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Astrobotic Selects Lunar Mission Director

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Sharad Bhaskaran

Sharad Bhaskaran

PITTSBURGH, June 29, 2016 (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic, which is building a service to make the Moon accessible to the world, today announces the selection of Sharad Bhaskaran as Mission Director. A nationwide search was conducted for the new position and Bhaskaran stood out as a clear fit to lead the team, with 25 years of experience at Lockheed Martin successfully developing and managing payload projects for spaceflight applications.

“Sharad, with his extensive space experience, is a perfect fit to lead our team of world class partners including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Airbus Defence and Space, Carnegie Mellon and NASA in the development of the Peregrine lunar lander,” said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic.

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Alan Stern Awarded NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal

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New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO., left, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) Director Ralph Semmel, center, and New Horizons Co-Investigator Will Grundy Lowell Observatory hold a print of an U.S. stamp with their suggested update since the New Horizons spacecraft has explored Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

BOULDER, Colo. , June 28, 2016 (SwRI PR) — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration today bestowed its highest honor, the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, to Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. As principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, Stern led the team that returned remarkable imagery and other data from the Pluto system last summer, generating headlines worldwide and setting a record for the farthest world ever explored.

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Russia, China to Deepen Cooperation on Space

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Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Vladimir Putin reviews a map showing the plan for the Vostochny spaceport. (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

MOSCOW (Roscosmos PR) — On June 25, 2016 in Beijing (China) in the framework of the official visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the PRC on the technology protection measures in connection with cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes and in the establishment and operation of launch vehicles and ground infrastructure.

From the Russian side the agreement was signed the Director-General of the State Corporation “Roskosmos” Igor Komarov, from China – the head of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) Xu Dazhu.

The agreement is intended to provide the legal basis for cooperation between Russia and China in the field of rocket engines and launch vehicles.

Russia and China cooperate in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes since 1992. Currently, the two countries plan to provide conditions for the development of new forms of cooperation in the field of outer space activities among organizations of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

Cooperation under this Agreement shall be without prejudice to the fulfillment of obligations under other international treaties to which the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

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Orbital Insight Announces $20 Million Investment

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Orbital_Insight_logoPALO ALTO, Calif., Jun 27, 2016 (Orbital Insight PR) – Orbital Insight, a geospatial big data company, today announced its $15 million Series B round led by GV (formerly Google Ventures), with participation from CME Ventures, and existing investors Sequoia Capital, Lux Capital, and Bloomberg Beta. Together with an investment and development agreement from In-Q-Tel (IQT), this investment adds $20 million to the company’s funding.

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DARPA Awards TUI/Firmamentum Contract to Develop “Constructable” Persistent GEO Platform

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Constructable GEO platform (Credit: TUI)

Constructable GEO platform (Credit: TUI)

Bothell,WA (TUI PR) — Firmamentum, a division of Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) dedicated to developing in-space manufacturing and construction services, announced that it has signed a contract with DARPA to design a persistent geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite platform.

Under the “Constructable™ Platform” Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award, Firmamentum will collaborate with Space Systems Loral (SSL), NanoRacks LLC, and Vulcan Aerospace to develop a modular architecture for constructing stations in Earth orbit capable of supporting multiple government and commercial payloads.

Firmamentum’s Constructable approach entails launching suitcase-sized modular elements at low cost using DARPA’s PODS payload delivery system and then robotically assembling these modules to form a space station in GEO capable of providing power, communications, stationkeeping, and other key services to ‘tenant’ payloads.

Firmamentum’s technologies for manufacturing satellite components such as trusses and reflectors on-orbit will enable integration of these small modules to form large, stable platforms that can grow and evolve to meet the needs of many different payloads over multiple decades of operation.

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NASA Investigation into SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Explosion Questions Single Strut Theory

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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

While SpaceX blames a faulty strut supplied by a contractor for the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket in June 2015, an independent investigation by NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) concluded there were several “credible causes” for the accident, including poor quality control at Elon Musk’s launch company.

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Bezos Update on Construction of Florida Production Facility

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Artist concept of Blue Origin rocket factory in Florida. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Artist concept of Blue Origin rocket factory in Florida. (Credit: Blue Origin)

We broke ground on our orbital vehicle manufacturing site in Florida.

The 750,000 square foot rocket factory is custom-built from the ground up to accommodate manufacturing, processing, integration and testing. Among other things, the facility hosts large scale friction stir welding and automated composite processing equipment. All of the vehicle will be manufactured in this facility except for the engines. Initial BE-4 engine production will occur at our Kent facility while we conduct a site selection process later this year for a larger engine production facility to accommodate higher production rates.

The site has been cleared for Blue Origin's rocket factory. (Credit: Blue Origin)

The site has been cleared for Blue Origin’s rocket factory. (Credit: Blue Origin)

I’ve included some photos that will give you an idea of what the vehicle manufacturing facility will look like in December 2017 when it’s complete.

It’s exciting to see the bulldozers in action–we’re clearing the way for the production of a reusable fleet of orbital vehicles that we will launch and land, again and again.

Gradatim Ferociter!

