A regular update on the most important news stories in astronomy and space from the best United States and North American news sources. Breaking news, latest discoveries plus the weird and wonderful. Updated regularly


 SpaceX to Launch NASA’s Alien-Planet-Hunting TESS Telescope 

Image result for transiting exoplanet survey satellite
SpaceX is about to launch NASA’s most powerful telescope yet to hunt for nearby alien worlds. The telescope in question is called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short. If all goes well, a 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket will propel the car-size spacecraft into orbit around 6:32 p.m. EDT on April 16 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. (4/13)

SES-12 Arrives at Cape Canaveral for SpaceX Launch (Source: SES)
The SES-12 spacecraft has arrived safely at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for launch on board a flight-proven SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SES-12, which is uniquely designed with both state-of-the-art wide beams and high throughput beams, will join SES-8 at 95 degrees East to serve SES video and data customers across the Asia-Pacific region. It will replace and augment services currently provided on NSS-6. (4/12)

FCC Issues Warning in Wake of Swarm’s Unauthorized Launch (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on April 12 released an enforcement advisory warning that organizations will be penalized for launching spacecraft without the appropriate regulatory approvals and advised launch providers they should be ready to remove unauthorized spacecraft from their rockets if necessary.

“Failure to comply with FCC requirements can and will result in enforcement action,” the document states. The FCC didn’t specify what punishments will be given to companies that forgo licensing. An FCC official told SpaceNews “the enforcement actions might include monetary forfeitures, among other potential actions.” He declined to give further details. (4/13)

Economic Boon or ‘Sonic Boom’? Local Residents Split on Georgia Spaceport (Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
For nearly 45 years, Carol Ruckdeschel has lived, mostly off the land, in the northern part of Cumberland Island. The biologist who moved to the island as hired help for Coca-Cola heir Sam Candler and his family now runs a natural history museum adjacent to her home, within spitting distance of the small Baptist church where John F. Kennedy Jr. was married in 1996.

But soon, Ruckdeschel said, she fears she will hear the monthly “sonic boom” of small private rockets being shot into space from a proposed launching pad just across the Intracoastal Waterway. Ruckdeschel and Brantley, a St. Marys resident, are among those living on the state’s southern coast who have concerns about what could become Spaceport Camden, a proposed 12,000-acre facility at the end of Harriets Bluff Road. Click here. (4/13)

Georgia Spaceport Gets a Hearing, But Not Answers (Source: Savannah Morning News)
Homeowners on Little Cumberland Island have been saying for years that they and their property will ultimately prevent Camden County from launching rockets from a proposed spaceport just west of them on the mainland. It’s an unprecedented danger to the public for a rocket to fly over their land from a launch pad less than five miles away, they argue.

Last week at a series of meetings and hearings in Camden County, they and other members of the public had a chance to air their concerns directly to the Federal Aviation Authority and get answers about the viability of the project. In nine hours of meetings they did plenty of the former, but got little of the latter. And the federal regulators closed the door at the last minute on what the islanders thought was a public meeting set up specifically to address their issue.

Little Cumberland property owner Rebecca Dopson Lang was among the first to offer public comment on the draft Environmental Impact Statement at a public hearing Wednesday in Kingsland. “The FAA consulted with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as part of this process but no one with the FAA has consulted with the community of Little Cumberland Island,” she began. “This community would be four miles downrange of any launch and would be the first community in the United States to be directly under the flight path of a rocket.” (4/13)

Alaska Aerospace Clarifies Commercial Plans for Kodiak Spaceport (Source: Alaska Aerospace)
Alaska Aerospace today clarified details pertaining to commercial launch activities and development plans at the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA), located on Kodiak Island, following misinformation across social media channels.

