NASA Administrator Reflects on Legacy of Gene Cernan

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Gene Cernan in t he lunar module Challenger during Apollo 17. (Credit: NASA)

Gene Cernan in t he lunar module Challenger during Apollo 17. (Credit: NASA)

The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the passing of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan:

“Gene Cernan, Apollo astronaut and the last man to walk on the moon, has passed from our sphere, and we mourn his loss. Leaving the moon in 1972, Cernan said, ‘As I take these last steps from the surface for some time into the future to come, I’d just like to record that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow.’ Truly, America has lost a patriot and pioneer who helped shape our country’s bold ambitions to do things that humankind had never before achieved.

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Last Man on the Moon Gene Cernan Passes Away

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Gene Cernan on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

Gene Cernan on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, died Monday, Jan. 16, surrounded by his family.

Cernan, a Captain in the U.S. Navy, left his mark on the history of exploration by flying three times in space, twice to the moon. He also holds the distinction of being the second American to walk in space and the last human to leave his footprints on the lunar surface.

Photo gallery of Eugene Cernan

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Iridium Announces Successful First Launch of Iridium NEXT Satellites

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Falcon 9 lifts off. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Falcon 9 lifts off. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

MCLEAN, Va., Jan. 14, 2017 (Iridium PR) — 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 largest commercial satellite constellation in space.

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ULA Postpones NROL-79 Launch From Vandenberg

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A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the WorldView-4 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: ULA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (Jan. 16, 2017) – The launch date for a United Launch Alliance Atlas V carrying NROL-79 for the National Reconnaissance Office is under review.

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exactEarth Launches Four Hosted Payloads on Iridium Satellite

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exactEarth_solid_colorCAMBRIDGE, ON, Jan 16, 2017 (exactEarth PR) — exactEarth Ltd. (TSX: XCT), the leading provider of Satellite AIS data services, announced the successful launch of four hosted payloads for its next generation constellation, exactView™ RT powered by Harris.

Launched aboard an Iridium NEXT satellite on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, these hosted maritime payloads are now being commissioned and are expected to be brought into service within the next four months.

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Atlas V Scheduled for Thursday Launch from Cape Canaveral

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A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying EchoStar XIX satellite lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 2:13 p.m. ET. (Credit: United Launch Alliance/Lockheed Martin)

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying EchoStar XIX satellite lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 at 2:13 p.m. ET. (Credit: United Launch Alliance/Lockheed Martin)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the ULA Atlas V launch carrying the SBIRS GEO Flight 3 satellite. The mission is set to lift off on a ULA Atlas V rocket on Thursday, Jan. 19 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window 7:46-8:26 p.m. EST. Today’s L-4 forecast shows a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

Weather Forecast

Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 30%
Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds, Thick Clouds
Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24 hour delay: 40%
Primary concerns: Cumulus Clouds, Thick Clouds

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This Week on The Space Show

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space_show_logo
This week on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston:

1. Monday, Jan. 16, 2017: 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST, 4-5:30 PM CST): We welcome back COURTNEY STADD to discuss presidential transitions regarding space matters.

2. Tuesday, Jan. 17 2017: 7-8:30 PM PST, 10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST: We welcome DR. GEOFFREY LANDIS regarding his innovative work on laser drives, interstellar probes and more.

3. Friday, Jan. 20, 2016: 9:30-11AM PST; (12:30-2 PM EST; 11:30 AM – 1 PM CST) No show today due to presidential inauguration.

4. Sunday, Jan. 22,, 2017: 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 5PM CST):We welcome back DR. LARRY KUZNETZ regarding the Mars spacesuit and his new class on spacesuits at the University of California.

Moon Express Raises $20 Million for Lunar Flight

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Moon Express MX-1 spacecraft orbits the Moon in preparation for landing. MX-1 will deliver commercial, academic and government instruments to explore the Moon for science and resources. (Credit: Moon Express)

Moon Express MX-1 spacecraft orbits the Moon in preparation for landing. MX-1 will deliver commercial, academic and government instruments to explore the Moon for science and resources. (Credit: Moon Express)

Moon Express has announced that it has raised $20 million in a Series B funding round from Founders Fund, Autodesk and Collaborative Fund.

The company says it is fully funded to land a spacecraft on the moon later this year. The flight will be an attempt to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize for the first privately built vehicle to land on the moon and travel 500 meters across the surface. There is a $5 million prize for the second team to achieve the goal.

Moon Express’ spacecraft will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. Rocket Lab expects to launch the Electron on its first flight test in February.

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Lu: Good News and Bad News on Asteroid Defense

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These photos show the relative size of three asteroids that have been imaged at close range by spacecraft. Mathilde (37 x 29 miles) (left) was taken by the NEAR spacecraft on June 27, 1997. Images of the asteroids Gaspra (middle) and Ida (right) were taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1991 and 1993, respectively. Image Credit:  NASA/JPL/NEAR and Galileo missions

These photos show the relative size of three asteroids that have been imaged at close range by spacecraft. Mathilde (37 x 29 miles) (left) was taken by the NEAR spacecraft on June 27, 1997. Images of the asteroids Gaspra (middle) and Ida (right) were taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1991 and 1993, respectively. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/NEAR and Galileo missions)

Statement by Dr. Ed Lu
Co-founder and CEO, B612 Foundation

“Last week brought both good and bad news for the field of planetary defense and the worldwide effort to protect the Earth from large and dangerous asteroid impacts.

