Google Lunar X Prize Update: Funding Remains an Issue

MTV-1X vehicle in full tether mode. (Credit: Moon Express)
MTV-1X vehicle in full tether mode. (Credit: Moon Express)

The IEEE Spectrum has an interesting update on the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, which recently slipped its deadline for landing a rover on the moon from the end of 2015 to Dec. 31, 2016.

The story confirms what I’ve suspected for quite some time now: it’s much easier to build and test hardware on Earth than it is to get it to the lunar surface. With two years, not one of the 18 remaining teams has locked down a firm launch date. If none of them does by the end of 2015, the competition will end without a winner.

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Canadian Researchers Demonstrate First CubeSat Formation Flying

CanX-4 and CanX-5 (Cedit: UTIAS SFL)
CanX-4 and CanX-5 (Cedit: UTIAS SFL)

University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory (UTIAS SFL)
Press Release

In only four months following launch, the CanX-4 and CanX-5 dual satellite formation flying mission has been accomplished ahead of schedule.

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Video: Silicon Valley Goes to Space

Video Caption: Space has long been the domain of powerful governments. But now new commercial space ventures is taking off, from mining the moon to private rocket ship rides to the edge of space. Still, space exploration is fraught with challenges and risks, for both investors and those seeking to experience the thrill of space.

ULA Celebrates Banner Launch Year

Orion Exploration Flight Test launch. (Credit: NASA)
Orion Exploration Flight Test launch. (Credit: NASA)

Centennial, Colo., Dec. 29, 2014 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance, the nation’s premier space launch provider, congratulates its employees, suppliers and customers on another successful year, reliably and affordably launching 14 satellites to orbit with 100 percent mission success.

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Project PoSSUM to Hold Scientist-Astronaut Class at Embry Riddle

Project_PoSSUMBoulder, Colo., December 29, 2014 (Project PoSSUM PR) — Project PoSSUM, a non-profit suborbital research program, announces the first PoSSUM scientist-astronaut class to be held at the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., Feb. 7 – 10, 2015. This unique opportunity allows individuals to train with some of the world’s leading upper atmospheric scientists and to fly to space as part of an international research campaign dedicated to the study of global climate. The four-day, fully immersive qualification program was designed by former NASA astronaut instructors to provide its candidates with the skills required to effectively conduct research on commercial space vehicles as part of Project PoSSUM.

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2014: The Year We Realized Space is Hard (Part I)

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.
A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground. (Credit: NASA TV)

Sometimes things can go so well for so long that we forget – or try not to remember – just how difficult some tasks can be to achieve. Like getting to space, for example.

That reality was driven home during three days in October when an expendable booster exploded in Virginia and an experimental space plane crashed in the Mojave Desert in California. This is the first of a multi-part series looking at these accidents and their impacts.

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On Oct. 28, an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket exploded in spectacular fashion after takeoff from Wallops Island, Va. The rocket was carrying a Cygnus freighter bound for the International Space Station (ISS) under a contract with NASA.

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SpaceX Wins Satellite Launch Contract

Falcon 9 static fire. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 static fire. (Credit: SpaceX)

DOHA, Qatar (Es’hailSat PR) — Es’hailSat – Qatar Satellite Company – has announced that following international consultation, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has been selected to launch the company’s second satellite – Es’hail 2 – in the fourth quarter of 2016 on board a Falcon 9 rocket.

Es’hail 2 is currently under construction by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation in Japan.

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This Week on The Space Show

spaceshowlogo
This week on The Space Show with David Livingston:

1. Monday, Dec. 29, 2014: 2:00-3:30PM PST (5:00-& 6:30 PM EST, 4:00-5:30 PM CST): GOLDEN OLDIE IN ADVANCE OF THE TOM OLSON 2014 YEAR IN REVIEW SHOW ON DEC. 30. The show today is Tom’s 2013 Space Year in review program. This is the last of our previous year Tom Olson summaries. Take notes, see how accurate our discussion was year by year. When you see the program archived on the website and blog, it is ready for play. When you see the show on the website and blog it is read to play.

2. Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014:,7-8:30 PM PST (10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST): We welcome back TOM OLSON live for his Space Year 2014 in Review program.

3. Friday, Jan. 2, 2015; , 9:30 -11 AM PST (12:30-2 PM EST; 11:30-1 PM CST): No show today due to New Years holiday.

4. Sunday, Dec.4, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 12-1:30 PM CST): We welcome back CHRIS CARBERRY, Executive Director for Explore Mars, Inc.

Google Teams With CNES for Internet Via Balloons

CNES stratospheric balloon launch from the Canadian Timmins base in 2013. (Credit: CNES/V. Dubourg)
CNES stratospheric balloon launch from the Canadian Timmins base in 2013. (Credit: CNES/V. Dubourg)

CNES Press Release

A fleet of balloons providing an Internet connection to rural, remote and underserved areas: that is the goal of Google’s ambitious Project Loon. CNES is supporting this project with balloon engineering expertise for which it has acquired international acclaim over the last 50 years. CNES and Google are delighted to be working together to give new momentum to research efforts in this area.

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Kodiak Launch Complex Upgrade Caught in Spending Freeze

alaska_aerospace_corpFacing a $3.5 billion budget shortfall due to the falling cost of oil, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has ordered work stopped on a handful of major construction projects.

On Friday, Walker issued an administrative order that directs “state agencies to halt to the maximum extent possible discretionary expenditures” for the Ambler Road Project, Juneau Access Project, Susitna-Watana Dam Project, Kodiak Launch Complex, Knik Arm Crossing and Alaska Stand-Alone Pipeline Project.

Kodiak Launch Complex: The state-owned spaceport in Kodiak was damaged by a rocket explosion in August. Alaska Aerospace, the state-owned corporation that operates the spaceport, announced earlier this month that it plans to rebuild its main launch pad to support larger rockets, at a cost of $6 million to $9 million.

The upgrades to the launch paid would accommodate Lockheed Martin’s medium-lift Athena IIS rocket.

Read the full story.

Update: Jeff Foust reports that officials are continuing repairs at the spaceport that resulted from an earlier launch failure. Those repairs are covered by insurance. They are also consulting with the governor’s office on whether the Lockheed Martin agreement is covered by the spending freeze. Compared with many of the other projects affected, this is a relatively low expenditure.

NASA’s Busy, Successful Year in Space & On Earth

Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)
Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2014, NASA took significant steps on the agency’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe as the agency made progress on the next generation of air travel.

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Interview With Hayabusa2 Program Manager

jaxa_hitoshi_kuninaka_interview
Via JAXA

In June 2010, asteroid explorer Hayabusa completed a seven-year journey of about 6 billion kilometers, returning to Earth with dust particles from an asteroid. Its successor, Hayabusa2, was launched on an H-IIA Launch Vehicle from the Tanegashima Space Center on December 3, 2014. Hayabusa2 will make its own journey to asteroid 1999 JU3, carrying our hopes into outer space. Just before launch, we asked Project Manager Hitoshi Kuninaka to talk about the mission.

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NASA 2014 Highlights Video

Video Caption: In 2014, NASA took significant steps on the agency’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe as the agency made progress on the next generation of air travel. Here’s a look at some of the top NASA stories of the year!

Merry Christmas!

thanksgiving_feast_norman_rockwell

Parabolic Arc is taking Christmas Day off.*

To my readers worldwide, I close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.

* Barring some particularly newsworthy space-related event.

Will Sea Launch End Up in Brazil?

sea_launch_zenitRussia’s efforts to find a new home for its failure-prone Sea Launch company has taken officials to rising South American power — and charter BRICS member — Brazil.

That’s the word from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin anyway.

“A quite remarkable dialogue at the level of experts is currently in progress; possibly, the idea may take shape within the BRICS group, or in our bilateral relations with Brazil, of carrying out such joint launches and furnishing assistance to Brazil in developing its space industry and making its own spacecraft,” he said, adding that Brazil already had its own space site close to the ocean that would fit in well with such tasks.
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