Alaska Aerospace is responsible for any and all infrastructure development at PSCA, limiting air travel near PSCA, impact to public lands near PSCA and notifying the community of these plans. While Vector Launch Inc. will be conducting an orbital launch at PSCA later this year, Alaska Aerospace does not currently have a contract with Vector or any other commercial launch vendor for construction of a new launch pad at PSCA. Over the last two years, Alaska Aerospace has worked with Vector to explore the establishment of commercial launch operations at existing launch pads at PSCA. (4/13)

USDOT Secretary Names New Members for FAA COMSTAC (Source: Parabolic Arc)
U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced key additions to the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC). COMSTAC provides information, advice, and recommendations to the FAA Administrator on all matters relating to U.S. commercial space transportation industry activities. The committee provides a forum for the development and communication of information from an independent perspective.

COMSTAC membership consists of members of the commercial space transportation industry; the satellite industry, manufacturers and users; state and local government officials; as well as representatives from firms providing insurance, advocacy, and from academia. Editor’s Note: Two Florida residents are among those reassigned to COMSTAC, including Janet Karika of Jacobs (on the Space Coast) and Oscar Garcia of IFG (in Miami). Click here. (4/14)

Colonizing the Galaxy is Hard. Why Not Send Bacteria Instead? (Source: The Economist)
Science fiction is filled with visions of galactic empires. How people would spread from star system to star system, and communicate with each other in ways that could hold such empires together once they had done so, is, though, very much where the “fiction” bit comes in. The universal maximum speed of travel represented by the velocity of light is usually circumvented by technological magic in such works. The truth is that, unless there has been some huge misunderstanding of the laws of physics, human colonisation of the galaxy will be hard.

A number of scientists reckon a more modest approach towards spreading life to other star systems might be possible. In the chill of deep space, bacteria somehow shielded from cosmic radiation might survive dormant for millions of years. Perhaps alien worlds could be seeded deliberately with terrestrial micro-organisms that might take hold there, jump-starting evolution on those planets. (4/12)

Commercial Space Race Takes Center Stage at Embry-Riddle (Source: ERAU)
Alumnus Moriba Jah, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin and  one of the leading experts in the world on orbital debris, chuckled at the idea of tourists in space. He said people have an idealized notion of floating in space and how wonderful it will be, but the reality will probably be more like dealing with symptoms of motion sickness and vertigo the whole time they are in microgravity. A large number of astronauts suffer from severe stomach upset in space, he said. Click here. (4/12) https://news.erau.edu/headlines/the-commercial-space-race-takes-center-stage-at-lift-off-the-page/

Proxima Centauri Flare So Powerful it was Visible to the Unaided Eye (Source: Universal-Sci)
Since its discovery was announced in August of 2016, Proxima b has been an endless source of wonder and the target of many scientific studies. In addition to being the closest extra-solar planet to our Solar System, this terrestrial planet also orbits within Proxima Centauri’s circumstellar habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks Zone”). As a result, scientists have naturally sought to determine if this planet could actually be home to extra-terrestial life.

Many of these studies have been focused on whether or not Proxima b could retain an atmosphere and liquid water on its surface in light of the fact that it orbits an M-type (red dwarf) star. Unfortunately, many of these studies have revealed that this is not likely due to flare activity. According to a new study by an international team of scientists, Proxima Centauri released a superflare that was so powerful, it would have been lethal to any life as we know it. (4/11)

Starliner Gets Potential Mission Duration Increase for Crew Flight Test (Source: NasaSpaceflight.com)
Boeing, one of NASA’s two Commercial Crew providers, is making excellent progress toward the debut of their Starliner vehicle for both its uncrewed and crewed test flights.  In addition to the two planned certification missions, NASA has announced that Boeing’s Crew Flight Test, a two-week test mission, could now serve as a more operational six-month crew flight to the International Space Station with not two but three crew members.