Jeff Bezos

SNC Enters Talks With United Nations on Dedicated Dream Chaser Flights

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Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (June 28, 2016) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding toward defining one or more Dream Chaser missions that will host payloads from member countries. SNC’s Dream Chaser is a reusable, orbital spacecraft designed to be a flexible Space Utility Vehicle (SUV) and transportation system for a variety of low-Earth orbit (LEO) missions.

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Virgin Galactic Taps Tim Buzza to Lead LauncherOne Program

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George Whitesides

George Whitesides

With Virgin Galactic President Steve Isakowitz heading out the door for the Aerospace Corporation, CEO George Whitesides has made an interim appointment in the meantime.

“I have asked Tim Buzza, the program director of LauncherOne, to step up and lead our LauncherOne enterprise as we search for Steve’s successor. Tim joined Virgin Galactic in 2014, and has led the overall program management of LauncherOne since early 2015. Prior to joining Galactic, Tim served as the Vice President of Launch and Test at SpaceX, in addition to prior leadership roles at Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. Tim will be supported by our Senior Vice President of Business Development and Advanced Concepts, Barry Matsumori, who was previously SpaceX’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development, as well as key roles at Qualcomm, Space Systems Loral and General Dynamics.”

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Isakowitz Leaves Virgin Galactic to Run Aerospace Corporation

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Virgin Galactic President Steven J. Isakowitz (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Steven J. Isakowitz (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerospace Corp PR) — Steve Isakowitz, president of Virgin Galactic, has been elected president of The Aerospace Corporation effective Aug. 1. He will assume the position of Aerospace president and CEO upon the retirement of Dr. Wanda Austin on Oct. 1.

“After a year-long search process, the board of trustees is pleased with the result. Building on Dr. Wanda Austin’s legacy of excellence and accomplishment, Steve Isakowitz has the right set of skills and experience—in government and industry—to lead Aerospace in a rapidly changing environment of constrained customer resources, challenging threats, and exciting new space technologies,” said Ambassador Barbara Barrett, chair of The Aerospace Corporation board of trustees.

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Orbital ATK Tests SRB for Space Launch System

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The second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System’s booster is seen, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory, Utah. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System’s booster is seen, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion Systems test facilities in Promontory, Utah. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

PROMONTORY, Utah (NASA PR) — A booster for the most powerful rocket in the world, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), successfully fired up Tuesday for its second qualification ground test at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah. This was the last full-scale test for the booster before SLS’s first uncrewed test flight with NASA’s Orion spacecraft in late 2018, a key milestone on the agency’s Journey to Mars.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Consolidates Defense & Space Business Units

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aerojet_rocketdyneSACRAMENTO, Calif., June 27, 2016 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc., a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD), today announced a significant reorganization, consolidating the company’s six business units into two – Space and Defense. The senior vice presidents of Space and Defense will be named at a later date and will report directly to CEO and President Eileen Drake. In the interim, the Space organization will report to Drake, and the Defense organization will report to COO Mark Tucker.

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DigitalGlobe, Esri Partner to Expand World Imagery Map

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DigitalGlobe_logoWESTMINSTER, Colo. (DigitalGlobe PR) — DigitalGlobe, Inc. (DGI), the global leader in earth imagery and information about our changing planet, today announced an agreement to make more current satellite imagery of the entire world available to users of Esri’s ArcGIS product family.

The new long-term partnership with Esri will enhance the World Imagery Map and give ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Data Appliance users access to current and complete high-resolution satellite imagery mosaics.

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Orbital ATK Delays Antares Return to Flight to August

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Antares rolled out for hot fire in May 2016. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Antares rolled out for hot fire in May 2016. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

The return to flight of Orbital ATK’s Antares booster will be delayed from July 6 to sometime in August.

An Orbital ATK spokesperson said engineers are analyzing data from last month’s 30-second hotfire test on the Antares launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia. In conjunction with the data crunching, the company’s engineers are also adjusting the trajectory the two-stage rocket will fly after blastoff from its seaside launch complex.

“Our Antares team recently completed a successful stage test and is wrapping up the test data analysis,” the company said in a statement. “Final trajectory shaping work is also currently underway, which is likely to result in an updated launch schedule in the August timeframe.”

The 139-foot-tall (42.5-meter) rocket, propelled by two RD-181 engines on its first stage and a solid-fueled Castor 30XL upper stage, will deliver Orbital ATK’s Cygnus cargo craft to orbit. The automated supply freighter, named the SS Alan Poindexter after the late space shuttle astronaut, will carry approximately 5,290 pounds (2,400 kilograms) of provisions, experiments and other cargo to the International Space Station.

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What Will Brexit Do to UK’s Space Program?

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UK_space_agencyIt looks like the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union (EU). If Parliament agrees. And the next Prime Minister — who won’t take office until October — respects the vote of  the people last week. And the UK doesn’t have another vote that reverses the decision.

Of course, not all of the United Kingdom might leave. Scotland is talking about having another vote on independence and applying to join the EU as a separate nation. And there is also a movement to united Northern Ireland with Ireland, which is an EU member and does not seem inclined to leave anytime soon.

The departure — which will take at least two years — will not affect the UK’s membership in the European Space Agency (ESA), which is separate from the EU. An independent Scotland would have to join both the EU and ESA. It’s not clear how complex those processes would be at this time.

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