Latest Space News
Mon, 16 Jan 2017 14:24:00 +0100
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet completed his first spacewalk last Friday together with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough. The duo spent five hours and 58 minutes outside the International Space Station to complete a battery upgrade to the outpost's power system. The main task was to replace nickel-hydrogen batteries that store electricity from the Station's solar panels with newer lithium-ion batteries that arrived recently aboard Japan's cargo vessel. Thomas and Shane's speed allowed them to p...
Mon, 16 Jan 2017 09:07:00 +0100
MCLEAN, Va. -  Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) announced today the successful launch of its first ten Iridium NEXT satellites. The satellites were delivered into low-Earth orbit approximately one hour after the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:54:39 a.m. PST. Iridium NEXT is the company’s next-generation satellite constellation, replacing and enhancing its existing network of low-Earth orbit satellites spanning the entire globe – the l...
Mon, 16 Jan 2017 08:37:00 +0100
Searching for planets around other stars is a tricky business. They’re so small and faint that it’s hard to spot them. But a possible planet in a nearby stellar system may be betraying its presence in a unique way: by a shadow that is sweeping across the face of a vast pancake-shaped gas-and-dust disk surrounding a young star. The planet itself is not casting the shadow. But it is doing some heavy lifting by gravitationally pulling on material near the star and warping the inner...
Sat, 14 Jan 2017 21:30:00 +0100
Aireon announced today the successful launch and deployment of the first ten satellites hosting its space-based automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) system. Part of the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation, Aireon's space-based ADS-B network will transform air traffic management capabilities, providing real-time air traffic surveillance and flight tracking across 100 percent of the planet. Currently, more than 70 percent of the earth, including oceanic and remote airspace, has no...
Fri, 13 Jan 2017 22:35:00 +0100
NASA has awarded a contract to KBRwyle Technology Solutions, LLC of Columbia, Maryland, for engineering services to support more than 20 NASA exploration missions. The Ground Systems and Missions Operations-2 contract is cost-plus-award fee, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity, with a total maximum ordering value of $442 million. The effective ordering period begins March 1 and runs through Feb. 28, 2022. KBRwyle will support a wide range of mission operations, including concept studie...
Fri, 13 Jan 2017 16:52:00 +0100
This week, ESA deep-space radio dishes on two continents are listening for signals from the international Cassini spacecraft, now on its final tour of Saturn. ESA's sensitive tracking antennas at New Norcia, Western Australia, and Malargue, Argentina, are being called in to help with crucial observations during Cassini's last months in orbit, dubbed the 'Grand Finale'. The Cassini-Huygens mission is one of the most successful exploration endeavours ever. Launched in October 1997, the Ca...
Fri, 13 Jan 2017 08:36:00 +0100
Monster black holes sometimes lurk behind gas and dust, hiding from the gaze of most telescopes. But they give themselves away when material they feed on emits high-energy X-rays that NASA's NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission can detect. That's how NuSTAR recently identified two gas-enshrouded supermassive black holes, located at the centers of nearby galaxies. "These black holes are relatively close to the Milky Way, but they have remained hidden from us un...
Thu, 12 Jan 2017 14:15:00 +0100
Some of us may be easing ourselves gently into the New Year, but for the team readying Sentinel-2B for liftoff on 7 March it's full steam ahead. On 5 January, the satellite was shipped from ESA's site in the Netherlands - where it had been undergoing testing since June - and arrived safe and sound in French Guiana the following day. The Sentinel-2 mission is designed as two satellites working in tandem - Sentinel-2A has been in orbit since June 2015. Offering 'colour vision' for Europe'...
Wed, 11 Jan 2017 08:39:00 +0100
Sentinel-2B has touched down in French Guiana, bringing the second satellite for Europe’s Copernicus program closer to its early March orbiting by Arianespace on a Vega lightweight launch vehicle. Arriving at Félix Eboué Airport near Cayenne last week, Sentinel-2B was delivered by a chartered Antonov An-124 cargo jetliner. Following its unloading process, the satellite was readied for transfer by road to the Spaceport. As a follow-on to Sentinel-2A – lofted by a...
Tue, 10 Jan 2017 19:30:00 +0100
The U.S. Air Force's next Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellite, built by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), was encapsulated on Jan. 7 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it will launch on Jan. 19 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Encapsulation refers to the sealing of the satellite in a protective launch vehicle fairing-one of the last steps a satellite must undergo before launch. The SBIRS GEO Flight 3 satellite is the latest to join an orbiti...
Tue, 10 Jan 2017 14:45:00 +0100
Rocket Crafters, Inc. (RCI) announced today a U.S. patent was granted to co-founder, President & CTO Ronald Jones for a method for designing and fabricating flawless, high-performance, safer handling fuel grains for hybrid rocket engines using additive manufacturing technology (also known as 3D printing) which will allow the fabrication of an inherently safe and less expensive launch vehicle with only two moving parts. Jones stated that 3D printing of the rocket combustion chamber allows RCI's e...
Tue, 10 Jan 2017 12:05:00 +0100
Careful sleuthing through decade-old images has enabled ESA's asteroid team to decide that a newly discovered space rock poses little threat of hitting Earth any time soon. Spotting a previously unknown asteroid for the first time always raises the big question: is there a risk it will impact Earth? Yet, upon discovery, analysts often have very little to go on. The initial image from the observatory, survey team or individual backyard astronomer who spotted the rock typically gives only ba...
Mon, 9 Jan 2017 17:00:00 +0100
ESO has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives to adapt the Very Large Telescope instrumentation in Chile to conduct a search for planets in the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. Such planets could be the targets for an eventual launch of miniature space probes by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative. ESO, represented by the Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, has signed an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives, represented by Pete Worden, Chairman of the Breakthrough Prize ...
Mon, 9 Jan 2017 10:18:00 +0100
Interstellar forecast for a nearby star: Raining comets! NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered comets plunging onto the star HD 172555, which is a youthful 23 million years old and resides 95 light-years from Earth. The exocomets — comets outside our solar system — were not directly seen around the star, but their presence was inferred by detecting gas that is likely the vaporized remnants of their icy nuclei. HD 172555 represents the third extrasolar system wher...
Fri, 6 Jan 2017 03:26:00 +0100
Space Systems Loral (SSL), a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, today announced that it will provide a spacecraft platform for a NASA Discovery Mission to explore the metallic asteroid 16 Psyche. SSL will work for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to support Principal Investigator Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of Arizona State University's (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration, in a mission to research the 210 km diameter asteroid, which is believed ...
Thu, 5 Jan 2017 18:16:00 +0100
Lockheed Martin has been selected to design, build and operate the spacecraft for NASA's Lucy mission. One of NASA's two new Discovery Program missions, Lucy will perform the first reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids orbiting the sun in tandem with the gas giant. The Lucy spacecraft will launch in 2021 to study six of these exciting worlds. The mission is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Goddard Space ...
Thu, 5 Jan 2017 11:30:00 +0100
Cobham's products and services contributed to the recent successful deployment of NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS). CYGNSS is comprised of eight Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) micro-satellites and seeks to improve weather prediction by studying the interaction between ocean surface properties, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, radiation, and convective dynamics as it relates to Tropical Cyclones. The NASA team consists of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), University of...
Wed, 4 Jan 2017 19:38:00 +0100
NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system - a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively. "Lucy will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter's mysterious Trojan asteroids, while Psyche will study a unique metal...
Wed, 4 Jan 2017 12:00:00 +0100
This spectacular new image is one of the largest near-infrared high-resolution mosaics of the Orion A molecular cloud, the nearest known massive star factory, lying about 1350 light-years from Earth. It was taken using the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory in northern Chile and reveals many young stars and other objects normally buried deep inside the dusty clouds. The new image from the VISION survey (VIenna Survey In Orion) is a montage of images taken in the near...
Tue, 3 Jan 2017 22:48:00 +0100
NASA has selected a science mission that will allow astronomers to explore, for the first time, the hidden details of some of the most extreme and exotic astronomical objects, such as stellar and supermassive black holes, neutron stars and pulsars. Objects such as black holes can heat surrounding gases to more than a million degrees. The high-energy X-ray radiation from this gas can be polarized - vibrating in a particular direction. The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission will ...
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January 16, 2017

