18Apr2013
USA

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


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ISS Power Glitch Could Delay SpaceX Resupply Mission

The International Space Station is currently scheduled to remain operational until 2028.

A power glitch on the International Space Station may postpone Wednesday’s launch of a Dragon cargo mission. NASA reported Monday there was a problem with a system on the station that distributes electrical power to two of eight channels on the station. While the issue didn’t pose an immediate problem for the crew and can be corrected by swapping out the faulty hardware, NASA is considering delaying the Dragon cargo mission scheduled to launch at 3:59 a.m. Eastern Wednesday to give engineers more time to troubleshoot the problem. If the launch is postponed, the next launch opportunity will be Friday morning. (Source: SpaceFlight Now)

China Launches Two Satellites on Long March 4B (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a pair of satellites Monday. A Long March 4B rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 6:52 p.m. Eastern and placed two Tianhui II-01 satellites into orbit. The two satellites, whose launch was not announced in advance, will be used for scientific experiments and Earth observation, according to state media. Images from local residents showed that debris from the launch fell on a highway in the region, blocking traffic for a time. (4/30)

Space Force Could Boost Business
 (Source: Space News)
The proposed Space Force could provide benefits to the space industry, in particular startups. At a conference Monday, panelists argued that the Space Force could serve as a much-needed nexus between the military and industry, connecting launch and satellite startups to the armed services and intelligence community. A Space Force could also help better align contractors with the Pentagon’s space needs. Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, said he expected the military to make use of planned commercial broadband constellations, but that it was too soon to say which systems and for what applications. (4/30)

Lightfoot Joins Lockheed Martin (Source: Lockheed Martin)
A former NASA acting administrator is joining Lockheed Martin.  The company announced Monday that Robert Lightfoot will start work next week as vice president for strategy and business development in its space unit. Lightfoot retired from NASA a year ago as associate administrator, the highest-ranking civil service post. He spent more than a year as acting administrator at the beginning of the Trump administration because of delays in nominating and then confirming Jim Bridenstine as administrator. Lightfoot had been serving as president of LSINC Corporation in Alabama prior to joining Lockheed. (4/30)

SpeQtral Raises Money for Space-Based Quantum Communications (Source: Business Wire)
A startup developing space-based quantum communications has raised an initial round of funding. SpeQtral, formerly known as S15 Space Systems, said Space Capital led its $1.9 million seed round, with participation from several other investors. The Singapore-based company, spun out from the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore, is working on quantum communications technologies that will be secure from eavesdropping. The funding will support work on a cubesat quantum communication demonstration mission. (4/30)

Blue Origin Expands in Washington State (Source: GeekWire)
Blue Origin is adding to its footprint in its hometown. The company is building a facility across the street from its current factory and headquarters in the Seattle suburb of Kent, Washington, that will include 236,000 square feet of warehouse space and 100,000 square feet of offices. The company didn’t disclose when it expects the new facility to be complete. The company is also building a factory in Alabama for producing BE-4 engines and recently proposed to expand a just-completed factory in Florida for its New Glenn rocket. (4/30)

The Race to Develop the Moon (Source: New Yorker)
In January, the China National Space Administration landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, the side we can’t see from Earth. Chang’e-4 was named for a goddess in Chinese mythology, who lives on the moon for reasons connected to her husband’s problematic immortality drink. The story has many versions. In one, Chang’e has been banished to the moon for elixir theft and turned into an ugly toad. In another, she has saved humanity from a tyrannical emperor by stealing the drink. In many versions, she is a luminous beauty and has as a companion a pure-white rabbit.

Chang’e-4 is the first vehicle to alight on the far side of the moon. From that side, the moon blocks radio communication with Earth, which makes landing difficult, and the surface there is craggy and rough, with a mountain taller than anything on Earth. Older geologies are exposed, from which billions of years of history can be deduced. Chang’e-4 landed in a nearly four-mile-deep hole that was formed when an ancient meteor crashed into the moon—one of the largest known impact craters in our solar system.

You may have watched the near-operatic progress of Chang’e-4’s graceful landing. Or the uncannily cute robotic amblings of the lander’s companion, the Yutu-2 rover, named for the moon goddess’s white rabbit. You may have read that, aboard the lander, seeds germinated (cotton, rapeseed, and potato; the Chinese are also trying to grow a flowering plant known as mouse-ear cress), and that the rover survived the fourteen-day lunar night, when temperatures drop to negative two hundred and seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Chang’e-4 is a step in China’s long-term plan to build a base on the moon, a goal toward which the country has rapidly been advancing since it first orbited the moon, in 2007. Click here. (4/29)

Scientists Want to Probe Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune (Source: Space.com)
It’s been decades since a spacecraft visited either Uranus or Neptune — which means scientists are busy dreaming up instruments that could be flown out on the next probe to these ice giants. The pair of planets haven’t had a robotic visitor since the Voyager 2 flybys in 1986 and 1989. And in the decades that have passed since NASA designed and built that spacecraft, technology has become both much more powerful and much smaller, and the agency has plenty more missions under its belt. (4/29)

SpaceX Wants to Unleash Starhopper But Longer Raptor Test Fires Come First (Source: Teslarati)
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the next round of Starhopper activity will focus on removing the spacecraft prototype’s tethers and performing far more substantial hop tests. Longer tests demand that SpaceX begins expanding the known performance envelope of its full-scale Raptor engine. Towards that end, longer-duration tests would need to be done at the company’s McGregor, TX development facilities to reduce risk, tests that Musk confirmed are already well underway.

