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A Box of ‘Black Magic’ to Study Earth from Space

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RainCube, due to fly in 2017, forced JPL’s engineers to get creative in order to squeeze an antenna into a CubeSat. (Credits: Tyvak/Jonathan Sauder/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

RainCube, due to fly in 2017, forced JPL’s engineers to get creative in order to squeeze an antenna into a CubeSat. (Credits: Tyvak/Jonathan Sauder/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — Black magic.

That’s what radiofrequency engineers call the mysterious forces guiding communications over the air. These forces involve complex physics and are difficult enough to master on Earth. They only get more baffling when you’re beaming signals into space.

Until now, the shape of choice for casting this “magic” has been the parabolic dish. The bigger the antenna dish, the better it is at “catching” or transmitting signals from far away.

But CubeSats are changing that. These spacecraft are meant to be light, cheap and extremely small: most aren’t much bigger than a cereal box. Suddenly, antenna designers have to pack their “black magic” into a device where there’s no room for a dish — let alone much else.

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GAO: Spaceport Operators Confused Over Insurance Requirements

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A Government Accountability Office (GAO) review has found that the nation’s spaceport operators are confused about the insurance they should have for launch accidents.

“Specifically, several spaceport operators GAO interviewed said that, based on their interpretation of the financial responsibility regulations, they were unsure whether their property would be covered under a launch company’s insurance policy or whether they would need to purchase their own insurance for their property to be covered,” the report states.

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ESA Releases Findings of Citizens’ Space Debate

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Johann-Dietrich Wörner (Credit: DLR, CC-BY)

Johann-Dietrich Wörner (Credit: DLR, CC-BY)

PARIS, 28 November 2016 (ESA PR) — On 10 September, about 2000 Europeans helped to shape the future of space by taking part in a world first: the Citizens’ Debate on Space for Europe.ESA organised the event to gather opinions and ideas to help develop and nurture the future strategy for space in Europe.

When Jan Woerner was elected as Director General of ESA by its Member States he expressed the wish to boost dialogue with all stakeholders and to open up space to a broader public. This Citizens’ Debate translated his intention into practice, by including people from all walks of life around Europe.

About 2000 people representing a broad diversity of citizens in 22 countries debated space issues during the day-long event.

This consultation exercise, on an unprecedented scale, was organised in all ESA Member States simultaneously, following the same approach.
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NanoRacks Completes Above Space Station Cygnus CubeSat Deployment

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The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

The Orbital ATK Cygnus space freighter is seen moments after being released from the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NanoRacks PR) – On November 25, 2016 NanoRacks successfully deployed four Spire LEMUR-2 CubeSats from Orbital-ATK’s Cygnus Cargo Vehicle from a 500-kilometer orbit, flying high above the International Space Station (ISS) in the first mission of its kind.

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GAO Review Recommends FAA Review of Space Support Vehicle Regulations

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F-104's in flight. (Credit: Starfighters Aerospace)

F-104’s in flight. (Credit: Starfighters Aerospace)

A review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conduct a review of its regulations for space support vehicles used to train space tourists and  conduct reduced gravity experiments.

“The Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) should direct the FAA Administrator to fully examine and document whether the FAA’s current regulatory framework is appropriate for space support vehicles and, if not, suggest legislative or regulatory changes, or both, as applicable,” the report states.

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Is Arca Space to Blame for Failure of ESA’s ExoMars Lander?

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. The zoomed insets provide close-up views of what are thought to be several different hardware components associated with the module’s descent to the martian surface. These are interpreted as the front heatshield, the parachute and the rear heatshield to which the parachute is still attached, and the impact site of the module itself. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imaged the ExoMars Schiaparelli module’s landing site on 25 October 2016, following the module’s arrival at Mars on 19 October. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

Accusations are flying that ESA’s ExoMars Schiaparelli lander crashed into the Red Planet due to poor ground testing conducted by a Romanian company named ARCA Space.

ESA released the preliminary conclusions after the Italian Space Agency had accused that the decisive tests for the Sciaparelli lander simulations had been entrusted to an organization “which hadn’t enough expertize”. It’s about Arca Space Romanian company, based in Las Cruces, USA, as La Repubblica reported.

In retort, the Arca Space Corporation manager, Dumitru Popescu warned the Italian space agency to be more careful, as they don’t have proves to support their accusations. “They could pay the price. We are at ease that we did all we could do: to run a specific test we should have flown very closely to the Russian base in Sevastopol. Russia has just annexed Crimea and we risked generating a conflict between the Russian Federation and NATO,” the Romanian manager argued.

ESA said last week that an inertia measurement unit became saturated with data during descent, providing data that made the lander’s computer believe the vehicle was either about to land or had already landed. The computer ordered the release of the parachute even though the lander was still 3.7 km above the martian surface.

Schiaparelli was designed to test the landing system for a rover that ESA plans to place on the surface. Agency officials have said they gained valuable data from the test.

Arca Space has set up operations in Las Cruces, NM, where it is making hover boards.

XCOR Partners with Immortal Data on Shipslog Data Acquisition System

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XCOR_SXC_logoMIDLAND, Texas, Nov. 28, 2016 (XCOR PR) –  XCOR Aerospace and Immortal Data Incorporated have entered into a  licensing agreement having Immortal Data  further developing and commercializing the ShipsLogTM software,  the data acquisition system for the XCOR Lynx Space Plane and its engine test stand.  After enhancement and integration, ShipsLogTM will be a key element of a tail to nose aerospace data collection, storage and display solution offered by Immortal Data.  Development efforts will begin immediately at Immortal Data facilities in Midland, TX, a facility funded by Midland Development Corporation, at the Midland International Air and Space Port.

