it takes to build a rocky world.
Equipped with a self-hammering spike, mole, the instrument will burrow up to 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface, deeper than any previous mission to the Red Planet. For comparison, NASA's Viking 1 lander scooped 8.6 inches (22 centimeters) down. The agency's Phoenix lander, a cousin of InSight, scooped 7 inches (18 centimeters) down. (2/14)
Mars Polar Water Could be Sign of Volcanic Activity (Source: Space.com)
If there's liquid water under the south polar cap of Mars, there also has to be volcanic activity, according to a new study. ESA's Mars Express mission spotted evidence last summer of a lake of liquid water, or perhaps a water ice slurry, under the polar ice. A new study says that if that lake does indeed exist, there must also have been volcanic activity, in the form of a magma chamber under the surface, some time in the last few hundred thousand years. Earlier studies suggested that the water could remain liquid if it was salty enough, but the new research says that salt alone can't keep it from freezing. The existence of the lake itself is speculative, though, since other spacecraft orbiting the planet haven't detected evidence for it. (2/15)
NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Concludes a 15-Year Mission (Source: New York Times)
Opportunity, the longest-lived roving robot ever sent to another planet, explored the red plains of Mars for more than 14 years, snapping photos and revealing astonishing glimpses into its distant past. But on Wednesday, NASA announced that the rover is dead. “It is therefore that I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I declare the Opportunity mission as complete,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said at a news conference.
The golf cart-size rover was designed to last only three months, but proved itself to be an unexpected endurance athlete. It traveled more than the distance of a marathon when less than half a mile would have counted as success. The steady stream of photographs and data from Opportunity — and from its twin, Spirit, which persisted until 2010 — brought Mars closer to people on Earth. Because the rovers operated for so much longer than expected, NASA has now had a continuous robotic presence on Mars for most of the century. (2/13)
|Cubesat to Test Sample Recovery Approach (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A cubesat recently deployed from the International Space Station will test technology needed for future sample recovery spacecraft. The TechEdSat 8 satellite deployed an "Exo-Brake" shortly after being released from the station last month. That mechanism is intended to increase atmospheric drag and lower the satellite's orbit. The satellite is the latest in a NASA program to develop technologies needed to control the re-entry of small satellites and, with the use of ablative materials, allow the recovery of small capsules. That could enable on-demand return of samples from the ISS rather than waiting for the return of larger cargo or crew spacecraft. (2/14)
SpaceX Seeks FCC OK for 1 Million Satellite Broadband Earth Stations (Source: Ars Technica)
SpaceX is seeking US approval to deploy up to 1 million Earth stations to receive transmissions from its planned satellite broadband constellation. The Federal Communications Commission last year gave SpaceX permission to deploy 11,943 low-Earth orbit satellites for the planned Starlink system. A new application from SpaceX Services, a sister company, asks the FCC for "a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 Earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX's NGSO [non-geostationary orbit] constellation."
The application was published by FCC.report, a third-party site that tracks FCC filings. GeekWire reported the news on Friday. An FCC spokesperson confirmed to Ars today that SpaceX filed the application on February 1, 2019. If each end-user Earth station provides Internet service to one building, SpaceX could eventually need authorization for more than 1 million stations in the US. SpaceX job listings describe the user terminal as "a high-volume manufactured product customers will have in their homes." (2/11)
Australia's Fleet Raises Seeks More Investment for IoT Constellation (Source: Space News)
Australian satellite operator Fleet is seeking to raise a Series A round for its next satellites. That round would cover 10 smallsats that the company wants to launch as soon as possible, and hopefully by 2020, to provide Internet of Things services. Fleet has raised $3.8 million in seed money since forming in 2015 and launched its first four satellites late last year. Fleet didn't disclose how much money it wants to raise in its Series A round other than being "way more" than its seed round. (2/15)
