NASA Commends SpaceX for “Reaching Higher”

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The following is a statement on SpaceX’s announcement Monday about a private space mission around the moon:

“NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

“For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity’s future in space.

“NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.”

SpaceX to Send Two Space Tourists Around the Moon in 2018

SpaceX Crew Dragon Weldment Structure (Credit: SpaceX)

HAWTHORNE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — We are excited to announce that SpaceX has been approached to fly two private citizens on a trip around the moon late next year. They have already paid a significant deposit to do a moon mission.

Like the Apollo astronauts before them, these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration. We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year.

Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow. Additional information will be released about the flight teams, contingent upon their approval and confirmation of the health and fitness test results.

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LeoLabs Raises $4 Million for Space Debris Tracking

MENLO PARK, Calif., Feb. 27, 2017 (LeoLabs PR) — LeoLabs, Inc., the leading commercial provider of data to track space debris and prevent collisions in low Earth orbit (LEO), today announced closing a $4 million investment round. Funding is backed by a prestigious consortium of global investors, including SRI International, Horizons Ventures, and Airbus Ventures. With this funding, LeoLabs is accelerating its cloud-based debris and satellite tracking service, expanding its ground-based radar infrastructure, and supporting engagements with commercial and governmental customers.

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Trump Proposes to Boost Military Funding, Cut Domestic Spending

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

Trump Administration officials say the president’s budget will propose spending an additional $54 billion on defense while cutting almost every other domestic discretionary program.

The defense buildup that Trump repeatedly promised on the campaign trail would mark about a 10 percent spending hike. Under Trump’s proposal, most federal agencies would face budget reductions, an Office of Management and Budget official said. Foreign aid spending would also drop.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity at the White House’s insistence, did not say which federal departments would see the biggest cuts.

Speaking at a meeting with governors Monday, Trump said his administration will “do more with less and make the government lean and accountable.”

The budget “will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it,” Trump said at the White House.

Trump is expected to further outline his spending priorities in an address to Congress on Tuesday. A detailed budget plan is expected in mid-March.

We’ll have to wait how all this pans out when the administration releases its full plan. But, on the face of things, this doesn’t look real good for NASA, NOAA or the nation’s civilian science and technology programs.

This Week on The Space Show


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

1. Monday, Feb. 27, 2017: 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST, 4-5:30 PM CST): We welcome BROTHER GUY CONSOLMAGNO SJ, Director,, Specola, Vaticana, Vatican City State,. Brother Guy will be discussing the role of the Vatican Observatory and space.

2. Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017: 7-8:30 PM PST, 10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST: KIM HOLDER of Moonwards.com returns to the program with updates and new information.

3. Friday, March 3 2016: 9:30-11AM PST; (12:30-2 PM EST; 11:30 AM – 1 PM CST): We welcome back DR. SEAN CASEY on commercial space, Silicon Valley space, and more.

4. Sunday, March 5,, 2017: 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST): We welcome back CHRIS CARBERRY of Explore Mars to discuss the upcoming Humans2Mars event and more.

“USS Vanity” Flies Again


An interesting take on the SpaceShipTwo program from Inverse.com. Shared in my Facebook feed….

Space Life Sciences Lab Sends Experiments to ISS

Launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 CRS-10 mission on Feb. 19, 2017. (Credit: SpaceX)

EXPLORATION PARK, Fla. (Space Florida PR) — Space Florida is proud to congratulate SpaceX for the successful docking of the CRS-10 mission with the ISS and to congratulate the 4 different experiments on board the Dragon capsule which were processed in the Space Life Sciences Lab (SLSL) in Exploration Park, Florida.

