University of Surrey to Lead new £29 Million AI and Robotics Space Hub

SURREY, England (University of Surrey PR) — The University of Surrey is set to lead the country’s efforts in breakthrough, space-focused artificial intelligence and robotics research, thanks to a new £29million [$38.3 million] hub.

The Future AI and Robotics for Space (FAIR-SPACE) Hub will be funded through a £6.7 million [$8.85 million] grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA), as well as £22.3 million [29.47 million] from over twenty space organisations.

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NASA CubeSat to Test Miniaturized Weather Satellite Technology

The Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration (MiRaTA) satellite, a 3U CubeSat, is shown with solar panels fully deployed, flanking the body of the spacecraft, which has a circular aperture at the top for the microwave radiometer antenna, used for atmospheric science measurements. There are also two small, thin tape-measure antennas on the top, used for UHF radio communication with the ground station. (Credit: MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (NASA PR) — Behind every weather forecast—from your local, five-day prediction to a late-breaking hurricane track update—are the satellites that make them possible. Government agencies depend on observations from weather satellites to inform forecast models that help us prepare for approaching storms and identify areas that need evacuating or emergency first responders.

Weather satellites have traditionally been large, both in the effort needed to build them and in actual size. They can take several years to build and can be as big as a small school bus. But all of that could change in the future with the help of a shoebox-sized satellite that will start orbiting Earth later this month.

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Arrested ARCA Space CEO Maintains Innocence

Dumitru Popescu

A statement from ARCA Space:

ARCA Space Corporation will continue the development of its aerospace technology as scheduled.  The company has full confidence in CEO Dumitru Popescu and expects him to lead the efforts.  Mr. Popescu was charged in New Mexico state courts with alleged embezzlement and securities issues.  However, Mr. Popescu maintains his innocence and expects to prevail in court proceedings.

Meanwhile the work of the company will proceed with a goal of presenting a successful aerospike rocket engine.

ARCA Space will keep the public updated on the progress of the company.

JPSS-1 to Improve U.S. Weather Forecasting

This illustration depicts the Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, spacecraft designed to provide forecasters with crucial environmental science data to provide a better understanding of changes in the Earth’s weather, oceans and climate. (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., November 18, 2017 (NOAA PR) — The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, the first in a new series of four highly advanced NOAA polar-orbiting satellites, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, at 1:47 a.m. PST this morning. The satellite’s next-generation technology will help improve the timeliness and accuracy of U.S. weather forecasts three to seven days out.

“The value of the new JPSS satellite cannot be understated after this tragic hurricane season,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “JPSS offers an unparalleled perspective on our planet’s weather, granting NOAA advanced insights which will be used to guard American lives and communities.”

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Delta II Launches New JPSS-1 Weather Satellite

 

Delta II launches the JPSS-1 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 18, 2017 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket carrying the Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) for NASA and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-2 on Nov. 18 at 1:47 a.m. PST. The JPSS program provides the nation’s next generation polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite system, delivering key observations for the nation’s essential projects and services, including forecasting weather in advance and assessing environmental hazards.

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NASA Faces Serious Challenges With Aging Facilities

NASA’s aging infrastructure (Credit: NASA OIG)

A recent Inspector General report, NASA’s 2017 Top Management and Performance Challenges, finds the space agency is facing serious challenges in maintaining and upgrading aging buildings and test facilities at its far flung network of centers.  The following excerpt from the report shows the difficulties NASA has had in consolidating or eliminating unnecessary facilities.

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Spaceport America Seeks More Tax Dollars

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

With Virgin Galactic’s ‘big move” of its SpaceShipTwo to New Mexico expected to occur sometime in 2018, Spaceport America officials say they need taxpayers to ante up more money.

Dan Hicks, Spaceport America CEO, told attendees at the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce 2017 Space Update Luncheon on Thursday that more spaceports are poised to enter the commercial space industry, with 10 other licensed spaceports operating and an additional nine applications pending with the Federal Aviation Administration. And, with Virgin Galactic set to begin manned flights as soon as next year, more funding is needed to accommodate the increased traffic expected to follow, he said.

Hicks said he will seek an additional $600,000 from the Legislature to increase staff levels and continue with infrastructure improvements. At a cost of nearly $220 million, the taxpayer-financed Spaceport America opened in 2011. At the time, officials envisioned a new commercial space economy that would transform southern New Mexico. That economy has yet to come to fruition, but officials are hopeful.

The funding is necessary to stay on par with other spaceports around the country, Hicks said. With 16 people currently on the Spaceport America staff, Hicks hopes to increase that number to 26 “very quickly” to accommodate Virgin Galactic’s planned move to New Mexico….

New Mexico’s Spaceport America has a $6.1 million operating budget with a current state appropriation of $375,000 with $600,000 in local gross receipts taxes generated solely from Doña Ana and Sierra counties. Customer revenue generates $2.1 million.

Stratolaunch to Test Rocket Engine Technology at NASA Stennis

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft (Credit: Dylan Schwartz)

Stratolaunch will test rocket engine technology next year at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi under agreements with the space agency.

Paul Allen’s company signed two agreements with NASA: an umbrella Space Act Agreement laying out the terms of cooperation, and an annex under with Stratolaunch will pay $5.1 million to the space agency to use the E1 facility at Stennis for engine tests.

