Singularity University Fires Up Synbio Startup Launchpad

An update on the Singularity University’s synthetic biology effort via the Singularity Hub:

Synthetic biology is poised to become one of the big technologies of the 21st Century – a game changing area of science that could alter everything we know about health, energy, and humanity. But if the synthetic biology revolution ever wants to get off the ground, it’s going to need a new wave of entrepreneurs to develop companies and establish the [infrastructure] and industry. Singularity University is looking for those entrepreneurs…and it’s going to help them succeed.  The Synbio Startup Launchpad is SU’s latest effort to empower the next generation of business leaders with the disruptive influence of accelerating technologies. Using software incubators as a model, the Synbio Startup Launchpad will give top tier startups up to $50k in funds, supplies, and lab services. […]


Ukraine Celebrates 50 Years in Space

Ukraine recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first satellite launch into space. On March 16, 1962, the Cosmos-2 rocket lifted off with the Cosmos-1 satellite aboard. Both the rocket and the spacecraft were developed by the Ukrainian-based Special Design Office 586 (OKB 586), now known as Yuzhnoye SDO.

In addition to the Cosmos family of rockets, Yuzhnoye’s other launch vehicles include the Zenit rockets flown by Land Launch and Sea Launch, the Dnepr ballistic missiles used to launch small satellites, the Cyclone-4 boosters set to make begin flights out of Alcantara in Brazil next year, and the first stage tanks and structure for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s new Antares rocket that will lift off from Virginia later this year. The company also provides an upper stage for Europe’s new Vega launcher.

Ukraine’s contributions to space are often overlooked, and this anniversary went largely unnoticed outside of that nation. So,  I thought it would be nice to give the Ukrainians their due. I found an account of the launch prepared by the good folks at the Yuzhnoye press office. It begins after the break.


NASA, Partners Solicit Creative Waste-Management Solutions

Tony Soprano and his family know a few things about waste management and disposing of unwanted....uh, how can we say this delicate like?...stuff. Maybe they will enter NASA's latest challenge. (Credit: HBO)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department and Nike today announced a challenge to identify 10 game-changing innovations that could transform waste-management systems and practices. Waste management is important for planning long-duration human spaceflight missions to an asteroid, Mars or beyond.

NMSA Approves $7 Million Runway Extension at Spaceport America

Spaceport America's runway under construction
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority has approved a $7 million extension to the runway at Spaceport America to accommodate safety and all-season flying concerns raised by Virgin Galactic.  The runway will be extended from 10,000 to 12,000 feet.

NMSA Chairman Rick Holdridge said Virgin Galactic originally wanted a 15,000-foot runway, but the state decided it couldn’t afford it under the original $209 million budget. So, a 10,000-foot runway was built with a provision that the state pay for extending it if necessary.


Russia Plans Megawatt Nuclear Space Engine by 2017

RIA Novosti reports on Russia’s plans for advanced space nuclear propulsion, an effort that now apparently involves the Skolkovo Foundation:

A Russian Megawatt-class nuclear propulsion system for long-range manned spacecraft must be ready by 2017, Skolkovo Foundation’s Nuclear Cluster head Denis Kovalevich said on Wednesday.

“At present we are testing several types of fuel and later we will start drafting the design,” Kovalevich said. “The first parts [of the nuclear engine] should be built in 2013, and the engine is expected to be ready by 2017.”

The engine is being developed for interplanetary manned spacecraft to ensure that Russia maintains a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Read the full story.

Kazkosmos Turns 5, Looks to Future

Kazkosmos Chairman Talgat Musabayev

Officials celebrated the fifth birthday of Kazakhstan’s space agency, Kazkosmos, on Tuesday as they looked ahead to building a full-fledged space industry that would serve as a key high-tech sector for the nation. A key part of this effort is cooperating with foreign space powers, including Europe, and training a new generation of aerospace workers abroad.

When the Soviet Union broke up 20 years ago, Kazakhstan inherited control of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. However, the country lacked a space agency and much in the way of a domestic space industrial sector. There were few trained engineers and technicians, a problem the nation is still addressing today.


NMSA Awards IT, Space Ops and Road Contracts to New Mexico Firms

The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) has announced three contract awards to companies located in the State of New Mexico. The contracts include Information Technology (IT) Services, Space Operations Services, and the Southern Road Environmental Analysis.