Those experiments were as follows:

  • Customer: CASIS/MERCK
    PI: Paul Reichert
    Protein crystal growth – pharmaceutical research (chemotherapy)
  • Customer: Edith Stein High School (agricultural high school in Ravensburg, Germany)
    PI: Maria Koch, Raphael Schilling and David Geray, German Students
    Vegetative propagation of plants on orbit
  • Customer: Intrinsyx Tech
    PI: John Freeman
    Designed to study enhanced plant growth of strong plants for astronauts on long duration Space missions
  • Customer: Space Tango
    PI: Twyman Clements

Another commercial opportunity to begin to utilize microgravity for application on Earth. The use of the SLSL for the processing of payloads for experiments and commercial operations will only grow as the flight cadence at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport increases in the years ahead.

“We’re excited to see the early investments by the State of Florida in payload processing for science and industry become a reality here at the Cape.” said Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello.

Vega Flight Opportunity for Multiple Small Satellites

Vega lifts off with IXV test vehicle. (Credit: ESA)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Europe’s Vega small launcher is set to demonstrate its extended capability to deploy multiple light satellites using its new versatile Small Satellites Mission Service (SSMS) dispenser, in the second half of 2018.

This demonstration provides the first of the launch opportunities under the new Light satellite, Low-cost Launch opportunity (LLLor L3) Initiative initiated at the ESA Council Meeting at Ministerial Level in December 2016 with the aim to provide low-cost and regular launch services for European Institutional light satellites through full exploitation of the Ariane 6 and Vega C launch systems’ capabilities.

This first proof-of-concept flight using the current Vega launch system will demonstrate and validate standard innovative services for light satellites.

The SSMS dispenser with its modular design enables Vega to provide launch opportunities for light satellites with an overall mass ranging from 1 kg CubeSats up to 400 kg minisats with different alternative configurations and relevant combinations under a ‘rideshare’ concept.

Potential customers, be they European public-sector organisations or other entities, are invited to respond to the joint ESA and European Commission Announcement of Opportunity, which can be downloaded here together with its questionnaire, by 31 March.

OneWeb Could Add 2,000 Additional Satellites to Constellation

Some news out of London about the satellite Internet company OneWeb, which has announced a satellite constellation of more than 600 spacecraft:
Satellite telecom startup OneWeb, emboldened by the oversubscribed $1.2 billion Softbank-led investment gained in December, is on the verge of adding another 2,000 satellites to its previously proposed constellation of several hundred satellites…..

On Wednesday, Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder and executive chairman, told an audience at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London that the company has sold a considerable portion of the capacity of its initial planned constellation and is seriously considering quadrupling its size.

“We are adding 2,000 satellites at different altitudes in low Earth orbit,” Wyler told SpaceNews in London. “We have priority rights to another 2,000 satellites — 1,972 satellites, to be precise. With Softbank we have reinvigorated our activities and started talking about the strong possibility that we will be adding to the constellation using our priority rights.”

The expansion plans materialized after Japanese mogul Masyoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank, jumped on board with a $1 billion investment. Previous investors committed to an additional $200 million, bringing OneWeb’s total capital raised to $1.7 billion.

Read the full story.

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Orbital Access Limited to Establish US Operations Hub at Cape Canaveral Spaceport

WASHINGTON, DC (Orbital Access PR) — Orbital Access Limited and Space Florida announced today that they have signed a strategic memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will see the UK space services operator establish a principal operating base at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. Orbital Access Limited is leading the development of a next generation small satellite launch system with support from the UK Space Agency to complement a portfolio of non-launch related space services to be delivered at horizontal launch spaceports, such as the Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

Announcing the signing Stuart McIntyre, CEO of Orbital Access said: “We are delighted to partner with Space Florida and the Cape Canaveral Spaceport to establish a primary service hub for the US market at the iconic heart of the Space industry in Florida. With the commercial market for small payload launch growing rapidly, the new breed of horizontal launch spaceports will become a key component in providing the access to space needed. These spaceports will become a hub for space related services ranging from simple industrial communications flights, micro gravity parabolic flight services, specialist astronaut conditioning, suborbital flying and, ultimately, small payload launch operations.”