NASA Faces the Unknown In Preparing For Trump Administration (Source: NPR)
President-elect Donald Trump has not provided many specifics about what he plans to do with NASA. But private companies are expected to take a bigger role in space travel in the coming years. Click here. (1/7)

Lightfoot To Lead NASA Until New Administrator Named (Source: Space Policy Online)
NASA's top civil servant will, as expected, lead the agency on a temporary basis starting next Friday. The agency confirmed Thursday that Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot will serve as acting administrator starting Jan. 20, when the current administrator and deputy administrator, Charles Bolden and Dava Newman, depart. The transition team for the incoming Trump administration has also asked David Radzanowski, the agency's current chief financial officer, to stay on in that role for at least the near term to provide continuity for NASA until new leadership is in place. (1/12)

New DOT Chief Asked About Space Transportation During Confirmation Hearing (Source: Space Policy Online)
The person nominated to be the next Secretary of Transportation has not thought much about commercial space. At a confirmation hearing this week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked Elaine Chao if she believed the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, currently within the FAA, should become a separate office under the secretary, as it was when it was first established in the mid-1980s. Chao didn't offer an opinion on the topic, but said she looked forward to getting briefed about it. (1/12)
 
Culberson, Cruz Retain Key Space Posts (Source: Space Policy Online)
Two Republican members of Congress from Texas are retaining key committee chairmanships, as expected. The House Appropriations Committee announced Tuesday that Rep. John Culberson will return as chairman of the commerce, justice and science (CJS) subcommittee, which funds NASA and NOAA. The Senate Commerce Committee also announced Tuesday that Sen. Ted Cruz will be back as chairman of its space subcommittee. Democratic leadership has not yet announced who will be the ranking members of those subcommittees; the previous ranking member of the CJS appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), lost reelection in November. (1/11)

US Presidential Transition and Space: Experts Forecast Changes to Come (Source: Space.com)
A new presidential administration always brings changes for the U.S. space science and spaceflight communities. So what does the current transition period reveal about how the new administration will handle science and space? A panel of space policy experts gathered to discuss the possibilities. Click here. (1/9)

Fixing the US Space Exploration Program (Source: Space Review)
The future of NASA’s human spaceflight program is one of the key concerns of the space community as Donald Trump prepares to take office. Roger Handberg describes why that future will likely require greater cooperation with other nations. Click here. (1/9)

Climate Scientists Anxious Over NASA Cuts During Trump Presidency (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Local climate scientists are accustomed to opposition. But if President-elect Donald Trump defunds NASA's climate research as he's suggested, they say, Utah and science generally could face long-term consequences. "I think it's safe to say that it's a period of uncertainty and anxiety for those of us in the climate community," said Jim Steenburgh, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Utah.

Bob Walker, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, told The Guardian newspaper in November that he did not believe it was necessary for NASA to engage in "politically correct environmental monitoring." He suggested that under Trump, NASA would be charged exclusively with deep-space research, leaving Earth science to other organizations. (1/9)

Do They Need a ‘Damn Satellite’? Why Trump Worries California Scientists (Source: Sacramento Bee)
At the conference last month where Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state would “launch its own damn satellite” if the Trump administration restricts access to climate data, a group of scientists from the University of California gathered in a side room to figure out how to do just that.

Alarmed by statements they’d read from members of Trump’s transition team, the scientists brainstormed whether they could find new data sources or if they could somehow partner with a private company to pay for a satellite program. The group did not settle on a plan, and it may not need to find one. It’s unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump’s administration actually would make it more difficult for researchers to access information from NASA satellites they’ve been using for years.

But the gathering was another sign that California scientists don’t know what to expect from an incoming Trump team. They’re preparing for everything from a cut in funding for scientific research to a public relations campaign deriding their work. “We’re being pre-emptive. It would be a mistake not to think preemptively,” said Ben Houlton. (1/13)

Obama's Space Policy Was One of His Administration's Bright Spots (Source: Reason)
That's not how historians will likely describe him. But when Obama killed George W. Bush's Constellation program—a roadmap for getting humans back to the moon and eventually on to Mars—he declared it "over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation." In other words: a government program.

Conceived in a state of panic triggered by the impending death of the space shuttle program, Constellation was larded up with space pork. By the time Obama got around to scrapping it in 2010, the effort had already burned through $9 billion with little to show for it. Anything that Washington touches pretty much immediately turns treyf; a certain amount of bacon buildup around any appropriations bill is inevitable.

After Obama nixed Bush's pie-in-the-sky scheme, stick-in-the-mud Republicans hustled to remind anyone who was paying attention that they, too, could be the party of big government and bureaucracy. The Space Launch System, an expensive post-Constellation scheme, was designed by Congress to Frankenstein heavy-lift rockets and a capsule out of the scavenged remains of the shuttle program—to be built, naturally, in the districts of powerful lawmakers, including Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio of Florida. (1/13)

New White House Strategy Preps Earth for Asteroid Hit Scenarios (Source: Scientific American)
In the waning days of Pres. Barack Obama’s administration, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy” last week. The strategy outlines major goals the country will have to tackle to prepare to meet the NEO threat, signaling that some leaders are taking the danger more seriously. Whether the U.S. government is willing to put significant funding behind such efforts, however, still remains to be seen.

The White House report shows that there is high-level interest in the NEO threat, and that even if incoming NEOs are not among the most likely threats we face, the consequences of an impact could be dire. “It’s a good thing to keep your eye on,” William Ailor says, and the new report “brings reality home.” The 19-page report, the product of an interagency faction of experts convened in January 2016 dubbed the Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-Bound Near-Earth Objects (DAMIEN) working group, was released January 3. 

Overall, the group found the U.S. needs more tools to track space rocks, and that greater international cooperation is necessary. Specifically, the report outlines several goals, including increasing the ability both in the U.S. and in other countries to more rapidly detect NEOs, track their movements and characterize the objects more completely. It also says more research is needed to study how best to deflect and disrupt a space rock. (1/13)

Asteroid Flies by Earth About 50% Closer Than the Moon, and We Barely Saw it Coming (Source: Business Insider)
Early Monday morning, while people on the East Coast were making coffee, dropping kids off at school, and cursing in traffic, a space rock as big as a 10-story building slipped past Earth. The asteroid, dubbed 2017 AG13, was discovered on Saturday by the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey, according to an email from Slooh, a company that broadcasts live views of space.