A recent Raptor static fire reportedly lasted no less than 40 seconds, more than enough time for a single-engine Starhopper to significantly expand both the maximum altitude and velocity of future hop tests. In support of the upcoming Starhopper test campaign, significant construction work is also ongoing at SpaceX’s Boca Chica test and development facilities. Click here. (4/29)

Scientists Plan to 3D Print Muscular Tissue on the Space Station (Source: Futurism)
The International Space Station is rapidly becoming a hotbed of biomedical research. One example: a 3D printer that scientists have been using to manufacture biological tissue while in orbit. Now the printer is scheduled for upgrades that will allow it to manufacture more complex types of tissue, including muscles and blood vessels, according to 3D Printing Industry — pushing the cutting edge of medical research that could make deep space exploration possible.

In September 2019, the Russian biotech lab 3D Bioprinting Solutions will ship the raw biomaterials necessary to print out muscle tissues up to the ISS. It’s easier to print out organs in space than on Earth, where they’re more likely to collapse under their own weight. In this case, 3D Printing Industry reports that the muscles, blood vessels, and other complex tissues that the Russian scientists plan to print will stay in space, where they will be examined over time to help reveal the long-term effects of space travel on the human body. (4/29)

NASA KSC Restricts Employees From Taking Photos (Sources: Ars Technica)
NASA appears to be clamping down on the public sharing of images and videos taken by its employees at Kennedy Space Center, a location known for its wealth of opportunities to photograph spacecraft under construction, as well as rocket tests and launches. On Monday, a software engineer and amateur photographer at Kennedy Space Center named K. Scott Piel expressed his frustration with the new policy on Twitter, saying: “From this point forward, employees are no longer permitted to photograph or share images from *any* operations at KSC without authorization. Regardless of source. Photographing, or sharing images, from operations is grounds for termination. *Only* authorized media may do so.”

NASA issued a clarification statement: “To clarify, NASA does not have a policy that restricts employees from taking and posting general photos of the space center. However, all employees ae required to follow federal and contractual restrictions, which prevent the sharing of imagery that is export controlled and/or proprietary. (4/29)

Leaked Video of Failed SpaceX Test Prompts Clampdown on Sharing Images(Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA is trying to clamp down on employees taking photos inside the gates of Kennedy Space Center — and warning them they can be fired if they do so — after a video leaked showing SpaceX’s astronaut capsule exploding during a test. Workers employed under the Test and Operations Support Contract, which NASA awarded to aerospace company Jacobs for ground systems capabilities, flight hardware processing and launch operations, were notified Monday of the new rules in light of the SpaceX video. The internal memo confirms the video is authentic and the capsule did explode — a fact that neither NASA nor SpaceX have yet confirmed publicly.

“As most of you are aware, SpaceX conducted a test fire of their crew capsule abort engines at [Cape Canaveral Air Force Station], and they experienced an anomaly,” the email read. “Subsequently, video of the failed test — which was not released by SpaceX or NASA — appeared on the internet.”

The video surfaced shortly after the April 20 accident, which SpaceX described as an “anomaly” during static fire testing of the SuperDraco engines that push the capsule away from a rocket in the case of an emergency. The capsule, called Crew Dragon, is under development for NASA under its Commercial Crew Program that endeavors to return astronauts to space from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. (4/30)

The Hubble Space Telescope Has Just Found Solid Evidence of Interstellar Buckyballs (Source: Science Alert)
In the bewildering quagmire that is the gas between the stars, the Hubble Space Telescope has identified evidence of ionised buckminsterfullerene, the carbon molecule known colloquially as “buckyballs.” Containing 60 carbon atoms arranged in a soccer ball shape, buckminsterfullerene (C60) occurs naturally here on Earth – in soot. But in 2010, it was also detected in a nebula; in 2012, it was found in gas orbiting a star. Now we have the strongest evidence yet that it’s also floating in the interstellar medium – the sparse, tenuous gas between the stars. (4/29)

What’s the Next Internet-Like Investing Opportunity? Some on Wall Street Say it’s Spaceflight (Source: CNN)
New spaceflight technologies could reshape the global economy on a level not seen since the internet. That’s what some in the industry and on Wall Street are saying, at least. And a growing number of analysts say it’s time for mainstream investors to get in on the action. We’re entering a new era in which the private sector is offering cheap and reliable access to space. That could pave the way for wild new businesses like in-orbit hotels or asteroid mining. New satellite and rocket technologies could also shake up a broad range of industries, from air travel to broadband service and data storage.

“Costs are coming down and technology is improving,” said Laura Kane, a long-term investing analyst at UBS. We’re “getting beyond the realm of science fiction fans and thinking about where returns can be had.” The space economy is following the roadmap of the internet revolution: Just like in the early dot-com days, flashy Silicon Valley types and a wellspring of venture capital money are pushing the envelope. The most high profile names are billionaire-backed startups, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Click here. (4/29)

Firefly Has Successfully Tested the Upper Stage of its Alpha Rocket (Source: Ars Technica)
Last Thursday, on a green expanse at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, Firefly Aerospace prepared to test the second stage of its Alpha rocket. After years of development, engineers bolted the rocket stage to a vertical test stand and began to feed kerosene and liquid oxygen into the engine. Then, for 300 seconds, the rocket’s Lightning-1 engine fired, blowing white and yellow flame out of its exhaust nozzle. The five-minute test demonstrated the performance of the engine and upper stage over an entire cycle of flight in space, during which the upper stage would boost a satellite and insert into orbit. (4/29)

The Moon May Have Formed When Earth’s Magma Was Blasted into Space(Source: NBC News)
The moon may have formed after a giant Mars-size rock hit a magma-covered newborn Earth, a new study finds. Earth came together about 4.5 billion years ago, and previous research suggested the moon arose a short time later. For the past three decades, the prevailing explanation for the moon’s origin was that the moon resulted from the collision of two protoplanets, or embryonic worlds. One of those was the newborn Earth, and the other was a Mars-size rock called Theia, named after the mother of the moon in Greek myth. The moon then coalesced from the debris.

