Author: Doug Messier

Space Renaissance Act Calls for Major Changes in Commercial Policies

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By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) proposed American Space Renaissance Act (ASRA) would bring about significant changes in the nation’s commercial space policy, with a much larger role for the Department of Transportation and a revamping of activities within the Commerce Department.

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Generation Orbit Signs Space Act Agreement With NASA Armstrong

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Flight Experiments Testbed (Credit: Generation Orbit)

Flight Experiments Testbed (Credit: Generation Orbit)

ATLANTA — Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) is pleased to announce the signing of a Space Act Agreement with NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) to collaboratively pursue the flight test and envelope clearance for the GOLauncher 1 air launched rocket vehicle.

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Caltech Names Michael Watkins as Next JPL Director

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Michael Watkins

Michael Watkins

PASADENA, Calif. (Caltech PR) — Michael M. Watkins, the Clare Cockrell Williams Centennial Chair in Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Center for Space Research at The University of Texas at Austin, has been appointed director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and vice president at Caltech, the Institute announced today.

Watkins will formally assume his position on July 1, 2016. He succeeds Charles Elachi, who will retire as of June 30, 2016, and move to the Caltech faculty.

Watkins is an internationally recognized scientist and engineer. Prior to assuming his current position at The University of Texas in 2015, he worked at JPL for 22 years, where he held leadership roles on some of NASA’s highest-profile missions. Watkins served as mission manager and mission system manager for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover; led review or development teams for several missions including the Cassini, Mars Odyssey, and Deep Impact probes; and was the project scientist leading science development for the GRAIL moon-mapping satellites, the GRACE Earth science mission, and the GRACE Follow-On mission, scheduled for launch in 2017. He last served at JPL as manager of the Science Division, and chief scientist for the Engineering and Science Directorate.

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ESA Delays Second Part of ExoMars Mission to 2020

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Prototype ExoMars rover. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)

Prototype ExoMars rover. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)

PARIS (ESA PR) — On 14 March 2016, the Roscosmos State Corporation and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the jointly-developed ExoMars 2016 interplanetary mission, comprising the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli lander, on a Proton rocket from Baikonur, thus marking the first phase in the European-Russian ExoMars cooperation programme. The success achieved by Russian and European experts involved in ExoMars 2016 is the result of long and fruitful cooperation. The ExoMars 2016 spacecraft are due to arrive at Mars in October 2016.

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NovaWurks, Arkisys Sign Agreement for Development of Next-Generation Space Platforms

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novawurks_logoLOS ALAMITOS, Calif., May 2, 2016 (NovaWurks PR) – NovaWurks™ Inc., a provider of high technology space products and services, today announced it has signed a licensing agreement with Arkisys, a forward-thinking provider of large space platforms and innovative spacecraft solutions.

The agreement serves to leverage NovaWurks’ Hyper-Integrated Satlet (HISat™) technology in applying Arkisys’ vision for the next wave of in situ assembled space elements and platforms. As a biologically inspired technology enabling unlimited configuration and aggregation of flexible and reliable satlets, NovaWurks’ HISats are radically changing the way spacecraft are designed and deployed. Forged from decades of experience with spacecraft systems engineering and architecture, Arkisys merges flight experience with the Silicon Valley entrepreneur’s ability to execute. By leveraging both companies’ expertise and leveraging advanced robotics technology the future of scalable, assemble-able, ‘right sized’ space is here.

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NASA to Host Game Changing Technology Industry Day

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Game_changing_technology_industry_dayWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is hosting the Game Changing Technology Industry Day to engage the aerospace industry and identify potential areas of common interest and synergy with NASA. The objective of the meeting is to enhance industry awareness and understanding of the mid-level technology investments within the Game Changing Development portfolio.

The Game Changing Technology Industry Day will focus on 11 current technologies that are potential targets for commercial and academic partnerships. Attendees will hear from project managers about the exciting work going going on within STMD and have the opportunity to see hardware and ask questions in person.

By joining this Industry Day, participants will have the unique opportunity to listen and engage with NASA technologists who seek partnerships that can further innovation in space exploration.

For more information and the agenda please go to www.nasa.gov/spacetech. In addition, the event will be webcast live via UStream. Details will be provided closer to the event date.

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NASA Awards Paragon, TTU With STTR Phase I For Spacecraft Wastewater Recycling System

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TUCSON, Ariz., May 02, 2016 ((Paragon SDC PR) – Paragon Space Development Corporation® (Paragon) and partner Texas Tech University (TTU) received a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award from NASA to develop the Integrated Water Recovery Assembly (IRA), a spacecraft wastewater recycling system that will provide the long-term support necessary to explore beyond Earth orbit.

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Video: Moon Express’ Bob Richards on a Private Lunar Mission

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Video Caption: The health of our home planet and the survival of our species will only be secured through the use of space resources and the expansion of Earth’s economic sphere to the Moon and beyond. Creating an off-Earth economy and multi-planet civilization will safeguard the long term prospects of humanity.

Bob Richards is Co-Founder and CEO of Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx), a privately funded lunar transportation and space resource development company, striving to become the first commercial company to land on the Moon, a challenge only accomplished by 3 superpowers in history. Located at Cape Canaveral, Moon Express has contracted for 3 launches to the Moon with Rocket Lab between 2017 and 2020, is partnered with NASA under its Lunar CATALYST program, and is one of only two teams in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition with a verified launch contract.