It's between 50 and 111 feet (15 to 34 meters) long, and when it swung by Earth, 2017 AG13 was moving at 9.9 miles per second (16 kilometers per second). The near-Earth object, or NEO, came within about half the distance between the moon and Earth, according to Slooh. (1/9)

NASA Delays Asteroid Redirect Contracts (Source: Space News)
NASA is delaying contract awards for its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) as it waits out budget uncertainty. At a meeting of an asteroid science advisory group Wednesday, NASA said contracts for the ARM spacecraft bus, as well the selection of hosted payloads and members of the mission's investigation team, would be delayed from March and April to May and June. The reason for the delay is because NASA is operating under a continuing resolution until late April, making it unclear how much money it will have available for ARM. At the same meeting, ESA officials said they're working on a scaled-down version of its Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft, which failed to secure funding at the agency's ministerial meeting last month. (1/12)

NASA Selects Project with UCF Scientist to Explore Asteroid (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A University of Central Florida physics professor is leading a science team that will help explore some of the oldest asteroids in the solar system. NASA last week formally selected the Lucy space probe mission, which is expected to launch in 2021 and by 2027 will tour six asteroids that surround Jupiter. UCF professor Dan Britt will serve on the Southwest Research Institute’s science team for the mission. (1/9)

Asteroid Focus Concerns Venus Scientists (Source: Ars Technica)
Planetary scientists who study Venus are "just trying to hold on" after the latest mission rejections. Two Venus missions were among five finalists for NASA's Discovery program, but the agency announced last week it was picking two asteroid missions instead. NASA last launched a Venus mission, the Magellan radar mapper, more than 25 years ago. Scientists who study Venus warn of a generation gap as those who worked on Magellan and earlier missions retire. (1/11)

Why Mars Is the Best Planet (Source: The Atlantic)
Our tale of two planets begins four billion years ago. One planet was Earth, and the other planet was Mars, and the two had much in common in their infancy. Rivers and lakes etched their surfaces, craters pockmarked their faces, and volcanoes rose from their plains. But something seems to have changed on one and not the other.

In Earth’s burbling warm water, fate and chemistry combined amino acids into complex molecules, and in a process we still don’t understand, these gave rise to single cells that figured out how to make copies of themselves. Tiny mistakes in those copies eventually turned them into oxygen-exhaling organisms we call algae. Endless forms flowed from these humble ancestors, and after eons, there we were: All of human culture and hope and possibility arising within a tiny slice of time. Click here. (1/13) 

Mars is Awful (Source: Space Review)
Mars is widely seen as the long-term destination for human spaceflight, but is it the best place for people to go? J. Morgan Qualls that there’s much more to be done in cislunar space and elsewhere before thinking about going to Mars. Click here. (1/9)
 
Mars One Seeks Content Production Partner for Round 3 Astronaut Selection (Source: Mars One)
Mars One today releases a request for proposals for the media content production covering its astronaut selection round three. Mars One welcomes proposals from production companies with proven experience in creating high quality, factual storytelling for a global audience.

Mars One’s third selection round is designed to trim down the remaining 100 Mars One astronaut candidates to forty through a series of team challenges. It will be the first time all candidates will meet in person and demonstrate their capabilities as a team. Candidates will start the group challenges in 10 groups of 10. These groups will change throughout Round Three and the selection round will end with 40 candidates. (1/12)

Next 'Mars' Expedition Launches in Hawaii (Source: Space.com)
Another expedition on "Mars" — or, rather, Hawaii — is about to begin. An eight-month simulated Mars mission in a habitat on Hawaii's Mauna Loa will begin next week. Six scientists and engineers will live in the habitat to study how people live and work in a Mars-like environment. The experiment is the fifth for the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program, funded by NASA. (1/12)

Space Travel's Mental Health Toll Could Endanger Long Missions (Source: New Scientist)
Isolation, radiation and other dangers could interact to pose a major risk to mental and physical health on long space missions, according to the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The academies regularly review NASA’s research on how being in space affects health. Their latest report looks at eight recent studies on the dangers of long exploratory missions or a Mars trip.

“Two of the most critical issues are the radiation exposure beyond low Earth orbit and the psychosocial effects of confinement and isolation,” says Carol Scott-Conner at the University of Iowa, chair of the committee behind the report. She calls them “potential showstoppers” that could cause missions to fail. Click here. (1/11)

Private Company Says it is Fully Funded for Mission to the Moon (Source: Ars Technica)
Any organization wishing to accomplish a major spaceflight goal must address two basic sets of problems—rocket science and political science. And while the technical challenges of spaceflight are considerable, it’s arguable that political science remains the greater of these two hurdles. Building spacecraft and rockets requires lots of money, after all, and due to international law they can’t just be launched from anywhere to anywhere.

So it is no small achievement for the private, US-based Moon Express to have conquered the political science part of sending a rover to the Moon. Last August, after a lengthy regulatory process, the company received permission from the US government to send a commercial mission beyond low Earth orbit. And on Friday, the company announced that it has successfully raised an additional $20 million, meaning it has full funding for its maiden lunar mission. “Now it’s just about the rocket science stuff,” said company co-founder and Chief Executive Bob Richards. That, he realizes, remains a formidable challenge.

Moon Express is one of five entrants in the Google Lunar X Prize competition to finalize a launch contract. Each of the teams is competing to become the first to send a rover to the lunar surface by the end of this year, have it travel 500 meters, and transmit high-definition imagery back to Earth. First prize is $20 million. It’s not clear whether any of the teams—SpaceIL from Israel, Moon Express, US-based Synergy Moon, Team Indus of India, and Hakuto of Japan—will succeed. (1/13)

Moon Express Has Money for Moonshot – But Launch is Up in the Air (Source: GeekWire)
Moon Express says they have reached its funding goal for this year’s planned commercial mission to the lunar surface, thanks to $20 million in new investment. “We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the moon,” the Florida-based company’s CEO, Bob Richards, said. Moon Express has preliminary approval for its payload from the U.S. government. It has its spacecraft, and it has a verified contract for the launch of its lander. The one big-ticket item it doesn’t have is a rocket that’s been flight-tested.

Moon Express’ contract calls on Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab to send its MX-1E lander into low Earth orbit atop a low-cost Electron rocket that’s to be launched from New Zealand. The lander has to be launched this year to meet the deadline for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition.

Rocket Lab has finished construction of its rocket complex on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, and it has finished ground testing of the Electron’s liquid-fueled Rutherford rocket engine. It still lacks the New Zealand government’s authorization for launch, however, and thus has not yet conducted any flight tests. (1/13)

Russian Lunar Mission May Finally Put End to Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory (Source: Sputnik)
A group of Russian engineers and space enthusiast aim to develop and launch a satellite to check the "lunar conspiracy" theory: the satellite will take pictures of footprints and the lunar rovers, American Apollos and Soviet Lunokhods ("Moonwalkers") left on the Moon. (1/9)

Should NASA Build Spacefaring Logistics Infrastructure? (Source: Space Review)
There’s a recent, renewed push for developing space infrastructure, including a recent commentary endorsed by Jeff Bezos. Mike Snead supports that idea, but doesn’t believe it should be the responsibility of NASA to do so. Click here. (1/9)

Space Coast Could Host More Than 30 Launches in 2017 (Source: Florida Today)
The Space Coast could see as many as 32 launches by five different rockets in 2017, the vice commander of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing said Tuesday. That would easily surpass the 23 launch operations supported in 2016, the Eastern Range's busiest year in two decades.