Officially, Boeing is targeting August 2018 for its Orbital Flight Test (OFT), their uncrewed certification mission for Starliner, to be followed in November 2018 with their Crew Flight Test (CFT).  Those dates are based on the last quarterly review by the Commercial Crew Program in February, and there is some indication that those dates are likely to slip at the next quarterly review in May – with the CFT slipping into 2019. (4/13)

Families Tell Us Why They Decided to ‘Bury’ a Loved One in Space (Source: Motherboard)
After Earl and Patty Mills lost their son Robert at the age of 26, they began searching for a special way to honor his outgoing personality, global perspective, and passion for space exploration. Ultimately, they chose to send a few grams of Robert’s cremated remains on a memorial flight offered by Celestis, a pioneer in the business of space burials. It was literally an “out-of-this-world” experience and it meant the world to Robert’s family.

If your family chooses to have a part of you fired aloft on one of these packages, you’ll be in good company. Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, astronaut Bill Pogue, space settlement advocate Gerard K. O’Neill, and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his wife, actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry—all have participated in space burials offered by Celestis, or will be on future flights. Despite other up-and-comers, it’s still the first and only private entity to have successfully launched a memorial spaceflight.

Family and friends I spoke with reported a feeling of euphoria as they watched the rocket climb into the sky, carrying their loved ones’ ashes. Flying as a secondary payload on a variety of commercial carriers, Celestis offers several options (or “experiences,” as the company calls them) ranging from “Earth Rise,” a suborbital flight that brings the capsule back to Earth for $1,250, to Voyager, which aims to propel a capsule into deep space, ultimately orbiting around the Sun, for $12,500. (According to the company, the first memorial flight to deep space will be offered in 2019.) (4/12)

Deadline Approaching for Space Florida-Sponsored Venture Capital Event (Source: Space Florida)
The Florida Venture Forum is calling for outstanding private companies from the state of Florida to apply to present at the 11th Annual Florida Early Stage Angel Capital Conference to be held at the Westshore Grand hotel in Tampa, Florida on May 18, 2018.

The Florida Early Stage Angel Capital Conference is one of the largest gatherings of angel and early stage investors in the state, and features top speakers and high quality presentations by some of Florida’s fastest growing private companies. Also, hear pitches from students representing the top universities throughout the state as they compete to win the 2018 Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition.

In addition to the opportunity to present before an audience of active equity investors, presenting companies will compete for the Accelerating Innovation (AI) Award, offered by Space Florida. The AI Award offers cash prizes totaling $50,000 (Two $25,000 prizes for each winner totaling $50,000) to eligible Florida companies. Click here. (4/12)

EXOS Plans May 5 Suborbital Launch at Spaceport America (Source: Spaceport America)
EXOS and Spaceport America announce significant progress toward the launch of their newest vehicle SARGE. The date and time target was selected in honor of Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr’s Suborbital Mercury Redstone 3 launch on May 5, 1961. EXOS has completed the design, test and build of their latest launch vehicle, received their FAA launch license and completed their final integration and test hovering their rocket like it’s a “lunar lander”. A successful Pathfinder test flight of the SARGE reusable system will solidify the company’s plan to use this technology as the design basis of their reusable (first stage) launch vehicle capable of carrying 100kg to orbit. Click here. (4/13)

Harvard Project Tackles ‘Dystopian’ Future of Miami Sea Level Rise (Source: Miami Herald)
A team of 50 Harvard graduate students spent the last two and a half years coming up with ways to make Miami resilient to the changing levels of the water that surround it. Some of their ideas cover old ground: more elevated streets, more mangroves along the coast, plants to soak up excess water and systems to treat stormwater before releasing it into Biscayne Bay. Others involved all new ideas.

Harvard’s studies of potential sea-level rise effects in South Florida will continue. New classes of graduate students are targeting Miami as the first focus of a new million-dollar Future of the American City effort funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Students will spend the next three years studying Miami and Miami Beach’s issues with climate change, affordability and transportation. The ongoing spring semester class focuses on public health and climate change in Allapattah, Overtown and Little Haiti, said Harvard professor Jesse Keenan. Click here. (4/12)

Meet the Space Cowboys Launching Telescopes From the Middle of Nowhere (Source: Popular Mechanics)
For a cadre of NASA rocketeers, their passion for spaceflight has taken them to one of the most remote launchpads in the world: Kwajalein Island in the deep Pacific. “In my mind, we’re the cowboys of space,” Nathan Empson says in an email from the remote military base and rocket range. He’s the operations manager of the sounding rocket office at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. “We go where the science needs us, and can stand up an operation at remote locations others cannot.”