This “Giant Impact Hypothesis” seemed to explain many details about Earth and the moon, such as the large size of the moon compared with Earth and the rotation rates of the two bodies. However, in the past 15 or so years, evidence has emerged to challenge it and suggest a multitude of alternatives. One recent lunar formation model suggested the moon might have formed from an impact so violent, it vaporized a large portion of the early Earth, with the moon emerging from the resulting doughnut-shaped mass called a synestia. Another suggested the collision involved a fast-spinning proto-Earth. (4/29)

Trump Space Force Aimed at Reviving Reagan-Era Star Wars Insanity(Source: Sputnik)
The Trump administration has committed considerable resources to expanding the scope of the US’ modernisation of its nuclear forces, proposing a new ‘Space Force’ branch for the armed forces and withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a key arms agreement signed at the twilight of the Cold War to secure peace in Europe. US efforts to create a global missile defence system are aimed at reaching “strategic superiority” and neutralising the strategic deterrents of possible US adversaries like Russia and China, said Russian Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir. (4/26)

Summit Planned to Discuss Florida Plans for US Space Command (Source: Space Florida)
Governor DeSantis has directed Space Florida to capture the newly re-established US Space Command for Florida. To assure we incorporate all of Florida’s extensive capabilities in the offering to DOD and the White House we are hosting a state-wide Summit. Please bring to this event thoughts to address the following questions: What capabilities can your community/military installation bring to best advance the mission of the US Space Command in Florida? How could a US Space Command in Florida best support the mission of your community/military installation? (4/29)

Congress Increases Pressure Air Force Launch Procurement Plans (Source: Space News)
A debate between the secretary of the Air Force and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on a planned launch procurement is escalating. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the committee, asked Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson last month to postpone the Launch Service Procurement, arguing the move to select two providers by 2020 is being rushed. Wilson responded last week by stating that any delay will prevent the Air Force from fulfilling a congressional mandate to end use of the Russian-built RD-180 engine that powers the Atlas 5.

Smith is said to be unsatisfied with Wilson’s response and is weighing what steps to take next, according to a committee official. Some in industry are also concerned that the upcoming procurement will allow companies to offer an alternative launch vehicle as a backup if their primary vehicle is not ready by 2022, rather than recompeting the contract, a provision that would appear to favor United Launch Alliance over other contenders. (4/29)

NASA Seeks Crewed Lunar Lander Proposals (Source: Space News)
NASA has revised an upcoming call for proposals for a human-class lunar lander. In a procurement filing late Friday, NASA said it will seek proposals in the coming weeks for “a complete integrated lander” capable of carrying people to the lunar surface, and not just an ascent module as announced earlier this month. NASA earlier solicited proposals for studies of the lander’s descent stage and transfer vehicle, and had originally planned to work on the ascent module in-house prior to Vice President Pence’s speech last month accelerating the timeline for a lunar landing. That formal call for proposals, part of NASA’s NextSTEP program, is now expected to be released by the end of May. (4/29)

Chinese Companies Test Reusable Launchers (Source: Space News)
Two Chinese companies recently tested technologies for reusable launch vehicles. New Chinese launch firm Space Transportation carried out a test April 22 in northwest China in cooperation with Xiamen University, launching a 3,700-kilogram technology demonstrator named Jiageng-1. The winged vehicle launched vertically and reached a peak altitude of 26.2 kilometers and speed of 4,600 kilometers per hour before landing. Linkspace followed up its March 27 low-altitude untethered launch and landing test of its RLV-T5 tech demonstrator with a second launch and recovery April 19. On that flight, the vehicle launched vertically and reached an altitude of 40 meters, twice as high as the first test, before making a powered vertical landing. (4/28)

Space Adventures Settled Lawsuit for Nixed Lunar Fly-Around (Source: Space News)
Space Adventures has reached a settlement in a suit brought by a would-be customer of  a proposed circumlunar mission. Harald McPike sued the company and its top executives in 2017, seeking a return of a $7 million deposit he paid in 2013 when he signed up for a flight around the moon on a Soyuz spacecraft the company was offering. McPike argued that Space Adventures did not have the approvals in place with Russian agencies and companies needed to perform the mission. McPike and Space Adventures reached a settlement in late March, shortly before the case was scheduled to go to trial in Virginia, but terms of the settlement were not disclosed. (4/29)

Group Seeks Independent Approach to Commercial Space Safety (Source: Space News)
A nonprofit organization is calling for the formation of an independent institute to oversee commercial space safety. In a report last month, the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) said the proposed Space Safety Institute would bring together government and industry experts, with some government funding, to help the commercial spaceflight industry grow and gain public trust. An industry group, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, is already working on consensus safety standards with ASTM International, and believes the IAASS approach is unnecessary. (4/29)