“Just a tremendous year,” said Col. Walt Jackim, in a “State of the Wing” presentation to the National Space Club Florida Committee in Cape Canaveral. “It’s only going to get busier for us.” United Launch Alliance is expected to kick off the 2017 campaign with an Atlas V launch next Thursday night, Jan. 19. It's the first of at least seven launches ULA plans from Florida, including six on the Atlas V and one by a Delta IV. (1/10)

Cape Canaveral Could See 30 Launches This Year (Source: Space News)
The vice commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing said in a speech Tuesday that 32 launches are scheduled to take place from Cape Canaveral facilities in 2017, although some are likely to slip because of technical or other delays.

The launches include Atlas 5, Delta 4, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches, as well as a Minotaur 4. The current schedule would far exceed the 23 launches that took place from the Cape last year, the busiest year for launches there in two decades. (1/11)

“Steep Hill” for SpaceX to Convince NASA of Load and Go’s Safety for Crew (Source: Ars Technica)
NASA advisers are continuing to express concerns about a SpaceX fueling process known as “load and go,” in which chilled fuel is loaded onto the rocket just 30 minutes before a scheduled launch. This week the agency’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel strongly encouraged NASA top management to “scrutinize” this issue as part of an annual report on safety concerns in US spaceflight, which could have significant implications for the commercial crew program.

SpaceX has gained notoriety during the last 13 months for landing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on land, and at sea aboard an autonomous drone ship. One critical component to this success has been the use of a new fueling process that chills liquid oxygen to below -200 degrees Celsius, allowing more of this denser oxidizer to fit within the rocket’s fuel tanks. The additional fuel has provided SpaceX the margin needed to fly its boosters back to Earth after they delivered their payloads into space, especially those bound for geostationary orbit. (1/12)

ASAP Report Targets Concerns Over SpaceX Propellant Loading (Source: Parabolic Arc)
In its 2016 Annual Report, NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) says that while Boeing and SpaceX are making progress on their commercial crew spacecraft, a number of key technical challenges remain and there is “a very real possibility” of “a substantial slip in the schedule” in the already delayed programs. ASAP is concerned about SpaceX’s “load and go” approach of fueling the Falcon and Dragon vehicles, particularly in the wake of the loss of a booster in September while it was being fueled.

“A number of systems have not yet finalized design or completed testing. Challenges remain in several key systems, such as abort and parachute-related systems, in anchoring the analysis required to certify those systems for human flight,” the report states. “Additionally, there are issues and concerns surrounding the launch systems of both providers, such as the Centaur fault tolerance for Boeing and the ‘load and go’ approach for SpaceX.”

SpaceX’s “load and go” approach is a reversal of procedures that have been used in human spaceflight. The standard practice is to load the launch vehicle first with no personnel at the launch pad, let the rocket settle and its fuel settle, and then place the crew on board with a minimum number of support staff. SpaceX's use of densified LOX gives the rocket extra payload capacity, but it must be loaded just prior to launch to keep it from warming up. As a result, the company wants to load the crew first. (1/12)
 
SpaceX Returns to Flight With Successful California Launch and Landing (Source: Space News)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Jan. 14 at 12:54 p.m. Eastern and successfully delivered ten Iridium Communications satellites into polar orbit one hour and 14 minutes later, while the Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed on a ship off the California coast.

It was the first SpaceX flight since a Falcon 9 exploded Sept. 1 on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, destroying the Amos-6 communications satellite. SpaceX blamed the failure on a helium tank in the rocket’s second stage that ruptured during fueling for a static-fire test, and the company said earlier this month it would adjust the rocket’s fueling process. (1/14)

Rocket Troubles Caused Huge Financial Loss for SpaceX in 2015 (Source: LA Biz)
After three consecutive years of skyrocketing revenue, Elon Musk's ambitious commercial space venture suffered a major financial setback when one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded moments after a June 2015 launch. The Wall Street Journal, which obtained five years of financial records for SpaceX, reported Friday that the company took a quarter-billion dollar loss and saw revenues drop by 6 percent in 2015. SpaceX, as the company is known popularly, is a privately held firm and is not required to publicly disclose its financials. (1/13)

SpaceX Plans for Expansion of Landing Zone at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
SpaceX is studying the construction of additional landing pads at Cape Canaveral. A draft environmental assessment indicates the company wants to build two additional pads at the former Launch Complex 13, which the company calls Landing Zone 1. The additional pads would support the simultaneous landings of the three booster cores of the Falcon Heavy. The report also includes development of a temporary processing facility for Dragon spacecraft at the site. (1/12)

Orbital's Next Cygnus ISS Supply Mission Set for Mar. 16 Florida Launch (Source: Space Daily)
Orbital ATK has completed a significant mission milestone for NASA's next International Space Station cargo mission. The Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) of the Cygnus spacecraft has arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for processing and assembly before launch. The OA-7 mission is targeted to launch on Thursday, March 16 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Orbital ATK will launch Cygnus atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket for delivery of essential crew supplies, equipment and scientific experiments to astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The 30 minute launch window opens at 12:29am EDT. (1/11)

Mystery of Russia’s Doomed Progress Spacecraft May Delay Next ISS Crew Launch (Source: Planetary)
More than a month after a Progress spacecraft bound for the International Space Station plunged to the ground during a botched launch attempt, investigators are still unable to clear its rocket to carry future ISS crews, industry sources said.

The Progress MS-04 spacecraft was lost December 1 after its Soyuz-U rocket apparently experienced a catastrophic breakup during launch. The Soyuz-U is virtually identical to the Soyuz-FG variant, the only launcher certified to deliver cosmonauts and astronauts to orbit. The next international crew is slated to depart for the station on March 27, but until officials clear the rocket for a return-to-flight, that mission may not be going anywhere.

Two days after the launch accident, the Roscosmos State Corporation promised to complete an investigation of the failure by December 20. However, despite some progress in understanding the sequence of events during the crash, the root cause of the failure remains elusive. (1/5)

Russia Blames Third-Stage Engine Failure for Progress Cargo Loss (Source: Tass)
Russian investigators believe the failure of a third-stage engine caused the loss of a Progress spacecraft launched to the International Space Station last month. Roscosmos said Wednesday the leading cause for the Dec. 1 launch failure was foreign particles that got into the Soyuz rocket's engine, causing a fire and explosion that ripped apart the oxidizer tank. The report indicated the "defective workmanship" in the assembly of the engine may have also played a role in the failure. Roscosmos is developing a plan for "priority measures" to address the issue to support the launch of the next Progress mission, now scheduled for no earlier than Feb. 21. (1/12)

Russian Engine Failure Blamed on Workmanship, FOD (Source: Space News)
Roscosmos said Wednesday the leading cause for the Dec. 1 launch failure was foreign particles that got into the Soyuz rocket’s engine, causing a fire and explosion that ripped apart the oxidizer tank. The report indicated the “defective workmanship” in the assembly of the engine may have also played a role in the failure. (1/12)

Patent Awarded to Rocket Crafters to Design and 3D Print Rocket Fuel (Source: Space Daily)
Rocket Crafters has announced a U.S. patent was granted to co-founder, President and CTO Ronald Jones for a method for designing and fabricating flawless, high-performance, safer handling fuel grains for hybrid rocket engines using additive manufacturing technology (also known as 3D printing) which will allow the fabrication of an inherently safe and less expensive launch vehicle with only two moving parts.

Jones stated that 3D printing of the rocket combustion chamber allows RCI's expendable motors to deliver small satellites to orbits at as low as half current launch costs. RCI is developing Intrepid-1, the world's first mass-producible orbital launch vehicle powered by rocket engines based on the now patented technology. This most recent patent furthers RCI's portfolio of licensed technology that now includes multiple granted patents and pending applications. (1/11)

3D Printing – A Predestined Space Application Field (Source: Space of Innovation)
3D printing has been one of the hot technology topics of our time in various industries. Can you imagine 3D-printed rocket fuel? What might sound spacy has already been turned into reality.