This week, Empson’s nearly 50-person team is working on two sounding rocket missions, both of which are scanning parts of the Milky Way where stars are born and have died. The Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph (CHESS) measures the wavelength of radiation to reveal the composition and temperature of celestial objects. The Water Recovery X-ray Rocket (WRX-R) is the second project. It will measure an area where a star died explosively, called the Vela Supernova Remnant.

So why do they need to this work at Kwajalein, which is 2,100 nautical miles from Honolulu and far out in the middle of nowhere? “Typically, we launch our telescopes from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico,” Empson says. “That doesn’t give them full access to the night sky, of course. So, we’ve been striving to do launches at more southern ranges. While Kwajalein isn’t of southern latitude, it does open up new possibilities for our science community.” (4/13)

In the Trump Administration, Deep Mistrust of Chinese, Russian Motives in Space (Source: Space News)
The Trump administration does not believe war in outer space is inevitable. But a lack of trust in what Russia and China are doing in space means the United States has to “work hard every day” to deter future aggression, said Scott Pace, the executive secretary of the National Space Council.

The National Space Council, led by Vice President Mike Pence, is working to direct American activities in space and promote innovation. The council also has taken a hard line on space being a “contested” environment, a view that is reflected in the administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy.

Pace said China and Russia are to blame for space no longer being a sanctuary. Ten to 15 years ago, the international policy community was debating whether space was becoming a battleground. “People went back and forth about it,” he said. “They were concerned about what the United States might do.” As it turned out, Pace continued, the U.S. “didn’t do any of the things that people feared. Instead the Russians and Chinese built, and they built.” (4/13)

Putin Promises to Push Ahead with Russia’s Lunar Program (Source: Tass)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has confirmed Russia’s determination to push ahead with its lunar program. When asked by cosmonauts if a manned mission to the Moon was on Russia’s future agenda, he replied with an unequivocal “Yes, it is.” … “As you may know the program extends up to 2030,” he went on to say. “The finishing touches are being put to the spacecraft Federatsiya and research and development is on for building a super-heavy rocket to be used for the lunar program. So there can be no doubts we will be working actively and implementing this program.” (4/12)

Putin Says Trials of Russia’s Super-Heavy Rocket planned in 10 Years (Source: Tass)
The trials of Russia’s super-heavy carrier rocket are planned in 10 years, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “The super-heavy rocket, the first trial is planned in 10 years,” Putin said. For the rocket’s trials at the Vostochny spaceport in the Russian Far East, it is necessary to build a special launch compound because the tests are planned at that cosmodrome, the Russian president said. (4/12)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Aims to Raise $500M as it Makes Progress on its Big F’n Rocket (Source: GeekWire)
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is aiming to raise up to $507 million in a new funding round, according to documents filed with the state of Delaware last week. SpaceX has authorized 3 million shares of stock for this Series I round, valued at $169 each, according to documents provided to GeekWire by Lagniappe Labs, creator of the Prime Unicorn Index. The round could bring SpaceX to a valuation of approximately $23.7 billion if all shares are sold. (4/12)

We Need a Plan to Stop Orbital Debris Before It’s Too Late (Source: WIRED)
Space junk rises to the level of our national consciousness only when something—an inactive satellite, busted-up rocket boosters, fragments of manned spacecraft—threatens us back on Earth. We’re talking about it again because, after nearly seven years orbiting Earth, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 tumbled out of its celestial track earlier this month, plunging to earth and scattering debris over hundreds of miles in the South Pacific Ocean.