The good news is that the National Near Earth Object Preparedness Strategy report from the White House National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) presented a list of strategic goals to address the risk of large asteroid impacts.

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Japanese Smallsat Launcher Fails in Maiden Flight

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The world’s smallest launch vehicle failed in its maiden launch from a Japanese spaceport on Sunday.

JAXA’s SS-520-4 booster took off from the >Uchinoura Space Center at 8:33 a.m. local time carrying the TRICOM-1 CubeSat. The space agency said although the rocket’s first stage fired normally, the second stage failed to ignite. The booster and its payload fell into the ocean.

The SS-520-4 is an upgraded version of a Japanese sounding rocket that is designed to launch micro-satellites. The three-stage booster stands only 9.5 meters (31.3 ft) tall and has a diameter of .52 meters (1.7 ft).

The TRICOM-1 spacecraft was developed by the University of Tokyo. The 3-kg (6.6 lb) CubeSat included store-and-forward communications equipment and Earth observation cameras.

Videos: SpaceX Returns Falcon 9 to Flight, Lands on Drone Ship

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SpaceX successfully returned its Falcon 9 rocket to flight today, orbiting 10 Iridium satellites and landing the first stage on an off-shore drone ship. The launch took place from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

ASAP’s Report Card on NASA Safety

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International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel
Annual Report for 2016
January 11, 2017
[Full Report – PDF]

Excerpts

Report Summary

Twelve topic areas, highlighted in this report, are summarized in the table below. They have been broken out to focus attention on individual topics that the Panel feels are worthy of note.

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SpaceX’s Shotwell to be Deposed in Whistleblower Lawsuit

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Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell will be deposed in a lawsuit filed by former employee  Jason Blasdell, an avionics test technician who claims he was fired in 2014 after blowing the whistle on managers for cutting corners on tests.

He received consistently positive reviews from management for his work, his lawsuit states. However, he began seeing safety issues related to the testing procedures of rocket parts, leading him to question the quality of the testing and the risks it posed not just for possible rocket explosions, but for the potential loss of human life as well, according to his attorneys’ court papers.

Blasdell complained to Shotwell, to SpaceX founder Elon Musk and to the company’s human resources department that there were potentially dangerous deviations from protocol that his managers were pressuring test technicians to make, his lawsuit alleges.

Shotwell, 53, told Blasdell during an October 2013 meeting that she would investigate his concerns and hire an outside consultant to investigate, the suit claims. Blasdell followed up in early 2014 when he inquired of Shotwell by email whether the consultant had been hired.

“Ms. Shotwell never responded to plaintiff’s inquiry, but instead wrote a separate email to plaintiff criticizing the manner in which plaintiff communicated with management,” according to the court papers….

In their papers, SpaceX attorneys called Blasdell’s lawsuit “baseless.”

Read the full story.

SpaceX Return to Flight Set for Saturday

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spacex_iridium1_patchHAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 10 satellites to low-Earth orbit for Iridium, a global leader in mobile voice and data satellite communications. The 10 satellites are the first of at least 70 satellites that SpaceX will be launching for Iridium’s next generation global satellite constellation, Iridium NEXT.

SpaceX is targeting launch of Iridium-1 from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The instantaneous launch window opens on January 14 at 9:54:39 am PST or 5:54:39 pm UTC. The satellites will begin deployment about an hour after launch.

The webcast is available here.

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WSJ Report: SpaceX Recorded $260 Million Loss in 2015

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

The Wall Street Journal managed to get a hold of some internal SpaceX financial documents. The results are very interesting:

  • SpaceX lost $260 million in 2015, the result of an explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket that grounded the rocket for six months;
  • Elon Musk’s company ended 2015 with $1.3 billion in cash, primarily from a $1 billion investment by Google and Fidelity investments “as well as huge upfront payments for development work and launch reservations”;
  • Although SpaceX’s revenues peaked at $1 billion in 2014, its operating profit was thin;
  • SpaceX projected $55 million in operating profit for 2016 based on launching 20 times, but it only flew eight times before a Falcon 9 exploded on the launch pad on Sept. 1 and grounded the booster;
  • SpaceX projected launching 27 times in 2017 with an increase to 44 in 2018;
  • Despite a long-standing claim that the SpaceX was “profitable and cash-flow positive,” the company had an operating loss in every quarter in 2015 and a “negative cash flow of roughly $15 million”;
  • SpaceX removed the claim that it was “profitable and cash-flow positive” three weeks after a Falcon 9 exploded on the launch pad on Sept. 1, indicating that it likely lost money in 2016;
  • The company is betting big on its 4,000-satellite Internet business, expecting it to generate annual operating profits of $15 billion to $20 billion by 2025; and,
  • The satellite Internet business is Musk’s big hope for funding his plan to colonize Mars.

Read the full story. (If you hit a paywall with this link, type the story headline into Google and then click on the link that comes up.)