MoonWatcher Launches Kickstarter Campaign

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (MoonWatcher PR) — Imagine seeing the Moon as only astronauts have seen it before. Now with MoonWatcher, the FIRST private satellite mounted with a state of the art camera, you will have this amazing opportunity.

Spectacular images of the Moon will stream LIVE to the Internet with accompanying information and featuring the latest lunar news. To accelerate the path to orbit, today MoonWatcher announced a crowdfunding Kickstarter campaign to raise $150K. MoonWatcher will be putting these Kickstarter pledges towards their first satellite, which will be carried by Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in 2018.

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Planetary Resources Shelves Arkyd Space Selfies Due to Lack of Funding

Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd-3 satellite (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources sent out the following cancellation and refund message today has been sent to supporters of its ARKYD Kickstarter. The campaign raised money so people could send pictures of themselves into space that would be displayed with Earth in the background.

According to the message, Planetary Resources was only going to launch the satellite if it got other people to give them even more money to fly the mission. That funding was which was not forthcoming from the multiple billionaires that back Planetary Resources (Larry Page, Eric Schmidt and Richard Branson among them) or anyone else the company targeted for funding.

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CubeSats Personalized, Eyed for Interplanetary Missions

You can read the full story by Alan Boyle and Matt Rivera here.

Meanwhile, a team from the University of Michigan’s Aerospace Engineering Department has launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop a plasma thruster capable of sending CubeSats beyond Earth orbit. The team’s partners include Planetary Resources and three NASA centers.

We are currently developing the CubeSat Ambipolar Thruster (CAT), a new plasma propulsion system which will push small spacecraft like CubeSats around in orbit or far beyond the Earth.

This new thruster technology will enable us to send low-cost satellites from the Earth to distant destinations in the Solar System. You can be a part of space exploration history! By contributing to the CAT, you can help future spacecraft make amazing discoveries about extraterrestrial bodies and further our understanding of the near-Earth environment, the Solar System, and beyond. Who knows, maybe we’ll even be able to find life on those beckoning watery moons of Jupiter or Saturn!

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Rocket Roundup: VASIMR Kickstarter, Ariane 6 Panned, RD-180 Replacement, and SpaceX at KSC

Ad Astra Launches VASMIR Kickstarter

Ad Astra has launched a Kickstarter fund-raising campaign to raise $46,000 for the creation of a short documentary called “Animating VASIMR®: The Future of Spaceflight.”

Falcon Heavy Launches from KSC?

Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon Heavy. (Credit: SpaceX)

Space News reports that SpaceX appears to be the only bidder to take over operations of PAD 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, which NASA used to launch space shuttles:

NASA declined to comment on how many bids it received in response to a solicitation that closed on July 5, but a survey of U.S. launch companies by SpaceNews shows only SpaceX saying it put in a proposal to take over Launch Complex 39A.

Documents posted on NASA’s solicitation website shows the agency wants to have a commercial operator for Pad 39A in place by Oct. 1, 2013, when funding for maintenance is slated for termination.

UPDATE: Space News now reports that Blue Origin put in a bid for Pad 39A.

DLR Chief on Ariane 6: Meh!

Artist's conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)
Artist’s conception of Ariane 6. (Credit: ESA)

DLR Chairman Johann-Dietrich Woerner still really doesn’t like the plan for Ariane 6:

Johann-Dietrich Woerner, chairman of the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said the German government remains in favor of continued development of the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, with possible evolutions including environmentally acceptable new fuels in place of the vehicle’s current solid-rocket boosters.

“The solution selected seems to be the most workable in terms of costs, but from an environmental point of view we are really taking a step backward,” Woerner said. “But my main point is: What is this launcher for? Is it to make life easy for commercial satellite operators, or is it to assure European launcher autonomy? If it’s the latter, then there are lots of ways of meeting this objective.”

I Can’t Quit You

RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)
RD-180 test firing. (Credit: NASA)

Efforts to develop a domestic alternative to the Russian RD-180 engine that powers the Atlas V are stuck in second gear.

The buy-international model works so well that even an executive with the company working on an American alternative to the RD-180 — which has powered 43 flawless space launches since it made its U.S. debut on Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 3 rocket in 2000 — does not see much urgency on anyone’s part to bring such an engine to market.