Arianespace Plans Cubesat Deployment Aboard Soyuz Launch (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace will include a cubesat deployer from British startup Open Cosmos on a Soyuz mission scheduled near the end of the year. The Open Cosmos platform will have a total capacity of 12 “one-unit” cubesats, split among multiple satellites. Arianespace will release the cubesats into a sun-synchronous orbit above 500 kilometers. The main payloads for the Soyuz mission are the Italian Space Agency’s Cosmo-SkyMed second-generation radar satellite and the European Space Agency’s exoplanet telescope CHEOPS. The launch will also carry two cubesats for the French space agency CNES. (2/13)
OneWeb Launch Pushed to Feb. 26 (Source: TASS)
The launch of the first set of OneWeb satellites will slip several days. Greg Wyler tweeted Tuesday that the Soyuz launch from French Guiana has been pushed back to Feb. 26, saying the company was moving "very carefully" with this first set of six satellites. The launch was delayed last week from Feb. 19 to 22 because of work to repair the rocket's Fregat upper stage. (2/13)
Six Protons and One Angara 5 Launch Planned by Russia This Year (Source: TASS)
Russia plans to conduct six Proton launches this year, as well as a second flight of the Angara 5A, according to Khrunichev, the manufacturer for both rockets. The Angara 5A mission is scheduled for December 2019. The rocket launched for the first and only time so far in 2014 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos, had previously tweeted that the Angara 5A launch would be this summer. Russia plans to start tests of the Angara A5V, a variant with more lift capacity, in 2026 at the Vostochny Cosmodrome. (2/13)
Two Satellites Almost Crashed. Here’s How They Dodged It. (Source: WIRED)
The first alert came on January 27. Two small satellites, whirling through Earth's low orbits, had “the potential for a conjunction.” Those are the words Major Cody Chiles, spokesperson for the Joint Force Space Component Command, uses to mean "the chance of a collision." The satellites, one from a company called Capella Space and the other from Spire Global, could smack into each other.
It falls to the Air Force's 18th Space Control Squadron to issue alerts on potential collisions, when it deems those events to be likely enough. In this case the chance of a direct hit was, depending on whom you ask, either really small or kind of scary. The squadron, based on its data and a somewhat generic model, estimated the likelihood at between 0.2 and 10 percent over a 72-hour period. But it's a guessing game. If the satellites were to collide, shards of satellite (years of work, some dollar signs) would shoot out, lost, into space. They would turn into yet more bits feeding the already significant swirl of space debris imperiling other orbiters. Click here. (2/14)
Harpoon Successfully Captures Space Debris (Source: University of Surrey)
The Airbus Stevenage designed harpoon featured a 1.5 meter boom deployed from the main RemoveDEBRIS spacecraft with a piece of satellite panel on the end. The harpoon was fired at 20 meters/sec to penetrate the target and demonstrate the ability of a harpoon to capture debris. This marks the third successful experiment for the RemoveDEBRIS project. It previously used its on-board net to capture a simulated piece of debris, and then trialed its state-of-the-art LiDAR and camera based vision navigation system to identify space junk.
The team is now preparing for the final experiment, which is set to take place in March and will see RemoveDEBRIS inflate a sail that will drag the satellite into Earth’s atmosphere where it will be destroyed. “This mission is a powerful example of the UK's expertise in space technology and that by working together our world-class universities and innovative companies can hugely contribute to the government’s aims for a highly skilled economy through our modern Industrial Strategy." (2/15)
Techstars and Starburst Unveil Space Startup Accelerator (Source: Space News)
Starburst Aerospace and Techstars announced plans Feb. 12 to begin accepting applications for a new space-focused accelerator based in Los Angeles and backed by the U.S. Air Force, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, Maxar Technologies, SAIC and Israel Aerospace Industries.
The Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator is scheduled to review applications and announce the selection in May of ten companies to participate in the three-month program. Each participant will receive a $120,000 investment and the opportunity to work with mentors who have space technology experience as well as executive mentors to help them prepare business plans and strategies, said Matt Kozlov, managing director of the Techstars Starburst Space Accelerator. (2/12)
Chile Considers Commercial Satellite Reconnaissance (Source: Space News)
Chile is considering a more commercial approach to replacing its existing reconnaissance satellite. The Chilean Air Force's Logistic Command released a request for information (RFI) to selected companies last week, saying it is willing to spend up to $200 million for what would amount to part-time ownership of a commercial Earth observation satellite capable of collecting images with a ground resolution of 0.5 meters or better. The system would replace FASat-Charlie, its existing reconnaissance satellite that was the best in the region until the launch of PeruSat-1 in 2016. Airbus and Lockheed Martin confirmed that they received the RFI, while Ball Aerospace and Maxar Technologies are also thought to be considered by Chile. (2/12)
UAE to Host Conference for Heads of Arab States' Space Agencies in March (Source: Space Daily)
A separate conference for heads of Arab states' space agencies will be held within the Global Space Congress, slated for March, to discuss space industry development in the Arab world, the press service of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency said. The UAE Space Agency will host the Global Space Congress in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi on 19-21 March. "A special conference uniting heads of Arab space agencies and organizations will be held in order to discuss the situation in the Arab states' space industry and the mechanisms for joining efforts toward development of this sphere." (2/13)
Egypt to Host African Space Agency's Headquarters (Source: Space Daily)
Egypt has won the bid to host the headquarters of the African Space Agency, with the decision due to be endorsed at the next week's African Union (AU) summit in the Ethiopian capital, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced on 8 February. The decision was made by the Executive Council of the African Union, and will be endorsed by the African leaders at a February 11 summit. The statement added that Nigeria and Ethiopia were among the main competitors for the bid to host the agency's headquarters. (2/11)
Airbus Invests to Improve European Space Facilities (Source: Airbus)
Airbus plans to spend 25 million euros ($28.2 million) revamping facilities in Germany for solar array production and optical satellite instruments. The upgrades include expanding a solar array production facility from 800 square meters to 5,500 square meters, and introducing a robotic assembly line. Airbus said the improvements should halve time and costs, safeguard 170 jobs, and position the company for work on constellations of satellites. (2/13)
NASA is Everywhere: Farming Tech with Roots in Space (Source: Space Daily)
Growing plants can be tough, whether you're on a spaceship or Earth. A special fertilizer made it easier for astronauts on the International Space Station and farmers down below, resulting in just one of the space program's many contributions to agriculture. Numerous farming tools have roots at NASA. Over the years, companies large and small have partnered with the agency, honed technologies and delivered innovations to benefit the industry. Click here. (2/13)
NASA Spots a Second Massive Possible Impact Crater Buried Under Greenland Ice (Source: Space.com)
Hard on the heels of discovering what could be a massive impact crater deep under the Greenland ice sheet, scientists think they may have discovered a second, unrelated such structure nearby. The new suspected impact crater is about 22 miles (36 kilometers) wide and, like the first structure, has not yet been definitively identified as an impact crater. There are many more crater-shaped features on Earth than there are actual craters formed by meteorites slamming into the planet.
"I began asking myself, 'Is this another impact crater? Do the underlying data support that idea?'" lead author Joe MacGregor, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement. "Helping identify one large impact crater beneath the ice was already very exciting, but now it looked like there could be two of them."
MacGregor was also involved in identifying a slightly smaller possible impact crater, dubbed Hiawatha, which was announced in November. In addition to its strikingly circular shape and the elevation features of a rim and central mound that scientists expect in an impact crater, the Hiawatha discovery also sports minerals that appear to have been abruptly shocked by a dramatic event like a meteorite impact. (2/12)
How Climate Will Change in Cities across the U.S. (Source: Scientific American)
If global greenhouse gas emissions don’t decline soon, the climate in Washington, D.C., could more closely resemble that of today’s Greenwood, Miss. Summers may be slightly drier and more than 6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they are today. That’s according to a new climate mapping project by researchers at multiple universities. The project is designed to illustrate how U.S. cities will change over the next 60 years and determine which present-day climates serve as the best representations, or “analogs,” for what they will become.
They created a mapping tool that shows the closest climate analogs for cities across the United States, looking anywhere in the Western Hemisphere north of the equator. The comparisons are based on minimum and maximum temperatures and seasonal precipitation in each city. Click here. (2/14)
How Fast-Shifting North Magnetic Pole Will Affect Humanity (Source: Sputnik)
Knowing the location of the magnetic north pole is crucial to navigation systems containing magnetic compasses. For this reason, scientists have developed the World Magnetic Model, a representation of the earth's magnetic field, which allows magnetic north to be precisely fixed. An updated version of the model is released every five years. The next release was scheduled for late 2019, but recent shifts have prompted scientists to roll out the update earlier this month.
