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Smallsat 2016: Trends, Policies & Science

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Eight small-sized satellites total a big bonus for science. The Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission was to have used a swarm of small spacecraft to carry out scientific measurements. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

Eight small-sized satellites total a big bonus for science. The Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) mission was to have used a swarm of small spacecraft to carry out scientific measurements. (Credit: NASA Ames Research Center)

While the smallsat market is forecast to experience double digit growth over the next five years, U.S. government policy continues to lag behind the rapid developments in the field. Meanwhile, a recent National Academies report has found that smallsats can be return high-quality scientific data if missions are designed correctly.

Those are the conclusions of three presentations made this week at the Small Satellite Conference in Utah. Below are summaries of the talks drawn from Tweets by the following attendees:

  • Jeff Foust ‏@jeff_foust
  • David Hurst ‏@OrbitalDave
  • Hanna Steplewska ‏@spacesurfingirl

Enjoy!
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I Will Launch America: Jon Cowart

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Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

By Joshua Finch,
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

In the near future, Jon Cowart will lead mission-related activities on Kennedy Space Center in Florida for NASA as astronauts on Launch Pad 39A move through their procedures inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. While SpaceX controllers and NASA work through their respective processes, the teams will perform go or no-go polling that will establish whether everyone agrees that the time to launch is at hand. Cowart will serve as mission manager, meaning he will support NASA’s efforts in determining “go” to confirm that the company’s rocket and spacecraft are ready to carry astronauts into orbit.

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Musk: No Merger Between Tesla, SpaceX

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SpacX Founder Elon Musk

SpacX Founder Elon Musk

Elon Musk has knocked down speculation that he will eventually merge SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity into one large company.

“There’s not a strong rationale to combine SpaceX and Tesla,” Musk said, unlike his previous merger — apparently, “there is (rationale) for Tesla and SolarCity” to combine….

“(The relationship) is really quite tenuous for SpaceX and Tesla,” Musk said. “it’s not enough to merge into one entity.”

SolarCity has accepted an offer from Tesla to acquire it for $2.6 billion. The energy company makes batteries for Tesla’s electric automobiles.

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SpaceX HR Guy Sets Up, Knocks Down Strawman

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scarecrow
SpaceX Vice President of Human Resources Brian Bjelde was on Reddit doing an Ask Me Anything session yesterday. He provided a textbook example of how to avoid answering an awkward question by simply answering another one.

Q: Historically, SpaceX has had a reputation for overworking (50+ hours/week), setting aggressive(unrealistic) goals/projects, and a well above industry average turnover rate. As VP of HR, how have/are you working on fixing this reputation?

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A Closer Look at Which Space Companies U.S. VC’s are Investing in

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Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s new publication, “Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit,” consists of a series of papers that examines a number of important policy questions that will be of rising importance as NASA transitions human spaceflight in LEO to the private sector.

One of the papers, “Venture Capital Activity in the Low-Earth Orbit Sector,”
has detailed information on what U.S. venture capitalists have invested in. Key excerpts from the paper follow.
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NASA Orders Second SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station

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Interior of crewed Dragon (Credit: SpaceX)

Interior of crewed Dragon (Credit: SpaceX)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA took another important step Friday in returning U.S. astronaut launches from U.S. soil with the order of a second post-certification mission from commercial provider SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. Commercial crew flights from Florida’s Space Coast to the International Space Station will restore America’s human spaceflight launch capability and increase the time U.S. crews can dedicate to scientific research, which is helping prepare astronauts for deep space missions, including the Journey to Mars.

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SpaceX Test Fires Used First Stage Booster

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NASA Advisory Council Receives Updates on NASA Programs

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NASA LOGOThe NASA Advisory Council has been meeting in Cleveland this week, receiving program updates from top agency officials. Below is a summary of the first two days based on Tweets by Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) and Marcia Smith (@SpcPlcyOnline). There are updates below on:

  • Commercial crew
  • Commercial cargo
  • International Space Station
  • SLS/Orion
  • NextSTEP
  • Deep-space human mission planning
  • SpaceX’s Red Dragon
  • Mars 2020
  • Blue Origin

Enjoy!
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Commission Approves Airbus Safran Launchers Acquisition of Arianespace

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Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)

Ariane 6 variants (Credit: Airbus Defense and Space)

BRUSSELS (EU PR) — Following an in-depth review, the European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of Arianespace by Airbus Safran Launchers (ASL), a joint venture between Airbus and Safran. This approval is subject to conditions.