“We don’t see a good business case for a pure commercial development of one of these engines,” Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of space programs at Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, told SpaceNews in a July 9 phone interview. “Not today.”

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Planetary Resources Raises $1.5 Million on Kickstarter

Arkyd_kickstarter_final
Bellevue, Washington, July 1, 2013 (Planetary Resources PR) –
Planetary Resources, Inc., the asteroid mining company, successfully completed its crowdfunding campaign yesterday to launch ARKYD – the world’s first public space telescope. Over the course of the 33-day campaign, the company generated support from more than 17,600 backers who pledged US$1,505,366 for the cause. This marks the most successful crowdfunding effort for a space project and ranks the ARKYD campaign among the top 25 projects in Kickstarter history.

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Pocket Spacecraft Kickstarter: Send Your Own Spacecraft to the Moon

pocket_spacecraft

There’s a brand new space-related Kickstarter campaign that began last week. The description on the page reads:

Have you ever dreamt of exploring the solar system with your own spacecraft?

Well finally you can!

We’ve developed a very low cost, open source, open access, mass space exploration system that anyone can use, and we need your help to send your very own Pocket Spacecraft, and thousands of others, on a first of its kind expedition to the moon.

We’re a global team of scientists, engineers and designers that have worked on this concept at some of the world’s leading universities and come together to kick start the personal interplanetary space age and give you the opportunity to become a hands on citizen space explorer. Explorers who back the project can personalise their own spacecraft by adding a picture and customising the message it transmits using just their web browser. More technical explorers can even customise software and hardware.

You can learn more and donate here.

Planetary Resources Announces Kickstarter Extended Goal: Hunting for Planets

planetary_resourcesBellevue, Washington, June 11, 2013 (Planetary Resources PR) – Alien planets are out there and Planetary Resources needs your help to find them! That’s right, the same high-powered telescope technology being used by Planetary Resources to identify near-Earth asteroids can also be used to hunt for what scientists call extrasolar planets or “exoplanets” – which are very much alien worlds. For the first-time ever, this capability will be placed directly into the hands of students, researchers and citizen scientists.

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Inexpensive Lidar Kickstarter Campaign Launched

My friend Nadir Bagaveyev of XCOR Aerospace has launched this Kickstarter campaign. He is doing this work as an independent project in his spare time at the new Mojave Makers facility at the spaceport. It’s one of a number of interesting projects underway at the maker space.

About this project

This project is to develop inexpensive lidar from affordable components – laser pointer, small single board computer running linux and a webcam. Unlike more expensive lidars calculating timing between light emitted and returned, this lidar will have software calculating angles and distances to reflected spots and output serial signal with XYZ coordinates of reflected points in relation to 0,0,0 position of a camera.

These funds will help produce precision machined parts and buy components that are required to make this lidar precise.Even with foam prototype the error was no more than 2%, e.g. at distances of 50 inches it could have an error of 1 inch.

Currently prototype works between 1 ft and 16 ft reliably, but running MATLAB on an embedded computer is not a way to go, so I’m writing concise C code to capture images, recognize reflected spots and triangulate distances to them.

Final Frontier Design Launches Kickstarter Campaign for New Spacesuit

Final Frontier Design, which won second prize in NASA’s Astronaut Glove Challenge in 2009, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 to develop an affordable spacesuit for the space tourism market. To donate, click here.

The Kickstarter description of the product:

At FFD, we are working together to bring our vision of a lightweight, inexpensive, and highly functional space suit to the new space industry. Our Kickstarter goal, the FFD Third Generation (3G) Suit, will be built to conform to the standards of NASA flight certification to the best of our ability, and will feature upgrades to our 2011 Second Generation (2G) Suit (pictured with Nik), including a higher operating pressure, a carbon fiber waist ring, a retractable helmet, and improved gloves and glove disconnects. Our plan is to complete construction of this 3G Suit before 2013.

Our 3G suit is intended for IVA, or Intra Vehicular Activity, that is, launch and re-entry, for commercial space providers both suborbital and orbital. Basically IVA suits are a safety backup in case of an emergency loss of cabin pressure, like the oxygen masks in commercial airliners. The future commercial space industry (SpaceX, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Virgin, Armadillo, XCOR, etc) will need these suits for the basic safety of manned flights. Current NASA suits cost well into the millions, while our 3G is intended to retail for a small fraction of this.