China’s Far-Side Moon Rover Wakes for Fifth Lunar Day (Source: Xinhua)
China’s Chang’e-4 has started its fifth lunar day of operations. The lander and the Yutu-2 rover started operations over the weekend after hibernating through the two-week lunar night. Both the lander and rover are working well, Chinese officials said, although they provided few specifics about the upcoming activities during this latest phase of the mission. (4/29)

Architect Firm Expands to Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Rhodes+Brito)
Rhodes+Brito Architects, based in downtown Orlando, opened a branch office in Brevard County staffed with 25 employees to facilitate a major USAF contract the firm was awarded last year. The five-year Tactical Range Architectural and Engineering Services (TRACES) contract is specifically with the Air Force 45th Space Wing in support of requirements at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base. The work involves renovations and remodeling of existing facilities, additions to existing building, new construction, engineering, and design-build services. Rhodes+Brito is already more than seven months into the contract and has received $5.5 million for task orders currently in design and construction since last summer. (4/28)

Portugal Just Launched a National Space Agency. Spaceport Soon? (Source: Space.com)
Portugal just became the latest country to establish a national space agency. The country made its plans official on March 18, when its Council of Ministers signed the charter at a formal ceremony at Ponta Delgada, Portugal — the capital city of the Azores archipelago, where the new space agency will be based. Located west of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores may soon host Portugal’s first spaceport and new infrastructure for satellite tracking and monitoring. The agency’s headquarters are being built on the Azores island of Santa Maria; named “Portugal Space,” the new organization aims to start launching small satellites by 2021. (4/26)

Has the Apollo 10 Lunar Module Finally Been Found? (Source: Daily Mail)
A team of British astronomers believe they may have located the lunar module from NASA’s Apollo 10 mission – fifty years after the crew released the probe into a perpetual orbit around the Sun. The lunar module is one of the greatest surviving relics of the moon landings and scientists want to devise a way to retrieve it as it orbits some 50,000ft above the lunar surface.

At the time of the mission in 1969, Tom Stafford, a member of the Apollo 10 crew radioed back to Houston from his own orbit around Moon that the crew had completely lost sight of the probe after they jettisoned it from their command module. ‘We don’t have any idea where he went. He just went boom and it disappeared right into the Sun,’ Stafford said. At just four meters wide, it was always going to be a long shot but Nick Howes and his team have spent a number of years in a calculated hunt for the probe. They now believe that they may have found it and all they need is someone with the expertise to go and retrieve it.

All the other craft that were used during the Apollo missions were either fired into the Moon for seismology experiments or jettisoned to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Snoopy, however, was used as practice run for the Apollo 11 lunar landing, which would take place two months after Apollo 10 in July 1969. Two of the three astronauts transferred into it as it drifted nine miles above the Moon’s surface. The pair then moved back into the command module. The mission was deemed a success. Snoopy was fired off and left to drift in orbit around the sun forever with no realistic way to track it. (4/28)

FCC Approves SpaceX’s Plans to Fly Internet-Beaming Satellites in a Lower Orbit (Source: The Verge)
The Federal Communications Commission has approved SpaceX’s request to fly a large swath of its future internet-beaming satellites at a lower orbit than originally planned. The approval was a major regulatory hurdle the company needed to clear in order to start launching its first operational satellites from Florida next month.

In November, SpaceX sent a request to the FCC to partially revise plans for the company’s satellite internet constellation, known as Starlink. Under SpaceX’s original agreement with the commission, the company had permission to launch 4,425 Starlink satellites into orbits that ranged between 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers up. But then SpaceX decided it wanted to fly 1,584 of those satellites in different orbits, thanks to what it had learned from its first two test satellites, TinTin A and B. Instead of flying them at 1,150 kilometers, the company now wants to fly them much lower at 550 kilometers.

And now the FCC is on board. “This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next-generation satellite constellation and connect people around the world with reliable and affordable broadband service,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. (4/27)

NASA Will Simulate an Asteroid Impact Scenario with Live Tweeting (Source: Mashable)
If an asteroid were ever to be come hurtling towards Earth, what would be the plan to stop it from impacting the planet? That’s the question NASA and its partners, including the European Space Agency and the U.S.’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are gathering at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in early May to investigate.

During the five day conference, NASA and its partners plan to engage in a “tabletop exercise” that simulates what would happen if scientists and authorities were to learn of a near-Earth Object (NEO) impact scenario. “A tabletop exercise of a simulated emergency commonly used in disaster management planning to help inform involved players of important aspects of a possible disaster and identify issues for accomplishing a successful response,” says NASA. (4/27)

A Dark Cloud on Commercial Crew’s Horizon (Source: Space Review)
More than a week ago, SpaceX suffered an anomaly during testing of the abort engines for its Crew Dragon spacecraft. Jeff Foust reports on the little information known about the incident and its implications for the commercial crew program. Click here. (4/29)

If the Saturn V Went Boom: The Effects of a Saturn V Launch Pad Explosion(Source: Space Review)
The giant Saturn V rocket sent humans to the Moon a half-century ago, but what would have happened had something gone wrong? In the first article in a series leading up to the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, Dwayne Day examines some of the worst-case scenarios studied by NASA. Click here. (4/29)

Satellite Constellations and Radio Astronomy (Source: Space Review)
Companies are proposing a number of satellite constellations, some with thousands of spacecraft, intended to provide broadband communications. Adam Kimbrough notes that such systems also create new headaches for radio astronomers. Click here. (4/29)