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SpaceX Eyes Reusing Dragons, Additional Landing Pads

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Cameras on the Canadarm2 show the SpaceX Dragon as it departs the vicinity of the space station just after its release. (Credit: NASA TV)

Cameras on the Canadarm2 show the SpaceX Dragon as it departs the vicinity of the space station just after its release. (Credit: NASA TV)

With SpaceX planning to relaunch a Falcon 9 first stage later this year, the age of reusing rockets is upon us. But, the company isn’t stopping there.

SpaceX is planning to launch a reused Dragon supply ship on a cargo mission next year. Officials discussed the planned flight during a post-launch press conference on Monday morning.

“I think we’re looking at SpaceX-11,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s deputy manager of ISS utilization, referring to the 11th resupply mission the company will fly with Dragon and the Falcon 9. (Monday’s launch kicked off SpaceX-9.)

“I thought it was 11 or 12 — something like that,” replied Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of flight reliability at SpaceX. “So, not too far from now.”

SpaceX-11 is currently scheduled to lift off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in February 2017, and SpaceX-12 is slated to launch two months later, according to Spaceflight Now.

The Orlando Sentinel also reports that SpaceX is requesting permission from the federal government to establish two additional first-stage landing facilities on Cape Canaveral. The pads would be for landing the three Falcon 9 first stages that are used on the Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.

Dragon & Progress Supply Ships Arrive at Space Station

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Dragon berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)

Dragon berthed at the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA TV)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was bolted into place on the Harmony module of the International Space Station at 10:03 a.m. EDT on Wednesday as the station flew about 252 statute miles over the California and Oregon border.

The spacecraft is delivering nearly 5,000 pounds of science, hardware and supplies, including instruments to perform the first-ever DNA sequencing in space, and the first of two identical international docking adapters (IDA). The IDAs will provide a means for commercial spacecraft to dock to the station in the near future as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Dragon is the second cargo spacecraft to arrive on station this week. On Monday, July 18, a Russian ISS Progress 64 cargo craft docked to the Pirs docking compartment of the space station at 8:22 p.m., where it will remain for about six months.

The Progress spacecraft has more than three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 48 crew.

Dragon is scheduled to depart the space station Aug. 29 when it will return critical science research back to Earth.

For more information on the SpaceX CRS-9 mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacex.

For more information about the current crew and the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station.

Cool Video of Falcon 9 First Stage Landing

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TangoLab-1 Headed for International Space Station

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Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Space Tango PR) — Space Tango today announced that TangoLab-1 is now successfully on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the SpaceX CRS-9 mission launched early this morning from Kennedy Space Center.

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SpaceX Launches Dragon Supply Ship, Lands First Stage at Cape

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Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (NASA PR) — Instruments to perform the first-ever DNA sequencing in space, and the first international docking adapter for commercial spacecraft, are among the cargo scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station after Monday’s launch of the SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services-9 (CRS-9) mission.

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Parabolic Arcers Keen to Live on Mars

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Musk_Mars_Colony_PollThe results are in on our poll about Elon Musk’s Mars plans. And it seems the majority of Parabolic Arc readers would consider living in the SpaceX founder’s martian colony.

Thirty-three percent of voters want to be in the first wave of settlers on the Red Planet. An additional 40 percent of voters said they might go later once the colony was up and running.

Other readers were less enthused. Twenty-two percent said they really like the big blue marble that is Earth and had no desire to live on a frozen planet.

Another 6 percent of voters already understand what it is like to live and work in a desert and had no desire to live in a Martian one. This group is composed of present and past residents and workers of Mojave, Calif.

A big thank you to everyone who voted in the poll. Please take a moment and vote in our latest poll about former shuttle commander Eileen Collins’ decision to speak at this week’s Republican National Convention.

As I always say. Vote early. Vote often. Just vote, dammit! Vote! And no wagering.

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