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Latest Virgin Galactic Video: Tour Inside of FAITH

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This is kind of cool because it goes inside the hangar and let’s you use navigation buttons to spin yourself around to get an 180 degree view.

Dragon Returns to Earth

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SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down with Crucial NASA Research Samples

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:47 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 26, southwest of Baja California with more than 3,000 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station.

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SpaceWorks Receives DARPA SBIR Phase I Contract

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spaceworks_logoATLANTA, August 24, 2016 (SpaceWorks PR) — SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) announces the recent award of a Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the development of a persistent, geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO)-based platform capable of sustainable and evolvable on-orbit operations.

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Lots and Lots of Concerns About SLS & Orion

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Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

Artist concept of the Block I configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS Program has completed its critical design review, and the program has concluded that the core stage of the rocket will remain orange along with the Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, which is the natural color of the insulation that will cover those elements. (Credit: NASA)

The NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) held a meeting on July 21 at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Below is the section of the meeting minutes that deals with the space agency’s Exploration Systems Development, which includes the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and related ground systems.
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Boeing CST-100 Conducts Touchdown Tests at NASA Langley

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Dirt flies out as the mock-up of a Boeing CST-100 Starliner lands as part of testing on the spacecraft's landing system including airbags designed to absorb the shock of impact. (Credit: NASA/Langley Research Center)

Dirt flies out as the mock-up of a Boeing CST-100 Starliner lands as part of testing on the spacecraft’s landing system including airbags designed to absorb the shock of impact. (Credit: NASA/Langley Research Center)

By Sasha Ellis,
NASA’s Langley Research Center, Virginia

Hoisted about 30 feet in the air, a mockup of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft awaits its encounter with a pad full of dirt.

“Three, two, one” projects over the loud speaker just before the spacecraft is released and makes a loud thud when meeting the dirt. Six attached airbags absorb much of the landing impact and stabilize the spacecraft.

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NASA Selects ULA’s Reliable Atlas V Rocket to Launch Mars 2020 Mission

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Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)

Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)

Centennial, Colo., Aug. 25, 2016 (ULA PR) – NASA’s Launch Services Program announced today that it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) proven Atlas V vehicle to launch Mars 2020, its next robotic science rover. This award resulted from a competitive procurement under the NASA Launch Services contract.

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DigitalGlobe Launches SpaceNet

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DigitalGlobe_logoWESTMINSTER, Colo.,  Aug. 25, 2016 (DigitalGlobe PR) — DigitalGlobe, Inc. (NYSE: DGI), the global leader in earth imagery and information about our changing planet, today announced the launch of SpaceNet, an online repository of satellite imagery and labeled training data that will advance the development of machine learning and deep learning algorithms that leverage remote sensing data. SpaceNet is a collaboration between DigitalGlobe, CosmiQ Works, and NVIDIA, and the imagery is now freely available as a public data set on Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS).

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ASAP Update on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) held a meeting on July 21, 2016 at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Below is a summary of the status of the  Commercial Crew program and the Boeing and SpaceX vehicles, including top programmatic risks.

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FAA Officials Stress Need for Liability Law in Georgia

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georgia_state_sealFAA officials were in Georgia this week telling lawmakers the state needs to pass liability laws shielding spaceflight companies from lawsuits from injured passengers and their heirs if it wants to compete with other states.

“In states like Florida and Texas that have a law, that is the statute a federal judge is going to look at,” Dan Murray, a manager with the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, told members of a Georgia House subcommittee exploring a planned commercial spaceport in southeastern Georgia.

The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation this year aimed at shielding spaceport operators from civil lawsuits stemming from injuries to civilians who participate in a space flight. But the bill died in the Georgia Senate amid concerns expressed primarily by Georgians with second homes on nearby Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island worried about the noise from commercial launches and their potential to pose a safety hazard.

Tuesday’s testimony from Murray and the FAA’s Jared Stout made it clear Georgia needs a liability shield law if the proposed Spaceport Camden is to compete with spaceports in Texas and Florida, said Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, the House bill’s chief sponsor and chairman of the subcommittee.