Speaking on behalf of Space Florida, Frank DiBello said “We are delighted to welcome Orbital Access Limited to Florida as a major broad capability global operator to locate at Space Florida’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). Commercial spaceports are becoming the go-to place for the wide range of space related services and activities, and access to low Earth orbit. As additional facilities develop around the world we are setting the operational template in Florida that will place us at the heart of the global spaceport system that is emerging.”

“Their selection of Florida for their payload services business reflects the deep space and aerospace industry heritage that exists in Florida and we look forward to the development of their wide range of services.”

Orbital Access Limited intends to base a fleet specialist aircraft at the SLF which will provide non-scheduled passenger services, parabolic micro gravity flight services and specialist charters. Additional services, such as simulator training and spaceflight participant conditioning, will be provided in conjunction with specialist providers in the USA. Horizontal take-off small payload launch services will be added once the development program, currently underway in the United Kingdom, is complete and operational permissions have been obtained. The development program, the Future UK Small Payload Launcher (FSPLUK) project, is being taken forward by Orbital Access Limited with an industrial team of tier 1 UK aerospace and academic partners.

UAE Announces Plan to Colonize Mars by 2117

Let’s see, SpaceX’s Elon Musk has announced plans to transport 1 million people on Mars within the next 40 to 100 years. However, he lacks the money to actually achieve that goal. NASA’s funding is tight, and the agency has no plans for Mars anywhere near as ambitious as Musk’s colony.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has tons of money and has just announced its own plans to colonize the Red Planet within a century.

Announcing the plan at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Tuesday, UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, described Mars 2117 as an ongoing UAE effort to develop scientific knowledge until Mars colonisation is possible, with the help of international partners.

“The new project is a seed that we plant today, and we expect future generations to reap the benefits, driven by its passion to learn to unveil a new knowledge,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

“The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans. Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality.”

“The city is roughly the size of Chicago. It has a population of 600,000,” the manager of the scientific and research committee at the World Government Summit, Saeed Al Gergawi, told CNBC.

“We came up with that number because it’s like someone going to an exotic island. Not everyone can go first, then we get advancement of rocket tech, which makes people move there easily, then the advancement of oxygen tech to make it more Earth-like, which would incentivise people.”

Could there be synergy between these plans? Could the UAE’s plan move the needle on Mars? Could this be the tipping point? And what is this big SpaceX announcement planned for Monday at 1 pm PST?

Stay tuned. Things could be about to get interesting. Anything could happen. And it probably will.

ISRO Budget to Increase 23 Percent, Venus & Mars Missions Planned

ISRO will be getting a 23 percent increase in its budget and will be aiming for its first mission to Venus and a second one to Mars.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s love affair with space is quite evident. The government, it seems, is rather pleased with the Indian space agency as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave the Department of Space a whopping 23 per cent increase in its budget. Under the space sciences section, the Budget mentions provisions “for Mars Orbiter Mission II and Mission to Venus”.

The second mission to Mars is tentatively slated for the 2021-2022 timeframe and as per existing plans it may well involve putting a robot on the surface of the Red Planet.

While ISRO’s first mission to Mars, undertaken in 2013, was purely an Indian mission, the French space agency wants to collaborate with ISRO in making the Mars rover.

In fact, on a visit to India this month, Michael M Watkins, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, said they would be keen to at least put a telematics module so NASA’s rovers and the Indian satellites are able to talk to each other.

India’s maiden mission to Venus, the second planet of the Solar System named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, is in all probability going to be a modest orbiter mission.

Read the full story.

NASA Begins Study on Placing Crew on First SLS/Orion Launch

Space Launch System in flight. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is assessing the feasibility of adding a crew to the first integrated flight of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). NASA is building new deep space capabilities to take humans farther into the solar system than we have ever traveled, and ultimately to Mars.

Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot announced Feb. 15 that he had asked William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington, to conduct the study, and it is now underway. NASA expects it to be completed in early spring.

The assessment will review the technical feasibility, risks, benefits, additional work required, resources needed and any associated schedule impacts to add crew to the first mission.

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