 

 

ISS Power Glitch Could Delay SpaceX Resupply Mission (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
A power glitch on the International Space Station may postpone Wednesday’s launch of a Dragon cargo mission. NASA reported Monday there was a problem with a system on the station that distributes electrical power to two of eight channels on the station. While the issue didn’t pose an immediate problem for the crew and can be corrected by swapping out the faulty hardware, NASA is considering delaying the Dragon cargo mission scheduled to launch at 3:59 a.m. Eastern Wednesday to give engineers more time to troubleshoot the problem. If the launch is postponed, the next launch opportunity will be Friday morning. (4/30)

China Launches Two Satellites on Long March 4B (Source: Xinhua)
China launched a pair of satellites Monday. A Long March 4B rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 6:52 p.m. Eastern and placed two Tianhui II-01 satellites into orbit. The two satellites, whose launch was not announced in advance, will be used for scientific experiments and Earth observation, according to state media. Images from local residents showed that debris from the launch fell on a highway in the region, blocking traffic for a time. (4/30)

Space Force Could Boost Business
 (Source: Space News)
The proposed Space Force could provide benefits to the space industry, in particular startups. At a conference Monday, panelists argued that the Space Force could serve as a much-needed nexus between the military and industry, connecting launch and satellite startups to the armed services and intelligence community. A Space Force could also help better align contractors with the Pentagon’s space needs. Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, said he expected the military to make use of planned commercial broadband constellations, but that it was too soon to say which systems and for what applications. (4/30)

Lightfoot Joins Lockheed Martin (Source: Lockheed Martin)
A former NASA acting administrator is joining Lockheed Martin.  The company announced Monday that Robert Lightfoot will start work next week as vice president for strategy and business development in its space unit. Lightfoot retired from NASA a year ago as associate administrator, the highest-ranking civil service post. He spent more than a year as acting administrator at the beginning of the Trump administration because of delays in nominating and then confirming Jim Bridenstine as administrator. Lightfoot had been serving as president of LSINC Corporation in Alabama prior to joining Lockheed. (4/30)

SpeQtral Raises Money for Space-Based Quantum Communications (Source: Business Wire)
A startup developing space-based quantum communications has raised an initial round of funding. SpeQtral, formerly known as S15 Space Systems, said Space Capital led its $1.9 million seed round, with participation from several other investors. The Singapore-based company, spun out from the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore, is working on quantum communications technologies that will be secure from eavesdropping. The funding will support work on a cubesat quantum communication demonstration mission. (4/30)

Blue Origin Expands in Washington State (Source: GeekWire)
Blue Origin is adding to its footprint in its hometown. The company is building a facility across the street from its current factory and headquarters in the Seattle suburb of Kent, Washington, that will include 236,000 square feet of warehouse space and 100,000 square feet of offices. The company didn’t disclose when it expects the new facility to be complete. The company is also building a factory in Alabama for producing BE-4 engines and recently proposed to expand a just-completed factory in Florida for its New Glenn rocket. (4/30)

The Race to Develop the Moon (Source: New Yorker)
In January, the China National Space Administration landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, the side we can’t see from Earth. Chang’e-4 was named for a goddess in Chinese mythology, who lives on the moon for reasons connected to her husband’s problematic immortality drink. The story has many versions. In one, Chang’e has been banished to the moon for elixir theft and turned into an ugly toad. In another, she has saved humanity from a tyrannical emperor by stealing the drink. In many versions, she is a luminous beauty and has as a companion a pure-white rabbit.

Chang’e-4 is the first vehicle to alight on the far side of the moon. From that side, the moon blocks radio communication with Earth, which makes landing difficult, and the surface there is craggy and rough, with a mountain taller than anything on Earth. Older geologies are exposed, from which billions of years of history can be deduced. Chang’e-4 landed in a nearly four-mile-deep hole that was formed when an ancient meteor crashed into the moon—one of the largest known impact craters in our solar system.

You may have watched the near-operatic progress of Chang’e-4’s graceful landing. Or the uncannily cute robotic amblings of the lander’s companion, the Yutu-2 rover, named for the moon goddess’s white rabbit. You may have read that, aboard the lander, seeds germinated (cotton, rapeseed, and potato; the Chinese are also trying to grow a flowering plant known as mouse-ear cress), and that the rover survived the fourteen-day lunar night, when temperatures drop to negative two hundred and seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Chang’e-4 is a step in China’s long-term plan to build a base on the moon, a goal toward which the country has rapidly been advancing since it first orbited the moon, in 2007. Click here. (4/29)

Scientists Want to Probe Atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune (Source: Space.com)
It’s been decades since a spacecraft visited either Uranus or Neptune — which means scientists are busy dreaming up instruments that could be flown out on the next probe to these ice giants. The pair of planets haven’t had a robotic visitor since the Voyager 2 flybys in 1986 and 1989. And in the decades that have passed since NASA designed and built that spacecraft, technology has become both much more powerful and much smaller, and the agency has plenty more missions under its belt. (4/29)

SpaceX Wants to Unleash Starhopper But Longer Raptor Test Fires Come First (Source: Teslarati)
According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the next round of Starhopper activity will focus on removing the spacecraft prototype’s tethers and performing far more substantial hop tests. Longer tests demand that SpaceX begins expanding the known performance envelope of its full-scale Raptor engine. Towards that end, longer-duration tests would need to be done at the company’s McGregor, TX development facilities to reduce risk, tests that Musk confirmed are already well underway.