Space junk is a problem that continues to orbit our collective attention, and within days it will once again circle out of view. We’ll ignore the problem to our own detriment. The FAA is projecting “an unprecedented number” of satellite launches between 2018 and 2020, with some estimates as high as 12,000 during that time period.

As humans, we operate with a “nowest” mindset—we tend to plan for the next few years of our lives more than any other timeframe. Nowist thinking champions technological achievements, but it also creates a serious blind spot: We forget that our actions in the present could have serious consequences in the future. (4/13)

New Planets May Be Forming Around Young Nearby Stars, Dusty Disks Suggest (Source: Space.com)
Diverse disks of dusty material have been spotted around nearby young stars, suggesting new planets are sprouting up around the alien stars. New images from the SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research) instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile reveal a wide variety of dusty disks in unprecedented detail.

Specifically, the disks are seen around nearby young stars and contain gas, dust, and planetesimals which combine to form developing planets. Researchers have observed a remarkable variety of these disks, differing in size, shape and structure, according to a statement from ESO. Click here to see. (4/13)


Satellite Imaging – Petabytes of Developer, Business Opportunities (Source: TechZone 360)
Hollywood has programmed society into believing satellite imaging as a magic, all-seeing tool, but the real trick is in analysis. Numerous firms are filling the skies overhead with eyes, small, cost-effective satellites taking pictures of the earth’s in visible light, multiple wavelengths of light, and radar. Massive amounts of data are being generated on a daily basis, needing to be processed, filtered, and analyzed.  Big Data, analytics, machine learning, AI,s APIs, and open source/open standards are all a part of the discussion.

Planet, formerly Planet Labs, is the poster child for the satellite imaging revolution. It owns and operations a fleet of over 200 satellites, ranging from over 140 bread box-size “Doves” to larger dorm fridge “SkySats.” In November 2017, the company announced it collects over 6 terabytes per day from its satellites. Six terabytes. Per day.

Planet’s daily take translates to a total of 1.4 million 29 megapixel images per day.  Do the math across 30 days. Three months. A year. It’s a ton of data being generated by a single company.  Since starting in 2011, Planet says it has on average over 400 images per location on Earth — and that was back in November 2017, so the numbers have gone upward. An open source philosophy is hard-wired in Planet, making it a boon for developers and companies who want to dive into its catalog. (4/12)

Space Math Heroes of ‘Hidden Figures’ Inspire Nat-Geo Drama Series (Source: Space.com)
National Geographic is in the early stages of development for a TV series inspired by 2016’s “Hidden Figures,” a new report from Variety said. According to “Variety,” the TV project will be executive produced by Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping of Chernin Entertainment, who both executive produced the film, as well as National Geographic.

“Hidden Figures,” based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly (William Morrow, 2016), follows black women at what became NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia who computed the trajectories that propelled the United States’ first satellites and spaceships into orbit. The movie focuses on Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji Henson) and the lead-up to the first American to orbit the Earth, in 1962. (4/11)

Branson Blogs on VO Progress (Source: Virgin)
It won’t be long until Virgin Orbit is taking small satellites into space and improving everyone’s access to data around the globe. Small satellites have huge potential to change people’s lives for the better. They connect us to each other, help us understand the world around us, keep us safe, grow the world’s economies, and expand the limits of human knowledge. In recent years, satellites have gotten smaller and cheaper but launching them can still be very costly. Enter Virgin Orbit. Like the satellites our customers are flying, our launch system is light, fast, flexible, and affordable. Click here. (4/11) https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/launching-small-satellite-revolution

ET Won’t Phone Home: Psychologists Say SETI Has Faulty Alien Contact Methods (Source: Space Daily)
A group of psychologists say scientists will never make contact with aliens because aliens are likely to use communications based on unknown physical principles. They also say scientists are prone to so-called inattentional blindness.

A group of psychologists from the University of Cadiz in Spain has published an article criticizing alien-seeking scientists involved in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project, saying they will never make contact with extraterrestrial civilizations.