In this talk Bob Richards outlines Moon Express and it plans to develop lunar resources, and how this goal has set in motion technological, political, legal and regulatory precedents that will allow humanity to rationally and peacefully embrace and develop the Moon as the world’s eighth continent.

COMSTAC Recommends Against Lifting Ban on Commercial ICBM Use

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A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

The FAA Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) voted last week to recommend that the U.S. government maintain its ban on the use of excess ICBM motors for launching commercial satellites. The recommendation to the FAA is a non-binding one.

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New Chart Shows Performance Hit Falcon 9 Takes for Reusability

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On Saturday, SpaceX Founder Elon Musk posted a new price chart for the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters that show the performance hit that results from making the boosters partially reusable.

The Falcon 9 can lift 8.3 metric tons (18,300 lb) to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) in its expendable form. Make the booster reusable with landing legs and fuel in reserve, it can lift up to 5.5 metric tons (12,125 lb) to GTO.

For the Falcon Heavy, the numbers are 22.2 metric tons (48,943 lb) for the expendable version and up to 8 metric tons (17,637 lb) for the reusable variant. The Falcon Heavy has yet to fly and is running nearly four years behind SpaceX’s original schedule. The latest flight date is at the end of this year.

SpaceX is charging $62 million for the Falcon 9 and $90 million for the Falcon Heavy. The company has not yet set prices for a launch with a reused first stage, but officials have estimated prices could be set around $40 million for the Falcon 9.

Musk was asked on Twitter whether the posted performance figures were for the current versions of the boosters or future variants. He elaborated in a series of Tweets:

“Basically current, but higher throttle setting. Good performance of recent launches allows us to reduce 3 sigma reserve margin”

“No physical changes to the engine. This thrust increase is based on delta qual tests. It is just tougher than we thought.”

“F9 thrust at liftoff will be raised to 1.71M lbf later this year. It is capable of 1.9M lbf in flight.”

“Falcon Heavy thrust will be 5.1M lbf at liftoff — twice any rocket currently flying. It’s a beast…”

The table also shows payload capacity for the two rockets for Mars missions. Falcon 9 can send just over 4 metric tons (8,860 lb) to Mars while Falcon Heavy can send 13.6 metric tons (29,980 lb) to the Red Planet.

This Week on The Space Show

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

1. Monday, May 2, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): DR. DAN DURDA returns as our guest.

2. Tuesday, May 3, 2016: 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcome PATRICK HOST to the show. Our topic will be military and defense space.

2. Thursday, May 5, 2016: 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT):We welcome back DR. PASCAL LEE OF THE MARS INSTITUTE. Dr. Lee will be discussing their special film debut. Don’t miss it.

3. Friday, May 6, 2016: 2016; 9:30-11AM PDT; (12:30-2 PM EDT; 11:30AM – 1 PM CDT. We welcome JOSE G. MOLINA-VASQUES to discuss ISDC 2016.

4. Sunday, May 8, 2016: 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT): No show today due to Mother’s Day.

Study Finds FAA Could Take Over Space Situational Awareness from Air Force

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In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.

In addition to active satellites, a large number of items of debris that originated from collisions, decommissioned satellites or the spent upper stages of launch vehicles are currently in Earth orbit. Credit: ESA.

A Department of Transportation (DOT) review has found that it would be possible for it to take over responsibility for space situational awareness from the U.S. Air Force.

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Haskell to Design-Build Blue Origin’s New Manufacturing Facility

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Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)

Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 14th Air Force vice commander, left, provides remarks at a Blue Origin media event held at Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Sept 15, 2015. (Credit: USAF/Matthew Jurgens)

JACKSONVILLE, FL (Haskell PR) – Haskell, a leading integrated design, engineering and construction firm, announced today that it has been selected to design-build a new orbital rocket manufacturing facility for Blue Origin. The facility will be built at Exploration Park in Cape Canaveral, Florida – the hub of U.S. space exploration.

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NASA Selects Honeybee Robotics for 2 STTR & 5 SBIR Awards

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honeybee_roboticsNASA has selected Honeybee Robotics for two Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) and five Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase I awards.

The selected proposals include:

  • STTR: Robotic ISRU Construction of Planetary Landing and Launch Pad (Partnered with Michigan Technological University)
  • STTR: In-Situ Spectroscopic Europa Explorer (Partnered with SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center)
  • SBIR: The Stinger: A Geotechnical Sensing Package for Robotic Scouting on a Small Planetary Rover
  • SBIR: Planetary Vacuum Cleaner for Venus and Mars
  • SBIR: Dust-Tolerant, High Pressure Oxygen Quick Disconnect for Advanced Spacesuit and Airlock Applications
  • SBIR: Strut Attachment System for In-Space Robotic Assembly
  • SBIR: High Temperature Joint Actuator

Descriptions of the research projects follow.
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OSTP Recommends Giving Mission Approval Authority for FAA

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George Nield

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has recommended to Congress that the Secretary of Transportation be given the power to provide mission authorizations for such non-traditional space activities as asteroid mining and private space stations, a FAA official revealed last week.

George Nield, FAA associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, said an authorization would stipulate that a mission is in compliance with U.S. space policy, foreign and national security considerations, and international treaty obligations.

Nield made his remarks last week during a meeting of FAA AST’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC).

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