The Singapore-based startup Gilmour Space Technologies used 3D-printed solid rocket fuel – a secret composition of two materials – to successfully launch their own rocket into sub-orbit. Another forward-thinking startup, Rocket Lab, an Auckland-based aerospace company, has developed a 3D-printed battery-powered rocket engine. Its product is the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine using additive manufacturing for the primary elements of the combustor and the propellant system. Click here. (12/19)

The Best Place on Earth to Fire 3,000 Rockets Into Outer Space Is... (Source: Wall Street Journal)
The next generation of satellite executives dream of firing a rocket a week into the skies. But they’re running up against an unusual problem for star trekkers. A lack of space. “We went to all the launch ranges in America,” said Peter Beck, a wiry-haired engineer who a decade ago founded Calif.-based aerospace company Rocket Lab. “They just didn’t allow the frequency that we needed in order to make space accessible for everybody.”

Finding an empty corner of the world isn’t easy for an industry expected to launch as many as 3,000 microsatellites over the next several years. Take out flight paths of commercial airlines, shipping routes, towns and cities and the map shrinks pretty quickly. In the U.S., orbital launch sites are government owned, which represents another drawback in terms of cost and access. There’s Siberia, of course, but the idea of taking commercially sensitive technology to Russia makes some executives uneasy, before factoring in difficulties in getting there.

“A small island nation in the middle of nowhere,” said Mr. Beck, “is pretty much exactly what you want.” Welcome to New Zealand: earthquake-prone, dotted with volcanoes and containing six times as many sheep as people. The country doesn’t even have a combat air force, having scrapped its warplanes about 15 years ago to save money. Click here. (1/9)

Japan's Tiny Orbital Rocket Ready for Cubesat Launch (Source: Jiji)
Japan is set to launch one of the world's smallest orbital rockets tonight. The SS-520-4 rocket, a converted sounding rocket, is scheduled to lift off from the Uchinoura Space Center at 6:48 p.m. Eastern and place Tricom-1, a three-kilogram cubesat, into orbit. The rocket, 9.5 meters tall and half a meter in diameter, is intended to help promote Japan's space industry by demonstrating a low-cost way to launch small satellites. (1/9)

Japanese Microsatellite Launcher Fails in First Launch (Source: CNN)
Japan's attempt to launch one of the smallest-ever rockets into space has ended in failure. The 9.5-meter (32-foot) rocket lifted off around 8:30 a.m. local time Sunday from the Uchinoura Space Center in southwestern Japan, according to state broadcaster NHK. The rocket was carrying a micro-satellite that is 35 centimeters (13 inches) tall and weighs 3 kg (6.6 lbs.).

However, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), communication systems malfunctioned after the rocket launched, causing the ignition of the second booster to be terminated. The rocket fell into the sea southeast of Uchinoura. The launch, which was delayed from earlier this week because of weather, was supposed to be a proof of concept for Japan's micro-satellite and mini-rocket technology, which JAXA hopes to commercialize as private companies seek cheaper options that are easier to put into orbit. (1/15)

China’s Kuaizhou Rocket Lifts Off on First Commercial Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A solid-fueled Chinese Kuaizhou launcher positioned to compete for worldwide business took off Monday on its first commercial mission with three small satellites to collect high-definition video and test communications technologies. The Kuaizhou 1A booster launched from the Jiuquan space center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert. Developed as a low-cost, quick-response launch option, the Kuaizhou rocket flew on orbital missions two times before Monday’s launch, both times with secretive Chinese government payloads. The Kuaizhou 1A version debuted with the latest launch features upgrades to support the launch of multiple spacecraft on the same rocket, with the ability to deploy the satellites once in orbit. (1/9)

Private Chinese Firm Inks Contract for Commercial ‘Landspace-1’ Rocket Launch (Source: Xinhua)
Landspace Technology Corporation, a private aerospace company based in Beijing, said it has secured a contract with Gomspace, a Danish company, to launch a series of satellites. It is the first time for a private Chinese company to provide satellite launching services to the international market, the company said. According to the contract, Landspace will use its Landspace-1 rocket to put Gomspace's satellites into orbit in 2018. (1/15)


French/Indian Collaboration to Include Reusable Launchers (Source: Space News)
A cooperative agreement between the French and Indian space agencies signed this week includes work on reusable launch vehicles. The agreement, signed during a visit by French officials to India, covers studying future concepts "especially in the domain of reusable launch vehicles," a topic both agencies have been separately exploring in the recent past. The French space agency CNES also highlighted entrepreneurial space activities in India, home to Google Lunar X Prize competitor TeamIndus, calling the city of Bangalore "one of the most promising nerve centers of NewSpace" outside of California. (1/11)

Spain's PLD Rocket Maker Gets Investor (Source: Space News)
Satellite ground systems company GMV is investing in a Spanish suborbital rocket startup. PLD Space said Monday GMV led a $7.1 million round in the company, with GMV taking a seat on PLD Space's board. PLD Space said the investment will allow the company to continue development of Arion 1, a reusable sounding rocket designed to carry a 200-kilogram to an altitude of 250 kilometers. That vehicle will serve suborbital research markets and also serve as a technology pathfinder for Arion 2, a smallsat launcher. GMV, while primarily involved in satellite ground systems, has been involved in some launch vehicle programs in the past. (1/9)

Feds Revise U.S. Export Controls On Spacecraft (Source: Law360)
The U.S. departments of State and Commerce on Monday issued final rules adjusting export controls on satellites and other similar spacecraft and related equipment, loosening restrictions on exports of certain remote imaging devices, among other changes. (1/9)

Changes to Export Rules Relax Some ITAR Restrictions (Source: Space News)
Tweaks to export control rules have moved some more space-related items out of the jurisdiction of ITAR. The revised rules, published by the State and Commerce Departments this week, are tweaks to a major revision of the export control regime made in 2014. They include increasing the aperture limit for camera systems from 0.35 to 0.5 meters, an increase that is less than what industry sought. It also removes human-rating as a condition for keeping a spacecraft under ITAR, although such spacecraft may be retained on the list for other technology they contain. (1/11)

Cubesat Testbeds Trim Risk and Save Millions (Source: Aviation Week)
Among the payloads awaiting rides to orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 is a U.S.-South Korean cubesat experiment that perfectly illustrates the value of tiny platforms as low-cost precursors for vastly more expensive spacecraft. Its acronym is a stretch—Canyval-X, for “Cubesat Astronomy by NASA and Yonsei Using Virtual Telescope Alignment Experiment.” But it covers all the bases in describing how a project that costs the U.S. and South Korean space agencies less than $1 million in total can reduce the risk for future space telescopes costing billions of dollars, perhaps including the James Webb Space Telescope.

Manifested as a secondary payload when SpaceX launches Taiwan’s Formosat-5 Earth-observation satellite, Canyval-X is a 3U cubesat built by engineering students at Yonsei University. It is designed to demonstrate sensors and control algorithms that can align two spacecraft with a distant celestial body and hold the formation long enough for astronomical observations or other scientific measurements. The trick is not in setting up the formation, but to hold it without consuming vast quantities of fuel. (1/11)

NASA Ready to Proceed with Small Satellite Earth Science Data Buys (Source: Space News)
NASA is ready to move ahead with plans to purchase Earth science data from commercial smallsat companies as it weighs the balance of large and small satellite systems to meet its research needs.