The scientists involved in SETI are concentrating solely on searching for radio signals when aliens are likely to use other forms of communication, including those based on undiscovered physical principles. Therefore, humanity will not be able to recognize those signals. (4/12)

Vector Wants to Churn Out Rockets Like Ford Made Model Ts (Source: CNN)
Automakers around the globe produce millions of vehicles every year. The global rocket industry? It makes fewer than 100 per year that are capable of delivering satellites to orbit. But the way Jim Cantrell sees it, cars and rockets aren’t all that different. And he wants his startup, Vector, to churn out rockets just as Ford churned out Model Ts.

Cantrell — who was an early member of Elon Musk’s SpaceX team — just hired some top brass away from the auto industry to help meet those bold production goals. Brian Barron spent more than two decades at BMW helping to fine tune the company’s assembly lines. Vector said Thursday that he’s joined the company as its vice president of manufacturing. (4/12)

Background Hum of Space Could Reveal Hidden Black Holes (Source: Space Daily)
Deep space is not as silent as we have been led to believe. Every few minutes a pair of black holes smash into each other. These cataclysms release ripples in the fabric of spacetime known as gravitational waves. Now Monash University scientists have developed a way to listen in on these events.

The gravitational waves from black hole mergers imprint a distinctive whooping sound in the data collected by gravitational-wave detectors. The new technique is expected to reveal the presence of thousands of previously hidden black holes by teasing out their faint whoops from a sea of static. (4/13)

Pace Talks Space Warfare (Source: Space News)
Pace said Thursday that while space is no longer a sanctuary, he didn’t believe war in space was inevitable. Pace said that activities by China and Russia have made space a warfighting domain, but that the U.S. should focus on deterrence to avoid conflict. He added that while he thought arms control accords for space were unlikely, transparency and confidence building measures could help prevent misperceptions that could lead to conflicts. (4/13)

NASA Seeking Russian Solution for Potential Commercial Crew Delays (Source: Space News)
NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot says the agency is in talks with Russia about potentially stretching out some space station missions to mitigate any future commercial crew development delays. Lightfoot said NASA is discussing the possibility of longer increments for ISS crews as one way to buy more time if needed for commercial crew development. NASA announced last week a contract modification with Boeing that could turn its crewed test flight into more of an operational mission as another means of dealing with development delays.

Lightfoot, testifying before a House appropriations subcommittee on NASA’s 2019 budget proposal, also said it was reconsidering its schedule for future SLS missions now that it has funding to develop a second mobile launch platform. Those changes could include flying the first crewed Orion mission on a Block 1 SLS, rather than the larger Block 1B version as currently planned. (4/13)

Globalstar Investor Piles On (Source: Space News)
An investor in Globalstar believes the company is undervalued, and is willing to back that view to the tune of $150 million. Mudrick Capital Management, a New York-based investment firm that owns more than five percent of Globalstar’s stock, sees the company as “deeply undervalued” in part because of its S-band spectrum that could become far more valuable in support of 5G networks. The firm is offering to lend the LEO satellite operator up to $150 million to address its capital needs through 2019. That financing, though, would come with strings attached, including creating a “committee of truly independent directors” to evaluate any future plans to raise capital. Globalstar has not responded to the offer. (4/13)

Orbital ATK Expects EELV Success (Source: Spaceflight Now)
Orbital ATK is confident that its proposed EELV-class launcher will win Air Force funding. In a recent interview, Mike Laidley, Orbital ATK’s vice president for its Next Generation Launch program, said the company expects to win a Launch Services Agreement award from the Air Force later this year to fund development and testing of its proposed vehicle. The Air Force plans to select up to three companies for those awards, with Blue Origin, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance also competing for them. Orbital ATK is expected to announce developments regarding the vehicle next week at the 34th Space Symposium. (4/13)