“These states are trying to make themselves competitive by giving some additional layer of [protection from] liability beyond the federal act,” he said.

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Funds Approved for Midland Spaceport Business Park Expansion

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midland_international_logoMore infrastructure development is planned for the Spaceport Business Park at the Midland International Air & Space Port.

On Tuesday, the Midland Spaceport Development Corp. (MSDC) approved contracts worth just over $2.4 million to two companies for road and utility improvements.

The Midland Development Corp. (MDC) is funding the expansion with $3 million. The MSDC will repay $2 million of the amount to MDC with funding it is getting from the Texas Spaceport Trust Fund.

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SpaceX Looks to Expand Operations at Port Canaveral

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Credit: SpaceX

Credit: SpaceX

With a hangar full of used Falcon 9 first stages, SpaceX is looking to expand its operations along Florida’s Space Coast.

The space launch company plans to lease the now-vacant former Spacehab building on the north side of the port, and is looking at constructing a second building on vacant land adjacent to that site, [Port Canaveral CEO John] Murray told port commissioners.

SpaceX is expected to process and refurbish rockets, as well as potentially perform other functions, at the port, Murray said.

“We’re happy to announce that they’re onboard,” he said. “It’s good for the port, it’s good for the community, and it’s a high-visibility project. So we’re really excited about that. They’re a great client to have on our port. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

A formal lease agreement with SpaceX could come before port commissioners for approval as early as next month. In the meantime, Murray said SpaceX plans to move into the 52,000-square-foot former Spacehab building through a temporary property-use permit between the company and the port.

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China Unveils Plans for 2020 Martian Rover Mission

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china_flagChina is planning an ambitious mission to Mars in 2020 that will include an orbiter and a surface rover.

State news agency Xinhua, in a report late on Tuesday, said the 200 kg (441 lb) rover would have six wheels and be powered by four solar panels, two more than the rover China shot to the moon and 60 kg (132 lb) heavier.

“The challenges we face are unprecedented,” Zhang Rongqiao, chief architect of the Mars mission, said, according to Xinhua.

The probe would carry 13 payloads including a remote sensing camera and a ground penetrating radar, on what is expected to be a three-month exploration mission blasting off in July or August 2020, the report added.

“The lander will separate from the orbiter at the end of a journey of around seven months and touch down in a low latitude area in the northern hemisphere of Mars where the rover will explore the surface,” it said.

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Japan to Upgrade HTV Cargo Ship

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HTV in flight (Credit: NASA)

HTV in flight (Credit: NASA)

JAXA is planning enhancements to its next generation HTV freighter, The Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

According to JAXA, the next-generation model currently in design — dubbed HTV-X — will be able to separate control systems units such as engines from its main body after docking at the ISS.

The engines will be equipped with observational devices so the spacecraft can leave the ISS and orbit as a satellite.

After that, the spacecraft itself will be used as an Earth observation satellite or to monitor space debris, which includes pieces of broken satellites. It will also be able to re-dock with the ISS.

JAXA is considering adding other functions, including for returning capsules containing experiment samples to Earth and connecting the spacecraft with a probe device to depart for other astronomical objects.

At the New Space Conference in June, NanoRacks Founder Jeffrey Manber said his company had signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA focused on using cargo ships for experiments and other uses after they leave the space station. I asked it about it after his talk, and he mentioned the HTV as one of the vehicles the company was looking to use.

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

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Artist's impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. (Credit: ESO)

Artist’s impression of the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. (Credit: ESO)

Pale Red Dot campaign reveals Earth-mass world in orbit around Proxima Centauri

GARCHING BEI MUNCHEN, Germany (ESO PR) — Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding will be published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016.

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Chuck Yeager: Not a Big Fan of SpaceShipOne

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Gen. Chuck Yeager has been doing ask me anything sessions on Twitter over the last few days. If nothing else, he’s been candid. He apparently doesn’t think much of SpaceShipOne.