NASA’s fiscal year 2017 budget request included $30 million for a new program called the Small Satellite Constellations Initiative. It is designed to cover a range of efforts to support the development and use of small satellites in Earth science, including a potential purchase of data from commercial small satellite constellations. (1/11)

DARPA Paves Way For Commercial Satellite Servicing (Source: Aviation Week)
Anticipating the launch of a geostationary satellite repair demonstration in fiscal 2021, DARPA has begun an effort to develop standards for robotic servicing of government and commercial spacecraft in orbit. The Pentagon’s advanced research agency plans to leave an industry-operated repair capability in place in geosynchronous orbit (GEO) after the demonstration, and says standards are required for satellite servicing to be commercially successful. (1/10)

Alphabet May Sell Terra Bella Satellite Imaging Biz (Source: Bloomberg)
Google's parent company, Alphabet, is in talks to sell its satellite imaging unit, Terra Bella. Google acquired what was then known as Skybox Imaging in 2014 for an estimated $500 million but now appears interested in selling the company as it seeks to cut costs. A leading contender to acquire Terra Bella is Planet, the San Francisco-based company that operates a constellation of Earth imaging cubesats. A deal to sell Terra Bella to Planet would likely include Google taking an equity stake in Planet. Terra Bella has been developing a fleet of smallsats that take higher resolution images than Planet's cubesats, but less frequently. Terra Bella has seven satellites in orbit, including four launched on a Vega in September. (1/9)

Google's Terra Bella May Go To Planet (Source: Space News)
A rumored sale of Google's Terra Bella satellite imaging company to Planet makes sense to industry observers. Neither Google nor Planet would confirm reports of discussions about a potential deal, where Google's parent company, Alphabet, would take a stake in Planet. However, industry sources say that Planet would hire about 80 Terra Bella employees as part of the agreement, and also move its imaging processing system from Amazon Web Services to Google's own cloud computing platform. An early investor in Planet said he didn't have any knowledge of a deal, but that it would benefit Planet, giving the company access to higher-resolution imagery from Terra Bella's satellites. (1/12)

Spotlight on Some of the ‘Next Big Things’ (Source: Via Satellite)
Over the last few years, space has suddenly become hip with the likes of Spacebook, Google and Facebook resonating with young Millennials attracted by the possibilities of working on space-based initiatives. In Silicon Valley, there are many start-up companies with lofty goals and big ambitions. But, who are these companies and why should you be aware of them? We take a look at some of the hottest new companies entering satellite and what they are looking to bring to our industry. Click here. (1/10)

Group Seeks To Preserve Aerospace Tax Breaks In Washington State (Source: Law360)
A group that seeks to preserve tax incentives for Washington state’s aerospace industry and includes Boeing as a member announced its launch on Tuesday, amid Boeing’s opposition to efforts to restrict $8.7 billion in tax breaks. The coalition is called Aerospace Works for Washington. (1/11)

Boeing Plans Buyouts and Layoffs for Engineers (Source: LA Times)
Boeing Co. has internally announced a new round of employee buyouts for engineers companywide, including in Southern California, and warned that layoff notices will follow later this month to engineers in Washington state, where the company has a large presence.

Management did not cite a target for the number of projected job cuts. The buyout package will be offered to employees in Washington state, Southern California and South Carolina. There are about 3,500 employees in Boeing’s Southern California commercial division. (1/11)

Airfield Bosses in Battle to Become UK’s First Spaceport (Source: Cambrian News)
Aviation experts in Llanbedr are in line for a busy year as they aim to make the airfield the number one choice as the UK’s first spaceport. An operational spaceport could lead to spaceplanes carrying passengers and small satellites into space. Llanbedr is currently one of five sites currently being considered by the UK Government. Snowdonia Aerospace chief executive Lee Paul said: “The past 18 months have been about creating the right operating environment, completing the first phase of investment and getting us ready for the future.

“We hope that new developments in 2017 will mean that Llanbedr is even more appealing to world-wide investment. We are now working with partners to put together a package of investments such as on site accommodation, better site access and licensing to instil even greater investor confidence.” The airfield at Llanbedr has all the attributes of a former RAF site, plus state-of-the-art facilities following significant investment with more already underway. (1/14) 

Scotland Spaceport Plan May Be Dropped (Source: Courier)
A Scottish airport may be dropping plans to pursue a spaceport. A former Royal Air Force base in Leuchars had been identified as one of a handful of locations in the United Kingdom that could host a commercial spaceport. However, a change in government plans from selecting a single site to adopting a licensing system, as well as progress by another Scottish airport seeking spaceport status, Glasgow Prestwick Airport, has dealt a setback to Leuchars. Local officials said they had not found any potential investors willing to develop a spaceport at the air base. (1/9)

Space Is No Longer the Final Frontier For Aussies (Source: Huffington Post)
For decades, Australia has been left behind in the space race. With no dedicated launch facility, nor a dedicated government space agency, Australia has looked on as overseas multinational companies and governments have dominated space-related travel and commercial opportunities.

Now, a group of innovators based in and around Sydney are helping Australia back into the space industry, as part of a growing movement to "democratize" space and open it up to everyday entrepreneurs and enthusiasts. Click here. (1/5)

South Africa: New CEO for SA Space Agency (Source: All Africa)
South African space strategist and policy maker Dr Valanathan Munsami has been appointed CEO of the SA National Space Agency (Sansa). "Dr Munsami takes the helm following an impactful past in shaping South Africa's space science landscape," Sansa said on its website on Thursday. Munsami takes over from Dr Sandile Malinga, who left Sansa in August 2016, five years after being appointed to the post as its inaugural CEO and board member. (1/12)

Ethiopia Plans Remote Sensing/Weather Satellite (Source: ABC)
Ethiopia says it will launch a civilian satellite into orbit in three to five years to better predict weather conditions and for remote sensing activities inside the country. Ethiopia is among a number of African countries with growing space ambitions. The spokesman for the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Technology says the country likely will launch the satellite from China. Ethiopia aims to be a space science hub and has a Space Science Council chaired by the prime minister. (1/10)

Russia to Replace Failed EgyptSat (Source: Tass)
Russia will build a replacement for the failed EgyptSat-2 imaging satellite. EgyptSat-A, slated for launch in 2019, will also be a remote sensing satellite, but with improved technology. Energia is building the satellite for the Egyptian government using insurance proceeds, with an estimated cost of $100 million. EgyptSat-2, also built by Energia, launched in 2014 but failed in orbit a year later. (1/9)

Decision Time for the Thirty Meter Telescope (Source: Space Review)
Construction of one of the world’s largest telescopes atop a Hawaiian mountain has been stalled by protests and legal disputes. Jeff Foust reports that the observatory’s partners may soon have to make a decision about staying in Hawaii or moving to an alternate site. Click here. (1/9)
 
Hawaii’s Thirty Meter Telescope Suffers New Legal Setback (Source: NBC News)
The embattled $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project has suffered another legal setback, which could delay the restart of its construction. On Friday, Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura ordered a new contested case hearing regarding the University of Hawaii at Hilo's sublease to TMT International Observatory, saying that Hawaii's Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) violated the constitutional rights of resident E. Kalani Flores by approving the sublease without first holding a contested case hearing as requested by Flores in 2014. (1/11)