Putin Expects Space Cooperation to Continue Despite New U.S. Sanctions (Source: Bloomberg)
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he doesn’t expect a new round of sanctions to affect space cooperation with the U.S. Speaking on the 57th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight Thursday, Putin said Russia would not abandon international cooperation, including with the U.S. and other ISS partners. “We aren’t going to break off anything here or leave these programs,” he said. (4/13)

Apollo Astronaut Sues Jeweler, Watch Maker (Source: CollectSpace)
A judge ruled that a former astronaut can sue companies for producing a replica of a watch he wore on the moon. Apollo 15 astronaut David Scott sued Bulova and Kay Jewelers after they marketed a replica of a Bulova watch that Scott wore on one of his moonwalks. Scott auctioned that watch, a personal timepiece rather than a NASA-issued Omega Speedmaster, in 2015, and shortly thereafter the companies announced they were producing a replica of that watch.

Scott argued that the companies were violating his “right of publicity through commercial appropriation” by offering the watch without his permission. A judge rejected a motion by the companies to dismiss the case, but did throw out Scott’s claims of emotional distress, concluding that “this evidence is a parsec away from describing distress that no reasonable person can be expected to endure.” (4/13)

China Opens First Overseas Center for BeiDou Navigation Satellite System in Tunisia (Source: Space Daily)
The China-Arab States BDS/GNSS Center, the first overseas center for China’s indigenous BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), was officially inaugurated in Tunisia. The center is established as a pilot project between China and the Tunisia-based Arab Information and Communication Technology Organization (AICTO), an Arab governmental organization under the Arab League, to promote the global application of the BDS, said Ran Chengqi, director of China Satellite Navigation Office. (4/13)

Fly Over the Moon in New 4K NASA Animation (Source: Mashable)
NASA wants to fly you to the moon in 4K. The space agency just released a new video showing off high-resolution imagery gathered by its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, tasked with exploring the moon from above. The five-minute video shows off various sites on the near and the far side of the moon. “The tour visits a number of interesting sites chosen to illustrate a variety of lunar terrain features,” NASA said in a video description. Click here. (4/11)

Boeing CEO Takes Playful Jab at Musk’s Rocket-Launched Tesla (Source: Seattle Times)
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg highlighted the company’s deep roots in space exploration with a playful jab at up-and-comer Elon Musk. The aerospace titan doesn’t plan to launch cars into the heavens anytime soon, Muilenburg said at a Politico Space Forum. But “we might pick up the one out there and bring it back,” he said.

It was an apparent dig at the cherry-red Tesla Roadster, with a mannequin astronaut behind the wheel, that Musk launched into space on the first flight of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket in early February.

The budding rivalry between the companies is anything but playful, however. Musk’s SpaceX is remaking rocketry by undercutting established rivals such as United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture, with low prices and reusable rocket boosters that tamp down costs. Musk has also outlined an audacious agenda for colonizing Mars, stoking Muilenburg’s competitive fire over who would build the first rocket to reach the planet. (4/12)

LEGO Produces Animation of Yuri Gagarin’s Historic Flight (Source: Reddit)
Check out this LEGO animation of Vostok 1, Yuri Gagarin’s orbital flight 57 years ago. Click here. (4/12)

SpaceX Will Soon Be the Third Most Valuable Private Tech Company in the United States (Source: Quartz)
Elon Musk’s bet on the future of space transportation is set to be the third-biggest private tech company in the US, behind only Uber and Airbnb, and worth more than $27 billion.

SpaceX filed paperwork in Delaware to raise an additional $500 million in capital, according to Equidate, a stock market for private technology companies that tracks such filings. Once the fundraising round is completed, the company’s value will have increased by approximately 25% in the last nine months, according to Equidate COO Hari Raghavan. It has more than doubled since 2015.

It’s not clear yet which investors will provide the cash, but the company has preferred to retain old investors than add new ones. Fidelity is rumored to be leading the round, and Musk is supposedly set to put up more equity in the company he founded out of his own pocket in 2002. (4/13)


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