A recent Raptor static fire reportedly lasted no less than 40 seconds, more than enough time for a single-engine Starhopper to significantly expand both the maximum altitude and velocity of future hop tests. In support of the upcoming Starhopper test campaign, significant construction work is also ongoing at SpaceX’s Boca Chica test and development facilities. Click here. (4/29)

Scientists Plan to 3D Print Muscular Tissue on the Space Station (Source: Futurism)
The International Space Station is rapidly becoming a hotbed of biomedical research. One example: a 3D printer that scientists have been using to manufacture biological tissue while in orbit. Now the printer is scheduled for upgrades that will allow it to manufacture more complex types of tissue, including muscles and blood vessels, according to 3D Printing Industry — pushing the cutting edge of medical research that could make deep space exploration possible.

In September 2019, the Russian biotech lab 3D Bioprinting Solutions will ship the raw biomaterials necessary to print out muscle tissues up to the ISS. It’s easier to print out organs in space than on Earth, where they’re more likely to collapse under their own weight. In this case, 3D Printing Industry reports that the muscles, blood vessels, and other complex tissues that the Russian scientists plan to print will stay in space, where they will be examined over time to help reveal the long-term effects of space travel on the human body. (4/29)

NASA KSC Restricts Employees From Taking Photos (Sources: Ars Technica)
NASA appears to be clamping down on the public sharing of images and videos taken by its employees at Kennedy Space Center, a location known for its wealth of opportunities to photograph spacecraft under construction, as well as rocket tests and launches. On Monday, a software engineer and amateur photographer at Kennedy Space Center named K. Scott Piel expressed his frustration with the new policy on Twitter, saying: “From this point forward, employees are no longer permitted to photograph or share images from *any* operations at KSC without authorization. Regardless of source. Photographing, or sharing images, from operations is grounds for termination. *Only* authorized media may do so.”

NASA issued a clarification statement: “To clarify, NASA does not have a policy that restricts employees from taking and posting general photos of the space center. However, all employees ae required to follow federal and contractual restrictions, which prevent the sharing of imagery that is export controlled and/or proprietary. (4/29)

Leaked Video of Failed SpaceX Test Prompts Clampdown on Sharing Images(Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA is trying to clamp down on employees taking photos inside the gates of Kennedy Space Center — and warning them they can be fired if they do so — after a video leaked showing SpaceX’s astronaut capsule exploding during a test. Workers employed under the Test and Operations Support Contract, which NASA awarded to aerospace company Jacobs for ground systems capabilities, flight hardware processing and launch operations, were notified Monday of the new rules in light of the SpaceX video. The internal memo confirms the video is authentic and the capsule did explode — a fact that neither NASA nor SpaceX have yet confirmed publicly.

“As most of you are aware, SpaceX conducted a test fire of their crew capsule abort engines at [Cape Canaveral Air Force Station], and they experienced an anomaly,” the email read. “Subsequently, video of the failed test — which was not released by SpaceX or NASA — appeared on the internet.”

The video surfaced shortly after the April 20 accident, which SpaceX described as an “anomaly” during static fire testing of the SuperDraco engines that push the capsule away from a rocket in the case of an emergency. The capsule, called Crew Dragon, is under development for NASA under its Commercial Crew Program that endeavors to return astronauts to space from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle was retired in 2011. (4/30)

The Hubble Space Telescope Has Just Found Solid Evidence of Interstellar Buckyballs (Source: Science Alert)
In the bewildering quagmire that is the gas between the stars, the Hubble Space Telescope has identified evidence of ionised buckminsterfullerene, the carbon molecule known colloquially as “buckyballs.” Containing 60 carbon atoms arranged in a soccer ball shape, buckminsterfullerene (C60) occurs naturally here on Earth – in soot. But in 2010, it was also detected in a nebula; in 2012, it was found in gas orbiting a star. Now we have the strongest evidence yet that it’s also floating in the interstellar medium – the sparse, tenuous gas between the stars. (4/29)

What’s the Next Internet-Like Investing Opportunity? Some on Wall Street Say it’s Spaceflight (Source: CNN)
New spaceflight technologies could reshape the global economy on a level not seen since the internet. That’s what some in the industry and on Wall Street are saying, at least. And a growing number of analysts say it’s time for mainstream investors to get in on the action. We’re entering a new era in which the private sector is offering cheap and reliable access to space. That could pave the way for wild new businesses like in-orbit hotels or asteroid mining. New satellite and rocket technologies could also shake up a broad range of industries, from air travel to broadband service and data storage.

“Costs are coming down and technology is improving,” said Laura Kane, a long-term investing analyst at UBS. We’re “getting beyond the realm of science fiction fans and thinking about where returns can be had.” The space economy is following the roadmap of the internet revolution: Just like in the early dot-com days, flashy Silicon Valley types and a wellspring of venture capital money are pushing the envelope. The most high profile names are billionaire-backed startups, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Click here. (4/29)

Firefly Has Successfully Tested the Upper Stage of its Alpha Rocket (Source: Ars Technica)
Last Thursday, on a green expanse at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, Firefly Aerospace prepared to test the second stage of its Alpha rocket. After years of development, engineers bolted the rocket stage to a vertical test stand and began to feed kerosene and liquid oxygen into the engine. Then, for 300 seconds, the rocket’s Lightning-1 engine fired, blowing white and yellow flame out of its exhaust nozzle. The five-minute test demonstrated the performance of the engine and upper stage over an entire cycle of flight in space, during which the upper stage would boost a satellite and insert into orbit. (4/29)

The Moon May Have Formed When Earth’s Magma Was Blasted into Space(Source: NBC News)
The moon may have formed after a giant Mars-size rock hit a magma-covered newborn Earth, a new study finds. Earth came together about 4.5 billion years ago, and previous research suggested the moon arose a short time later. For the past three decades, the prevailing explanation for the moon’s origin was that the moon resulted from the collision of two protoplanets, or embryonic worlds. One of those was the newborn Earth, and the other was a Mars-size rock called Theia, named after the mother of the moon in Greek myth. The moon then coalesced from the debris.