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CASIS & NSF Announce Research Funding Opportunity in Tissue Engineering on ISS

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., November 17, 2017 (CASIS PR) — The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced a joint solicitation wherein researchers will have the ability to leverage resources onboard the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory to support enhancements in the fields of transformative tissue engineering. Up to $1.8 million will be awarded for multiple research investigations to support flight projects to the ISS National Lab.

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VOX Space Wins Defense Contract

LauncherOne ignites after being released from Cosmic Girl 747. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Orbit has received a Department of Defense (DOD) launch contract for its LauncherOne booster, the company announced this week.

“Their Space Test Program will fly some technology development payloads on our rocket as early as January 2019,” the company announced on Twitter.

LauncherOne will be air-launched from a modified Boeing 747 airliner. The first flight test is expected to occur in 2018.

The contract, which came through the VOX Space subsidiary that handles government work, came through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx).

“We provide non-dilutive capital in the form of pilot contracts for commercial innovation that solves Dept. of Defense (DoD) problems. And we do so quickly, usually in under 90 days,” according to DIUx’s website. “Pilot contracts can include hardware, software, or unique services. More importantly, after a successful pilot, the company involved and any DoD entity can easily enter into follow-on contracts, just as fast.”

DIUx has also provided capital to two other space companies: Capella Space, a satellite company that uses synthetic aperture radar to provide Earth imagery that is based on Palo Alto, Calif.; and Orbital Insight, which provides geospatial data analytics that is based in Moutain View, Calif.

Loft Orbital Solutions Raises $3.2 Million

Credit: Loft Orbital Solutions

Loft Orbital Solutions Inc., has raised $3.2 million in seed funding for its plans for satellite rideshare service that will fly payloads from different users on the same spacecraft. The round was led by Uncork Capital, which was joined by MDI Ventures, V1 VC, Mercuria Investment Japan and The Remote Sensing Tech Center of Japan.

“Our turnkey service addresses all elements of a space mission,” the company states on its website. “You provide us with a payload. We deliver it to orbit and enable you to task it and access your data.”

The San Francisco-based company was co-founded by three veterans of Spire Global: Antoine de Chassy, Alexander Greenberg and Pierre-Damien Vaujour. The company recently hired , the first South Korean in space, Soyeon Yi, to serve as its business development and partnerships manager.

ULA, SpaceX Reschedule Launches

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

UPDATE: SpaceX issued a statement late this afternoon: “We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer. Though we have preserved the range opportunity for tomorrow, we will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”

SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of the mysterious Zuma payload for Friday, Nov. 17. The Falcon 9’s two-hour launch window opens at 10 p.m. EST at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ULA has rescheduled the launch of the JPSS-1 weather satellite aboard a Delta II booster for Saturday, Nov. 18.  The launch time is 1:47 a.m. PST (4:47 EST) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Below is the launch schedule for the rest of November.

November 21

Launch Vehicle: Long March 6
Payloads: 3 Jilin 1 Earth observation microsats
Launch Site: Taiyuan, China
Launch Time: Unknown

November 28

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payloads: Meteor M2-1 weather satellite; Spire weather CubeSats; Telesat experimental communications satellite
Launch Site: Vostochny
Launch Time: 0541:46 GMT (12:41:46 a.m. EST)

SpaceX Wants More Government Funding for Renamed BFR

BFR servicing the International Space Station. (Credit: SpaceX)

Some news out of the NewSpace Europe conference:

The president of SpaceX said she expects the company would receive additional funding from the U.S. government to support the development of its large reusable launch system.

Speaking at the NewSpace Europe conference here Nov. 16, Gwynne Shotwell noted that SpaceX is already receiving funding from the U.S. Air Force supporting the development of Raptor, the engine that will power the vehicle known as BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, and the reusable spacecraft known as BFS or Big Falcon Spaceship.

“I do anticipate that there is residual capability of that system that the government will be interested in,” she said. “I do see that we would likely get some funding from the government for BFR and BFS.” She added, though, that work on the vehicles was not contingent on receiving government funding.

The U.S. Air Force recently issued a request for proposals that will fund the development of new launch systems to replace ULA’s Delta IV and Atlas V boosters.

UK Space Agency Launch Tour ’17

SWINDON, England (UKSA PR) — The UK Space Agency is touring the country with industry workshops and public open evenings on LaunchUK – the campaign to enable small satellite rocket launches and sub-orbital flights from UK spaceports.

The Government wants to make the UK a world-leading destination for companies offering launch services. New legislation to regulate launch is currently before Parliament and in early 2018 the UK Space Agency will announce the outcome of its call for grant proposals to achieve low cost access to space. In total 26 proposals were submitted to the call, and the UK Space Agency is currently considering grant applications to support the first launches from UK soil.

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ESA to Launch Deep-space Asteroid Surveying CubeSat

M-Argo CubeSat. (Credit: ESA-Jacky Huart)

PARIS (ESA PR) — M-Argo is designed as ESA’s first CubeSat to enter interplanetary space.

Studied in the Concurrent Design Facility, ESA’s highly networked facility for designing novel missions, the ‘Miniaturised Asteroid Remote Geophysical Observer’, or M-Argo, is a nanospacecraft based on the CubeSat design employing standardised 10 cm cubic units within which electronic boards can be stacked and subsystems attached.

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