Enter the Dragon: Astronaut Performs Crew Interface Test

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur takes part in a crew equipment interface test inside the Dragon capsule. (Credit: SpaceX)

By Cheryl L. Mansfield
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

In preparation for the upcoming SpaceX demonstration flight, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur performed a crew equipment interface test March 28 in Florida. The test was part of current prelaunch preparations for the scheduled April 30 liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. McArthur worked together with SpaceX flight controllers for five hours in their hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-40, as the team entered its final phase of testing the Dragon capsule. The SpaceX launch is part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services partnership with U.S. industry.


Report: Government Spending on Space to Decline

Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

Paris and Montreal (March 27, 2012 – Euroconsult PR) – Euroconsult, the leading international research and analysis firm specialized in the space sector, today announced that global budgets for space programs have reached a plateau of roughly $70 billion, confirming a slowdown in expansion experienced by the space industry for the last 10 years.

According to Euroconsult’s new report “Profiles of Government Space Programs: Analysis of 60 Countries & Agencies,” Space programs received a short-term boost in recent years from several governments to counter the economic crisis. However, they must now undergo even more stringent budget constraints exemplified by the European public debt crisis and the U.S. Budget Control Act of 2011.


More Nonsense From Congress

“This show ain’t no good.” Elvis cancels The Scratchy Show. (Credit: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox)

Jeff Foust has a long and rather depressing accounting of the Senate hearing on NASA’s budget yesterday.  Some of the nonsensical things that were said:

Sen. Richard Shelby: “Mr. Administrator, I believe that the core mission of NASA is to build cutting-edge systems that allow us to expand our knowledge of the universe.”

Shelby’s “cutting edge systems” involve a monster Space Launch System (SLS) based on shuttle booster technologies designed in the 1970’s that will cost a fortune to build, maintain and operate.  In fact, it’s so expensive that we won’t be able to fly it very often, limiting our ability to explore the universe.  (more…)

Citizen Scientist Experiments May Fly on XCOR’s Lynx

San Francisco, CA (Mar. 28, 2012 – Citizens in Space PR) — Citizen scientists and hardware hackers are being challenged to develop payloads for commercial reusable suborbital spacecraft during the International Space Apps Challenge, a NASA-sponsored event that takes place worldwide and aboard the International Space Station on April 21-22.

The International Space Apps Challenge is a two-day “codeathon” which invites developers, hobbyists, and hackers around the world to work on a variety of hardware and software challenges. Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, is challenging participants to develop suborbital science payloads as part of the event.

Successful payloads may fly into space aboard one of the commercial reusable spacecraft that are now under development by companies such as XCOR Aerospace. XCOR Aerospace is building the Lynx, a two-seat rocketship that is expected to make its first flight before the end of this year.


SpaceX Announces Safety Advisory Panel

Hawthorne, CA (SpaceX PR) – Today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), one of the leading private companies working to restore America’s ability to carry astronauts to the Space Station, announced it has assembled a team of outside experts to help the company create the world’s safest human spaceflight system. 

“When it comes to manned spaceflight, safety is our top priority,” said SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer, Elon Musk. “These experts will provide us with important insights as we prepare to carry astronauts on the next generation of American spacecraft.”


Space Access ’12 Update With Preliminary Schedule

Space Access ’12 Conference – April 12-14 – Phoenix Arizona

SA ’12 will be the next round of Space Access Society’s long-running annual get-together for people seriously interested in the technology, business, and politics of radically cheaper space transportation. This year’s conference sessions will run from Thursday morning April 12th through Saturday evening April 14th. (Our Space Access hospitality suite will be open Wednesday evening for early arrivers.)


NSS Awards Heinlein Memorial Award to Stephen Hawking

Washington, DC — March 28, 2012 (NSS PR) – The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to announce Dr. Stephen Hawking as the 14th recipient of NSS’s Robert A. Heinlein Memorial Award. The award will be presented to Dr. Hawking at a special ceremony at the Cooks Branch Conservancy in Montgomery, Texas on Wednesday, March 28 and is given in recognition of his outstanding and continuing public efforts in support of human space development and settlement. 

In the last decade, Dr. Hawking has repeatedly and publicly advocated the need to move part of humanity off the Earth in order to avoid the destruction of the human race, either through self-destructive actions such as nuclear war, or natural phenomena such as asteroid collision or, eventually, the death of our nearest star, the Sun.


GLXP News: iQuest Sponsors ARCA Supersonic Aircraft

ARCA PR — The iQuest company is sponsoring ARCA program of the first Romanian supersonic airplane, IAR 111 Excelsior, participating in the competition of astronautics Google Lunar X Prize.

The partnership between IQuest and ARCA will run until 2015. This demonstrates the long term vision and dedication of iQuest, what is needed to make a space program.