This “Giant Impact Hypothesis” seemed to explain many details about Earth and the moon, such as the large size of the moon compared with Earth and the rotation rates of the two bodies. However, in the past 15 or so years, evidence has emerged to challenge it and suggest a multitude of alternatives. One recent lunar formation model suggested the moon might have formed from an impact so violent, it vaporized a large portion of the early Earth, with the moon emerging from the resulting doughnut-shaped mass called a synestia. Another suggested the collision involved a fast-spinning proto-Earth. (4/29)

Trump Space Force Aimed at Reviving Reagan-Era Star Wars Insanity(Source: Sputnik)
The Trump administration has committed considerable resources to expanding the scope of the US’ modernisation of its nuclear forces, proposing a new ‘Space Force’ branch for the armed forces and withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a key arms agreement signed at the twilight of the Cold War to secure peace in Europe. US efforts to create a global missile defence system are aimed at reaching “strategic superiority” and neutralising the strategic deterrents of possible US adversaries like Russia and China, said Russian Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir. (4/26)

Summit Planned to Discuss Florida Plans for US Space Command (Source: Space Florida)
Governor DeSantis has directed Space Florida to capture the newly re-established US Space Command for Florida. To assure we incorporate all of Florida’s extensive capabilities in the offering to DOD and the White House we are hosting a state-wide Summit. Please bring to this event thoughts to address the following questions: What capabilities can your community/military installation bring to best advance the mission of the US Space Command in Florida? How could a US Space Command in Florida best support the mission of your community/military installation? (4/29)

Congress Increases Pressure Air Force Launch Procurement Plans (Source: Space News)
A debate between the secretary of the Air Force and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on a planned launch procurement is escalating. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chairman of the committee, asked Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson last month to postpone the Launch Service Procurement, arguing the move to select two providers by 2020 is being rushed. Wilson responded last week by stating that any delay will prevent the Air Force from fulfilling a congressional mandate to end use of the Russian-built RD-180 engine that powers the Atlas 5.

Smith is said to be unsatisfied with Wilson’s response and is weighing what steps to take next, according to a committee official. Some in industry are also concerned that the upcoming procurement will allow companies to offer an alternative launch vehicle as a backup if their primary vehicle is not ready by 2022, rather than recompeting the contract, a provision that would appear to favor United Launch Alliance over other contenders. (4/29)

NASA Seeks Crewed Lunar Lander Proposals (Source: Space News)
NASA has revised an upcoming call for proposals for a human-class lunar lander. In a procurement filing late Friday, NASA said it will seek proposals in the coming weeks for “a complete integrated lander” capable of carrying people to the lunar surface, and not just an ascent module as announced earlier this month. NASA earlier solicited proposals for studies of the lander’s descent stage and transfer vehicle, and had originally planned to work on the ascent module in-house prior to Vice President Pence’s speech last month accelerating the timeline for a lunar landing. That formal call for proposals, part of NASA’s NextSTEP program, is now expected to be released by the end of May. (4/29)

Chinese Companies Test Reusable Launchers (Source: Space News)
Two Chinese companies recently tested technologies for reusable launch vehicles. New Chinese launch firm Space Transportation carried out a test April 22 in northwest China in cooperation with Xiamen University, launching a 3,700-kilogram technology demonstrator named Jiageng-1. The winged vehicle launched vertically and reached a peak altitude of 26.2 kilometers and speed of 4,600 kilometers per hour before landing. Linkspace followed up its March 27 low-altitude untethered launch and landing test of its RLV-T5 tech demonstrator with a second launch and recovery April 19. On that flight, the vehicle launched vertically and reached an altitude of 40 meters, twice as high as the first test, before making a powered vertical landing. (4/28)

Space Adventures Settled Lawsuit for Nixed Lunar Fly-Around (Source: Space News)
Space Adventures has reached a settlement in a suit brought by a would-be customer of  a proposed circumlunar mission. Harald McPike sued the company and its top executives in 2017, seeking a return of a $7 million deposit he paid in 2013 when he signed up for a flight around the moon on a Soyuz spacecraft the company was offering. McPike argued that Space Adventures did not have the approvals in place with Russian agencies and companies needed to perform the mission. McPike and Space Adventures reached a settlement in late March, shortly before the case was scheduled to go to trial in Virginia, but terms of the settlement were not disclosed. (4/29)

Group Seeks Independent Approach to Commercial Space Safety (Source: Space News)
A nonprofit organization is calling for the formation of an independent institute to oversee commercial space safety. In a report last month, the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) said the proposed Space Safety Institute would bring together government and industry experts, with some government funding, to help the commercial spaceflight industry grow and gain public trust. An industry group, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, is already working on consensus safety standards with ASTM International, and believes the IAASS approach is unnecessary. (4/29)