Arecibo's Future in the Balance (Source: Nature)
A decision is expected this summer on the future of the Arecibo radio observatory. The National Science Foundation, which currently provides the majority of the telescope's funding, will soon seek proposals for partnerships that can take on the majority of the telescope's costs. The NSF is also completing an environmental assessment that examines several options for the radio telescope's future, including mothballing or tearing down the giant dish. A final decision is expected shortly after the completion of that report. NASA also uses Arecibo for its planetary radar capabilities, including tracking and characterizing asteroids. (1/12)

Monster Telescope to Seek Out Habitable Alien Worlds in Neighboring Star System (Source: Seeker)
The Breakthrough Starshot initiative is looking for exciting interstellar destinations and has teamed up with one of the most powerful observatories on the planet to seek out exoplanets around a star system right next door. Backed by theoretical physics heavyweight Stephen Hawking and funded by venture capatalist Yuri Milner, the mind-blowing $100 million project hopes to send nano-probes across the interstellar expanse to the neighboring star system of Alpha Centauri. (1/10)

Breakthrough Starshot to Fund Planet-Hunting Hardware for Telescope (Source: Ars Technica)
Today, the European Southern Observatory announced an agreement with Breakthrough Starshot, A group dedicated to sending hardware to return data from the nearest stars. The agreement would see Breakthrough Starshot fund the development of new hardware that would allow the ESO's Very Large Telescope to become an efficient planet hunter. The goal is presumably to confirm there's something in the Alpha Centauri system worth sending spacecraft to image.

Breakthrough Starshot's audacious plan involves using ground-based lasers and light sails to accelerate tiny craft to a significant fraction of the speed of light. This would allow the craft to visit the stars of the Alpha Centauri system within decades. The company's goal is to get data back to Earth while many of the people alive today are still around.

Getting meaningful data requires a detailed understanding of the Alpha Centauri system, which is where the new telescope hardware will come in. Last year, scientists confirmed the existence of an exoplanet orbiting the closest star of the three-star system, Proxima Centauri. But we'll want to know significantly more about the exoplanet, its orbit, and whether there are signs of any other planets in the system before we send spacecraft. The other two stars of Alpha Centauri are also worth a closer look. (1/9)

Mystery Object in Cygnus a Galaxy (Source: Sky & Telescope)
Last week astronomers made an announcement that’s caught the interest of several researchers: a very bright something has appeared in a well-known galaxy. That galaxy is the elliptical Cygnus A. Cygnus A is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky. It lies approximately 800 million light-years from us. In its core sits a supermassive black hole madly eating and cocooned in gas, while two jets shoot out to either side and light up the intergalactic medium. This activity produces the radio radiation that makes Cygnus A so bright.

Using the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, Rick Perley (NRAO) and colleagues took a gander at Cygnus A — the first time the instrument has looked at the galaxy since 1989. (Apparently astronomers spent so much VLA time observing the galaxy in the 1980s that they didn’t feel the need to look again, Perley joked January 6th in his AAS presentation.) The new observations showed a surprise: a new, secondary object just southwest of the central black hole.

This object wasn’t in the 1989 radio image. Additional, higher-resolution observations with the Very Long Baseline Array also picked up the object, clearly distinct from the galaxy’s nucleus. It’s roughly 1,300 light-years from the center. The whatever-it-is is about twice as bright as the brightest known supernova at these frequencies. (1/13)

‘Alien Megastructure’ Signal May Be Due to Star Eating a Planet (Source: New Scientist)
Orbiting debris could be making Tabby’s star blink. When you are a messy eater, it can take a long time to clean up after a meal. The slow dimming of Tabby’s star and the sudden dips in its light may be caused by an orbiting cloud of debris left over from when it partially gobbled a planet.

The star KIC 8462852 rose to prominence in 2015, when a team of astronomers led by Yale’s Tabetha Boyajian (after whom the star is nicknamed) observed a series of abrupt dips in its brightness, in which it dimmed by up to 22 per cent before going back to normal. There are many ideas about what causes the star’s sporadic blinking, from internal stellar dynamics to swarms of orbiting comets to an enormous alien megastructure. (1/9)

Our Moon May Have Eaten Many Smaller Moons (Source: Seeker)
Over four billion years ago, when Earth was an asteroid-pummeled mess, it's believed that another planetary body the size of Mars — a small hypothetical world called "Theia" — careened into our baby planet, causing the mother of all impacts. From this collision, molten rock was ejected into space and some of the mixed-up Earth-Theia debris solidified to create the moon that we know and love today.

But Earth was rapidly gaining mass from countless asteroid impacts during this tumultuous time, massive impacts were common. These multiple impacts may have created many moons, which eventually coalesced to create The Moon. Therefore, a massive Earth-Theia impact event probably isn't required.

This alternative scenario assumes that during our planet's formation, it experienced many massive impacts, each kicking debris into orbit that went on to collect under mutual gravity, forming mini-moons or "moonlets." As each new moonlet formed, it settled into orbit and slowly migrated outward. Then, another impact would kick up new debris into orbit, forming another moonlet. These newer moonlets would have a gravitational influence on the older moonlets orbiting further away. (1/9)

Spacewalking Astronauts Replace ISS Batteries (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
Two astronauts are performing the second spacewalk in as many weeks to replace batteries on the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet started the spacewalk ahead of schedule, at 6:22 a.m. Eastern this morning. The two will continue work that Kimbrough and NASA's Peggy Whitson did on a spacewalk one week ago, swapping out old batteries used in the station's power supply with new ones delivered by a Japanese cargo spacecraft last month. (1/12)

Using Microgravity to Understand How Bacteria Can Cause Disease (Source: UOP)
Space may be the final frontier, but it’s not beyond the reach of today’s biologists. Scientists in all areas of biology, from tissue engineering to infectious diseases, have been using the extreme environment of space to investigate phenomena not seen on Earth. NASA has conducted research in the life sciences for almost 50 years. Some of this research relates directly to human space exploration, while other projects investigate broader scientific questions related to human health and disease. 

In the early 1990s, NASA started flying living cells on their space shuttles to investigate how cells respond to the rigors of spaceflight. Several different types of human cells were flown in space, with each showing various changes in size, shape, growth rate, and other behaviors. At the same time, NASA built a vessel capable of mimicking the microgravity environment of space. While not able to fully recapitulate all the environmental changes brought on by spaceflight, the rotating wall vessel (RWV) provides an environment of low-shear modelled microgravity (LSMMG), which is sufficient to induce many of the changes seen in space. Click here. (1/15) 

Fish Are Having a Real Hard Time in Space (Source: Motherboard)
Fish traveling aboard the International Space Station in 2014 experienced a near-immediate reduction in bone density upon encountering the microgravity environment of orbit. This is according to research published recently in Scientific Reports by a team of biologists at Tokyo Institute of Technology who conducted remote imaging experiments on newly-hatched medaka fish launched into space.