According to Dr. Byrne, "these maps are used for all kinds of things including navigation of aircraft, of military vehicles, for understanding where people are on Earth. Honestly, this doesn't make a huge difference to people who are not living very close to the pole. It really only effects folks who are really close to the magnetic north pole." He adds that navigation apps "are going to take on more of this updated magnetic field map and as a result of that, users won't see any difference themselves using their phones, they're good." (2/12)
A Helping Hand for Giant Telescopes (Source: Space Review)
Besides planning for future space telescopes, the 2020 astrophysics decadal survey will also examine proposals for future ground-based telescopes. Jeff Foust reports on one effort to win federal funding to ensure open access to two large observatories planned for completion in the 2020s. Click here. (2/11)
Science on a Plane - ESA's Next Parabolic Flight Campaign (Source: Space Daily)
In May engineers, pilots, researchers and scientists will convene in Bordeaux, France, for ESA's 71st parabolic flight campaign. Over the course of three days they will fly on a specially-fitted commercial aircraft, testing equipment and running research as the pilots put the plane through repeated parabolas, giving the passengers and their experiments brief bouts of microgravity.
Classified as a test flight for safety reasons the parabolic flight campaigns mostly fly over the Atlantic Ocean and have been running for decades to offer researchers hands-on access to their equipment and test subjects in weightlessness. Parabolic flights are one of many platforms ESA offers for European researchers to run experiments for spaceflight. These flights are one of the few that allow the researchers to interact with their own experiments "hands-on" in a weightless environment. Send a proposal through our continuously open research announcements and you could be flying on the next campaign. (2/8)
NASA Selects New Mission to Explore Origins of Universe (Source: Space Daily)
NASA has selected a new space mission that will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy's planetary systems. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is a planned two-year mission funded at $242 million (not including launch costs) and targeted to launch in 2023.
SPHEREx will survey the sky in optical as well as near-infrared light which, though not visible to the human eye, serves as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions. Astronomers will use the mission to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way. (2/14)
New Map of Dark Matter Spanning 10 Million Galaxies Hints at a Flaw in Our Physics (Source: Science Alert)
An invisible force is having an effect on our Universe. We can't see it, and we can't detect it - but we can observe how it interacts gravitationally with the things we can see and detect, such as light. Now an international team of astronomers has used one of the world's most powerful telescopes to analyse that effect across 10 million galaxies in the context of Einstein's general relativity. The result? The most comprehensive map of dark matter across the history of the Universe to date.
It has yet to complete peer-review, but the map has suggested something unexpected - that dark matter structures might be evolving more slowly than previously predicted. "If further data shows we're definitely right, then it suggests something is missing from our current understanding of the Standard Model and the general theory of relativity," said physicist Chiaki Hikage. (2/14)
NASA's Faraway Space Snowman Has Flat, Not Round, Behind (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The faraway space snowman visited by NASA last month has a surprisingly flat — not round — behind. New photos from the New Horizons spacecraft offer a new perspective on the small cosmic body 4 billion miles away. The two-lobed object, nicknamed Ultima Thule, is actually flatter on the backside than originally thought, according to scientists. When viewed from the front, Ultima Thule still resembles a two-ball snowman. But from the side, the snowman looks squashed, sort of like a lemon and pie stuck together, end to end. (2/11)
I Fell Under the Spell of NASA’s Most Notorious Thief (Source: The Atlantic)
I first heard of Thad Roberts during a lecture on black holes. November 18, 2000, was the University of Utah’s Science Day, a grand affair for visiting high-school students like me; the lecture hall was packed. The professor boasted that the university’s own rising star, Thad Roberts, had just been accepted to NASA’s internship program. At 23, Roberts was a triple major in physics, geology, and geophysics, as well as the founder of the Utah Astronomical Society. He was determined to be the first person on Mars. He was also about to change the trajectory of my life.