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This Week on The Space Show

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

1. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016: 2-3:30 PM PST (5-6:30 PM EST, 4-5:30 PM CST): No show as part of holiday weekend.

2. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016: 2016: 7-8:30 PM PST, 10-11:30 PM EST, 9-10:30 PM CST: We welcome back MARK WHITTINGTON regarding his new space policy and lunar ideas.

4. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016: 9:30-11AM PST; (12:30-2 PM EST; 11:30 AM – 1 PM CST) We welcome DR. SUSANNE PETERS from Germany to discuss innovative space debris solutions.

5. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016: 12-1:30 PM PST (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 5PM CST): We welcome back BARRY LEVIN to continue our discussion of advanced mfg for space and the 4th industrial revolution. 3D printing is on the table for this program.

HawkEye 360 Raises $11 Million in Series A Financing

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hawkeye360_logoFinancing round led by Razor’s Edge Ventures and includes investment from Allied Minds and a defence market leader; John Serafini appointed as full-time Chief Executive Officer

BOSTON (HawkEye 360 PR)  — Allied Minds (LSE: ALM), a diversified holding company focused on venture creation within the life science and technology sectors, today announces that its subsidiary, HawkEye 360, Inc. (HawkEye 360 or the company), a developer of a space-based radio frequency (RF) mapping and analytics system, has raised $11.0 million in new equity investments in a Series A preferred financing led by Razor’s Edge Ventures, with additional participation by Allied Minds and a defence market leader. HawkEye 360 also intends to issue up to an additional $2.75 million in Series A preferred shares to new and existing shareholders within 60 days, resulting in a total expected financing of up to $13.75 million.

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NASA’s NavCube Could Support an X-ray Communications Demonstration

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NavCube, the product of a merger between the Goddard-developed SpaceCube 2.0 and Navigator GPS technologies, could play a vital NavCube, the product of a merger between the Goddard-developed SpaceCube 2.0 and Navigator GPS technologies, could play a vital role helping to demonstrate X-ray communications in space — a potential NASA first. (Credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

NavCube, the product of a merger between the Goddard-developed SpaceCube 2.0 and Navigator GPS technologies, could play a vital NavCube, the product of a merger between the Goddard-developed SpaceCube 2.0 and Navigator GPS technologies, could play a vital role helping to demonstrate X-ray communications in space — a potential NASA first. (Credit: NASA/W. Hrybyk)

By Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Two proven technologies have been combined to create a promising new technology that could meet future navigational challenges in deep space. It also may help demonstrate — for the first time — X-ray communications in space, a capability that would allow the transmission of gigabits per second throughout the solar system.

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Camden County JDA Approves $750K for Spaceport

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spaceport_camden_logoThe Camden County Joint Development Authority voted last week to provide $750,000 for the establishment of a spaceport in Georgia.

Before the vote, authority chairman Charlie Smith told members they had an obligation to approve the funding request from the Camden County Commission.

“Refusal would be a slap in the face of the people who are funding us,” Smith said. “It would be a tragedy for us not to abide by the county commission’s request.”

Earlier in the meeting, the board allowed county resident and vocal spaceport critic Steve Weinkle to speak. He said the commissioners’ request for JDA funding was “distressing,” but not surprising. It is an indication the county did a poor job planning, he said.

The county has already spent about $3 million to establish a spaceport and Weinkle predicted the county will have an empty piece of property by the time the process ends. He also questioned if commissioners believe the authority is doing its job to bring new employers to the county.

“It’s a bottomless pit,” he said. “We’re spending our future for the spaceport.”

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NASA & Contractors Developing New Astronaut Gloves

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David Clark Company’s unique spacesuit pressure restraint. (Credit: David Clark Company)

David Clark Company’s unique spacesuit pressure restraint. (Credit: David Clark Company)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Over the summer of 2016, the Next Generation Life Support (NGLS) project received delivery from three industry partners of several new promising spacesuit technologies, namely for advancing glove designs and capabilities. Glove prototypes incorporating these technologies are now undergoing testing and performance evaluation under increased operating pressures and in the more challenging environments expected during future space exploration.

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Harper, Trump & Science a la Carte: A Warning From Canada

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Stephen Harper and cat.

Stephen Harper and cats.

Canadian science writer Graham Templeton says the election of Donald Trump and a Republican controlled Congress threatens a repeat of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s nine-year war on science.

Though Americans might be surprised to hear it, Canada offers a good example of why there is a very real need to worry, and of how the coming anti-science administration could realistically affect all of national research. My home and native land has been a fair ways down the road America is just now preparing to travel and, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the endpoint is absolutely disastrous….

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SUPERball Bot Harnesses Forces at Play

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Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

By Denise M. Stefula
NASA

Each planet and moon in our solar system is unique, although many have characteristics in common that can be hazardous for exploration—unstable crevices, ravines and steep cliff faces, broken jagged ice, and rocky, boulder-strewn terrains—all of which are inaccessible to the currently used wheeled rovers. These locations are largely excluded from exploration planning because one mishap can end a mission.

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NASA Explores 4 Technologies for Improved Oxygen Recovery

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Spacecraft Oxygen Recovery (SCOR) test facility. (Credit: NASA)

Spacecraft Oxygen Recovery (SCOR) test facility. (Credit: NASA)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — On long duration deep space missions, providing crew-members with a steady supply of oxygen is a real challenge. Because resupply is not an option and taking huge tanks of oxygen on exploration spacecraft is not practical, oxygen must be recovered from what is produced during normal metabolism.

Astronauts breathe in oxygen and most is turned into carbon dioxide and water vapor. Getting the oxygen from the water is pretty straightforward and can be done with electrolysis alone. The real trick is efficiently getting oxygen from the carbon dioxide.

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