The general findings are concerning but not all that surprising. The dramatic effects of microgravity on bone density have been observed in human astronauts aboard the ISS, where bone deterioration begins after about 20 days in orbit in a process resembling the sort of osteoporosis more often associated with old age. The mechanisms behind this, however, are still being explored, both for the sake of long-term space travel and for treating osteoporosis here on Earth's surface. And so we have medaka fish, whose process of skeletogenesis is similar to our own. Click here. (1/15) 

X-37 Spaceplane Passes 600 Days in Orbit (Source: Space.com)
The Air Force's X-37B spaceplane has been in orbit for 600 days, with no sign of coming home. The X-37B launched on its fourth mission in May 2015 and remains in orbit, carrying out a mission that is classified other than some technology demonstrations the Air Force acknowledged at the time of its launch. The previous X-37B mission spent more than 670 days in orbit, the current record for the longest mission. Editor's Note: Expect this mission to end with a landing at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, home to the spaceplane's processing facility. (1/11)

FAA Launches High-Altitude Route Modernization (Source: Aviation Week)
The FAA is proposing 12 new high-altitude jet routes along the U.S. East Coast, part of a modernization strategy to replace legacy ground-referenced routes with GPS-based, performance-based navigation (PBN) routes. Called the Atlantic Coast Route Project (ACRP), the effort is the first phase of agency’s plan to deploy new and more efficient PBN routes across the U.S. in five stages, starting with the East Coast. (1/11)

KVH Upgrading Capabilities for Maritime Satellite-Based Observation (Source: Space News)
Maritime satellite services and hardware provider KVH is upgrading its systems to take advantage of high-throughput satellites. Upgrades planned for this year will allow its systems to use high-throughput satellite systems in geostationary orbit, tripling connection speeds. KVH is also developing antennas to make use of planned low Earth orbit broadband constellations, in particular OneWeb. (1/12)

Quantum Gas Goes Below Absolute Zero (Source: Nature)
Physicists have created an atomic gas with a sub-absolute-zero temperature for the first time. Their technique opens the door to generating negative-Kelvin materials and new quantum devices, and it could even help to solve a cosmological mystery. They reached such sub-absolute-zero temperatures with an ultracold quantum gas made up of potassium atoms. They also calculated that whereas clouds of atoms would normally be pulled downwards by gravity, if part of the cloud is at a negative absolute temperature, some atoms will move upwards, apparently defying gravity. (1/3)

Space Startup Has a Solution for Remote Sensing Woe (Source: Quartz)
Many space startups are vying to take the place of the world’s governments as the pre-eminent operators of imaging satellites, but this one has a unique scheme to take advantage of orbital radar. Capella Space, which will launch its first satellite this year, aims to take advantage of a gap in current commercial satellite coverage. Most imaging satellites rely on daylight and the absence of clouds for the clearest imagery.

At night or when the weather isn’t cooperating, there’s not too much to see. And many of the customers for satellite imagery want to be able to count boats, or shipping containers in a foggy port, or trees underneath a mountain cloudbreak. The solution for that problem is a technology called synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which can be mounted on a satellite and used to create a 3D image of the landscape below. (1/11)

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation Accepting Nominations for Neil Armstrong Award (Source: ASF)
Through a partnership with the family of Neil Armstrong and the generosity of Neil's friend, Jim Hays, ASF has now established the Neil Armstrong Award of Excellence. This award will recognize a past Astronaut Scholar whose character and unique achievements best exemplify the principles embodied by Neil and all of the astronauts who have ventured into space. The first award will be presented at the Innovator's Gala to be held in Washington, D.C. on September 16, 2017. Click here. (1/10)

FSDC Plans Benefit Screening of Hidden Figures on Martin Luther King Holiday (Source: FSDC)
The Florida Space Development Council invites the public to join in a special MLK Jr. Holiday special screening of the motion picture Hidden Figures, at the Premier Oaks 10 Theater in Melbourne. Proceeds from ticket sales, donations and sponsorships will help fund a rocket competition for disadvantaged girls, in grades 7-12, interested in STEM careers. The winner of the competition will go on to compete in the National Competition in Huntsville, AL.

Hidden Figures, tells an untold story of African-American women, and Brevard natives, who worked as human computers, supporting the Apollo program. The #LaunchTheDream initiative aims to develop and promote diversity in STEM and space sciences, by engaging Florida’s students with hands-on STEM activities. Tickets and sponsorship donations can be registered through the event page: https://launchthedream.eventbrite.com (1/9)

KSC Visitor Complex Highlights NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Programs (Source: SpaceFlight Insider)
Just after the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex unveiled in the West wing of the IMAX Theater a display showcasing spacecraft that are being used on NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo endeavors.

The public is now able to see the first Dragon spacecraft from SpaceX to go to the ISS during the NASA COTS trials. And to her right is the Pressure Vessel of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner currently being finished for her first flight in 2018. Also on display is a replica of the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser Cargo Variant (a lifting body spacecraft that will land horizontally), which will be used in the Third round of the Commercial Resupply contract for the International Space Station. (1/14) 

Kennedy Space Center Aims to Attract 'Mars Generation' (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
w attractions and enhancements at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex this year are designed to be a draw for the "Mars Generation," said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer. A centerpiece of the changes at the Brevard County facility will be the ATX Center — a stylized name for astronaut training experience, which is scheduled to open in the third or fourth quarter of the year, he said.

Groups inside will simulate the training needed to go to Mars, Protze said. The programs will be "really scientific yet very experiential," he said. Through virtual reality and simulators, "they're going to learn what it's like to work in a microgravity environment," Protze said. Theatrical tricks and floor-to-ceiling 4K screens will help create a Mars-based experience, he said. Participants will feel as though they're being transported 300 feet into the air, gantry-style. (1/11)

California Science Center Getting Shuttle SRBs Too (Source: CollectSpace)
A California museum is getting two "flight-worthy" shuttle-era solid rocket boosters. NASA and Orbital ATK are donating the boosters to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, where they will be displayed with the last built-for-flight external tank and the shuttle Endeavour. The museum had originally planned to use a pair of boosters previously on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex that used a mix of real and mock components. The museum sought the authentic boosters in part to ensure structural safety, as it plans to mount Endeavour to the tank and boosters and display them upright, in launch configuration. (1/11)

How a Russian Musician Creates Some of NASA's Coolest Images (Source: The Verge)
On Friday, NASA released an image of Jupiter taken by the Juno Spacecraft on December 11th. Interestingly, the stunning picture was processed by Russian musician Roman Tkachenko, who took the raw data taken by Juno's cameras to produce the final result. Ever since Juno’s arrival to Jupiter, Tkachenko has been producing some stunning pictures of the gas giant.

He got his start processing images with data sent back by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, piecing together images from Pluto and Charon. He’s also put together images with data from Saturn’s Cassini spacecraft, and of the planet Mars. “[I use] different tools and processing algorithms for different images taken in space missions,” he noted, “because sometimes some of the images needs more sophisticated processing methods.” Click here. (1/14) 

NASA Finds Bodies of Aliens and Flying Saucer on Mars (Source: Pravda)
NASA scientists found strange objects reminiscent of a flying saucer and bodies of extraterrestrial beings when studying photo images of the surface of Mars. The position of the bodies, or at least something that looks like them, suggested that they could guide the spaceship.

The objects resembling the bodies of alien creatures were half-ruined. Having zoomed in the photos, the scientists could clearly see the remains of the alien beings: two heads and the chest. Obtaining more detailed images is impossible, as the Martian rover is moving away from the site, where the strange objects were found.

Meanwhile, scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences believe that there is a high probability for primitive life forms to exist on Mars, especially in the polar regions of the Red Planet, the head of the laboratory of cosmic gamma-ray spectroscopy of the Space Research Institute of RAS, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Igor Mitrofanov said. (1/11)

The Cement Mixer Space Capsule of Winganon (Source: Amusing Planet)
Along a lonely stretch of road between the small villages of Talala and Winganon in the US state of Oklahoma, lies what appears to be an abandoned space capsule. The letterings ‘NASA’ and ‘United States of America’ along with the flag is clearly visible on its side. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that the fallen spacecraft is actually a cement mixer. Click here. (10/2015)

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