After the lecture, I asked my undergraduate guide, who was friends with Roberts, to pass him my email address. I wanted to be an astrophysicist, but my ambitions conflicted with my upbringing; as a 16-year-old Mormon girl, I felt pressure to focus almost exclusively on home, family, and church. I didn’t feel confident that I belonged in science. Maybe this rising star could light the way. He became my unofficial career counselor. But then the Mars-bound intern captured headlines for a different reason: In the summer of 2002, he stole more than $20 million worth of moon rock and Martian meteorite samples from under NASA’s nose. He was caught in an FBI sting in Florida and spent six years in prison.
The heist sabotaged not only Roberts’s own goals of space travel but also those of his accomplices: fellow NASA interns Tiffany Fowler, then 22, and Shae Saur, then 19. “Being an astronaut is something I had planned to do and aspired to do my entire life,” Saur told the Houston Chronicle before she was sentenced. “My own actions have shattered that dream.” The two Texan women were given three years’ probation and required to repay NASA $9,000 in damages. Click here. (2/15)
Efforts to Preserve Historic Sites at Cape Canaveral Underway (Source: WESH)
The site of historic rocket launches is also the home of ancient artifacts. Archaeologists digging at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are finding evidence that people lived there as far back as 500 B.C. Thousand-year-old pottery shards and ancient shell tools tell the story. The Air Force wants to preserve the history at the 1,300-acre base. Students and scientists from UCF and USF are digging and laser-mapping both the ancient past and recent past. Even the 60-year-old launch pads are a part of history now, and part of the preservation work. The work has a sense of urgency. The scientists say higher sea levels caused by climate change could start washing away this history within 25 years. (2/11)
Baby Names Inspired by Outer Space (Source: Parents)
Check out this fantastic list of baby boy and baby girl names inspired by astronauts, planets, spacecraft and more. Nearly a billion stars have names, and what beautiful names they are! Would you give your baby a name like Andromeda, Gemini or Orion? Click here. (2/13)
Expect a Boom in the Business of Supersonic Flight (Source: Marketplace)
The thing about high-speed flights is that there has been talk of hypersonics and developments which are beyond Mach 5. But Boom Supersonic, a startup company in Colorado, is saying that rather than any dramatic step into sort of "Star Trek" territory, it's looking at supersonic flight that is actually doable today. After all, it's been 50 years since Concorde technology really was brought to bear on the problem. So in all that time there have been so many new developments and structures and systems.
Companies like Japan Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have both provisionally signed up and said, "Yes, we'll take it if you can build it." The initial market will almost certainly be led by the business aircraft users, the high-net-worth individuals or corporations. But the overall target is the people who would normally fly in the front end of your average trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific airliner. (2/12)
Telesat Bidders Consider Canadian Manufacture (Source: Space News)
The companies bidding on Telesat's broadband constellation are considering setting up manufacturing operations in Canada. Airbus and a Maxar-Thales Alenia team are the finalists for the contract to build the Telesat LEO system that would ultimately feature nearly 300 satellites. The two teams said they're exploring options to produce the satellites in Canada as an incentive to Ottawa-based Telesat. A final decision is expected from Telesat later this year. (2/12)
Boeing Wins Viasat Order for New Satellite (Source: Space News)
Viasat has ordered a third satellite for its next-generation broadband communications network. The company announced last week that it executed an agreement with Boeing for a third ViaSat-3 that will serve the Asia Pacific region. Boeing is building the first two ViaSat-3 spacecraft, expected to launch in 2021. The third satellite will likely launch in the second half of 2022. Viasat reported record revenue of $555 million for the three months ended Dec. 31, up 45 percent year over year. (2/11)
Hispasat Sold for $1.1 Billion (Source: Space News)
Spanish satellite operator Hispasat has been sold for $1.1 billion. Spanish power company Red Eléctrica Corporación announced an agreement Tuesday to buy the 89.7 stake in Hispasat owned by Abertis. Red Eléctrica says the acquisition will transform the power company into a leading telecommunication company in Spain, while Abertis said the sale of Hispasat was part of a divestiture strategy to allow it to focus on its primary business of operating toll roads. The sale will require approval from regulatory bodies and Spain's Council of Ministers, which the companies expect to obtain by the second quarter. (2/13)
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