China’s Far-Side Moon Rover Wakes for Fifth Lunar Day (Source: Xinhua)
China’s Chang’e-4 has started its fifth lunar day of operations. The lander and the Yutu-2 rover started operations over the weekend after hibernating through the two-week lunar night. Both the lander and rover are working well, Chinese officials said, although they provided few specifics about the upcoming activities during this latest phase of the mission. (4/29)

Architect Firm Expands to Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Rhodes+Brito)
Rhodes+Brito Architects, based in downtown Orlando, opened a branch office in Brevard County staffed with 25 employees to facilitate a major USAF contract the firm was awarded last year. The five-year Tactical Range Architectural and Engineering Services (TRACES) contract is specifically with the Air Force 45th Space Wing in support of requirements at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base. The work involves renovations and remodeling of existing facilities, additions to existing building, new construction, engineering, and design-build services. Rhodes+Brito is already more than seven months into the contract and has received $5.5 million for task orders currently in design and construction since last summer. (4/28)

Portugal Just Launched a National Space Agency. Spaceport Soon? (Source: Space.com)
Portugal just became the latest country to establish a national space agency. The country made its plans official on March 18, when its Council of Ministers signed the charter at a formal ceremony at Ponta Delgada, Portugal — the capital city of the Azores archipelago, where the new space agency will be based. Located west of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores may soon host Portugal’s first spaceport and new infrastructure for satellite tracking and monitoring. The agency’s headquarters are being built on the Azores island of Santa Maria; named “Portugal Space,” the new organization aims to start launching small satellites by 2021. (4/26)

Has the Apollo 10 Lunar Module Finally Been Found? (Source: Daily Mail)
A team of British astronomers believe they may have located the lunar module from NASA’s Apollo 10 mission – fifty years after the crew released the probe into a perpetual orbit around the Sun. The lunar module is one of the greatest surviving relics of the moon landings and scientists want to devise a way to retrieve it as it orbits some 50,000ft above the lunar surface.

At the time of the mission in 1969, Tom Stafford, a member of the Apollo 10 crew radioed back to Houston from his own orbit around Moon that the crew had completely lost sight of the probe after they jettisoned it from their command module. ‘We don’t have any idea where he went. He just went boom and it disappeared right into the Sun,’ Stafford said. At just four meters wide, it was always going to be a long shot but Nick Howes and his team have spent a number of years in a calculated hunt for the probe. They now believe that they may have found it and all they need is someone with the expertise to go and retrieve it.

All the other craft that were used during the Apollo missions were either fired into the Moon for seismology experiments or jettisoned to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Snoopy, however, was used as practice run for the Apollo 11 lunar landing, which would take place two months after Apollo 10 in July 1969. Two of the three astronauts transferred into it as it drifted nine miles above the Moon’s surface. The pair then moved back into the command module. The mission was deemed a success. Snoopy was fired off and left to drift in orbit around the sun forever with no realistic way to track it. (4/28)

FCC Approves SpaceX’s Plans to Fly Internet-Beaming Satellites in a Lower Orbit (Source: The Verge)
The Federal Communications Commission has approved SpaceX’s request to fly a large swath of its future internet-beaming satellites at a lower orbit than originally planned. The approval was a major regulatory hurdle the company needed to clear in order to start launching its first operational satellites from Florida next month.

In November, SpaceX sent a request to the FCC to partially revise plans for the company’s satellite internet constellation, known as Starlink. Under SpaceX’s original agreement with the commission, the company had permission to launch 4,425 Starlink satellites into orbits that ranged between 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers up. But then SpaceX decided it wanted to fly 1,584 of those satellites in different orbits, thanks to what it had learned from its first two test satellites, TinTin A and B. Instead of flying them at 1,150 kilometers, the company now wants to fly them much lower at 550 kilometers.

And now the FCC is on board. “This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next-generation satellite constellation and connect people around the world with reliable and affordable broadband service,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. (4/27)

NASA Will Simulate an Asteroid Impact Scenario with Live Tweeting (Source: Mashable)
If an asteroid were ever to be come hurtling towards Earth, what would be the plan to stop it from impacting the planet? That’s the question NASA and its partners, including the European Space Agency and the U.S.’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are gathering at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in early May to investigate.

During the five day conference, NASA and its partners plan to engage in a “tabletop exercise” that simulates what would happen if scientists and authorities were to learn of a near-Earth Object (NEO) impact scenario. “A tabletop exercise of a simulated emergency commonly used in disaster management planning to help inform involved players of important aspects of a possible disaster and identify issues for accomplishing a successful response,” says NASA. (4/27)

A Dark Cloud on Commercial Crew’s Horizon (Source: Space Review)
More than a week ago, SpaceX suffered an anomaly during testing of the abort engines for its Crew Dragon spacecraft. Jeff Foust reports on the little information known about the incident and its implications for the commercial crew program. Click here. (4/29)

If the Saturn V Went Boom: The Effects of a Saturn V Launch Pad Explosion(Source: Space Review)
The giant Saturn V rocket sent humans to the Moon a half-century ago, but what would have happened had something gone wrong? In the first article in a series leading up to the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, Dwayne Day examines some of the worst-case scenarios studied by NASA. Click here. (4/29)

Satellite Constellations and Radio Astronomy (Source: Space Review)
Companies are proposing a number of satellite constellations, some with thousands of spacecraft, intended to provide broadband communications. Adam Kimbrough notes that such systems also create new headaches for radio astronomers. Click here. (4/29)

 

 

 

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